I first saw Jung Ji Hoon or as many of us know him, Rain [비](Bi), in Full House. It took very little persuasion to jump on the stalker’s bandwagon. I was instantly hooked. Who wouldn’t be? His smile is so charming! So like all well-trained stalkers, the minute I completed Full House, I sought Ji Hoon in any drama, movie, music video and interview I could get my hands on. I’m glad that after he completed his military term last summer, Rain immediately dove right in to give us an exciting comeback that includes new music, variety shows and movies.
Rain is a talented artist who can sing, dance, act, model, song-write, choreograph, produce and design. The 100+ awards Ji Hoon has won is testimony to that ability. And while the majority have been in music, at least a dozen awards have been for his acting.
Jung’s success didn’t come easily, however. In interviews he has stated, "I remember going to auditions before my debut, and I was often rejected. I was told back then that the reason I was rejected was because my face was too ugly. I was even told to come back after cosmetic surgery. In fact, I was told after one audition that my singing and dancing was great, but that I didn’t make it because I didn’t have double eyelids. How do you think I felt at that time?” I’m sure the naysayers are kicking themselves for letting him slip through their fingers. I mean, ugly? Really?
Overcoming adversity was a part of Ji Hoon’s childhood. While in middle school, his father’s business failed leaving the family in poverty. Another blow came when Rain lost his mother pre-debut, to diabetes related medical complications in December 2000. Since then, Rain’s mother has become a source of inspiration for him. The tremendous impact she has had on his life is apparent in the tributes he makes to her during some of his concerts.
2007 was the year Ji Hoon’s talent jettisoned him into the international spotlight. That year Rain won the number one spot on TIME Magazine’s online user poll list of “The 100 Most Influential People who Shape the World.” Later he appeared in a “dance-off” with popular American comedian Stephen Colbert, of The Colbert Report, who came in at number two. Colbert joked that he couldn’t believe that someone he’d never even heard of had beaten him out of the top spot. The good-natured “feud” was hilarious to watch and Rain won the dance-off easily. Also in 2007, he was the first Korean male to appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, and People Magazine named him one of the world’s most beautiful people. More importantly, he caught the eye of film directors across the globe.
Fugitive Plan B
In this 2010 action comedy, Ji Hoon plays Ji Woo, a roguish spy with a knack for bringing the ridiculous into every scene. If you don’t take the drama too seriously, you’ll be able to just watch, enjoy and laugh at the silly and often corny antics, as several groups of shady businessmen chase a vast amount of money across the globe. And of course, your typical love triangle is thrown in for those romance addicts.
While this isn’t my favorite role for Ji Hoon, as I prefer to see him play more serious characters, I appreciated that he didn’t take himself too seriously and allowed us to see his goofy and silly sides. It was quite endearing. However, there are moments when Rain's character switches personas and he becomes an extremely capable secret agent who brings on the fighting scenes worthy of any James Bond movie. What made this drama even more fun to watch was the colorful cast of characters—stellar actresses like Lee Na Young, loveable favorites like Sung Dong Il, the Answer Me series father, eye candy Daniel Henney and Lee Jung Jin, and of course, Rain.
A Love to Kill
Two of my favorite actors in one drama equal awesomeness in my book. Ji Hoon plays Kang Bok Gu, a tough and cold-hearted K-1 fighter. Bok Gu swears revenge against the woman who indirectly causes his brother’s suicide attempt. Shin Min Ah, plays the brother’s ex-girlfriend, Cha Eun Seok, a TV talent and actress. As time passes, Bok Gu realizes that instead of hating Eun Seok, he has fallen in love with her. Unfortunately, his feelings of guilt for loving his brother's ex won't allow him to take the relationship any further.
Be warned, this drama is full of heartbreak. I found it difficult to get through at times, but only because I’m not into dramas about vengeance and misfortune. That said, both Shin Min Ah and Rain did exemplary jobs portraying emotionally damaged and tortured souls. I especially enjoyed Ji Hoon’s interpretation of Kang Bok Gu--it showed us once again that Rain can play grounded and serious characters. I often found myself simultaneously loving and hating Bok Gu. At some point, you begin to sympathize with the character as you come to understand that his cold demeanor is necessary for him to hide his pain, grief and guilt.
