Ha Ji-won, Lee Jin-wook say men and women can never be just friends

  • TV
  • Monday, 14 Dec 2015

Ha Ji-won and Lee Jin-wook star in the Korean drama The Time Were Not In Love. Photo: ONE HD

Can men and women really be “just friends"? It’s a query that is probably as old as time. For one South Korean drama series, it’s a question that is worth answering over a span of 16 episodes.

The Time We’re Not In Love sees actor Lee Jin-wook and actress Ha Ji-won play lifelong friends who are involved in this sort of push-pull interaction. Their close friendship makes the duo inseparable in a sibling-like fashion. But at the same time, there’s also that romantic tension between the two.

And that brings us back to the much debated question: Can relationships be purely platonic between the two sexes? If it were up to Lee, the chances are one in a million.

“Before and after filming this project, my opinion on this question still remains the same. It is impossible to maintain a close friendship between a man and a woman,” the 34-year-old actor answers via e-mail.

Lee plays Choi Won, a jovial flight attendant, who has been friends with his next-door neighbour Oh Ha-na since high school. Despite their hectic schedule, both pals are still very tight-knit.

For Ha, 37, who portrays sassy marketing executive Ha-na, the drama has opened up her mind about the possibilities of cross-gender friendship.

“As I was filming this drama, I wished that I could have a close friend like Choi Won,” she says. However, she worries

that said friend’s appeal “as a man” might kick in over the years they spend together.

Lee Jin-wook (left) and Ha Ji-won play best friends who fall in love in the Korean drama The Time We’re Not In Love. Photo: ONE HD
Lee Jin-wook (left) and Ha Ji-won play best friends who fall in love in the Korean drama The Time We’re Not In Love. Photo: ONE HD

It’s a conundrum that Ha’s character faces in the drama. Both Won and Ha-na have been through thick and thin together in their nearly 20 years of friendship. These include nursing each other’s broken heart after failed relationships.

One day, Ha-na receives an e-mail from Won teasing her about her age – and single status – as she reaches her 30th birthday. That joke soon escalates to a challenge for both of them to settle down before they turn 35.

In some ways, Lee thinks that timeline might have opened up the characters’ eyes about their best friend. Or as the drama’s tagline promptly puts it – something that’s right in front of your eyes is sometimes the hardest for you to see.

“As you get more mature, you become more cautious of your actions compared to when you were in your teens or twenties,” Lee offers. But that doesn’t mean that age matters in the pursuit of romance, he says.

“If it is true love, age would not be an issue at all,” Lee offers.

Ha concurs with her co-star: “Even though you get old, I believe there are always chances for romance. Just like Meryl Streep’s role in the movie Mamma Mia, I believe that sweet romance exists no matter how old you are.”

More than relationships, The Time We’re Not In Love explores how the little things in life end up shaping the course of our lives. On that note, both stars earnestly believe that there’s no better time than the present.

“I don’t think changing something in the past would change the present’s status greatly,” Lee offers. Ha agrees with this sentiment: “Actually my motto is ‘Right now, at this moment’, which means the present is the most important for me.”

“So I really try my best in every moment,” she continues. Those moments have resulted in a range of roles in the past for the seasoned actress. However, none has been as down to earth as Ha-na.

“Compared to my previous roles, Oh Ha-na is the most realistic character I have acted so far. Since she is friendly and has a good personality, I was supposed to act more relaxed,” Ha says. She adds that the drama made her realise that her previous roles were all very strong and vivid characters.

Lee – who played a time traveller in Nine: Nine Time Travels – enjoyed the fact that the drama incorporates many flashbacks. The trait provided him with opportunities to be more dynamic with his acting.

“Do you know that the chances of being able to act as an adult actor and high school student at the same time are rare? So, it was indeed a special experience for me,” he says.

The drama ended its run in South Korea in August. Back in its home country, ratings have been mediocre at best. That aside, Ha says she’s content knowing that they have given their absolute best.

“When I do my best acting and the director says ‘Cut!’, that means it is OK for both of us. This makes me feel great,” she concludes.

The Time We’re Not In Love airs Tuesday to Friday at 7.40pm on ONE HD (Astro B.yond Ch 393).


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