Interview: Song Kang-ho & Lee Byung-hun On Working With Han Jae-rim


The pilot usually calls for an emergency declaration when an aircraft is facing a potential disaster. “Emergency Declaration” (비상선언) is an airline disaster movie about a plane being struck by an unprecedented crisis and passengers onboard trying desperately to make it out alive.

When a suspicious man boards an airplane, a passenger is seen experiencing painful symptoms and dies shortly after. The spotlight centres on Jae-hyuk (played by Lee Byung-hun) who has a fear of flying and is trying to hold it together while everyone else panic. We also see veteran police detective In-ho (portrayed by Song Kang-ho) doing his best to stop the terrorist from the ground. Find out what drew the main actors to this project:

Question: Why did you choose this film?

Song Kang-ho: This is my third film with director Han Jae-rim. We’ve previously worked together on “The Show Must Go On” and “The Face Reader”. I trust the director and have always admired his perseverance in exploring new genres. There are a lot of disaster films, aren’t there? Not just within South Korea, all over the world disaster films are a common film genre. Despite that, the realistic feelings of passengers and people on the ground experiencing the disaster were so vivid. Even though it’s a disaster film, it expresses views on family, neighbours and the community that we know but don’t usually feel, and does it in a very sophisticated and mature manner. I was very glad to see a film like this. It was a combination of reasons that I chose this film.

Lee Byung-hun: This is my first time working with director Han Jae-rim. I’ve always wanted to work with him when I watched his previous films. When I received the script and read it, it was so tense and exciting that I read it all at once. Just because it is a disaster film, doesn’t mean it simply has spectacular visual effects. Like what Song Kang-ho mentioned, the story talks about and makes you think about humanity.

Question: What was the strength of “Emergency Declaration” that the foreign press focused on for the international audience?

Song Kang-ho: The feeling then was that it was a situation that anyone could experience, even though no one should experience it.That sense of reality. And the acts of humanity, the thoughts and emotions we feel for others in adverse situations, these were all portrayed in a delicate yet mature way. There were a lot of comments on how the calm portrayal left an impression.

Question: Please introduce your character and what your focus was when acting

Lee Byung-hun: Basically, Jae-hyuk has a really serious fear of airplanes. It’s so serious that he has to continuously take medication. He had no choice but to board the plane together with his daughter to seek treatment for her. Even in normal circumstances, he already requires medication and when the emergency starts in the plane, he tries his best to overcome his own fears, and think of what he could do in that situation. That is what I felt was the most important for this character.


Song Kang-ho: There is a scene that shows an emergency meeting between high-ranking officials that a detective isn’t allowed into. Of course, as the chief detective, he might be acting out of ethical duties but actually, his loved ones are on the plane. Therefore, out of urgency and desperation, he barged into the meeting.

Question: What was your focus when acting?

Song Kang-ho: That’s exactly it. The desperation felt because his loved ones are on the plane.

Question: What was the toughest or most difficult point, having to act in a small space, like in the airplane, or on a serious topic, like a disaster?

Lee Byung-hun: The pandemic started not long after we started filming. The airplane was really narrow for close to 100 actors and staff to fit into. And we had to be masked, even though the actors would remove our masks before filming started. So we were all worried, even though all of us had to be tested before filming started. But as confirmed cases started appearing, we had to hurry up with filming while continuing to be worried. When we used a machine to move the plane, everyone had to be really careful. An accident could happen if someone didn’t put on their belt properly. Even the cameraman, who had to stand while filming, had to be tied to somewhere like a pillar before he could be spun around. So I think we were all very worried that an accident might happen. That was what we paid the most attention to.

Question: What can fans expect from the movie.

Lee Byung-hun: Right from the start of the film, till the end of it, you’ll probably continuously experience a lot of strong emotions, be it tension or feeling touched. Anyone who watches this film will definitely be thinking how they would react in that situation. That’s the kind of film this is and I hope many people will look forward to the film.

Song Kang-ho: Korean films, not just “Emergency Declaration”, are really diverse and many more films that showcase the potential of Korean films will be released in future. So I hope the viewers and fans of Korean films will be able to experience life through the films, including with “Emergency Declaration.”. And I hope that “Emergency Declaration” will be the first film to do that.

“Emergency Declaration” premieres Monday 23rd January, 10pm on tvN Movies (Astro CH416 & Astro GO | unifi TV CH201 & unifi playTV | Tonton).

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