Lee Byung-hun and Choi Ji-woo ride
the crest of a Korean wave into Japan
Chris Betros and Mayumi Higashioka
|Lee Byung-hun (left)
and Choi Ji-woo
There's no doubt who the biggest foreign
celebrities are in Japan right now-South Koreans. When
Lee Byung-hun and Choi Ji-woo visited these shores recently,
nearly 1,500 screaming fans showed up at Narita airport to
greet them. That was followed by an almost hysterical reception
at the Tokyo International Film festival, where 300 photographers
and 800 reporters crammed into their press conference to hear
about their new romantic comedy Everybody Has Secrets.
The couple, along with Bae Yong-joon, have swept through Japan
this year like a fever. Choi first starred with Bae in NHK's
phenomenally popular Winter Sonata. Now she and Lee are appearing
in the Saturday night NHK drama Beautiful Days. "Every
time I come to Japan, the number of people who come to my
press conferences seems to increase," mused the 34-year-old
Lee, known in South Korea for his killer smile.
The elegant 29-year-old Choi, who looked like she had stepped
from the pages of a fashion magazine, said she found it gratifying
to have so many fans in Japan. Born in Pusan, she majored
in aerobics at Pusan Women's Professional College before
beginning her acting career. During her visit, she made a
¥1 million donation to victims of the Niigata earthquake.
Lee added that he hopes their new film will bring a smile
to the faces of the people of Niigata.
Directed by Chang Hyun-soo, Everybody Has Secrets is the story
of three sisters who are completely smitten with a mysterious
young businessman whose seductive power they cannot resist.
All three try to keep their relationship with him secret from
the others. Then he's invited to their mother's
birthday party and the fun and games start.
"Romantic comedy is a new field for me," said
Lee. "It was difficult because it's not realism.
I had to be careful not to overact, so it was a challenge."
Choi said that when she read the script, she was worried at
first. "I've done many love stories and I do
want to challenge a new genre. Still, it was great working
with Lee. I think any woman who sees him in this movie will
simply melt on the spot."
Both Lee and Choi are hoping to expand their careers beyond
their homeland. Choi is taking English lessons with an eye
to Hollywood. She doesn't discount making a movie in
"I love Japanese movies too. If I can break the language
barrier, I would love to be in a Japanese movie," she
Lee said he gets asked that question all the time. "My
mind is open on the subject. I basically don't care
in which country I make a movie, as long as I can work with
Photo credit: Image.net
Georgia & Steve
Metropolis staffers past and present gather in New York for
the wedding of one of their own
|Clockwise from top to
left: Dan Grunebaum, Aeve Baldwin, John McGee, Mary Devlin,
Ryoji Kojima, Georgia Jacobs, Tama Miyake Lung, Matt Wilce,
Meg Nagahama, Marta Teixeira and Sarah Hurn; Georgia Jacobs
and Steve Hofmann; Ryoji, Tama and Phil Lung, Meg; the
Sakura Hirota, 26, is one of Japans most popular female
wrestlers, making her debut in 1996 at the Nippon Budokan
with wrestling legend Chigusa Nagayo. The Aichi Prefecture
natives most powerful moves are the handstand and the
tokimeki memorial, but Hirota is perhaps best
known for her lavish, psychedelic pre-match costumes. Unlike
many of her peers, the onetime zookeeper seemed an unlikely
prospect due to a preliminary practical skills test that ranked
her at the bottom of the class. But Hirotas performance
in the ring sparkled, and ultimately provided her ticket to
What made you think about becoming a professional wrestler?
I didnt know about womens professional wrestling
until I saw it on television, by chance. I thought to myself,
Id like to perform such amazing moves, and have
such moves made on me. But I believe the underlying
reason was that I needed something to spend all my time and
What would you have done if you hadnt become a professional
I think I would have been doing a job involving acting or
Whats your favorite movie?
My favorite Western movies are True Romance and the Indiana
Jones trilogy. My preferred Japanese film is Ijintachi to
Your favorite actor?
Hows your English?
Im still studying it. I use a lot of English in the
ring, but its deliberately made to sound weird so that
the audience finds it funny.
What do you do on your days off?
I watch movies to get ideas for costume play and wrestling
matches. I also go out to buy or look for costumes.
If you were to be in a movie or television drama, what
sort of character would best suit you?
Im striving to become not a lead actress, but a supporting
actress playing a mysterious role.
How do you see womens wrestling changing in the
I think individual events and performances will increase,
going beyond the framework of the various organizations in
womens professional wrestling.
Would you consider wrestling in the US?
Id be interested to see if my style works over there,
but I havent thought about it. CN
Photo credit: Courtesy of
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