I am the type of journalist who discovers a musician or actor once every few years who I would cross the world to be able to interview.
As of last week, the first person I have found in years that I would expend that kind of energy on is Korean actor, model, musician and singer Kim Jae Uck.
A man I hadn’t heard of until last month, when I watched the Korean dramas Her Private Life and Crazy Love almost back-to-back.
I followed them quickly with Kim Jae Uck’s strangely captivating film Planck Constant, the first couple of episodes of the K-drama Temperature of Love (watch on Viki) before I dropped it out of boredom (not his fault), the superb but heart-breaking Butterfly Sleep (watch on Amazon), in which he acts in Japanese, and finally a slew of YouTube interviews and promo videos from his agency Management SOOP.
After about two days of ‘All Kim Jae Uck All of The Time’, I can now 100% say the dude is definitely worth traveling to Korea to interview. And, of course, begging him to allow me to do that.
So, what is it about Kim Jae Uck that grabs my attention, and makes me want to learn more?
In the next three articles (today’s is Part 1), I will explain to you why I think this Korean man is so fascinating, and what I see about him that you may not.
Kim Jae Uck is pretty, but it’s not that
Yeah, yeah, cheekbones, tall, thin, nice body, long legs, pretty eyes, a commanding presence, elegant — sure, I will admit that.
But, I lived in Thailand for 14 years, so I have already seen more than my fair share of gorgeous Asian men.
So, no, it’s not that.
As Kim Jae Uck enters his 40s, he’s becoming interesting looking
Men I find intriguing are those who are interesting looking. Especially as they age, and grow into themselves even more.
Something Kim Jae Uck is starting to do.
Look at the difference between how he looks in Her Private Life (watch on Viki), and then just three years later in Crazy Love (a drama, by the way, that is the best thing that has come out of Korea all year).
In Her Private Life, Kim Jae Uck is elegant, model-like and still has that pretty face he has been known for during most of his career. His face is also softer and sweeter.
But in Crazy Love, there is a definite change.
From ultra-pretty to a more what I call cool “almost-gaunt rockstar look”. You know, the look many British and American rock singers get, once they get through their naive-and-too-crazy-20s, have “found” themselves in their 30s, and then moved on into their 40s where their faces become harder, and more certain.
That is now how Kim Jae Uck looks. More comfortable in his own skin, but much more angular and slightly-aging rock star “cool’.
And I like that.
Kim Jae Uck is hiding who he is less and less
Being an actor in Korea is much different than being an actor in the west where, for the most part you can be yourself, not care what other people think, and pretty much do, say and behave exactly as you want. Fans will still love you anyway, and business opportunities will still come your way.
Not in Korea, though, where actors and other artists have to watch carefully what they say and do, because one small mistake can become something big, to the extent that it can destroy their career.
That is why I think it must sometimes be difficult to be Kim Jae Uck. Someone whom, I sense, is different than most other people around him. Much more of an individual, much more unique, much more “not the norm” when it comes to how he thinks and feels. Someone who hides a lot of who he is.
Someone who must sometimes struggle in Korean society, where not “rocking the boat” is preferable to showing who you really are.
But, what I have noticed during my days of watching everything from videos in 2009 to his interviews in 2022, recently Kim Jae Uck is hiding his real self just a little bit less.
A real self that, I think, is his most interesting self yet, as he seems to be starting to prioritize being happy over being liked.
Kim Jae Uck’s eclectic and superb music taste
After years as a radio DJ at an alternative rock station, I love more music and more singers and bands than you have had hot dinners.
But, I will bet you, Kim Jae Uck loves more songs, knows even more about music than I, a music journalist, do, and has an even wider taste in music than me.
Just look at some of his interviews/promo media — I have already noticed him mention Eric Clapton, Thom Yorke, Radiohead,U2, Linkin Park, English electronic duo Honne, Nirvana, Carpenters, Oasis, John Mayer Trio (their album Try! John Mayer Trio Live In Concert is one of his past favorites, and he’s right, it’s damn good — listen below!), and other 90s/early 2000s bands/singers that are the best of the best.
Yep, Kim Jae Uck has superb music taste, and now I want to learn more.
Because, while I come at music as a critic, he comes at it as a musician. And so he hears things I cannot always hears.
Plus, I love what Kim Jae Uck says about an Oasis concert he was once at, as he understands the only way to listen and to understand music is to allow it to completely take you over.
“At the Jisan rock festival last year, I was drunk starting eight hours before they performed, because I wanted to feel their show with my entire body.”
Yep. That’s how someone who really understands how incredibly powerful music can be does it.
Now, listen to John Mayer Trio’s TRY! – Live in Concert down below if you want to hear just some of the music that has touched Kim Jae Uck’s emotions in the past.
It is an album that, over a decade ago, he had this to say about:
“I recently came across this album and I’ve really been listening to it a lot. John Mayer wasn’t really my style of artist when he sang solo. But I recently heard ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ by chance and I fell in love with it immediately. I like this sort of luck. John Mayer at times dances splendidly, and at times seriously, on top of Steve Jordan and Pino Palladino’s amazing playing. I think their free performances touch me even more because this is a live album”.
I was also pleased to see he ended up liking John Mayer’s solo work as well as, when I lived in LA, I saw Mayer in concert a couple of times, and I am here to tell you, Kim Jae Uck, he really is phenomenal.
Now, here is the end of Why Kim Jae Uck is My Interview Goal, and What Makes Him So Fascinating — Part 1.
I will be back with Part 2 sometime next week, after I have watched more of Kim Jae Uck’s work, and had time to analyze why this Korean actor fascinates me so much.
And why I suddenly seem to be so desperate to learn more about how his mind works.
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