In 2004, Park Hae-Jin [박해진] was just an ordinary 21-year-old out shopping in Seoul’s trendy Gam-Nam district when he ran into his would-be manager Ha Jae-Wan, who saw in Park a definite star-quality, and just like that Park began his modelling career. With his tall and slender stature, and dark eyes that resemble those of the main character of popular manga ‘Slam Dunk’, he leaves an impression everywhere he goes.
In early 2006, KBS began putting together their next weekend drama, ‘The Infamous Chil Sisters [소문난 칠공주]’, scheduled to hit the airwaves around April. The new drama would be written by one of Korea’s most loved drama writers Moon Yeong-Nam (문영남), whose works include the 2005 ‘Life in Rose Color [장미빛 인생]’ and the 2004 ‘Terms of Endearment [애정의 조건]’, both of which drew incredible ratings for KBS. The makers of the new drama already had an all-star cast with drama queen, Lee Tae-Ran (이태란), playing the lead role ‘Seol-Chil (설칠)’, a career army woman and second daughter in a family of four girls. Though Park had no acting experience whatsoever, he was soon cast as ‘Ha-Nam (하남)’, who develops romantic feelings toward Seol-Chil as he goes through army training under her mentorship.
Traditionally, new talents are more likely to be seen in daily dramas with simple storylines or as support casts in mini-series, but rarely do we see them in a weekend drama, whose elaborate scenarios and extended episodes tend to require more from its actors. However, Park was given this rare opportunity and added to the main cast of ‘Chil Sisters’. The drama’s directing producer, Bae Kyeong-Su (배경수), was impressed by Park’s screen presence and predicted Park would be even more popular than Bae Yong-Jun one day.
‘Infamous Chil Sisters’ premiered on April 1, 2006, at a nationwide viewership rating of 20.2%. By July, it broke the 30% mark and on August 20, during the drama’s 41st episode, it received a viewership rating of 38.2%, making it the third most-watched drama of 2006, after SBS drama ‘Dear Heaven [하늘이시여]’ and MBC serial ‘Jumong [주몽 ]’. Since the drama still has 10-20 episodes to go before curtain call, it still has a chance to become the top-rated drama of 2006. The success of ‘Chil Sisters’ is not a surprise to anyone in the industry, as writer Moon’s work is pretty much a guaranteed success, and the same goes for anything with actress Lee Tae-Ran in it, but many are surprised by how well the newcomer Park is filling in among a veteran ensemble cast. Though acting is obviously still uncomfortable for Park, and he himself has said how nerve-racking it can be for him, Park knows the entertainment world is very unforgiving and though he is lucky to be given such a prominent role for his acting debut, his first work could easily be his last. Thus he takes acting very seriously and works harder than anyone else.
In a recent interview, Lee praised Park and mentioned how much she adored the character he portrays in the drama, and the media had a feast speculating an off-screen romance between the two. Of course no one knows for sure what the future holds for Park, but he has definitely made a lasting impression among TV audiences and we will surely see more of this rising star in the years to come.
*edited by Aziraphale