Photo: The Straits Times/Nivash Joyvin
In the classic K-drama tearjerker Stairway To Heaven (2003), childhood sweethearts Song Joo and Jung Seo are torn apart by meddling jealous relatives.
The precocious child actor Baek Sung Hyun, who played the young Song Joo, is now a strapping 27-year-old.
He has long shed his cherubic innocence. Now, he has shed his clothes as well for the controversial Korean movie Walking Street, named after the Thai red-light district in Pattaya where it was filmed.
"The director enjoys seeing naked bodies, that's why. He kept asking us to take off our clothes," says Baek in jest, drawing protests from director Lee Sang Woo, who is sitting in on the interview.
The duo have worked together on two other projects - coming-of-age film Speed (2015) and the yet- to-be-released comedy Starbuck's Cafe (2017).
Baek was speaking to local media last Friday before the movie's global premiere at the Singapore International Film Festival that evening.
Although it was his first time doing a nude scene, he was not embarrassed because he felt it was necessary for the role. He plays a mute, Teae Sung, who is in a love triangle with a prostitute and his younger brother.
But the 1.8m-tall actor did feel the pressure to look good in the movie while parading in his underwear and engaging in a sex scene in the buff. He went on a more intense exercise regimen and a no-salt diet of steamed broccoli and chicken breast.
Unfortunately, Singapore audiences will not get to watch his performance and pumped-up body in Walking Street because there are no plans to release the movie commercially here.
K-drama enthusiasts can instead tune in to recent medical drama Doctors, in which he has a small role as a suave doctor.
When the actor was eating satay at Lau Pa Sat food centre last week, eagled-eyed fans recognised him from the series and stopped him for photos.
Media attention on him has also increased after the online buzz over his onscreen reunion with Doctors' lead actress Park Shin Hye - 13 years after their puppy romance in Stairway To Heaven. Park played Jung Seo in that show.
Baek says: "Even though we did not have any shows together, we still kept in touch. She was my junior in university and we are still close. We still call each other by our nicknames."
Catch the finale of Doctors on Sunday at 4.30pm on One (StarHub TV Channels 124, 820 and 823; Singtel TV Channels 513 and 604).
The original version of this story was published in The Straits Times on November 30, 2016.
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