Passions and Obsessions

Ji Chang Wook—’That describes me pretty certain and clear’

His Manila presscon sends me down memory lane to the time I braved Korean winter

JI Chang Wook giving PH media the heart sign during the Bench press conference of 'Bench Reach You in Manila' last Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 (Photo by Luis Carlo San Juan)

Retail giant Bench is presenting Ji Chang Wook’s Reach You in Manila at the SM Mall of Asia Arena today, Sunday, November 6—an event much looked forward to by his Philippine fandom, which sends the author down memory lane.—Editor

Manila was so excited to welcome South Korean actor Ji Chang Wook, it was as if the skies thundered for him last Saturday afternoon.

“I am thankful that a lot of you came to see me despite this bad weather,” he said, rather a bit shyly at the press conference by retail giant Bench for Bench’s Reach You in Manila (#jichangwookforbench) at Peninsula Manila on November 5, 2022.

Wookie, you have no idea the mountains your fandom is willing to scale to come face to face with you. Your Manila fans even made audacious trips to Korea—Busan to watch your military musicale; Cheorwon, to welcome you back from military enlistment. I was on both trips.

In person, Ji Chang Wook, 35, is everything we imagined he would be—small, extremely attractive face,  tall, with very broad shoulders. Truth in advertising—if we could be flippant about it.

Two years after the pandemic forced the cancellation of his fan meeting, Ji Chang Wook is meeting his fans face to face—his first visit to Manila—on Reach You, his 2022 Fan Meeting Tour that kicked off in Seoul last October 23. The tour marks the 14th anniversary of his debut in the Korean entertainment industry.

On Sunday, November 6, Bench presents the Manila leg of Reach You at SM Mall of Asia Arena. In 2019, Ji Chang Wook was a Global Benchsetter for Bench’s So In Love and Sure Blue eau de toilet—scent line that really flew off the shelf.

“It’s been a long time that I could not reach you, so this theme is the point where I can reach people than when we were far away from each other,” he said. He’ll be talking about his personal life, about the dramas and series he had worked on in the show. “I’ll be singing some songs in this show as well so I guess I can have a very fun time with my fans.”

He’s one of the more talented actors of his generation who has remained modest and down-to-earth. When asked to describe himself as an actor, he said there are no “grand or huge” words. “Maybe with just my name Ji Chang Wook,” he said. “I guess that describes me pretty certain and clear.”

It was because of Ji Chang Wook that I got into the world of Korean dramas in 2018 after having watched Healer. I binge-watched his other dramas, Suspicious Partner and K-2. My heart hurt as I watched his movie, Fabricated City. Ji Chang Wook is very attractive, true, but more than anything, he is a gifted actor. His expressions, his eyes, and the nuance in his acting draw the audience into the characters he portrays. I was drawn into what I called the church of Wook.

As he was in the military then, I learned about him from the contents I found on YouTube, his Instagram posts, and articles that had been written about him. He was a theater actor before he joined showbusiness. Watching clips of the musical The Days, I wanted to watch him onstage.

In 2019, Ji Chang Wook welcomed by fans from all over, upon the end of his military duty (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

When he and fellow enlisted actors were going to star in a military musical, I knew I had to fly to South Korea. I was lucky to have an equally crazy friend, Trina, who joined me in the adventure. Together, we went to Busan and endured sub-zero temperatures just to see Ji Chang Wook.

We watched Shinheung Military Academy and recognized about five Korean words. But Ji Chang Wook and his fellow actors, that included the equally talented Kang Ha Neul, were amazing that Trina and I enjoyed the musical a lot.

As was customary, fans waited for the actors to arrive at the Busan Cultural Center. We also waited for them outside the theater after the show. A glimpse of Ji Chang Wook – even if it were just his eyes because he was always in a hoodie, cap, and wore a face mask – made staying in the freezing cold worth it. Trina concluded Ji Chang Wook was the eighth wonder of the world.

In May 2019, Ji Chang Wook finally completed his military service. I was once again lucky to have friends who were just as insanely devoted to him so that we went to South Korea to celebrate his return. We traveled all the way to the Cherwon Artillery Brigade in Gangwon province. Not gonna lie, Ji Chang Wook was breathtaking to see in his military uniform.

Two weeks after his military discharge, I found myself back in Seoul again, for his fan meet, Invitation: Late Spring, Early Night.

Fans from Manila giving Ji Chang Wook souvenir gifts upon his military discharge in 2019 (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Seemingly catching up with lost time, Ji Chang Wook made several dramas after serving almost two years in the military. In every drama, he tried different roles. He did Melting Me Softly, Backstreet Rookie, Lovestruck in the City, The Sound of Magic, and If You Wish Upon Me.

Ji Chang Wook’s upcoming drama, The Worst Evil, is expected to be released in the second half of 2023.

Fans dream of seeing their favorites up close. Mine just came true.

In 2019, fans from Manila gather in Gangwon province to welcome back Ji Chang Wook from military service, among them the author (standing, second from left). (Photo by Nikko Dizon)


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During Ji Chang Wook’s interview with Saturday, November 5, 2022 after the Bench Reach You in Manila presscon, the author showed a delighted Ji Chang Wook these photo and bracelet souvenirs from 2019. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Read more:

Why Ji Chang Wook’s Backstreet Rookie is trending—even without kissing scenes

‘I’ll see you….’— Ji Chang Wook chills with fans the world over

About author


Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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