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Weíve waited for this interview for a long time.  From her memorable feature debut in Director Bong Joon-hoís 2006 monster opus, The Host/Gwoemul, to her recent reunion with the director for the international hit, Snowpiercer, and many interesting projects in between, Ko Ah-sung has been determined to carve out a career that defies expectation. 

At the New York Korean Film Festival for the thriller, Office, Ko spoke with us about her choice of work, her influences, and moving into international projects.

Dig it!



Ko Ah-sung


The Lady Miz Diva: Iíve read you spend a lot of time on research and getting under the skin of a character. In A Brand New Life, I understand that you studied people with disabilities so closely that you became depressed.  It affected you. 

When you are playing a role, are you the type of actor who prefers to stay in that character the whole duration of filming, or can you separate yourself when the director says ďcutĒ?

Ko Ah-sung:  In the past, in my teens, I really got into that.  I couldnít separate it {the character} from myself.  But now, being in my twenties, I think I have self-control, so I can adjust and sort of coexist with myself and the role.


LMD:   Since first seeing you in The Host, Iíve been fascinated by your choice of projects.  Many of your roles are in films with interesting messages: The Host and Snowpiercer are environmental nightmares.  Thread of Lies was about school bullying.  Your last drama {I Heard It Through the Grapevine} dealt with a young girl about to become a single mother, who then has to face class issues, and now Office is a comment on the stress of Koreaís group and corporate culture.  Youíve said you look first for good characters, but seeing your projects, I get the sense that there is something in your choices that acknowledges that art can bring attention to issues?

KA-s:  I think itís the role of the director who really throws his message to the public, and the actor or actress agrees and acts accordingly.  I didnít really have a specific intention, but maybe itís clear that I get attracted to those things.


LMD:  But you have the choice as the actor to take on the project or not, so I wonder if thereís something that compels you to take on films with certain themes?

KA-s:  Sometimes I feel the urge to throw the message myself.  So, sometimes Iím envious of musicians and directors who can really project their own message to people.  So, we decided - a group of actors gathered together - to make our own films.  Some of them became directors, assistant directors and scripters.  I was working on that just before I came to New York.


LMD:  Is there a name for this project?

KA-s:  Iím not sure if this is a proper translation in English for the title, but my film is called Dog Bite. {Laughs}


LMD:  I wanted to present this quote from one of my last interviews with Director Bong:

ďLastly can you please say something about Miss Ko Ah-sung, who debuted in your film The Host when she was thirteen and is now a twenty-one year old woman?

Bong Joon-ho:  Sheís very unique and lovable and has a lot of energy.  When I worked with her on The Host, she was a freshman in high school, or her final year in middle school.  She has a new film out besides SNOWPIERCER that people in Korea really love that has been introduced in the West yet {Thread of Lies/Elegant Lies} and she really developed quite a lot since The Host, showing different layers and showing her depth as an actor, and hopefully if anythingís said in 10 or 20 years, sheíll be a big star and an actor that people will remember.Ē

KA-s:  {Laughs} When did he say this?


LMD:  This was during Snowpiercer promotions.  Please tell us about your partnership with Director Bong?

KA-s:  First, we are good friends.  And we both love film, so I talk to him a lot about films and I support him.  Sometimes I look to him for advice on projects Iím working on.


LMD:  Snowpiercer was your first production shot overseas.  Before then youíd worked steadily in Korea; did you feel there was any difference in the way films are made overseas?

KA-s:  The rules are very different.  The filming each day, every day, there was a certain time that we finished filming and I found it was more organized.  But in Korea, sometimes thereís no limit of time and depending on how you feel about it, it can go on.


LMD:  Your English is wonderful.  Are you open to making a film in the west, or an English-language film?

KA-s:  Since I was young, somehow I was involved in international projects.  I think nationality is not important as far as the film is involved; itís the feeling.  And whether it is Korean actors or non-Korean actors, when I watch a film, I get the feeling of the actor.  So I am interested in more international projects.  Even the way they {international actors} describe or show is different.  Though the feeling is different; it gets to me, I get it.


