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After a successful debut, Kang shoots for fun in ‘Long Live the King’

Kang Yoon-sung’s first feature film, “The Outlaws” from 2017, was a bit cliched but had fantastic characters and great action. That was enough to hype up expectations for the director’s next film, “Long Live the King,” set for release June 19.

Like his previous movie, the upcoming flick also stars gangsters, but it has a completely different tone. “I aimed to make a fun film above all else. ... It’s about a mob boss becoming a hero of Mokpo through a certain incident, and his life getting overturned,” Kang said during a press conference in Seoul on Monday.

In the film, protagonist Jang Se-chul becomes a hero in the eyes of the public after unwittingly risking his life to save a person from a bus accident, after which he runs for a seat as a lawmaker.

Director Kang Yoon-sung (left) speaks to Kim Rae-won during the filming of “Long Live the King.” (Megabox Joongang Plus M)
Director Kang Yoon-sung (left) speaks to Kim Rae-won during the filming of “Long Live the King.” (Megabox Joongang Plus M)

Kang said he chose this scenario because it was the “most fun out of all the scripts” he had received since “The Outlaw,” and he was confident he could do it well.

In the role of accidental hero, starring as the mob boss of the southwestern city of Mokpo, is Kim Rae-won, who started out as just another pretty face but has expanded his range monumentally and is now a respected actor.

Kim said it took time, but he eventually learned Kang’s style and ran with it.

“There were times when I memorized all the lines, arrived on the scene to find that everything has changed. By the time (the production) was halfway done, I learned his style,” he said.

“One day I was putting on my makeup, and the director came in and told me that he changed the scene. After he left, I told the staff, ‘I knew this would happen, which is why I didn’t memorize any of my lines,’” Kim joked.

An actor well aware of Kang’s style is Jin Seon-kyu, who has transformed from a killer in Kang’s previous work to mob boss Jo Gwang-chun. “Jo is a character who has a reason (to be evil), an antagonist who has no choice,” Jin said.

He works with two-faced lawmaker Choi Man-soo -- played by Choi Gwi-hwa, another actor known for his acting prowess.

On the side of good is lawyer Gang So-hyeon, played by Won Jin-ah, who plays perhaps the biggest role in the movie by lambasting Jang and making him think twice about being a gangster.

“I’ve played righteous characters before, but they would not actively show that aspect. ... (This character) directly expresses herself with passion,” she said. Her character is described as just as passionate as she is headstrong.

“Long Live the King” is based on a popular webtoon of the same name, but the director said the film has its own merits. Despite dealing with elections and politics, the director said it is not a political film at all. 

By Yoon Min-sik