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(Yonhap Interview) Actor Jang Keun-suk breaks silence after tax evasion scandal

All Headlines 15:13 January 11, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- Actor Jang Keun-suk has finally broken his silence after stirring up controversy for his alleged tax evasion in China.

The "hallyu" star dropped out of the popular tvN reality show "Three Meals a Day" early last year after reports accused him of underreporting his income earned in China, a transgression for which he had to pay billions of won (millions of dollars) in fines.

Jang denied any wrongdoing at the time although he did confirm paying the fines. He claimed there was an accounting error at his agency, but that wasn't enough to quell the controversy. The "You're Beautiful" actor has since kept away from the limelight, focusing on his studies and activities in Japan instead.

"When the news broke, I was in Japan. You might not believe me, but I hadn't known anything about it," he told Yonhap News Agency in an interview last week. "I was confused and upset by people's reaction. I was labeled a tax evader overnight. I had my phone off for three weeks and stayed away from my acquaintances. Even in Japan, I stayed in the mountains."

But the 29-year-old says he's ready to come back and wants to start things on a clean slate. Jang will be returning with a soap opera role in the first half of 2016, which will also be his first work in South Korea in three years.

"I'm going to work really hard in South Korea this year. 'Hallyu' stars still need a solid base in their home country. I want to be distinguished as a South Korean actor again," he said.

He's taken on another major undertaking, which is to create his own charity foundation.

"I've been planning it for the past five years. I want to systematize and expand my sharing," he said.

Jang is known for having made generous donations to the victims of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. He's also volunteered with his fans at a Seoul orphanage for years.

"I'll establish a training center to nurture actors who can succeed me and start an agency to look after entertainers who need financial help. There are lots of actors who are struggling financially," he said.

That may seem like a lot on his plate, but the "Prince of Asia" says that's the only way he'd be able to give back to society.

"I think imparting my acting know-how and taking care of my acting colleagues is one of the ways in which I can give back to society," he said. "I've never taken any interest in running a company, but I want to contribute to the entertainment industry as a 'hallyu' star and as someone in his 30s. I want my 30s to be different from my 20s, which I spent entirely on making money."

Jang said he's also learned from his humble beginnings that money can't buy happiness. With a cab-driving father and a mother who worked at a restaurant, Jang said his family moved to Seoul from Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, when he was 12. They freeloaded off his mother's family for two years, with only 200,000 won in savings.

Looking back, Jang believes he's fulfilled a quarter of his life goals.

"I had a touching experience while in school last year. I was shooting a short film, and a staff member approached me and said, 'Your donations are what's allowed me to go to school,'" he said. "That made me realize I haven't lived my life in vain."


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