SEOUL SWITCH exclusive interview

Seoul Switch is one of the highlighted films in Shorts Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2024 , one of the largest film festivals in Asia. Directed by Liann Kaye, a New York based Asian American filmmaker who is telling another side of the K-POP story. The film exclusively stars real K-POP star Kevin Woo (former U-KISS member).

The film depicts the story of Moon, an international K-POP artist and DJ a Korean American who looks exactly like him (both characters played by Kevin Woo). They met by chance in Moon's room after his concert.

The first character, Moon is portraited as a perfectionist Korean idol, he can't follow his own desires or show up his own identities. Moon is living in a space between the dream catcher and dream maker, and being conducted strictly by his agency as part of the contract in South Korea. The other character, DJ (Also played by Woo) is an unpopular American who feels invisible in his homeland. This is Moon's dream.

Their emotional conversation that is captured reveals the thoughts between a superstar and a boy who dreams to be a star. It's rare to see a real K-POP artist sharing his feelings, not only as a successful artist, but also an inspiration as a minorities who internationally connect the world through music and performance.

By courtesy of the Shorts Shorts Film Festival, we received an opportunity to talk with the director and actor from the film for InStyle Asia's exclusive interview at Omotesando Hills, Tokyo during they are visiting Japan this time.

inStyle Asia: What is your main reason for making this film?

Liann Kaye:  I grew up in America, where I'm a  minority, so largely, i was the only Asian person around white people. For Asians in the US, we often feel overlooked, invisible and unattractive. So when K-POP started becoming a global phenomenon, i thought, "Oh wow! There are  confident Koreans performing to large crowds succeed.  and I've never seen this before" That is when the idea came. 

We've seen the life switching plot before in stories like "The Prince and the Pauper.", I  thought, "What if there was a Korean American boy who grew up in a very white people environment and he didn't have any confidence? Then, he meets a K-POP star who is considered the most attractive person in Korea and then they switched-life?" That's where the idea came from.

inStyle Asia: Wow, So amazing! Let's talk about the reason you cast the main characters?

Liann Kaye: Yes! In order to cast this actor, this person was going to have a very large amount of the skills, And not just anybody could do it. I needed this person to be Korean, I needed them to be American, I needed them to be bilingual and I needed them to have a perfect accent in both languages when they spoke. That was the first level. May be i could find an actor who could do that, but on top of that, they'd have to play an international K-POP idol. 

K-POP idols train for years to be good at dancing, modeling and everything else. And, I did make a list of all the Korean American K-POP idols. There are about five in the world and a lot of them are in active groups right now, too busy and too famous. I happened to see K-POP Musical on Broadway and Kevin was in it. He was so amazing. I found he was such a good actor and performer. I took a shot and emailed him. I asked him "What do you think about the script?" Kevin replied to me and said, "It's my life story!". We call it "destiny" now. We think it was fate we got connected.

InStyle Asia: What are the most difficult tasks you experienced during making this film? and how did you manage it?

Liann Kaye: The most difficult part of making this film was, obviously, Kevin having to play two roles at the same time. 

In order to do this, we had a lot of techniques. One of them is, we put an earpiece in Kevin's ear and we had another actor read into a microphone that fed into the earpiece offstage to him, so that he could get the timing, dialogue and emotion's right. Another thing we did was use a motion controlled robotic arm, so that the camera could move when both Kevins are in the shot. So the first time we shot, the camera was moved by human and Kevin was character one and robot moved. Then we cut, Kevin went backstage and changed to become another character. When he came back, that motion was recorded so Kevin was able to act against himself and be engaged in both his roles emotionally.

inStyle Asia: What is your favourite scene in the film and why you liked it?

Liann Kaye: Oh! This is a very difficult question to answer because I really do love all of them. But my favourite scene is probably the makeover montage. A lot of American teen movies have makeover scenes largely featuring women. We haven't seen a man do this before much. This film is about challenging gender norms and stereotypes. We put Kevin in these different high-fashion outfits a K-POP idol would be comfortable wearing but not a normal, insecure American teenager. That was really fun and also demonstrated Kevin's range as an actor.

inStyle Asia: If you can send a message to audience worldwide, what do you like to tell them?

Liann Kaye: I'm actually Chinese American so when I first discovered K-POP,  I was so excited because i had never seen attractive Asian Americans on television. Growing up in America, where i didn't think I was attractive. K-POP becoming Global has helped that, however, i soon realized But if i go to Korea, it could be, that's what i realized that there is still a hierarchy of beauty standards in the K-POP industry, where Koreans are on top.

In America, Americans look at Asians and think, "You are look the same, go back to China." In South Korea, most people are Asian, but still, there are people discriminating against the certain types of Asians. The film is about zooming out. That no matter where you are, there will still be discrimination and beauty standards. Somebody might not think this is  attractive on one side of the world, but somebody might think this is attractive the other side. We just have to decide for ourselves.

inStyle Asia: Nowadays, many young people dreamed to be like their favourite K-POP Idol, like in Japan and Thailand, K-POP is so popular, do you want to share the K-POP culture and trend into your film too?

Liann Kaye: The film started from familiar territory, once again, it's an underdog who meets someone famous and they decided to switch lives. There are a lot of sacrifices  somebody must make to be a K-POP idol and not all of them have a perfect life. That's  something within the film we want to explore. That's why it is really great for Asian American or even Asian minorities to see a different type of Asian presence. It's still not perfect, there are dark sides in history and there is a lot to think about before going into that lifestyle.

inStyle Asia: How about your next project and what genre do you want to make for the next one?

Liann Kaye:  we can't wait to get this film exposure because we want to make it a feature film. The feature film script is already written and we are ready to go. We made the short film independently as a proof of concept to say "Hey we can do this, we have talent and we can  expand it into a bigger story."

inStyle Asia: Now we are so excited to watch the upcoming feature film by Liann Kaye and also see the new role of Kevin Woo as the actor soon.

Images: inStyle Asia


Length: 12.43 mins (English and Korean)
Country: USA
Official Website

Synopsis: When an insecure Korean American boy meets an international K-pop idol who looks just like him, they decide to switch identities.

Film Director: Liann Kaye

Liann Kaye is an AAPI filmmaker based in NYC. Her award-winning mini-series “The Blessing” won “Best Comedy” at the New York Short Film Festival. All six episodes are now on YouTube. This year, she wrote and directed Seoul Switch as a proof of concept for the feature film.


Cast: Kevin Woo (as Moon and DJ)

Most recognized as the main vocalist in the K-Pop group U-KISS, Kevin was born in California and moved to Seoul when he was 15. Woo debuted, recorded chart-topping albums, and toured the world from 2008 to 2017. Since then, Woo has since been pursuing solo music and acting, recently making his Broadway debut in KPOP: The Musical (2022). He most recently booked a major role on eight-time Grammy winner Anderson .Paak’s upcoming film, K-Pops!


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