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A truly celebrity of conscience

Posted April. 25, 2012 07:21,   


Actor Cha In-pyo was offered the role of a North Korean officer in the “007 Series,” a coveted part in South Korea, in 2002. He rejected the offer, however, because the script seriously distorted the reality in the North and said those who watch the barbed wire between the two Koreas are depicted as American soldiers, not South Koreans. He also recently attended a protest against sending North Korean defectors back to the North in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. A left-wing group that had supported Cha for rejecting the role failed to respond this time. The actor had a firm conviction, however, saying, “The North Korean defector issue is not a matter of political ideology or diplomacy, but should be judged based on conscientiousness and common sense." Indeed, he said the right thing.

When asked if he would marry his wife, former actress Shin Ae-ra, if he could be born again, he said “Yes” without hesitation. The couple has one boy and two adopted girls. Shin gave up her acting career to raise their daughters. Their son, who was homeschooled for a year in the sixth grade, is attending an alternative middle school that values character. They readily signed a memo that they would not have their children endure to "hagwon (academic institute) hell."

Since 2003, Shin has served as a goodwill ambassador for Compassion, an international aid group which sponsors poor children in Asia, Africa and South America. Her husband, who is also a Compassion sponsor, said he began to think seriously about helping poor children around the world after visiting India before his wife did. Shin has made donations and sponsored poor people ahead of her husband. Like wife, like husband.

Shin has started a campaign to end school violence by hosting a podcast for parents organized by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry. She said, “We shouldn`t blame schools for school violence,” adding, “Korean parents want to give the love that they want. Their children want a different love.” She said she wants to share her thoughts with other parents because she believes that academic stress is the biggest cause of school violence. Some say celebrities who support causes and make political comments or participate in protests know what the right thing is, but Shin is a true celebrity of conscience.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)