From left: Actors Cho Woo-jin, Jang Young-nam, director Lee Yong-joo and actor Gong Yoo pose after the press conference for the upcoming movie “Seobok” on Monday. (CJ Entertainment)
Director Lee Yong-joo, who is known for “Architecture 101,” a hit romance film that came out in 2012, has returned with a science fiction film about the first human clone “Seobok.”
“I changed the genre of movie that I make, and this was not done on purpose,” Lee said during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul. “My first film was the horror film ‘Living Death,’ and it was about human fears. After that, I have always wanted to make another film that talks in-depth about human fears. With that topic in mind, other SF elements like first human clone came in later.”
Lee added that he became particularly interested in making a film about people’s fear of death and their desire to live longer, and reflected this in the new movie.
“Seobok” introduces Ki-hun (played by Gong Yoo) who is an ex-intelligence agent. Seo-bok (played by Park Bo-gum) is the first-ever human clone and possesses the secret to eternal life.
One day, Ki-hun receives his last mission from the director of the intelligence agency (played by Cho Woo-jin), to move Seo-bok, who has never known life outside of the laboratory and was raised by Lim Se-eun (played by Jang Young-nam), to a safe location.
According to the director, the first human clone’s name Seobok came from the legend of Chinese explorer Xu Fu, known as ‘Seobok’ in Korea. The explorer is a Qin Dynasty figure who was sent to Korea by Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang to find a plant that is known to grant eternal life.
The director explained that it took around nine years to return because writing a script about fear of death was not easy.
“I know that many people find it hard to believe that I have been working on this script for nine years. But I really did,“ Lee said.
The director also added that once he decided to go with the concept of the first human clone, it became more difficult to develop.
“I did not want Seobok to turn out similar to Hollywood’s Marvel franchise characters, because that was not my intention from the begging,” Lee said. “In those Hollywood movies, how a human clone overcomes obstacles is important, but in my film, Ki-hun is the key character.”
Lee also hopes the audiences can follow Ki-hun’s point of view when watching the film.
“I also agree. I thought it was important for people to watch ‘Seobok’ from my character Ki-hun’s perspective,” Gong Yoo said. “So when I was performing with co-actor Bo-gum, who played Seobok, we did not exchange our thoughts about each other’s character. I wanted to naturally show how Ki-hun views Seobok, who is strange and hard to understand, and also how the two characters change as they interact.”
During the press conference, Gong Yoo also expressed his concerns about the audience’s response.
“This is not an easy topic,” he said. “Also, many people only focus on the genre but really hope that the essential message of the movie can also be delivered.”
Lee also talked about why he decided to release the movie simultaneously on Korean streaming platform Tving and in theaters on April 15.
“Everything seemed uncertain due to the virus,” the director said. “Also, I was curious about the audience’s responses. Will audiences both come to the theaters and watch it online? Or will they stop coming to the theaters and watch it only on the OTT platform? I wanted to find out.”
Director Lee’s movie was initially set to be released in theaters at the end of last year, but the COVID-19 spread led to a change of plans.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com)