In the previous post (here) , I have written on Jang Hyuk’s marvelous works and how they have greatly enriched my life. Here, in this post, I am going to write about how Jang Hyuk, as a man, has inspired my life to good.
Jang Hyuk Metamorphosis
Back in 2002 when I first came to know Jang Hyuk in “Successful Story of a Bright Girl”, to me, he was just one actor among the crowd. I even got his name mixed up with another actor.
2014, twelve years after, because of Jang Nara, I watched “Fated to Love You”. As I was watching the drama, I kept puzzling if I knew her screen partner who acted so well. When I found out that he was Jang Hyuk, the one who worked with her 12 years back, I was struck with great surprise.
Long time no see and this guy has changed so much.
Well, I know. I know. Time changes people. But still, I am utterly shocked with Jang Hyuk’s stunning changes. Time seems to have metamorphic effect on him. To me, both his appearance and acting have undergone transformational changes over the past decade and I was totally surprised by his performance.
I started wondering what has contributed to this wonderful metamorphosis?
Time of course is an essential factor, but maturity doesn’t always come with time. What time brings is aging, only life experiences can transform a guy into a real man.
As I dig into Jang Hyuk’s career history, I am impressed with how he has gone through various difficulties and challenges in life and eventually grows into a mature man and actor.
Behind the Debut
In 1997, he played a minor role in his debut drama “Model” under the stage name Jang Hyuk. After that, his role in the drama series “School” attracted more attention for his future advancement. However, what attracts my attention is the story behind his early career.
Jang Hyuk Jung Yong Joon, like many students of Performing Arts, attended audition with aspiration and enthusiasm, hoping to make a way to the screen. Though failure in audition is common, his number is way too far from normal. According to the statistics given by Jang Hyuk, from 1996-1998, he has failed 120 auditions!
Jang Hyuk said in an interview that every time he went for an audition, he did prepare well. He was confident that his image suited the role, the way he performed and read the script were also appropriate, he thought he would pass but sadly he failed and failed and failed… up to 120 times.
If I had been his teacher, I would have declared this student “HOPELESS”.
When being asked why he didn’t give up and what has driven him keep trying, Jang Hyuk said that he didn’t understand why he failed, but one sure thing he knew was if he really wanted to succeed (in audition), he must give up the prideful thought that he was good enough to be chosen. This perspective allowed him to humble himself and work harder for the next audition.
It is not too much to say “a man’s character is his fate.” Success has no easy shortcuts, it’s reserved for those who are willing to humble themselves and to work hard with perseverance and courage.
Twist of Life
Just as character strength led him to the stage and initial success, one folly mistake dragged him to the downward spiral.
When Jang Hyuk was gearing towards the path of popularity with the movies “Volcano”, “Windstruck” and the drama “Successful story of a Bright Girl”, he was found to have illegally dodged the mandatory military service.
This scandal was like a fatal bomb dropped in his life and career. For the very first time of his life, Jang Hyuk appeared on programmes other than dramas and shows : the evening news.
Though he was not the only celebrity who’s been found dodging the draft, he inescapably drew public attention and criticism. Such kind of scandal can turn any star into a celebrity outcast, coupled with the reality that he was to exit his career into a two-year military service, the situation was worse enough for his popularity and career to evaporate.
Talking about that incident, Jang Hyuk revealed that before he entered into the military service, he went back to his hometown Busan for his last supper. After the meal, he went to the seashore, watching the splashing waves, reflecting his past and pondering his future. But he could not think of any answer. With perplexity and uncertainty, he entered the Army Training Center.
Transform through Mistake
We are human and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, for celebrities, public judgement tends to be harsh and their mistakes seem unforgivable. To me, however, rather than focusing on the mistake, what’s more important is how a person faces and learns from the mistake.
Mistake can be painful but by admitting and embracing it, one can grow into a better and more mature person. I am so touched to see this kind of beautiful transformation in Jang Hyuk’s life.
Jang Hyuk said, “I felt that I should take responsibility for my mistake. In the army, I trained myself really hard. After 5 weeks of basic military training, I won recognition from my superiors and even got an award for my effort. My army mates, who have looked down upon me initially, also started to treat me differently.”
