༺ Don’t Show Your True Colors ༻
Yoomyeong delved deeply into the inner world of the character Lee Bang-won.
When he was seven years old,
A tale from the capital, Kaesong, left a deep impression on the exceptionally bright child.
It was a heroic story similar to a fairy tale.
— There’s a man named Jeong Mong-ju in Kaesong. On his way back from Beijing, where he had been sent as a Chief Envoy to the Ming dynasty, his ship was wrecked by a typhoon. Including the official record keeper, 12 people died. And yet, he survived for 13 days on a rocky island while starving. Even in that extreme situation, he kept the letter from the Emperor of Ming dry, holding it close inside his clothing.
— Wow, really?
— It’s impressive, right? When the Emperor of Ming heard about this, he sent a ship to rescue him. Despite being emaciated from prolonged hunger, he calmly performed the proper rituals. The Emperor of Ming highly praised the loyalty of the Goryeo people upon seeing this.
How thrilled would a smart child in the northeastern border town of Hwaryeong be with such heroics and tales of the glamorous capital Kaesong and its remarkable figures?
However, that wasn’t all.
When he was 12, Jeong Mong-ju added another glorious tale of diplomacy.
After criticizing Lee In-Im’s pro-Yuan policies, Jeong Mong-ju was dismissed and exiled. Even after being released from exile, he didn’t return to the center of power.
In September of the year he was released, he volunteered to be an envoy and crossed to Japan as a Bobingsa (Diplomatic Emissary).
At that time, Japan was perceived as a den of barbarians, where envoys were frequently captured or executed. His political opponents were delighted when he volunteered as an envoy, hoping he would never return.
However, he returned the next year with thousands of captives and slaves on his ship.
Stories of his heroism spread throughout the country.
Rumors spread that he sat down with the tandai (regional governor), Imagawa Ryōshun, in Kyushu and explained the loyalty and interests between the two countries. Ryōshun was reportedly impressed by Jeong’s outstanding character and knowledge.
Japanese monks allegedly flocked to him daily to hear his poetry, making him a legend.
This incident elevated his reputation and marked his resurgence in central politics.
He was a man of great learning and diplomacy, unparalleled in his era.
Of course, Bang-won couldn’t help but idolize such a figure over the years.
When Bang-won moved to the capital city of Kaesong during his early teens, he expressed his desire to be mentored by Jeong Mong-ju to his cultured and elegant stepmother, Lady Kang.
— Bang-won wishes for it.
— Even if he’s known me since the days of Seondeokrang, that’s going to be a difficult favor to ask…
— The teacher currently mentoring the children says that Bang-won’s intelligence is exceptional. Wouldn’t he achieve great things if he’s under a good mentor?
— Well, it seems our family might produce its first top scholar in the civil service exam. If my wife says so, then I’ll make a request.
Thanks to her support and Lee Seong-Gye’s request, the meeting with Jeong Mong-ju was arranged.
How excited must the young Lee Bang-won have been at his first meeting with the era’s greatest scholar?
And his expectations were not disappointed by the piercing logic and rhetoric of Kaesong’s most distinguished scholar.
Eager and intelligent, Bang-won was showered with expectations and guidance, as if something great was expected of him.
Admiring such a scholar, politician, and person, he took Jeong Mong-ju as his role model. Then, one day, their meetings abruptly stopped.
He disappeared without even a farewell.
Suppressing his rising resentment, the 14-year-old boy must have struggled to objectively assess the situation, just as his teacher had taught him.
And, after a while…
He realized that even their relationship could change based on ‘political’ stances—a harsh logic.
Today was the day when Lee Bang-won and Jeong Mong-ju, who left a significant mark on his life, would meet again after two years.
Burying all the resentment, longing, expectations, and disappointments in his heart,
He put on a diplomat’s smile on his face,
And a politician’s logic on his tongue.
Just as his teacher had taught.
Jeong Mong-ju countered Lee Bang-won’s argument.
“In ‘Great Learning,’ it is assumed that it’s difficult for competent leaders to emerge consistently. Looking at the royal families of the Song and Yuan dynasties, there are emperors recorded as ‘benevolent’ or ‘tyrants’ every few generations. It discusses the risks of the people suffering when an emperor lacks ability or character.”
The contents discussed in Jin Deoksu’s “Meaning of Great Learning” and Ho An-guk’s “Meaning of the Spring and Autumn Annals” could be misconstrued as dangerous thoughts, depending on interpretation.
Knowing this, Jeong Mong-ju cautiously presented his opinion and used ‘examples from other countries’ and ‘the author’s perspective’ as shields.
But Lee Bang-won, who had already been exposed to his thinking, couldn’t be unaware of this. He countered with a faint smile.
“Then, instead of hereditary succession, why not create a system to select a ‘proven royal heir’ and strengthen the education of the selected crown prince? What if the contemporary officials lack ability, or if they divide and fight amongst themselves?”
“A supplementary system should be implemented to prevent that,” Jeong Mong-ju replied.
