“Gising ka na. Good morning!”—as uttered by Korean superstar Ji Chang-wook—ignited the audience into screams at the MOA arena. Here’s another one that got a really loud reaction: “Ang saya naman diba?” There were also shrieks of “Saranghae,” “Oppa,” “Guapo” and “I love you!” from avid fans, which left me slightly deaf.
The drama, film and stage actor was really game and entertaining in the “Reach You” fan meet held recently. The event was Ji Chang-wook’s way of touching base with his fans again after a long time. The first one was held in Korea followed by the Philippines. The next “Reach You” fan meets will be in Indonesia and Japan.
Wookie, as he is fondly called, answered serious and not-so-serious questions in a fun Q&A. “If you could be a real magician, what’s the one thing you’d like to do?” He answered that he’d like to teleport. “Where?” “To Manila and Cebu.” Again, screams. The man knows how to please a crowd.
Speaking of good fan service, there was a portion in the program where Ji Chang-wook, together with selected fans, recreated some scenes from his popular K-dramas such as Backstreet Rookie, Suspicious Partner and The K2. As the fans’ names were picked from a bowl and made their way to the stage, a couple of them wept. They just couldn’t believe they were standing right in front their idol. Some of them waited at the arena as early as a day before. It was quite touching.
The versatile actor even prepared a magic show. Very unusual in a fan meet, but then again, in the Netflix drama The Sound of Magic, he plays a magician. He learned some tricks during filming and wanted to share them with his fans. The most impressive one was when he let the audience pick a card in their minds which they would move. By the process of elimination, he ended up with the card everyone had chosen. There was also “If You Wish Upon Me,” where he would grant fan wishes. Of course, most of them were selfies taken with the handsome star.
Then there was singing, which I was looking forward to. Even if Chang-wook is modest about his singing talent (he has performed in musical theater for years), he is a good singer. He sang ballads like the OST of Empress Ki (one of my favorite dramas) and a couple of upbeat Korean songs. It was like a mini-concert complete with effects, confetti and all. There was even an encore. Before he exited the stage, he read out a warm dedication to his Philippine fans. He was sincerely reaching out.
In a presscon a day before, Chang-wook was fresh and radiant (yes, I am saying “radiant”), answering questions from media and posing for photos. When he was introduced by emcee Sam Oh, there was a rumble of thunder, and it was like nature’s drum roll as he made his dramatic entrance.
This was, after all, his first visit to the Philippines. “I was happy to be welcomed by fans here when I arrived. I thought the weather would be hot but actually the weather was good.” Taking advantage of it (this was before the brief thunder and rain during the presscon), he was seen swimming and soaking up the sun in his hotel pool. He even walked around Greenbelt and tried halo-halo and sisig, exclaiming “I love halo-halo so much!” When he does come back, the actor said like to visit Boracay and Cebu since these are famous tourist areas. What would he do while visiting? “Chill,” he said. I can see that. He seems like a chill guy.
Though he hadn’t been in the country before, there’s always been a connection. “Actually Bench was the first company I was able to work with in the Philippines. They were very hospitable and accommodating. They treated me like family where I worked in a comfortable environment. So I enjoyed working with them.” He was referring to being the brand endorser of Bench’s So In Love and Sure Blue scent line back in 2019.
On discovering his many fan clubs/bases outside of Korea, like in the Philippines, he said: “Being an actor from Korea, I am very grateful for having fans all over the world. It drives me to work harder.”
I had a one-on-one chat with Ji Chang-wook to get to know him better, and not just his superstar/celebrity persona. Here he is in his own words.
PHILIPPINE STAR: In your recent drama, If You Wish Upon Me, you were part of Team Genie, who grants wishes of terminally ill patients. Which particular scenes were you most touched by? What do you think are the greatest life lessons from the series?
Ji Chang-wook: First, the shoot itself helped me heal myself. The environment on the set was great. Seeing the content of the story, I was able to create a personality that suits this role and it helped me feel relieved. The saddest scene for me was when the puppy named Sonny left. I didn't learn a specific life lesson from this drama, but my attitude changed, it allowed me to treat other people better whenever I meet them.
What is happiness to you?
Happiness is a gift that I can give to myself. I think it is difficult to feel happiness through tangible objects. It depends on how contented you are with yourself. That is why I believe happiness is something you can give to yourself.
Do you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert? How do you describe yourself in your private life?
It's difficult to identify because it changes depending on the situation and the people I am with. When I was younger, I was introverted, but as I began my career, and met various people, I became more extroverted.
What gives you more joy? Acting or singing?
To be distinct, acting is my job so there is a different type of joy that I feel as I act, but singing is like a simple hobby I enjoy with my friends, so the joy that I feel in singing and acting is different.
So both. Different joys.
How do you spend your rest days if you don't have any schedules?
In my free days, I meet up with my friends and drink coffee with them or sometimes alcohol.
Will you have an action drama or movie soon?
I am currently doing a project with Disney+ and it’s entitled The Worst Evil. You can expect it to be out by the end of next year.
Lastly, you have a big fanbase in the Philippines. Is there anything you want to say to your Filipino fans who have been eagerly awaiting for you to come?
As my Philippine fans waited for me, I also waited for this day to meet them. That is why for our fan meeting tomorrow, I hope I will be able to give a fun and happy performance. Lastly, I am always grateful to my fans, and I hope you'll continue to expect more from me.
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After attending his fan meet, I can say that it will remain a fun and happy memory. Ji Chang-wook pulled out all the stops to come up with an entertaining two-plus hours. He really did reach out and connected with his fans. And in return, they reached out to him. Wookie, your mission was accomplished.