When you search “Jang Dong Gun” on Korean search engines like Naver or Daum, “Jang Dong Gun in person” (장동건 실물) often comes out as a related search. I admit I’m not a fan of Jang Dong Gun, but so many people often cite him to be the best looking Korean actor and lament that he’s one of the least photogenic actors in Korea because he looks so much better in person. So now I have a new mission in life to meet and see Jang Dong Gun to determine once and for all what all the fuss is about. And my time is running out, as I hope to see him while he has not aged completely and still maintaining his “youth.”
But this got me thinking about starting a new blog series titled “Celebrity Sightings,” where we share with one another our impressions of celebrities we did meet in person.
There really is a thin line between being a fan of a celebrity and worshipping one. After all, they’re just people like any one of us. And also there are people who criticize how celebrities’ private lives become so scrutinized. But nevertheless, this is for good fun. If you have any celebrity encounter stories you’d like to share with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And the first person to start off the series is… umm, ME!
HAN CHAE YOUNG
I saw Han Chae Young (A Man Called God) on multiple occasions around 1998-1999, a year before she made her tv debut with Autumn Tale and before she had received any plastic surgery on her face. (Umm, she definitely did her eyes, even though she had double eyelids before as well.) She really stands out in my memory because she was simply GORGEOUS. I didn’t even realize that I ended up staring at her, and she noticed my stare and looked back at me. I remember remarking that with her looks, she probably has a chance at becoming an actress or model in Korea if she chooses. A year later, she appeared on my tv screen.
Even to this day, I count Han Chae Young as one of the three most beautiful women I’ve met in person. One was Han Chae Young. Second was this Korean girl who I “spotted” and a few months later, ended up running for the Miss Korea pageant. Third was my friend’s friend who we ended up going clubbing with one night. She was mixed between Caucasian, Puerto Rican, and Filipino, and you know how beautiful mixed people usually are. But yes, even among the three, Han Chae Young really stood out to me for her beauty.
Her public profile lists her height at 172 cm, which I understand is just short of 5’8″. I’m not sure if she was quite 5’8″, but I would have guessed between 5’7″ and 5’8″, so I don’t think her public profile is too big of a stretch.
People do mention how some people just look better on screen, whereas others are simply not as photogenic. Han Chae Young appears to be the latter because when I first saw her on screen in Autumn Tale, my first impression was how she looks nowhere near as good on tv as she does in real life, even though her features had not changed from when I saw her in person. Perhaps she thought the same because between Autumn Tale and Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, she obviously went under the knife. Funny how whenever I see her on screen, I still never think of her as being particularly beautiful compared to other actors or actresses.
KIM CHANG WAN
I went into a store and noticed that a crowd had gathered and was forming a line. I looked up and noticed a banner announcing a fan signing event for singer/actor Kim Chang Wan. He was the vocalist for the late 70s/early 80s rock band, Sanulrim. But drama fans may be more familiar with him from his roles in Coffee Prince and White Tower.
I quickly lined up, and as the fan signing was just starting, I was one of the first people in line. My first impression of him was how identical he appeared as on television. Dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans, and his hair looking slightly unkempt, he looked like any other middle-aged Korean ahjussi. In fact, if I saw him on the street, I probably would have just passed him by without even realizing that he was Kim Chang Wan. He really blends in with the crowd. He didn’t have any makeup on, but his skin was rather fair. He has a very soft-spoken voice, but when he smiled, it felt genuine and warm, and not just a “fake” celebrity smile.
When I was getting his autograph, I debated between giving him my Korean name or my American name. I decided on my American name because the only other celebrity autograph I have was also signed to my American name. But I had to slowly spell out my name for him.
LEE SEUNG SHIN
All the celebrities from hereon were those that I saw from a pre-show to a soccer match between a celebrity soccer team and a Korean-American one around 2003. The pre-show had free admission and many people showed up. But it was so delayed that many folks ended up leaving. I too was packing up to leave, but that’s when they arrived. Somehow or another, I ended up standing in the front row, just a few feet away from the celebrities on stage.
I had no idea why Lee Seung Shin and Lee Ah Hyun were there, but my brain was quickly calculating who they could possibly be dating from the men who were there. (This was before Lee Seung Shin or Lee Ah Hyun got married.)
Lee Seung Shin (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Old Boy) was wearing a windbreaker and her hair was slicked back into a ponytail. As an indication of how “Korean” I am, the first thing I did when I saw her was to look at the person who I went with and exclaim, “Oh my gosh, her face is so small!” I too did not expect that to be my first reaction.
She has a rather tanned skin, but she was wearing a very heavy foundation. My mom used to always comment on her square jaw when she saw her on television, but again, that seems to be just accentuated on screen. Although not evoking the thought of being drop dead gorgeous, she was very pretty in person and again, the tv does not seem to do her justice.
LEE AH HYUN
Lee Ah Hyun (Twinkle Twinkle) was wearing the same windbreaker as Lee Seung Shin. Now that I think about it, it might have been their team windbreaker. She had her hair braided into pigtails, and her complexion contrasted so much from Lee Seung Shin. Perhaps it was the effect of the pigtails, but she looked young and cute.
PARK SANG MYUN
Unlike the women who looked much better in person than on television, the men looked strikingly the same. Park Sang Myun (Mary Stayed Out All Night) is listed as 180 cm (around 5’11”) on his profile. I’m very bad with approximating people’s height, but he was quite tall in person so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s accurate.
All the men each sang a song, and Park Sang Myun was the best singer of the group. I’ve always known him to be a good singer, and he didn’t disappoint.
HEO JUN HO
Heo Jun Ho (Moss) is also listed as 180 cm, but that is obviously a lie. The first thought that crossed my mind was how much smaller he looked than I imagined he would be. Actually, that was the only thought that crossed my mind about him. He sang a song, and he was pretty good too. (I swear, these Koreans, all they do is go karaoking. What the heck!)
TAK JAE HOON
Tak Jae Hoon (Night After Night) is so much quieter and awkward in real life. Everyone expected him to be the life of the show, but was surprised to find him so… reserved. He was the only “singer” from the group, but I found it amusing how he was actually the worst singer among them.
His profile lists him as 179 cm, but like Heo Jun Ho, that’s a lie. Both me and the person I was with noticed that he looked smaller than we imagined he would be. If I have to take a guess, I’d take a inch or two away from his “official” profile.
I don’t know why Koreans are so sensitive about our height. I admit that I’m 5’3″ and I like to tell others that I’m 5’4″. Usually, people just accept it as is, but one day, I decided to push it a little further and told my friend I was 5’5″. Needless to say, they wondered what I was smoking. So yes, 5’4″ it is! *wink wink*