The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Gang Dong-won falls for zombie genre while filming ‘Peninsula’

Zombie thrillers are action movies disguised as horror movies, Gang says

By Park Yuna

Published : July 15, 2020 - 16:24

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Actor Gang Dong-won (NEW) Actor Gang Dong-won (NEW)

Actor Gang Dong-won was not a big fan of zombie flicks until he starred in “Peninsula,” a zombie thriller that hit the theaters Wednesday. While filming the movie, he found himself physically challenged and his thoughts on zombie flicks have changed -- they are actually action movies disguised as horror movies, he said.

“Before I filmed ‘Peninsula,’ I was not really interested in zombie movies because I always thought that Asian ghosts that hold grudges were much scarier,” Gang said during a media interview conducted Tuesday in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. “Then, while shooting the film, I became physically exhausted because it was really hard to fight against zombies. And I realized the zombie thriller is more like an action movie.”

Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, the movie is the sequel to zombie thriller “Train to Busan,” which scored a major global success in the summer of 2016. “Peninsula” depicts how Korea has changed in the four years since “Train to Busan.”

The peninsula has become a land of zombies and survivors who have given up on sanity in a hopeless situation with savage madness. The zombies are faster and even more sensitive to sound and light.

Gang expressed his excitement about “Peninsula” being the first film to get a worldwide release since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.

In June, the film’s distributor Next Entertainment World signed distribution deals in 185 countries. While the movie will be released simultaneously in Korea and Southeast Asian countries, it will hit theaters in the US in August and Japan in the fall, Gang said.

“In terms of opening scale, ‘Peninsula’s is much bigger than ‘Train to Busan,’” Gang added. “I hope the movie could vitalize movie theaters that have waned since the pandemic. If theaters collapse, the film industry ultimately will not be able to operate properly, I hope ‘Peninsula’ can become a breakthrough at this time.”

“Peninsula” is already the center of global attention. The movie made the list of the 2020 Official Selection of 56 films at the 73rd Cannes Film Festival, which was slated for May but canceled due to the pandemic. The movie was also invited to the 2020 Sitges Film Festival, a Spanish film festival scheduled for October.

“I was confident about ‘Peninsula’ itself but did not expect it would be invited to the Cannes because ‘Train to Busan’ was already screened at the film festival, and I thought that the sequel might not be considered fresh,” Gang said. “But I heard the reaction was quite good there and I was really happy about it.”

While the film “Parasite” fascinated the international film market earlier this year, Korean films have been recognized in the international scene for their quality, including “Train to Busan” and director Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” (2018).

“I have received a lot of contacts from friends in other countries who were impressed after watching Korean films. So I know there is a possibility of Korean films attracting international audiences,” Gang said. “I was also surprised that most people in the film industry knew of ‘Train to Busan.' Korean film market is quite big, and there is a potential, absolutely.”

When Gang debuted as an actor in 2003, the public regarded him simply as a “young and handsome” actor rather than focusing on his talent. Gang, however, has constantly challenged himself in a variety of roles and is now one of the most renowned Korean actors.

Turning 40 this year, Gang said he is now encountering a new phase in life.
“I feel like I have become wiser and more composed compared to my younger self,” Gang said. “But there is one thing I do not want to give up throughout my life – I don’t want to compromise with the world just to chase my own interests. That is my belief.

“I want to remain as an actor who also does his best with sincerity. That will never change,” he said.

By Park Yuna (