“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” (John Maxwell)
By admitting and taking responsibility of his mistake, Jang Hyuk showed to the world that with courage and effort, instead of being dragged down by a mistake, he learned from it and grew into a stronger man.
Rediscovering Jung Yong Joon
Besides training himself really hard in the military which apparently explained his toned body, Jang Hyuk also gained inward growth within the couple of years.
Jang Hyuk said when he was in the military, he was called by his real name “Jung Yong Joon”. To his surprise, this name sounded strange to his ears. He then realized he had long forgotten “Jung Yong Joon” because he had been living his life as “Jang Hyuk” for years .
It’s common for an actor to put on a public image quite contrary to his private self. After all, it’s the image that sells. Consequently, the pressure to keep living up to the public image and expectation can be suffocating. The true identity, which is so crucial to life, can easily be lost in midst of the glamour and glitter.
Away from the public, Jang Hyuk took the time of military service as a good opportunity for self examination. He kept reflecting his past as well as rediscovering and reconnecting with Jung Yong Joon – his authentic self , a critical process to bring about personal growth and insights to live a fuller life.
Look at this signature, it testifies Jang Hyuk’s self rediscovery:
“鏞” (A Chinese word).
Jang Hyuk said he started signing that way since he went shooting “Ai Shang Nu Zhu Bo” in China. When a lady looked at his signature and asked, “ What’s this? It’s neither “Jang” nor “Hyuk”. He explained to her that his real name is “Jung Yong Joon” and this signature is the second word of his real name in Chinese character.
By signing his real name to fans, it’s like he’s saying : “I am living my true self and I am also presenting to you my true self.” A celebrity doesn’t need to live with split identities. Jang Hyuk, Jung Yong Joon, is living a life truthful to his authentic self.
Sharpening His Blade
For celebrities, most of the time, leaving the stage with negative impression will make a comeback quite difficult. When the future seemed dark and confidence was shattering, Jang Hyuk simply refused to let setbacks derail his goals and dreams. Instead of wasting time and energy worrying and regretting, he concentrated on sharpening his blade in those darkest hours of his life.
During his two years’ time in the military, Jang Hyuk kept expanding his mind and sharpening his sense through connecting with army mates from all walks of life and spending his spare time in reading, both help enhancing his versatility by strengthening his ability to create and embrace different characters and emotions.
Alongside with those, he also worked hard to improve his enunciation by reading newspaper out loud daily. I, as a non-Korean, have no ground to judge if his speaking is clear enough but I do enjoy his voice over monologue in “Dance of the Dragon” which is gently soft and full of sentiment.
Click on the picture, the voice over monologue starts at 00:45
Thus, by maintaining a proactive mentality, Jang Hyuk turned his “off-screen” period into a great time of personal reflection, consolidation and development.
Like a chrysalis, from the outside, it looks like it’s resting, but in fact, remarkable transformation is taking place inside quietly. When the butterfly finally emerges out of the chrysalis, everyone can see the beauty of the metamorphosis.
Don’t you agree that the post military service Jang Hyuk is more beautiful both inside and out than before?
Passionate Actor Pursuing Excellence
Passion for acting has kept Jang Hyuk pursuing excellence in his performances. As a passionate actor, perfecting the craft is his lifetime pursuit.
In one of his interviews, Jang Hyuk revealed one of the secrets of his superb acting : Observation.
He said watching films and studying how other people perform is one of the ways to enrich and improve his own acting skill. He has over 4000 DVDs, including a special Bruce Lee Collection at home. (I believe he should have more by now). He carefully watched and analyzed each movies in his private study room. Also, he won’t hesitate to tap into resourceful people such as acting guru to discuss and evaluate his acting. No wonder his acting skill has significantly improved over years.
Jang Hyuk also showed his passion by putting extraordinary effort into crafting his character. He intensively analyzed the script : its story, the characters and his lines like an excellent student studying for an exam.
Take a look at his script, full of a passionate actor’s handwritten notes and marks.
Equip for Quality : Jeet Kune Do & English
Jang Hyuk, as a versatile actor, has always been equipping himself for various acting opportunities. He has learned Jeet Kune Do for over ten years which enables him to perform martial arts actions with authentic moves and techniques.