Full House put Rain on the map for me. It’s no wonder-in 2004, it was one of the highest-rated Korean dramas of all time, with ratings of over 40% at its peak. Since then it has inspired a sequel (different storyline), as well as a Thai version. Han Ji Eun, played by Song Hye Kyo, is a naïve writer who gets swindled out of the house her father left her. Rain plays Lee Young-Jae, a self-centered actor, who purchases Ji Eun’s home. Young Jae allows Ji Eun to stay as his housemaid and later they enter a fake marriage, with the house as payment for completing the contract.
This rom-com is full of your typical dramaland clichés, but I still loved watching Rain and Song Hye Kyo interact in this. They play a couple who can’t stop bickering and getting at each other’s throats. Their antics and quarrels had me continually laughing. Rain portrayed Young Jae well- an arrogant top star who vacillates between maturity and childish indecision. This drama certainly doesn’t challenge Ji Hoon’s acting abilities, but that’s not what romantic comedies are all about. They’re about silly playfulness and good-natured fun as two people clash and develop feelings for each other.
R2B: Return to Base
This 2012 action drama had some fantastic fighter aircraft combat maneuvering scenes. Those alone are reason enough to watch this movie. That and the feel-good nationalistic moment when South Korea kicks butt during a reconnaissance mission. The movie centers around a South Korean combat flying unit, F15K, who is forced to draw arms when aggressive actions, by a North Korean MIG fighter pilot, results in the death of one of their senior members and the disappearance of one of their youngest.
Rain, made a believable Jeong Tae Hoon—a cocky top-gun pilot, whose mischievous ways, both in the air and on land, tend to land him in hot water. The first half of the movie is pretty lighthearted, but then the mood of the movie changes dramatically after the attack. Tae Hoon’s demeanor changes to match the tone of the movie, and his playful character becomes grim and determined. My one complaint is that I wish the writers had focused more on the rivalry turned bromance relationship between Tae Hoon and Lee Cheol Hee, played by Yoo Joon Sang. Instead they overly focused on a lackluster love interest, which I feel added nothing to the movie.
This is not a Korean film, but no stalker’s guide would be complete without it. While not his first American film (he played Taejo Togokahn in Speed Racer in 2008), it was his first starring role. In fact, he is the first Korean-born actor to play a main character in a Hollywood film. His role as a deadly ninja, subsequently earned him the “Biggest Badass Award” at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards. Ji Hoon plays Raizo, a mysterious ninja who is trained since childhood to be a lethal killer. He turns is back on the clan that raised him, and what comes next is a deadly killing spree as Raizo steadily butchers his adversaries while getting closer to the bloody reunion with his former master and enemy.
The six-pack Rain developed for this role had absolutely nothing to do with why I watched this action packed movie. Right, I keep telling myself that. In order to get the physique necessary to play the role, Ji Hoon trained for eight months, five days a week, eight hours a day on a restrictive diet. He lost nearly 10kg (22 lbs). Now that’s dedication for you. Additionally, as a non-English speaker, Ji Hoon studied hard to get the pronunciation and tonality right for his lines. Granted, Rain doesn’t have a huge amount of lines in the movie, but the ones he does have, he delivers well. It must have been challenging to learn English in order to deliver his lines realistically, but I'm happy he made the effort to do so. I mean, how often have we watched an Asian actor speaking cringe-worthy English? Thankfully, not in this movie.
Ji Hoon is badass in this film and his acting is nothing less than intense. He makes one sexy ninja and I thoroughly enjoyed how dark his character was. However, there are a few scenes where Rain’s inherent humor comes through in his role as Raizo—which I loved.
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK
2006 brought us this delightfully quirky romantic comedy. The story centers on the budding relationship between Cha Young Goon, played by Lim Su Jeong, a young woman who believes herself to be a cyborg, and Park Il Soon, played by Rain, a schizophrenic with anti-social and kleptomaniac tendencies. While funny in some of its absurdities, the movie is balanced by disquieting undercurrents of reality which return you to the fact that the film takes place in a mental institution. The cast of odd-ball patients, eclectic humor, and bizarre carnage scenes will certainly keep your interest piqued.
