Lee Min Ho mans up

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South Korean heart-throb Lee Min Ho may be associated with pretty boy roles, but he is ready to man up, he says.

The 27-year-old actor, famed for playing rich and handsome high school students on hit TV dramas Boys Over Flowers (2009) and The Inheritors (2013), tells the media here that it is about time he "showcase what it's like to be a man in my 20s".

Speaking to reporters at a press conference at The Westin last Saturday afternoon, he says in Korean via a translator: "I've played the rich man role twice already, but I hope to show another side to me as well.

"In my new movie, I play a very intense and dark character, which I hope will show that I can be a dynamic actor."

He is referring to his upcoming flick Gangnam Blues, which is slated for theatrical release in South Korea in December.

The noir actioner directed by Yoo Ha (A Dirty Carnival, 2006) is set in 1970s Seoul and has Lee playing a guy who gets embroiled in power struggles with a former childhood friend.

So dedicated was the hunk to his latest role that he stayed off face creams for half a year, he adds.

"I filmed Gangnam Blues straight after The Inheritors, and I think I was too well-maintained at that point. So I stopped putting lotion on my face for six months in order to look more manly," he says with a grin.

"It wasn't a pleasant experience though. I could really feel my skin deteriorating day by day. But when the movie comes out, don't be too worried about who the 'old' man in the film is. That person is definitely me."

Lee was in town to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Singapore lifestyle products brand Osim, for which he is an ambassador. During the press conference, he was every bit the charmer, cracking jokes and maintaining his signature megawatt smile throughout.

Asked how he feels about being commonly labelled "nan shen" (literally "male god" in Chinese, meaning "ideal guy") by his fans, he says that the term should "not just be about physical appearances, but also more about being responsible, being a real man".

Then, he says in jest: "But I'm quite happy to be called that all the time."

Later, in self-deprecating fashion, the actor, who arrived in Singapore the night before, points out that his cheeks were looking rather swollen because he had woken up shortly just before the press conference.

"That's why I wish all of these press events can be held in the evening, so that my face will be less swollen and I can show you the best side of me," he quips.

Not that any of the thousands of screaming fans who greeted him later that afternoon at Causeway Point shopping mall in Woodlands would have noticed.

All four floors of the mall were packed with people, squashed up against the edges of the barricades in the hope of getting the best view of the star.

And the actor certainly proved to be a good sport over the 40-minute fan meet, when he gamely interacted with five lucky fans on stage in the main atrium over fun and games.

In return for answering some questions - for example, why do they like Lee Min Ho? - the actor would "reward" them with a photo opportunity together, or more.

For procurement executive Sherri Ng, 38, her prize was getting her lips moisturised with lip balm applied by Lee. Seated, she puckered up her lips shyly as the 1.87m tall actor bent down to swipe the lip balm on her. She jokingly tells Life! later on that she "will never want to wipe her lips again".

Describing the experience as "a dream", she says: "I've been a fan of his for so long, and it's just so surreal to get this close to him in person. I think a lot of people are going to be very envious."

Another fan, Ms Andrina Loo, 35, who is self-employed, got to squeeze a balloon placed between herself and Lee.

The goal was to pop the balloon, so the actor gamely hugged her with all his might.

Says Ms Loo after the event, between laughs: "We had to do the balloon thing twice because the first time it didn't burst, so I'm super happy. He is really very handsome in person and I felt his strong arms around me."

Before the actor left, he promised the fans that he would be returning to Singapore soon to sing songs from his upcoming sophomore album Song For You as part of the Re:Minho global tour, which kickstarts next month.

According to the official website of the tour, his Singapore stop will be held on Nov 9 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Going by their incessant screams all afternoon, the Singapore fans can hardly wait.

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