Lee Min Ho has played tortured characters before. In "City Hunter" he plays a man who discovers his life's mission might be a mistake. In "Faith: The Great Doctor" he falls for a woman from another time. And even in "The Heirs" he plays a young man troubled by the behavior of his very unhappy family.
But the character he played in "Gangnam 1970" also known as "Gangnam Blues" lived such a desperate life that it made him sad.
In an interview with Korean media outlet Joongang Daily, he spoke about how his character Jong Dae placed his concern for others above his own."What Jong Dae wants for his life is not his own happiness," said Lee Min Ho. "Instead he wants to make other people happy."
That includes the man who is a father figure to him, the woman who is like a sister to him and his best friend, played by Kim Rae Won.
Wanting to provide for others places Jong Dae in some compromising situations.
"To provide a better life for the people he loves, he lives fiercely," said Lee Min Ho. "He becomes a gangster and struggles to acquire his own land in Gangnam for this reason."
The film takes place in the 1970s when Gangnam was not the fashionable neighborhood it is today. Gangsters did what they could to acquire land. That included physical violence and coercing politicians to help them.
Even though Lee Min Ho described his character Jong Dae as a "good-hearted gangster," he admits that it was not easy to play him.
"I used to become frequently upset when I first played Jong Dae. The situation pushes him to choose not what he really wants-to live with his loved ones without worries- which frustrated me. I was depressed when I acted out these scenes. I felt sad and feel sympathy for him even now."
When asked if he ever wanted anything as badly as Jong Dae, he spoke about the accident he had in 2006 when he was a college student. His friend and fellow actor Jung Il Woo was also in that accident. When he was recovering doctors wondered if he would ever walk again. While lying in bed he knew that he wanted to perform more than anything. Fortunately, he did not have to become a gangster to accomplish that goal.
It was not director Yoo Ha's original intention to even cast Lee Min Ho in the film. At a press conference for the film, he admits that he was brainwashed. "My wife is a huge fan of Lee Min Ho. At one point, after being pestered for two years, I came to accept that it was my fate to work with Lee Min Ho."
And he's not sorry.