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Published : 2010-08-29 18:36
Updated : 2010-08-29 18:36

History repeats itself ― at least in the case of budding hallyu star Kim Hyun-joong.

The SS501 boy band leader skyrocketed to fame after making his acting debut as the achingly handsome Yoon Ji-hoo in KBS’ hit series “Boys Over Flowers.” In hopes, perhaps, of repeating his initial success, Kim’s second work promises to reprise certain aspects of his first.

“I think you can see my character, Baek Seung-jo, as sort of a combination of Yoon Ji-hoo and Goo Joon-pyo (the hero of ‘Boys Over Flowers’),” the 24-year-old said at the series’ press conference on Thursday.

“I think I took on this role to earn more respect for my second attempt at playing a high school student in a drama based on a comic book series,” he said as he explained why he latched onto a character that bore similarities to his previous one.

This time around, Kim nabbed the title role, a step up from his previous stint. And while the plot is different, the production company, Group Eight, remains the same. Furthermore, “Boys Over Flowers” co-star Lee Si-young will also be starring in the new drama as the heroine’s rival.

Like “Boys Over Flowers,” Kim’s new television drama, “Naughty Kiss,” is a spin off of a popular Japanese comic book series. The original, the late Kaoru Tada’s “Itazura na Kiss,” sold a whopping 30 million copies and was remade into both a Taiwanese and Japanese TV drama and an animated series.

Now, the tried-and-tested tale of young love is looking to score ratings in Korea, and heartthrob Kim will prove crucial in determining its success.

Having faced criticism for his acting in “Boys Over Flowers,” the actor and singer was eager to avoid a repeat situation.

“I am trying hard to rid myself of the stigma that a singer-turned-thespian makes for a bad actor,” said Kim. 
Kim Hyun-joong speaks at the “Naughty Kiss” drama press conference on Thursday at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul (Group Eight)

“I wouldn’t go so far to say that my acting has improved to the point where it would elicit a ‘wow’ but I think it has to the point where people can see that I have been trying really hard,” he said.

“Naughty Kiss” and “Boys Over Flowers” co-star Lee Si-young agreed that Kim’s acting skills have improved: “Seeing (the highlight reel) onscreen today, I really feel that this character suits him tremendously well.”

“I guess he lacks what you might call skills. But he is utterly charming when captured on screen,” said “Naughty Kiss” director Hwang In-roe. “I think he is a great fit for the character he plays.”

Kim, on the other hand, might hesitate to compare himself to his “Naughty Kiss” alter ego: a prickly, arrogant, straight-A student who excels in both sports and academics.

“In scenes where I teach Ha-ni (the heroine), I have to come across as a total genius, give off the impression that it is all so easy, and that is very challenging,” he admitted.

Yet, judging from how calmly he fielded questions about his departure from his former agency and about rumors of a SS501 break-up, Kim may, indeed, be an ideal fit for the title role. He navigated a situation that might have made less-experienced celebrities fumble, with the ease of a professional.

“I would like (the press) to refrain from saying that Kim Hyun-joong is leaving the group,” the singer cleared the air, asserting that SS501 has not disbanded.

Kim did, however, sign onto Keyeast, an agency known for housing first generation hallyu star Bae Yong-joon, a.k.a. Yonsama. In fact, Bae is not only a part of the agency, he is also a major shareholder.

“No I don’t think I have ever called him boss yet,” Kim said, revealing that he calls Bae “big brother.”

Kim recalled meeting Bae for the first time: “He was getting out of a car.”

“Zeus?” Kim proffered a description for the larger-than-life celebrity. “Then after exchanging a few words, I realized he was human after all.”

Shortly after joining Keyeast, Kim landed his role on “Naughty Kiss.” Kim is also slated to take part in a charity event with Bae at the Tokyo Dome in December and revealed plans to return to singing next year as part of a two-pronged approach to a future career in music and acting.

“Naughty Kiss” airs Sept. 1 at 9:55 p.m. on MBC.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)

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