“Wouldn’t it be possible to implement such a systematic approach in nurturing royal heirs?”
“The number of royals with succession rights is few, while thousands strive for official positions. The latter seems safer due to the presence of alternatives…”
Jeong Mong-ju smoothly countered, then paused briefly before continuing.
“The assertion was that it would be… a safer method.”
“So that was the author’s opinion?”
The air between them grew tense, as if even the lazy sunlight would shy away.
“It is the author’s… opinion.”
Bang-won respectfully lowered his eyes once more.
“Discussing right and wrong is good, but we are in the midst of reading. Debating every line is for when scholars gather. Let’s proceed with the lesson.”
The way Bang-won pronounced ‘Master’ slightly bewildered Jeong Mong-ju, so he refocused on Bang-won, who boldly met his gaze.
That was the end of the scene.
Director Son called the cut and reviewed the take with the director of cinematography.
As he exclaimed with emotion, the set was enveloped in astonishment.
‘It’s everything I thought it would be…and more…!’
Director Son’s hands trembled uncontrollably.
The Lee Bang-won he had in mind was a young man full of ambition and vigor, but wrapped in a sophistication beyond his years.
He had a raw youthfulness that didn’t falter even against Jeong Mong-ju, who was at the peak of politics.
He approached Yoomyeong, trying to steady his trembling hands.
“Well done… very well done.”
“Thank you, Director.”
“I never imagined that you’d pull it off so well after just a month of hard work. I thought I had seen enough of the world, but you’ve been exceeding all my expectations.”
Yoomyeong bowed modestly.
Honestly, this portrayal of Lee Bang-won wouldn’t have been possible if Yoomyeong didn’t have the additional presence.
There was no shame in that. Yoomyeong believed that he deserved it. Besides, it was only natural that the director hadn’t foreseen this increase in presence.
“I thought I’d seen enough, but the world still surprises me.”
“We’ve discussed Lee Bang-won’s character together, but I didn’t expect this approach. Of course, I mean it in a good way. What was your concept for the role?”
“Uh… something like an elegantly wrapped time bomb?”
The director raised his eyebrows as if asking for further explanation.
“For the first time in his life, Bang-won faced the figure he admired and yearned for, and the person who left him. I covered that multitude of explosive emotions with a thin but strong wrap.”
“What kind of wrapping?”
“…The wrapping and facade of ‘social attitude’.”
A social demeanor.
A sociable smile.
A politician never reveals their ‘true colors’ unless when they serve as a means to an end.
That was what his master had taught him.
So he grew up following his teacher’s lessons, only to stand against him as an adversary.
The director began to feel excited about how his film would turn out after seeing the rookie actor delve deeper into his role.
“Did he just… say OK?”
“Wow… that gave me goosebumps.”
The trio from yesterday’s soju gathering witnessed this scene.
Bae Geohyeong came to watch the rookie’s first shooting while having his makeup done. Meanwhile, Min Gyeong-Guk and Kim Jin-Beom didn’t have a shoot today.
The rookie actor, who had calmly appeared for his first shoot, had politely greeted them each time they met. They had patted his back and told him not to be too nervous.
But to their surprise, he finished his first shoot in one take. They were all left speechless.
“For a waist-up shot, please!”
As the camera was adjusted for another size of the same scene, Director Son approached Shin Yoomyeong and patted his shoulder happily while chatting.
The three actors gaped in disbelief at the scene.
“How many takes did it take for your first shoot with Director Son, actor Min?”
“Uhh… no comment.”
“How about you, actor Kim?”
“I… I think it was seven or eight times… It was because I was nervous! You know how notorious Director Son is on set. How can someone not be nervous in their first shoot?”
“Right… But it’s not just about not being nervous…”
Bae Geohyeong blinked his eyes in amazement.
“I can’t take my eyes off him. Was there ever an actor with such a captivating presence at that age?”
“…Even without considering his age, there aren’t many like that. Now I understand why Hansung was so excited about him.”
“His demeanor is very polite, but his eyes… are trying to overpower his opponent. That’s… exactly the feeling that Lee Bang-won gives off.”
“He did well on the reading day, but it’s like he’s a completely different person during the actual shoot. We need to step up our game, or we might be overshadowed by our junior.”
“But who’s buying the drinks?”
“Isn’t it Geohyeong hyung? How many NGs did he bet on again? Ten?”
“Shh! You guys… Well, I’ll buy the drinks, but you two aren’t exactly winners either. Didn’t you bet on five and eight NGs? It’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”
“…Right. But let’s have those drinks later. I suddenly feel the urge to practice.”
The uncles, who were more like friendly neighborhood uncles, cheerfully applauded the young actor’s performance.
But deep down, they weren’t as relaxed.
Before they were someone’s senior, they were also ‘actors’ who didn’t want to lose to anyone in acting.
As they dispersed, the shooting continued.
And in the next scene, Director Son realized the true meaning behind Yoomyeong’s words about ‘social attitude’ after seeing Lee Bang-won’s expression without its facade.
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