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Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim on the Cave Names and Which Jin He Likes Better

In last week's episode of this final season of Lost, we visited a mysterious cave whose ceiling bore a numbered list of possible candidates to replace Jacob as the Island's protector. One of the names was "Kwon," though the cave rudely neglected to specify whether it was referring to Jin-Soo Kwon or his wife, Sun-Hwa Kwon. So we phoned the show's Daniel Dae Kim, beloved portrayer of Jin, to see if he could shed any light. Kim also spoke with Vulture about which Jin he prefers: 2004's less likable version or the messy-haired, Island-stranded, English-speaking one.

We said the same thing to Terry O'Quinn last week, but, hey, we missed you in last week's episode!
Oh, yeah, I don't remember not being in that episode. I could have sworn I was supposed to be in it. I'm not sure what exactly happened. We shot it so long ago that I can't remember whether they moved some scenes around, which is very possible.

In the season premiere, the contrast between the laid-back, Island-based Jin and the 2004 slick-haired, crappy-attitude-having Jin is pretty shocking. We'd forgotten about that guy ...
Yeah: "I didn't like him ... Now I remember ... " It's actually kind of refreshing to go back to that Jin because it does highlight the journey that he's taken. For him to have come so far and return to it, in a way, nostalgically, is kind of great to be able to play.

The new 2004 Locke and Hurley seem to be happy and in a better place. The new Jin seems to be the same old guy. Or worse, considering the last time we saw him, he was about to be interrogated by customs.
What I would say about that is that there are little twists and turns to every character. And Jin will not be an exception.

Has any character in television history gone from more misunderstood to more beloved than Jin-Soo Kwon?
That's a good question. I think for our show, that's fair to say. The journey he's taken from where he started in the pilot to where we are today ... He's done a complete 180. Who knows? He might be coming back around to do a complete 360.

In the clip released by ABC for tonight's episode, "Lighthouse," it appears Jin forms a new alliance with Claire after she saved him from a bear trap. Has she become the new Danielle Rousseau?
We had a bunch of scenes together and it was great to work with Emilie [de Ravin] again. I think there are definitely elements of Rousseau's character in her, for sure. I think you're right to pick up on that. How far [do] those similarities go? We'll see.

Jin and Sun have been apart for two seasons now. Will we see them finally reunited at some point?
That's a really good question. I'm not sure whether the Jin and Sun story is meant to have a happy ending or a tragic one. It could be all tied up in a bow, like a lot of television stories are, or it could be a Romeo and Juliet situation.

In last week's episode, "The Substitute," we see that "Kwon" is written on the cave as a "candidate" to rule the island. Does that refer to Jin or Sun?
If it's Jin, that means all the numbers — all of the designees — are men. If it's not, then Sun would be the only woman on the list — and I wonder what the ramifications of that might be.

If, in the first season, you look at it from Jin's perspective: Not only did his plane crash, but he's also surrounded by a bunch of Americans and Australians that don't understand him — which makes it all the more terrifying.
That's a great point. And as I do my work as an actor, that's what I think about: He's in a job that he hates, doing a task he doesn't want to be doing for the woman that he loves, but the relationship is already strained. Now he's among a bunch of strangers, he doesn't speak any English, and he's suspicious of people already. It's kind of the worst-case scenario for him.

Is it fun to play Jin now that he can actually communicate with the other characters? In season one he was blamed for setting an escape raft on fire, basically just because he was the only person who couldn't say, "Nope, it wasn't me."
Exactly! It is liberating to be able to play different kinds of scenes with the other actors. There's great drama to come out of a literal misunderstanding, but, at the same time, it can be somewhat limiting in terms of some of the dynamics you can explore.

For the first three seasons you had to play a character that, at best, spoke very broken English. Considering English is your main language, how great was it to play that Hurley hallucination scene in the hatch during season two when you spoke in a perfect American accent?
I tell you, when I shot that scene, I felt like I was on a different show [playing] a completely different character. It felt like water to a man dying of thirst. I was thinking, Well, there's one scene I don't have to prepare as much for as the others. Though Korean is technically my first language, I'm more comfortable in English. So it requires more work, on my part, to prepare all the Korean scenes.

It's nice Jin was living in 1977 for three years. It's a plausible explanation for why he speaks English so well, now.
That was a great solution on the part of the writers. After three years he will have some working command of the language. Plausible is a relative term on our show, but it's nice to have a feasible explanation on how he learned English.

You're attached to the new Hawaii Five-O pilot. Unless there's a Magnum P.I. remake in the works, that sounds like your best shot at staying in Hawaii ...
My family has really grown to love it here. And I have a couple of children that have established themselves over the past six years. As a dad, I want to give them as much continuity as possible. And let's face it: Being asked to live in paradise is not necessarily a tough call. I also have to take care of things like my career. Maybe I'll be in a position where I can have my cake and eat it, too.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images