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Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

Nam Joo Hyuk.


un­der the con­trails of run­way mod­els that took flight to­wards the glittering hori­zon of tele­vi­sion and drama, and it might be po­lite to not step on the ru­ins. Nam Joo Hyuk knows this: there was noth­ing in his first cat­walk, dressed in a see-through printed or­ganza shirt at the SONGZIO Homme Spring/Sum­mer’14 fashion show, that would lead him to a po­si­tion of rev­er­ence.

There are those be­fore him that have taken the mod­el­ling-act­ing route and suc­ceeded. And there are those that re­turned to the world of sham­poo and fast-food com­mer­cials. The Kim Woo Bins and the Cha Se­ung Wons are a few and far be­tween. Joo Hyuk has got ev­ery­thing to lose if he dares not walk into the sun.

Given that he’s at a ripe young age of 23, it was only three years ago that Joo Hyuk de­buted in the ro­man­tic com­edy, The Idle Mer­maid. A year later, he went from sup­port­ing to main role in an­other tele­vi­sion series, Who Are You: School 2015 where he played a high school love in­ter­est.

In that same year, he added a dif­fer­ent el­e­ment to his reper­toire play­ing a venge­ful char­ac­ter in Glam­orous Temp­ta­tion. In the span of four years, he has acted in seven tele­vi­sion series, won two “Best New Ac­tor” awards and con­tin­ues to face a slew of crit­i­cisms for his di­men­sion­ally trite act­ing.


I have a very strong com­pet­i­tive spirit. So, when I act, my com­pet­i­tive spirit is burn­ing. Some­times, crit­i­cism can mo­ti­vate me as well. I don’t get stressed a lot, but if I do need to change my mood, I ex­er­cise or spend time alone. It’s easy to at­tack young ac­tors at the gate. The act it­self is as trite as their dilet­tante per­for­mance. But one doesn’t have to be a Solomon of South Ko­rea’s cul­tural land­scape to un­der­stand the canon of its tele­vi­sion in­dus­try.

A debu­tant makes his ap­pear­ance in a va­ri­ety show, and then earns his place in a sup­port­ing cast of a tele­vi­sion series on a na­tional network. It was in 2014 that Joo Hyuk ap­peared in Sat­ur­day Night Live and Run­ning Man, and made his de­but as a com­puter ex­pert in The Idle Mer­maid.

If by the grace of his charm and good looks, the debu­tant will gain a small but vo­cal idol wor­ship that puts him in good stead for a lead role in a ca­ble network. His sopho­more tele­vi­sion ef­fort must in­clude some ro­mance, some kiss in the rain, some twin­kle in the eye.

NAM JOO HYUK ON KEEP­ING HIS MIND SHARP It is a lit­tle em­bar­rass­ing to give ad­vice... but at other times, I work out hard to main­tain my body shape. I eat meat a lot too. When I don’t have any shoots in my sched­ule, I work out no mat­ter what. Even on the day that I have a shoot sched­uled, I go to gym in my spare time.

Get­ting in is easy, the only door large enough for all as­pir­ing ac­tors to en­ter is the va­ri­ety show to a tele­vi­sion rom­com route, but get­ting out is harder. How many times can Joo Hyuk en­ter­tain a show host? How many times can he kiss in the rain?

Joo Hyuk’s tra­jec­tory saw him tak­ing up lead­ing roles in Who Are You: School 2015, Weightlift­ing Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016) and The Bride of Habaek (2017). Oddly, all his roles are as­so­ciat-

ed with wa­ter: a high school swim­mer, a com­pet­i­tive swim­mer and the God of Wa­ter, re­spec­tively.

That’s quite a ti­tle bump. If you’re a horo­scope kind of guy, Joo Hyuk’s star sits on the con­stel­la­tion Aquarius. But if there’s any­thing he’s not, it’s a wa­ter car­rier.

Arm­chair crit­ics in Ko­rean fo­rums have as­so­ci­ated Joo Hyuk’s act­ing prow­ess to that which re­quires a lot more work. You know who else needs “more work”? Ev­ery other emerg­ing ac­tor. As­pi­ra­tion and awards aside, he has done him­self splen­didly in a ca­reer span­ning less than five years. Now he has to face his big­gest chal­lenge yet: to dry the wet­ness be­hind his ears.


It is so hard to de­fine youth, but I think it can be in the shin­ing mo­ments. It is not meant to be de­scribed by a num­ber… be­cause I know that I will never have this mo­ment back again. I have done my best to live each day and not to waste any. I think you have to do what you want to do, en­joy it and try your best to live each and ev­ery day.

Joo Hyuk went from the fashion pages to the small screen. Be­fore any­one knows it, he too will be glossed over un­less he re­fines his craft like how the likes of Song Joong Ki, Lee Min Ho and Gong Yoo did—all who gar­nered in­ter­na­tional ac­claim from break­out roles in tele­vi­sion and film. Joo Hyuk is at an age where his fu­ture is within arm’s reach.

Next year, Joo Hyuk will be mak­ing his big screen de­but in the pe­riod film, Ansi City. The SGD18 mil­lion war epic is based on the 88-day de­fence mounted by the Ko­rean king­dom of Goguryeo against an at­tempted siege by the Chi­nese Tang dy­nasty in 645 AD. Joo Hyuk plays a Ko­rean spy who works for Ansi City’s Gen­eral Yang Manchun (played by veteran thes­pian, Jo In Sung) and the film is ex­pected to pre­miere next year.

If Ko­rean fan­dom is any­thing to go by, there’s a cer­tain buzz when “se­niors” and “ju­niors” are cast to­gether in some­thing as ma­jor as a po­ten­tial block­buster film or a tele­vi­sion series crafted by a re­spected scriptwriter. It’s a vis­ceral no­tion that a veteran—to be moulded in his own im­age—is pass­ing on the ba­ton to a young up­start.

Joo Hyuk may need to sharpen his act­ing tools. If play­ing men and God af­forded him the ac­knowl­edge­ment of his strengths and weak­nesses, per­haps a war might bring him closer to iden­ti­fy­ing what kind of lead­ing man he will be.

“I have a very strong com­pet­i­tive spirit. So, when I act, my com­pet­i­tive spirit is burn­ing. Some­times, crit­i­cism can mo­ti­vate me as well.”

Calf­skin leather trench coat, cash­mere turtle­neck sweater, cot­ton trousers, wool trousers, leather belt, metal teddy bear key chain and leather sneak­ers, all by Dior Homme.

Words by Zul An­dra Pho­to­graphs by Kim Hee June Creative di­rec­tion by Kang Ji Hye

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