Ji Hoon outdid himself in this movie by bringing to life a complicated character who is insensitive to others, suffers from the delusion that he can steal other people’s personality traits, frequently hides behind a rabbit mask, fears he will shrink into nothingness, and obsessively brushes his teeth when anxious. If that’s not enough, Rain also managed to impart an innocence and sweetness into the role I’m unsure any other actor could have delivered that well. Park is clearly a troubled man, but he changes when love demands from him to grow-up and start engaging the world around him by protecting Cha.
First and foremost, Rain is a musician. Ji Hoon, a pioneer of the Hallyu Wave (aka Korean Wave) began his career in 1998 as a member of the boy band “Fanclub.” After the group disbanded, he entered JYP Entertainment under the tutelage of the company’s CEO, Park Jin Young.
When Rain debuted as a solo artist in April 2002, he was 19, determined and driven, managing to win nearly every newcomer music award possible. Since his start, Rain’s musical career includes seven albums (Bad Guy, Rain 2, It’s Raining, Rain’s World, Eternal Rain [Japanese], Rainism, and Rain Effect), 28 singles and numerous concert tours world-wide that typically sell out within minutes. His music style has primarily been influenced by R&B, hip-hop and pop with Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Usher and Justin Timberlake as some of the artists recognized for having an impact on his music and dancing.
Latest and Greatest
From releasing a new album, filming two movies, appearing in a number of variety shows and a documentary, touring and making fan appearances, Rain has been a busy man in 2014.
The 13-year K-pop veteran bounced back with Rain Effect, which released January 2, 2014 along with accompanying music videos for the popular double lead singles, “30Sexy” and “La Song.” It is his first studio album in 6 years, reassuring fans that he is even better than ever. The album contains a total of ten tracks all co-written and co-composed by Rain, and showcases his affinity for the experimental when it comes to music.
My favorite song/video from his latest album is the catchy “La Song.” I like it because it shows Rain with a multicultural cast as they dance away in a gritty warehouse. I like to think that his time abroad while filming foreign movies have lent itself to providing the inspiration for this internationally flavored video.
For you Running Man fans, in March 2014 Rain along with Kim Woo Bin appeared as guests in the Adventure in Australia special of the show. From unnerving helicopters rides, diving underwater to recover treasure chests, dressing in costume, water zombies, your usual chasing around and cast antics, this is an awesome segment of Running Man. I won’t spoil the show by telling you if Rain wins or not, but I will tell you that he wears a Kangaroo outfit at one point, and demonstrates athletic abilities that are on par with the tiger, Kim Jong Kook.
This year, Ji Hoon via Mnet also released, Rain Effect which is his comeback documentary for his like-titled album. It features six 50-minute episodes showcasing his current life. I really appreciate when actors release their own specials, because you get the opportunity to see them act naturally-something we're normally not privy to.
In 2014 we’ll have the chance to see Ji Hoon in two new films. The Prince, is an American action-thriller gangster film which will star Bruce Willis, Rain, John Cusack, Jason Patric, and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson. The story is about a retired crime boss and single father (Patric) who is forced along with his best friend (Cusack) to return to the crime world when his daughter is kidnapped. Rain will play Mark, a cold yet heroic character, alongside Bruce Willis, who will play Omar, a thug with a corporate veneer. Filming began in the beginning of December 2013 and is expected to release later this year. I’m not a huge fan of any of the actors, therefore I'm really only in it to watch Rain. I only hope that our Ji Hoon isn't relegated to a stereotypical martial arts sidekick role that Hollywood tends to typecast Asian actors in.
Rain is also currently filming for Hong Yan Lu Shui, a Chinese movie which is expected to release on November 11 this year. Rain will play the lead, Shui Chung Shin, an artist, alongside his love interest, Lui Yi Fei. The move is about a man and a woman who approach their relationship with ulterior motives but end up in a passionate love. I'm unsure if I'll watch this as Ji Hoon's voice will most likely be dubbed in Mandarin. The reason I enjoy watching any favorite actor is that I can hear their voice, so unless they pick a voice actor that closely matches Rain's vocals, I'll probably pass on this one.
And there you have it folks. Through “endless effort, endless endeavor, and endless modesty” Rain continues to deliver and demonstrate to the world that he is indeed a talent to be reckoned with.
If there is an actor or an actress that is worthy of a Stalker's Guide in your opinion, and you have watched enough dramas of his/hers to prove it, please contact Elisabetta about it.