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Kang Ha Neul Plays A Tragic Poet

BY Julie Jones | Feb 17, 2016 01:32 PM EST

Kang Ha Neul and Park Jung Min
(Photo : Dong Ju: The Portrait of a Poet)

Kang Ha Neul's new film "Dong Ju: The Portrait of a Poet" opens this week and viewers may shed some tears while watching it.

It's a sad story as it follows the life of the idealistic poet Yun Dong Ju, who was imprisoned by the Japanese occupation government because of his involvement in the Korean independence movement. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1910 to 1945.

Yun Dong Ju never published a single poem in his lifetime but a book of his poetry was published a few years after he died in a prison camp in 1945. He was only 27 when he died.

He became involved in the resistance because of his lifelong friendship with Song Mong Gyu, played by Park Jung Min. The cousins grew up together and while Yun was interested in the power of words, Song advocated forcefully overthrowing the occupation government.

Yon and Song were studying in Japan when they were imprisoned in 1942. Song only lived 23 days longer than Yon.

"Dong Ju" was not an easy film to make and it was not just the sad subject matter that made it difficult for Kang. To play the imprisoned Yun Dong Ju, Kang lost almost 20 pounds, limiting himself to only one bowl of ramen a day. He had his head shaved in one scene and he had to memorize a lot of Japanese dialogue.

"As I had to perform in Japanese for more than half the script, it was tough to memorize," said Kang in an interview with the Korean media outlet Korea Times.

Lee Joon Ik, who directed "The King and The Clown" hopes that the black and white film will help more people learn about the poet's dreams and struggle.

"Everyone knows him but we haven't had a chance to meet him in a film or drama," he said.

Kang Ha Neul has worked almost non-stop for the past few years, appearing in the dramas "The Heirs," "Angel Eyes" and "Misaeng" and the films "Mourning Grave," "Empire of Lust" and "Twenty."

The film, which also stars Choi Hee Seo and Shin Yoon Joo, premieres on February 18.

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