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Japanese actor Yakusho visits Seoul

Posted February. 22, 2001 17:53,   


Japanese actor Koji Yakusho, 45, well known to Korean fans for the hit movie ``Shall We Dance?`` came to Korea Wednesday on a publicity tour for his 1999 film ``Jubaku``(Spellbound), which opens here on March 3.

Based on a large-scale financial scandal in Japan, the film features Yakusho as bank executive leading reforms against corruption.

``When we planned this movie, many companies were collapsing one after another under the ailing economy, and a lot of businesspeople were committing suicide,`` Yakusho recalled.

``I chose to make this film in hopes that it might encourage people who are living difficult lives. I also hope this movie will also give courage to Koreans struggling under the economic turmoil here,`` he said.

The popular Japanese actor also starred in ``Lost Paradise,`` a box-office hit that rocked Japan in 1997. ``Shall We Dance?`` earned $10 million in the United States the same year.

Yakusho also appeared in ``Unagi`` (The Eel), which won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.

Oddly enough, his surname Yakusho means ``ward.`` He chose it as his nom de guerre in memory of his four years as an engineering clerk at the Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo after he graduated high school.

Yakusho, who is often compared to top Korean star Ahn Sung-Ki, who is known for his warm and friendly image, said he recently heard he even shares Ahn`s blood type (AB) and birthday (Jan. 1).

``When my mother saw a poster for ``Sleeping Man,`` in which we acted together, she mistook Ahn for me,`` he said, marveling at their resemblance.

The actor said he likes to live up to his image by appearing in ``warm movies.``

``There are too many miserable and radical things like murders in the Japanese news. As a movie fan as much as an actor, I want to perform in warm films that are free of violence and make people happy,`` he said.

Kim Hee-Kyeong susanna@donga.com