'Squid Game's' Wi Ha-jun Recalls He 'Didn't Have Money For Bus Fare' As Aspiring Actor

Squid Game actor Wi Ha-jun catapulted to international fame following his role as detective Hwang Jun-ho, whose engrossing open-ended storyline could see him return for a second season of the gripping Netflix K-drama.

Fans worldwide have been smitten with the rising heartthrob since the series premiered just over a month ago, not only for his policeman role, but also his dashing looks and sculpted physique, showcased most recently on the cover of the October 2021 edition of Men's Health Korea.

Further sealing his status as an international star, the actor recently appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, dazzling U.S. audiences alongside his Squid Game castmates.

But Wi's road to global stardom was not always this glamorous and was marked at one point by "pervasive feelings of depression" and humbling circumstances as an aspiring actor, when he couldn't even afford a bus ride.

In his first interview with a major U.S. publication, Wi told Newsweek: "Thankfully, I've yet to experience that level of extreme desperation [that the players in the show had]."

However, he did relate to the players' devastating financial situations. "I faced tough financial difficulties when I didn't even have money for bus fare while I was a student studying acting," Wi revealed, looking back at his life before Squid Game.

The actor recalled: "When I first started out as an actor, after facing countless failed auditions, there were times when my self-confidence continued to disappear and I felt pervasive feelings of depression."

"But it was my friends who helped me get through those times and they still do so today when facing difficult moments," Wi explained.

"Squid Game" actor Wi Ha-jun.
Korean actor Wi Ha-jun, who plays the detective character in "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix

But today, Wi has garnered a whole new batch of friends around the world who have been sharing their love and support for the actor following the debut of Squid Game.

Wi's growing fan base has shown no signs of slowing down. The actor's Instagram following rose on multiple occasions since Squid Game aired, with the figure reaching over 5.1 million by October 3. He has since amassed over 8 million followers on Instagram.

Of his newfound global fame, the actor said it was bewildering but also exciting: "It's strange but I also feel a sense of excitement, seeing different people worldwide following me on social media, leaving various messages of support in the comments.

"It's been fun to see them share various content, put together from previous works I've done as well as from photos and videos of me," Wi said.

Despite his growing fame, the rising star has not forgotten his roots, hailing from Wando, a county/island in Jeollanamdo (South Jeolla), a southern province just off the coast of Jeju Island, which Wi describes as a place to go for "a time of healing."

The actor said: "It's the place that comes to mind when you think of nature, delicious food and a time of healing—somewhere everyone always wants to visit.

"Among my favorite areas on Jeju Island is a place called Aewol. I love it for its blue seas and atmosphere and lots of pretty cafes," he said.

One day, Wi would also love to play up his rural island roots and "try a role that requires using a bit of local dialect and accent."

But for now, the actor, as well as fans, are keen for the return of his Squid Game character in a sequel to the series—though Netflix has yet to confirm a follow-up.

In Squid Game, Jun-ho infiltrates the game facility in a bid to find out what happened to his brother who went missing. There he uncovers the "irrational activities" and unimaginable horrors unfolding as part of a survival competition that sees hundreds compete to the death for the chance to win a hefty cash prize.

The show's dramatic finale sees Jun-ho being chased down by the Front Man, the mysterious character played by Lee Byung-hun who oversees the games and is revealed as the detective's older brother. The detective is later shot by the Front Man, which pushes him over a cliff's edge.

Wi Ha-jun in "Squid Game."
Hwang Jun-ho, played by Wi Ha-jun, in a scene from "Squid Game." The Korean actor was challenged to face his fear of water for the shooting of the series. Netflix

Questions remain over the fate of the policeman but Wi believes "the detective was not fatally wounded," since he was shot in the arm.

However, he added: "I'm still not really sure" whether Jun-ho is alive.

If there were to be a second season of Squid Game, the actor hopes to see the "various questions around the story of Jun-ho and the Front Man be answered."

Wi said: "I wonder why he became the Front Man and why he had to point the gun at his younger brother."

Squid Game is available to stream on Netflix.

Squid Game's Wi Ha-jun and Lee Jung-jae.
Jun-ho (played by Wi Ha-jun), seen with Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae) in "Squid Game" on Netflix. Netflix