By Park Jin-hai
The half-mark episode of "Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People," MBC's 30-part period drama, starring veteran actor Kim Sang-joong and Yoon Kyun-sang, aired this week. Telling the story of Hong Gil-dong, a popular Korean literary figure based on a real life Joseon-era person, during the violent time-period, the Monday-Tuesday drama has enjoyed a steady rise in viewership ratings and positive reviews from viewers and critics.
A solid plot, great performances of all cast members and the production staff's efforts have been acknowledged for its success. But, if one should name just one critical element that made all this, no one would deny it was actor Kim Sang-joong, who played the role of Amogae, Hong's father and a greedy nobleman's slave.
By portraying a slave named Amogae, which literally means nobody, the 51-year-old veteran actor emotionally identified with the character who lives a miserable life, deeply touching hearts of viewers with his acting.
With the 14th episode, Kim leaves the drama as Amogae dies in peace after he and his son see the demise of their archenemies who destroyed his family.
Actor Kim, who says he is still living with the memories of Amogae after his part ended, said his role gained viewers' strong support because people could easily identify with him in this role.
"Amogae is a character like air ― we live in it but take it for granted. Being a part of an everyday picture as a father, husband and a family head, people forget about the importance of his being. But, through the drama, people are reminded of what the roles of a father, husband and family head have been," said Kim during an interview at MBC's headquarters in Seoul, Monday.
Amogae worked his fingers to the bone for his master but the only return he had for his life-time of service was his wife's death at the hands of his master, who wanted to take away the wealth Amogae secretly accrued to buy his family's freedom.
He takes revenge by killing his master and starts a new life dreaming of an ideal world where there is no discrimination based on who they are at birth. His son Gil-dong, with inhuman strength, becomes Joseon's first revolutionary and political dissident, winning the hearts of the public.
Kim said he paid every effort to each scene. But one of the most memorable scenes was Amogae walking out of his masters' room, after beheading him with a sickle. "The script states that Amogae's face after cutting his master's head was as white as a piece of paper. It made me think a lot. It should include all the emotions of satisfaction from revenge, sadness for his wife's death, emptiness and loneliness," he said. "When I saw the outcome, I thought that my facial expressions were very much satisfactory."
Kim, who mostly played roles of kings and people in power in his long career as well as hosting an investigative documentary program, said he was initially worried that people might find him playing the role as unnatural and foreign. "After discussions with the director I ruffled my hair and made my traditional Korean costume and hands dirty. It was almost the first time I wore stage makeup on my whole body," he said. "Through the drama, I felt catharsis as an actor, pouring out all that I could to express Amogae."
Asked about the he remembers best, Kim said his conversation with his son was most memorable. "Amogae says ‘Those people are rotten. Because they smell bad, they side with each other to hide the bad smell.' I thought the line was very timely," Kim said.
Kim Jin-man, director of "Rebel" said that the ultimate message he wants to deliver through the drama is philanthropy. "One message that penetrates throughout the period drama is Amogae's spirit _ love for all humanity. It will be manifested through Amogae's son Gil-dong in the latter half of the 30-part drama," said the director.