“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)
The lead actors of 2017 film “Steel Rain,” Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won, flip their roles in the upcoming “complementary sequel” to the first movie, as put by the director of both films Yang Woo-seok.
Jung, who previously played a North Korean special agent, takes up the role of the South Korean president, and Kwak, a presidential secretary of the South in the first film, becomes the North Korean regime’s chief of security.
With Yoo Yeon-seok playing the North Korean leader and Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen the US president, the four main actors depict the marathon summit between the three nations taking place on a submarine. Kidnapped and taken to a submarine after a coup d’etat in the North, the three leaders must find a way to prevent a war on the Korean Peninsula.
According to the director, compared to his previous film the sequel sends a more levelheaded yet sad message that the inter-Korean conflict cannot be resolved by the efforts of the two Koreas alone.
“By swapping the North and South blocs of the actors, I thought we could show that nothing about the current regimes on the Korean Peninsula would change just by changing the positions of the two Koreas,” Yang said during the film’s promotional event Thursday. Jung, Kwak and Yoo joined Yang in the event, but Macfadyen was absent due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“The two Koreas were not divided of our own will, and this means we cannot make peace or reunite by ourselves either. ‘Steel Rain 2’ sees this situation more realistically and deals with more fundamental issues of the division, a peace regime and the risk of war,” Yang said.
“Steel Rain 2: Summit” (Lotte Entertainment)
In roles that could easily overlap with real-world figures, the actors said there was much research and interpretation into the characters involved. While Yoo plays the young leader facing the collapse of his kingdom, Kwak plays the character who leads the coup.
“I didn’t think that my character was a mere villain. North Korea has shown different attitudes toward the South in the real world, and I tried to depict an aspect of North Korea that contrasts with what Yoo’s character depicts,” Kwak said.
“I felt weight on my shoulders when I imagined myself actually becoming a leader at such a young age. I felt that the thoughts and concerns going through young people’s minds will not be much different, even under different regimes. Rather than focusing on my appearance, I tried to act out such thoughts of the youth,” Yoo said.
The film takes place inside a submarine where the leaders are forced to stay together and face one another until they reach an agreement.
“The smell of oil inside the submarine was the most shocking,” Kwak said, speaking about a visit to an actual submarine. “Being inside there for even a few hours gave me a serious headache, and the place was so small that it was a wonder how almost 20 people could live inside a submarine.”
“Even as we were shooting on set, I felt the psychological pressure of being in the dark, deep water,” Yoo said, adding the restricted location made it possible to portray even the slightest changes in power relationship and emotions more sensitively.
Lead actors of “Steel Rain 2: Summit” (from left) Kwak Do-won, Yoo Yeon-seok and Jung Woo-sung and director Yang Woo-seok pose for pictures during the film’s press conference held on Thursday. (Lotte Entertainment)
Jung hinted of a twist behind his portrayal of the South Korea president.
“There’s a lot of dark humor and satire as the three leaders are confined inside the submarine. When I first read the script, it seemed somewhat like a skit. The film tells the story of the most intimate sounds coming from a human being.”
Over the recent decade, Yang has expanded his idea about the North Korean regime and the risk of crisis on the Korean Peninsula through three webtoon series and two films. The first film was based on his first webtoon series of the same title launched in 2011, and the latest film is an adaptation of the latest comic series, which is currently running on portal site Daum.
“The ‘Steel Rain’ series consistently talks about three risks: first, the possibility of North Korean regime collapse, second, that this collapse can lead to a war, and last, how South Koreas have a biased view of the North, only seeing what we want -- whether that is anger, rage, ignorance or groundless optimism,” Yang said. “I’m making my works thinking that I’m sewing together pieces of cloth with which we could understand the Korean Peninsula.”
“Steel Rain 2: Summit” hits local theaters on July 29.
By Choi Ji-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)