LMD:  There seems to be a lot of pressure on actresses in Korea to be very pretty and ladylike in an almost cookie-cutter way, instead of taking unglamorous or unchallenging roles.  Jeon Do-yeon, Moon So-ri and Bae Doo-na are three of my favorite actors and what I feel they have in common is their fearlessness and their selflessness in their roles.  They have no vanity.  I sense that same fearlessness in you. Are you ever concerned with how you or your image might be perceived in a role?

KA-s:  I think the images Iíve portrayed are because I chose those roles. And so the image of the actress depends on what role you choose.


LMD:  But you donít seem concerned with how pretty look on screen?

KA-s:  {Laughs} I cannot say no.


LMD:  Do you also value experimentation, or working with newer directors? Office was Director Hongís first feature and youíve been in the hit, The Beauty Inside {also at NYKFF}, which had a very novel premise.

KA-s:  Well, I certainly like a challenge.  And whether the director is one of the masters or a new director, from each one of them, I receive a new energy, or new feeling from them.


LMD:  When you take a role, are you an actor who prefers to work very closely to the directorís vision, or are you happiest when you have the freedom to contribute?

KA-s:  I like them both.  Recently, I worked with director Hong Sang-soo {Right Then Wrong Now} and he tells you nothing. {Laughs} so I felt like I was acting without knowing anything, but that was refreshing.


LMD:  Would you like to do more roles like that?

KA-s:  Of course!


LMD:  Youíve worked with some of the premier filmmakers in Korea.  Youíve also been on movie sets longer than some directors twice your age.  Do you have any desire to direct or write a film yourself?

KA-s:  I had a project in Peru as a scripter and I decided that it wasnít for me. {Laughs} It isnít easy being a director!


LMD:  You have been working since you were four years old and making movies since your early teen years.  Did you always know acting was what you wanted to do?  Are there other avenues you would like to explore?

KA-s:  I think acting you can stop whatever you want to, but I would like to continue to do it.  I have lots of hobbies. {Laughs} I liked taking pictures from a young age, so at one point I thought I would like to be a photographer, but I think acting as my way.


LMD:  Who are the actors that inspire you?

KA-s:  There are so many.  Too many! {Laughs} Mr. Song Kang-ho had a strong influence on me.  I met him when I was 14, when I filmed The Host.  Not only his acting, but his attitude as a film actor is really adorable.  He didnít exactly show me the way, or show me how to do it, but he had the greatest influence on me.

And the other one, if I can count it a second person who gave me influence, is Tilda Swinton.  It was very different.  If I want to talk about her, it will take the whole day.


LMD:  Tilda Swinton is an amazing chameleon who can sink inside any role perfectly.  Is that your goal as an actor?

KA-s:  When I choose a film that I want to work on, or act in, sometimes itís a good script, or a good director, or good actors, but I end up choosing something that I really want to be that person in that role, and then I choose.  So, maybe yes.


LMD:  I understand Thinking of Elder Brother is coming up for you.  You return to an orphanage (A Brand New Life took place in an Orphanage}?  What other projects do you have planned?

KA-s:  After this New York film festival, I am going to go to Los Angeles and meet with some management.  Maybe from that meeting, I can decide what to do next.


LMD:  Would you please give our readers who have been fans of yours for years now a message as to what we can expect from Ko Ah-sung?

KA-s:  I like meeting with diverse audiences, so I will try to do new various new roles and I would like to meet them through that.



2 Bonus Ah-sung Eggs:

From the Office post-screening Q&A, I asked Ko Ah-sung what exactly she made of her complex character Mi-rae when she first read the script?

Ko Ah-sung:  When I first approached the character, Mi-rae, I kind of approached a resin every day, universal woman. Like, every one of us here, weíve all experienced a sudden urge to want to kill somebody. Weíre all here because we donít actually act upon it, but I think thatís the distinction between an everyday person and a murderer is really just this one moment where you just lose it. So I thought that that distinction was there. But when actually started to delve into the character, I found it just fascinating going into it.  I remember Director Hong and I having endless conversations about the character, he told me that Mi-rae is not some cold-blooded psychopath, sheís just a person who has turn this way because of mounds and mounds of stress.  Stress thatís been piling and piling up on her continuously and thatís when she breaks.

Also, Ko confirmed to me she would not be appearing in Bong Joon-hoís upcoming, Okja {Which I reported about first, HERE}.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

Nov. 9th, 2015


Click here for our NYKFF interview with Office Director Hong Won-chan.


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