By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Korean actor Seol Kyung-gu said Thursday that he felt empathy for his character in the upcoming spy action flick "Phantom" who is from an elite Japanese family but agonizes over his blood ties to Korea, which was under Japan's colonial rule.
The period film directed by Lee Hae-young is set in Korea under Japanese colonial rule in 1933 and revolves around five people confined to a remote hotel for hunting down a spy referred to as "phantom," behind a Korean independence organization's failed attempt to assassinate the new Japanese resident-general.
Seol plays Murayama Junji, who was the chief security guard of the Japanese resident-general but now serves as a communications department supervisor of the police bureau.
Although Junji is one of the five suspects who desperately try to prove their innocence to Japanese officials, he is different from other Koreans. He wants to capture the spy with his own hands and beat Mahara Kaito (Park Hae-soo), a new chief security guard in charge of exposing the spy network.
The 55-year-old veteran actor, who has performed in several acclaimed and hit films throughout his prolific career, said he decided to play the Japanese character, fluent in both Japanese and Korean, in the colonial period movie because it was something new.
"I was drawn to the period film set in the colonial era because I haven't taken a role from that time," Sol said during a group media interview. "I don't like repeating similar roles, so I thought different periods and settings could help me avoid repeating my acting style."
Seol described Junji as a "functional character" who is designed to cloud audiences' guessing in the spy thriller.
"He has a twisted mind due to his sense of inferiority from his parents and lineage," Sol said. "Although he is the seventh scion of an elite Japanese family, he now handles documents at the communications bureau. He is obsessed with beating Kaito by catching the phantom ahead of him."
Junji tries to make Park Cha-kyung (Lee Ha-nee), a Korean employee at his communication department, his ally, but he fails and they engage in a raucous tussle at a hotel.
Seol said he tried to control his power when filming fist fights with Lee, but soon got used to tough action scenes.
"As I'm not that good at action, I tried to balance my power so as not to hit the wrong part (of Lee)," he said. "After a couple of days, we naturally took the fight scenes."
Seol, who spoke fluent Japanese in "Rikidozan" (2004), a biopic of a legendary Korean-Japanese wrestler, said he didn't start from scratch for his Japanese but struggled to sound flawless in critical scenes.
"As I had so much difficulty (with speaking Japanese) when filming 'Rikidozan,' I was less burdened this time," he said. "I repeated my pronunciation and my Japanese teacher meticulously checked each syllable. If that was not enough, I recorded the lines later."
"Phantom" hits local theaters Wednesday.