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[Herald Interview] ‘Sinkhole,’ disaster movie with comedy twist: Cha Seung-won

A scene from “Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon (Showbox)
A scene from “Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon (Showbox)
Veteran actor Cha Seung-won, 51, is not afraid of challenges. When choosing movies, he tries to pick something out of the ordinary.

“I don’t like films that have a single genre. I am into stories with twists. I liked ‘Sinkhole’ because it is a movie about the disaster, but there are comedy elements to it. I love how humor is being used in an extreme situation,” Cha emphasized during an interview via Zoom with a group of local reporters.

“It was really funny to watch how people outside of the sinkhole worry that people in the hole are starving, and then the next scene shows people cooking chickens in the hole.”

“Sinkhole,” directed by Kim Ji-hoon, centers on the residents of Chungwoon Villa, one of the cheaper apartment buildings available in pricey Seoul.

Cha plays Man-soo, who lives in the apartment with a son. To raise his son alone, Cha juggles three different jobs, as a fitness trainer, photographer and chauffeur. Since Man-soo likes to stick his nose into other people’s businesses, he often gets into fights with new neighbor Dong-won (Kim Sung-kyun), an office worker who has just become a homeowner for the first time after 11 years of saving. One day, the apartment suddenly falls into a giant sinkhole. 

Cha Seung-won (Showbox)
Cha Seung-won (Showbox)
Cha said he tried to reflect himself when portraying Man-soo.

“I wanted to show my own personality in the character. Before I tried creating a character that is totally different from me, but now I try to avoid that.”

Cha explained that whenever he has tried to create a character too far from himself, he ended up failing by exaggerating it.

“Instead I try to use different sides of me to show the characters. Also, I would keep asking myself to check whether I understand that character thoroughly or whether I am unnaturally acting anything.”

“Sinkhole” is also a movie that reflects the struggles young people in their 20s and 30s face to become homeowners in Korea at the beginning through characters like Seung-hyun (Lee Kwang-soo), who is pessimistic about his future. 

Cha Seung-won (Showbox)
Cha Seung-won (Showbox)
During the interview, Cha also talked about the message he wants to deliver to generations of young people today.

“It was never easy for us either. But it seems like it is tougher for them now. I don’t want to say things like ‘don’t lose hope’ to people who are suffering. Because I think that it is our generation’s fault,” he said. “I hope that they can go through it like how we do it in the movie ‘Sinkhole’.”

Over the three-day Liberation Day weekend of Aug. 14-16, the film took the No. 1 spot at the local box office, selling more than 1 million tickets.

“What a relief that the movie attracted more than 1 million audience members,” Cha said, adding that he is extremely grateful. “It is too bad that the pie became smaller due to COVID-19.”

He also commented about two Korean movies -- “Sinkhole” and “Escape from Mogadishu” -- taking the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in ticket sales.

“It is great. I see that our success can lead to more movies being released during the Chuseok holiday,” he said. “We have been experiencing difficulties since last year. I hope it improves soon.”

“Sinkhole” was released Aug. 11. It is now running in local theaters.

By Song Seung-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube