Interview with Gong Yoo (Elle Korea 2018)

Gong Yoo is one of those actors who consistently takes me by surprise and I’m not really sure why. He’s good and he picks pretty solid projects. I’ve seen (ahem!) five of his dramas and three of his films over the years and every single time I’ve found something beautiful and moving in his performance.

I’ll admit that I still have an embarrassing soft spot for Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy, but Coffee Prince is the one that will continue to stand the test of time. I still recommend it to Korean drama neophytes when they ask me for recs.

Speaking of time, good grief, how can it already be TEN YEARS since Coffee Prince aired?! Elle Korea published a brief interview with Gong Yoo where he reflects on one of the most beloved Korean dramas of the past decade and as well as his most recent success with Goblin.

(Disclaimer: All copyright belongs to the original source. I am not profiting by this translation and cannot guarantee its accuracy.)


gong yoo
Source: Elle Korea Official Facebook


Gong Yoo’s Sincerity

Source:  Elle Korea

Coming face-to-face with the sincere desire to breathe as himself rather than as everyone’s fantasy-packed star

This year, it will be 10 years since Coffee Prince (2007) aired. It was an incredibly popular show, and many fans associate it with summer and youthfulness.

I do too. There was a segment in the special broadcast where each actor had to describe the drama in one word. [Actor] Kim Chang-wan said it best. “Coffee Prince is Summer 2007.”

For the actor Gong Yoo, Coffee Prince probably held just as much significance as Goblin.

Indeed. I was 29 years old when I did Coffee Prince and 39 when I did Goblin. I was going through a really hard time when I was 29. Thirty-nine was hard too. I underwent an experience very similar to the one I had had exactly ten years later, but the pain was different. I found that interesting and it made me wonder what that pain might feel like at 49. Fortunately, perhaps because my body and heart matured over the past ten years, the pain I experienced at 39 didn’t last very long. It lasted a long time when I was 29. I worried about the uncertainty of my future as a man and as an actor, and whether or not I would be able to continue acting…. Coffee Prince helped me shake off that worry and pain, and gave me the strength to stand up straight. It helped me maintain my composure and say, “I think I can worry a little less.”

From 29 to 39, are you proud of how far you’ve come in the past 10 years?

I want to praise myself. I’m someone who’s really hard on himself, but this time at least I want to pat myself on the back. I tormented myself a lot back when I was 29. When the director of Coffee Prince Lee Yoon-jeong first met me on set, he saw me and was worried. I didn’t torture myself like that at 39. I only suffered for a short period of time. I want to tell myself that I did well then.

Many fans across Asia came to love you through Goblin. How did it feel when you met your overseas fans face-to-face?

It was surreal and exciting every time. I felt honored and happy, but fan meetings always make me anxious. I’m not the kind of entertainer who can put on a well-rounded performance, like a singer. The overseas fan meetings all charge for admission, so I was embarrassed that it was just myself standing on the stage as I am, without anything to show for it. Of course, the fans say they’re content with just being able to see the actor they like, but it made me anxious from my perspective. So after Goblin, I conferred with my agency and we decided to scale back. I decided that I would show people who I am as a person, as plainly and honestly as possible. I would get up on the stage for that reason alone.

Is it possible that the multinational fan love you received will have some influence on your future endeavors?

I don’t think so. I’m saying this hoping my fans won’t misunderstand, but I think those who truly care and support me as an actor would wish the same. I think year after year, the older I get, the more I’ll involve myself in the stories I actually want to tell. As I said before it’s not that the project definitely has to have a message. I like to choose films that have at least one thing that stands out about it. It could be the music or it could be the set. I like films that have a clear identity of their own. I’m not really interested in films that are made up of random things that the public likes. Of course, I know that film is a public art form and I know that we churn out far more films than we used to. But I want to maintain a certain level, a point of balance. I don’t want to concede everything. If there’s even just one thing I can save, that small difference can add a lot of color.

Other than film, what other topics excite you? Sports?

Of course. Middle-aged men of my age are all the same. When it’s baseball season, I watch Major League baseball and Korean professional baseball, and when baseball season ends, it’s time for the American NBA season…. Last year, I saw an NBA game live for the first time and it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t for a team that I really liked (I like the Golden State Warriors), but watching the game live was incredibly invigorating. I wondered why the tickets were so expensive when I first got them, but it was worth it (laugh).

Are you someone who can manage everyday life quite well even when you’re alone?

I’m grateful for my managers who support me when the need arises, but I try not to be completely reliant on them. I enjoy being alone. And I’m someone who needs time to be alone. I’m used to loneliness. Whether you’re friends or lovers, I think everyone needs their own space. It’s uncomfortable to have someone encroach on everything in the name of friendship or love. I don’t know when I’ll get married, but I think I need to be with someone who can respect personal space.

Have you shaken off the worries of a 39-year old and readied yourself for 2018?

I’m really at peace with myself these days. And I think it was a long time coming. To be honest, even when the new year comes around, I’m the type of person to be like ‘oh, that happened.’ I don’t get that excited about my birthday either. And I don’t really prefer a rowdy atmosphere for Christmas. In some ways, I’m a pretty boring person. Some people see this in a negative light saying, “Why are you acting like everything’s pointless?” But I’m comfortable like this. I just don’t attach a lot of meaning to trivial things.

Will we have to wait a little longer for your next project?

I wasn’t planning on resting for too long, originally. Even though I knew it would be tough, I wanted to move on to doing a film right away. Ultimately, I ended up not having a project on my hands. I think I longed to be on a film set again, to take part in creating a new story with like-minded people. Maybe if I just lie low and wait, an opportunity will seek me out.

Do you have any idea what kind of project you’d want to work on?

I want to try a looser kind of role. I want to do much more of the ‘lifestyle acting’ that I occasionally ad-libbed in Goblin. And maybe a role where I don’t have to care about my appearance, so maybe two things that are loose? Since I’m naturally someone who worries a lot, I’d want to try living a completely different life free from that.

Elle Thailand asks: “Tell us a flaw about yourself that would make us not love you anymore.”

I have a lot of flaws, of course. In reality, I’m extremely different from the romantic persona you see in dramas or advertisements. It’s not that I don’t have sweet side at all. According to the people around me, I do show affection in my own unique way. But I’m not good about planning things for birthdays or anniversaries. I’m not someone who can easily do the type of things most women expect. Was that being too honest?


  1. Pelin says:

    I loved Coffee Prince, and I couldn’t even guess he turned 39! Wow, he is a real gem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      I know right?!? The man ages like fine wine.


  2. MC says:

    Thank you very much for translating Gong Yoo’s Elle interview. It is so interesting to read his thoughts about life, love, and acting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Archana says:

      You’re very welcome!


  3. S says:

    Thank you so much! I love Gong Yoo, but was unfortunately not able to get a hold of this copy (and I don’t know Korean).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      You’re welcome! Thanks for reading.


  4. Beez says:

    “… anniversaries. I’m not someone who can easily do the type of things most women expect. Was that being too honest?”

    Oh. Gong Yoo, you mean like most guys? lol

    Thanks for translating this.


  5. thegoodtheweird says:

    Hiii check out my thoughts on music too :)


  6. Grace says:

    Thank you for the interview 👏 I just discovered Gong Yoo after I saw A man and a woman in KLM flight… he is not only good looking but extremely gifted as an actor… delivered the role with deep and raw emotions. March this year and since then I ‘be watched and reviewed again his Tv and movies and so my kids said this is going to be a spring – summer or maybe an all year GonG Yoo thing. I start my day with his fan meeting songs esp the “ Last time I fall in love” and end my day with 2 TV episodes which I’ve seen. Gong Yoo is soo human and honest in his interviews. I love him as an actor and a person . Every day I check if he has an upcoming TV and movie to look forward . I told my daughter that we will travel for the next fan meeting so I can see and hear Gong Yoo in person . Hope this comes very soon. Thank you Gong Yoo… you’re ❤️ . Thank you for the interview and I hope you can give Gong Yoo a copy of my letter coz I’m a mom n I don’t know about his accounts. Thank you .. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  7. ila620 says:

    I just finished watching Goblin and WOW…..fell in love with this guy. What a presence.!! Thanks Archana for posting this. I stumbled upon this and learned about the person behind the character we see on the screen. I am a newbie who started watching K-Drama within the last 3 months and got interested in korean language. Hope I can matain the dedication to get the level of chatting with others in Korean.
    I like people who like solitude. It enriches your existence as a human being on our short journey of this consciousness….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Archana says:

      Glad you enjoyed the interview!


    2. Beez says:

      @ila620 – As a big Gong Yoo fan myself, I recommend “Coffee Prince” next as it was Gong Yoo’s break out hit. Be prepared that “Big” had it’s good moments but the disappointing ending caused it to be ranked as a flop. I liked an older melo series of his called “One Fine Day” but be warned it deals with disturbing subject matter.

      His movies – he had a supporting role in S-Diary that I enjoyed seeing him play a typical bad boyfriend. More recently his movies have been of a more serious vein. “Silenced” is incredible as far as it’s well done and was impactful in exposing a true but mostly unknown story regarding abuse of children at a school for the deaf. It’s not for the feint of heart. Gong Yoo received notoriety for bringing this story to national attention.
      Here’s a link to his works –

      My picks, in this order for watching his growth are:
      Coffee Prince
      The Suspect
      Silenced (if you can stomach it)
      Age of Shadows
      Train to Busan (hold on to your seat, it’s a zombie movie but done better than any zombie movie I’ve watched before)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ila620 says:

    Thanks Beez. I will definitely check them out. As Archana said he is like a fine wine that ages well, so I will follow his growth for sure. I am hoping he will get to do a collaborative project with US film industry.


    1. Beez says:

      I noticed in English interviews, he often doesn’t need to wait for the interpreter before he answers, but, like many Kstars who understand English, he’s not confident in his own pronunciation.

      Gong Yoo is terribly handsome but for me, it’s a particularly goofy smile he has that slays me. 😁


  9. susan says:

    Gong Yoo to me is an amazing person…one of the best on his craft. His smiles always melts me away, He is my entire life right now. He is very handsome I love everything about him.. Gong Ji-Cheol makes my entire world right now. I love Gong Yoo so much it’s beyond my entire being.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ashley says:

    Why is being 39 or over 40 middle-aged? Koreans have a strange cut off. 40 is young! You’re middle aged when you are 55, and senior when you are 75. Seriously, get that right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Haha, agreed! I think people start living their best lives in their 30s and 40s.



    Thanks for sharing the interview— that I just stumbled while browsing the internet during slack time at work…hehehe… I’m a granny who became Gong Yoo’s fan when I saw him in Train to Busan (although I have seen his other projects before this— thanks to my daughter who introduced me to anything Korean) and Goblin nailed it all. I really appreciate his honesty which doesn’t come easily for people in the entertainment world. His an exceptional guy and I love him for that. He’s a very versatile actor —as I have seen already most of his dramas and movies. Missing him so much–hope he has a new project coming soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lil M. says:

    hmm wan’t Gong oppa only 37 yoa when he did Goblin? they started filming the series Sept. of 2016 and it aired in Korea from Dec. 2016 to Jan. of 2017. He didn’t turn 39 until July this year. Even if we are to follow Korean Age, he would only be 38 at that time.


    1. Archana says:

      Nope. His Western age was 37 in September of 2016, but at birth Koreans are already 1 year old, so that adds +1 = 38 years old. All Koreans then add 1 year on New Year’s day, so on January 1 2018, his Korean age became 39. You don’t increment your age on your actual birth date, so on his birthday, he continued to be 39.


  13. I find Gong Yoo a very refreshing actor, he has done a wonderful job in his acting character. When I watch his one on one interviews, I relate in a lot ways how he feels in his acting and personal views. I love the way he sees and feels on important things that affect on real life. Thank you for this article, I always enjoy new updates on this wonderful person and actor. I hope I get to meet him one day, it would be an honor to talk and greet him.


  14. Kikay Tan says:

    It’s November 2019…

    For the longest time, my friends are all a-gaga over Kdramas and of course I hear Gong Yoo’s name a lot. After a vacation in Asia, I – AGAIN – find myself clueless about what people are talking about. So much so that I resolved to finally watch my first Kdrama.

    I asked a friend (she’s been trying to get me hooked for 5 years already!) and I asked her “TELL ME WHERE I SHOULD START?”

    She said Coffee Prince.

    I watched the 17 episodes over 3 days.

    I am now a proud Kdrama convert, officlal Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun-Hye fan, and I’m sitting here devouring anything I can read up on these two!

    My life has changed :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Archana says:

      Hahaha, I love this! Thanks for sharing. I’m a fan of Biscuit Teacher & Star Candy, let me know if you ever get around to watching that! ;)


    2. beezrtp says:

      You’ve got to watch Goblin (pure fun tv); and movies Train to Busan; Silenced (if you can handle it); Suspect for his amazing abs!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Archana says:

        Oooh, also very good recs. :) Silenced was really rough, but it’s such a good movie. Gong Yoo and Jung Yumi (the lead actress in Silenced) were recently reunited in Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 which just came out this month.


        1. beezrtp says:

          Yessss, I want to see this new movie. Especially to see why there’s such an uproar. I read something that says it deals with breaking the tradition of daughter-in-law-as-slave, which although that’s important, I can’t see men being upset by that but the articles I read didn’t address any feminism that must be at the core of the book.

          I even saw that any celebrity reading the book or supporting the right of someone else to read it was being ostracized.


      2. Kikay says:

        Thanks for the recs! But – and I’m almost shy to say this – I actually saw Train to Busan the year it came out (2016)! I was impressed by the quality of the film but it didn’t ‘convert’ me to Gong Yoo then… which leads me to this discussion/debate I have with friends now…

        Is it the actor(s) or the material?

        Many (all?) of my friends simply gush over Gong Yoo but for me, Coffee Prince, is about Gong Yoo AND Yoon Eun-hye!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Archana says:

          YES! Let’s be honest, Gong Yoo was great but Yoon Eun-hye was an absolute star. They made each other better!


  15. Krissy says:

    It makes me wonder why Gong Yoo cherishes Coffee prince so much. In the recent talk show hosted by Lee Dong Wook, the series was mentioned and Gong Yoo’s reaction was all smiles and seem to reminisce a lot. The series rekindled his passion for acting, but how? According to an interview back in 2007, he said Yoon Eun Hye’s was so into her role, and gave her best shot despite the stress (she was having a lawsuit against her management) and headaches she was experiencing. Gong Yoo said he couldn’t help but feel the same enthusiasm. I believe YEH played a big role in getting his passion for acting back. In his radio program back in 2009, he had YEH as a surprise caller, she encouraged him about his last month in the military and he replied “Go Eun chan’s (YEH’s character) encouragement gives me strength.” We still have Gong Yoo probably because of her.

    Liked by 1 person

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