The scent of a character

Kim Woo Bin (left) with his co-star Gang Dong Won in Master.
Kim Woo Bin (left) with his co-star Gang Dong Won in Master. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Kim Woo Bin uses a citrusy lime fragrance to get into his role of a hotshot con artist in Master

One knows the beauty industry for men in South Korea is huge when the country's actors use fragrances to get into character.

Kim Woo Bin got into the habit of doing that after catching a whiff of a scent that transported him back to the time he filmed the heist film, The Con Artists (2014).

"The particular scent reminded me of my role. Now whenever I have a new movie and drama, I will pick a scent suitable for the character," Kim, 27, told the local media on Thursday. He was in town with co-star Gang Dong Won and director Cho Ui Seok to promote their new movie, the crime thriller Master.

For his role as a hotshot con artist Jang Gun, Kim chose a citrusy lime scent. "I felt that Jang Gun would like the scent. It would be a fragrance that he would use," he said.

In the movie, the tech-savvy Jang Gun is involved in a massive Ponzi scheme. He is later forced to help cop Kim Jae Myung (Gang) to catch the scam's mastermind Jin (Lee Byung Hun).

In real life, there is someone Kim would like caught - a woman who shares his birth name Kim Hyun Joong and is wanted by the authorities.

After the filming for Master wrapped in the Philippines, he ran into a spot of trouble.

He recalled: "The authorities there are going after a criminal with the same name as me. The immigration staff took a photo of me and got my fingerprints. Luckily, it was resolved."

But he had a message for his namesake: "Please turn yourself in, so others won't have to go through my predicament."

Kim, who played a school bully in the popular K-drama The Heirs (2013), did not flinch when a reporter asked him to verify online reports that he is going to marry his girlfriend, actress Shin Min Ah.

But he evaded the question ("I did not read the article," he said) before the director swooped in to rescue him by diverting the attention to his co-star Gang.

Gang, the lesser-known actor here probably because he is more active in the movie scene than in TV idol dramas, is like the inquisitive and intelligent cop Kim that he plays, says film-maker Cho, 40.

Gang, 35, has been reported to have an IQ of 137 and he has been putting his brains to work learning English and speaking the language whenever he has an opportunity.

He told the press here: "I've been learning English for the past five years. I wanted to travel by myself and wanted to communicate without the help of a translator. I hope to get a chance to work abroad one day."

• Master is out in cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'The scent of a character'. Print Edition | Subscribe