The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Bek Hyun-jin defies definition

Multifaceted man's career is about far more than playing villains

By Park Ga-young

Published : Aug. 16, 2023 - 13:11

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Bek Hyun-jin (Sejong Center) Bek Hyun-jin (Sejong Center)

Bek Hyun-jin's authentic portrayals of a villainous CEO in "Taxi Driver" and an oppressive executive in the film "Samjin Company English Class" might have cemented his position as a supporting actor specializing in antagonistic characters.

But Bek's identity extends far beyond these roles.

In his own words, he describes himself as "a single guy born in 1972 living in Yeonnam-dong," a locale renowned for its indie bands and thriving nightlife. As for his professional pursuits, he describes himself as someone engaged in "visual- and sound-related works."

In essence, Bek is a multifaceted singer, composer, performance artist and film director. He is also an artist who was honored with the Korea Artist Prize in 2017.

As a performing artist, Bek will take the stage at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, from Sept. 1-3, part of Sejong’s Sync Next series which introduces 12 contemporary performing arts.

Introducing the upcoming show, Bek said the show will be something "unheard of and never seen before.”

“There is no overarching messages or theme. There may be a vibe that runs through the entire show. But that’s for the audience to feel,” Bek said, adding "I prefer creating works devoid of symbols or metaphors. That way, viewers have the freedom to interpret them as they wish."

Titled “Bek Hyunjin Show: Live Broadcast,” the performance will encompass 20 scenes that blend various forms of expression, including performance art, video art, installation art, talk shows, recitations, musical performances and skits. The show will be recorded by media artist and film director Park kyung-kun.

Well-known figures from diverse domains, including actors such as Kim Go-eun, Han Ye-ri, and Kim Sun-young, along with comedian-actor Moon Sang-hun, singer-songwriter Chang Ki-ha, the musical duo group Y2k92 will take to the stage, along with an additional project band bearing Bek's name.

To bring them together, Bek offered these collaborators his artwork instead of traditional payment guarantees.

“It’s an exchange of service -- a system that I have employed in my work in indie music and indie film scenes that are unrelated to commercial success," he said.

After dropping out of Hongik University in the early 1990s, Bek formed a band called Uhuhboo Project in 1994 with two other people who have all since become prominent figures in the music scene -- gukak composer Won Il and film music director Jang Young-gyu. That same year, the band dropped an album titled “The Break-even Point” -- all songs but one were banned from being broadcast due to nihilistic and cynical lyrics.

After becoming the Bek-Jang duo band, they released three more albums with the latest one coming out almost 10 years ago. As they become occupied with their individual careers -- Jang is the music director of a long list of films including "Train to Busan" and "Tazza" and part of pansori pop band Leenalchi -- the duo isolated themselves in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, China for a week to work on the 2014 album.

Bek Hyun-jin (Sejong Center) Bek Hyun-jin (Sejong Center)

Despite increasing association with villain roles, Bek enjoys acting, a passion that started when he took on an extra role in "The Foul King" in 2000.

"I've done villainous characters in the past but after the market success of 'Taxi Driver' in 2020, people think I only do those characters. Last year and this year, I've engaged in more normal characters," he said.

Whether it's a villainous character or something more ordinary, the roles he selects align with his preferences. “I was drawn to loser and bad characters in my teens and 20s. I guess the roles I've portrayed resemble whom I liked at the time,” Bek said.

Fortunately, he seems to enjoy what he does and has his own ways of maintaining balance.

"Acting, music, directing and art resemble distinct applications executing on one operating system -- which is me."