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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Importance of 'Lost' role not lost on Kim

By Moon Yun Choi
Special to The Advertiser

Daniel Dae Kim blushes when told fans of the hit TV show "Lost" refer to him as the "hot Asian guy." Kim, who plays Jin, one of the Korean castaways, is especially flattered because he said most Asian males in television and film today are portrayed as asexual or are stereotyped.

Daniel Dae Kim plays Jin on the hit TV show "Lost," filmed in Hawai'i. His character speaks only Korean.



• Age: 36

• Ethnicity: Korean

• Birthplace: Pusan, South Korea. Raised in New York and Pennsylvania

• Family status: Married with two children

• Education: MFA in acting from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts

• Credits: Appeared on "24," "ER," "Angel" and "Spider-Man 2." Performed in plays from Shakespeare to Beckett to improv comedy.

• Future projects: To appear in the action film "Cave" and has optioned the rights to the Leonard Chang novel "Over the Shoulder," in development to become an independent feature film

• Favorite local Korean restaurants: Sorabol, Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun, and Sis Kitchen

"I'm flattered that Jin is seen as a 'hottie,' because traditionally Asian-American males aren't seen that way," said Kim. "Often times, we get desexualized, hyper-criminalized, or worse, just ignored. There have been a lot of negative images out there, but very few we can happily claim ownership of. I think Jin could be one of those few. It's one of the reasons I'm so proud of this show."

Sipping tea while talking about "Lost," Kim is dressed casually in a baseball cap, surf shirt and shorts. The handsome actor is a Korean-American playing a Korean national on "Lost." In the show, his character can only speak Korean and there's an on-set Korean interpreter to help him translate his lines into Korean.

The show about castaways from all walks of life stranded together on a mysterious island following a plane crash has been a huge success. Yet Kim admits he has received criticism from the Asian community about his character.

"When the show aired, there were a lot of complaints about my character being one-dimensional. Maybe at the start I even agreed with them a little bit. There wasn't much to him and we didn't know the direction which he was going to develop," said Kim. "After this episode, though (which focused on Jin and aired Feb. 23), I think it's hard to legitimately argue that this character has only one dimension. If anything, he's one of the most complex characters on the show. He's got layers upon layers of priorities and obstacles. I think he's a fascinating character."

Kim believes his character is breaking ground in that Korean is spoken on American prime-time television and because he's a fully fleshed-out Asian character.

"When was the last time you saw Korean language being spoken on an American television show? I think it's groundbreaking. I think it's something that Asians, especially Koreans, can be proud of. I do get heat sometimes because I don't speak perfect Korean, but I've learned not to let that bother me. All I know is that I'm working as hard as I can to do justice to a great character. I hope most people can see that."

As to whether it's different playing a Korean male than an American one, Kim said he makes conscious choices to delineate what's Korean and what's American. "But even when I'm not conscious of it, sometimes I find myself channeling my dad in weird ways. He's not very much like Jin, but there are certain mannerisms that a Korean man will have that an American man won't. When I speak Korean I find myself slipping into those mannerisms pretty naturally. It's a little surprising."

Since the show is a hit and will probably be on air for while, Kim doesn't know yet if he will be settling in Hawai'i. "I really like it here. Hawai'i is a great place to live. I'm enjoying the outdoors. I like the relaxed pace of the island. It's somewhere I could even see myself settling down."