Check out Jang Hyuk’s martial arts combat in “Chuno”, the fighting scene starts at 5:34. (Please click picture to see the video)
Besides Jeet Kune Do, Jang Hyuk also diligently learns English as he believes it is essential for his career to go international. As I have worked with native Koreans before, I know how hard it is for Koreans to pronounce English correctly because of the interference of their mother tongue. Some sounds of English simply don’t exist in spoken Korean. So I can tell Jang Hyuk has worked really, really very hard with his English pronunciation in his international movie “Dance of the Dragon”.
Simply click the picture and listen, his lines start at 5:05
Reaping Applauses & Awards
Jang Hyuk’s life illustrates how a person can be benefited from living according to the Golden Life Principle : “You reap what you sow”.
With accumulated life experiences, persistent diligence and passionate pursuit, Jang Hyuk has not only overcome setbacks and made a successful return to the stage, but also kept reaping applauses and glorious awards.
After his comeback in 2007, starting with “Thank you”, followed by “Tazza” , “Chuno” and “Midas”, year after year, he was cast as the male lead and received awards. His international film “Dance of the Dragon” also won him the Best Actor award at the West Hollywood International Film Festival. (Update with photo: Jang Hyuk also won the top excellent actor award for his latest work ” Fated to Love You” )
Jang Hyuk’s excellent works are not a matter of sheer luck, but evidence of his perseverance behind the screen. He said in one interview that while it doesn’t mean that if you work hard enough, you will get the opportunity. But only if you work hard, you can grab the opportunity when it comes, otherwise, the opportunity will go into another person’s hand.
Award Winning Qualities
To me, Jang Hyuk truly deserves those award recognitions for he possesses several distinctive acting qualities that renders him so admirable.
1. Becoming the character
Jang Hyuk’s portrait of characters are outstandingly real and believable. His uncanny ability allows him to play different characters with distinctiveness and authenticity. I can sense that Jang Hyuk has a deep inner well to draw from when he needs to craft a character. His facial expression, his body movement as well as his voice are so lifelike and natural that to the audience, what they see is not Jang Hyuk acting, but the character, a real life, living and unfolding in front of the eyes. His performance has that captivating power to draw the audience into his creative world.
2. Profound Vulnerability
Another remarkable quality of Jang Hyuk’s acting is his profound vulnerability. By this I mean he is willing to be naked. Don’t mistake me, I am NOT talking about his rippling six-pack:
This sort of genuine and spontaneous outburst of emotions from the deep can’t be done through acting, it can only happen when the actor strips off his dignity and guardedness and simply becomes the character. By willing to expose his authentic and raw emotions, Jang Hyuk is so capable of making the character look surprisingly and touchingly real.
3. Physical Expressiveness
In my subjective opinion, Jang Hyuk’s best moments in his works are those silent moments, whether it is not his turn to speak or simply because the scene demands silence. Jang Hyuk’s talent is well shown in his silent physical expression of thoughts and emotions. When he’s not speaking, he is still conveying the inner thoughts and feelings of the character through his facial expression and body movement.
Here is one of his best moments as well as one of my most favorite silence scenes, taken from “Dance of the Dragon ” :
Successful Story of a Bright Guy
The metamorphic growth and success of Jang Hyuk is a masterpiece of inspiration. Seeing how he chooses to strive in difficult times and gets connected to himself at a deeper level, how he takes every opportunity to learn, how he strives for quality and excellence in work, I can see the qualities of a real man.
A real man is not someone who doesn’t have any flaws or mistakes. He is just a man who strives to overcome his flaws and learn from his mistakes to progress towards maturity and success.
The road to success is not always smooth and there’s no short cut. Circumstances may be tough and you may also make folly mistakes that bring disasters to your life. Even when dream seems flying away, a real man won’t lose heart but keep pressing onwards with hope, then he will arrive where he dreams to be.
Jang Hyuk’s success has greatly encouraged me to seize every single moment to equip myself. All those hidden moments of hard work are small steps towards achieving the dream of life. Be diligent and be faithful, in due time, “you will reap what you sow today”.
Thank You Jang Hyuk
Jang Hyuk, my God sent angel, the VIP (Very Inspiring People) of my life, thank you for sharing your life experiences and inspiring me with your aspirations. On this thanksgiving, I would like to bless you that you will live a even better life , achieve even greater dream, continue to be a loving husband and a great father as well as an inspiring model to your boys in the days to come.