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‘Drug King’ to bring out gritty side of Song Kang-ho

Song Kang-ho, arguably the best actor in Korean cinema today, is definitely an artist of range. But many of his iconic roles are as the everyman caught up in extraordinary situations, which is why upcoming crime drama “Drug King” will be an intriguing change of pace.

“The audience is used to seeing (me portray) characters that look like an everyday man, the guy next door, so I think ‘Drug King’ will feel different,” Song said, during a press conference for the film in Seoul on Monday. “It is an unconventional subject, and as an actor I’m happy to deliver a unique cinematic charm through that story.”

“Drug King” / Showbox
“Drug King” / Showbox

In the film, he plays titular “drug king” Lee Doo-sam, a figure depicted as the kingpin of the illegal drug market in 1970s Korea.

While Hollywood has seen some truly iconic drug lords like Tony Montana, played by the great Al Pacino, such an attempt has been rare in a country where drug use is strictly punished by the law and more greatly stigmatized by society.

Song said the film focuses on a realistic depiction of the drug world and 1970s Korea, adding his character is linked to the society of that time and problems it had.

Inspired by real-life events of the times, the flick will portray Lee’s rise to power and riches while depicting both the positive and negative aspects of Korea’s rapid economic growth.

Director Woo Min-ho said the film has many different aspects.

“It’s not the typical crime film, but more of an adventure,” he said.

Comparing “Drug King” to “Inside Men,” another crime film he directed in 2015, he said this is a very different film.

“It is a film that focuses on the people. I think people of the 1970s have been depicted in various ways over a span of 10 years (in the film). It won’t be just a dark film, but it also won’t be light-hearted.”

Bae Doo-na, playing the role of a lobbyist Kim Jeong-ah, said she had a blast filming it.

“I’ve always played roles that are relatively ‘plain.’ But here I wear a lot of fancy clothing and makeup,” she said, adding that her character not being the rubber-stamp lobbyist stereotype helped make it more interesting.

Jo Jung-suk, playing prosecutor Kim In-goo, performs alongside Song for the first time since “The Face Reader” in 2013.

“Drug King” hits theaters on Dec. 19. 

By Yoon Min-sik (