Heroine: Kim Jeong-eun


Oct 2, 2006

Your correspondent met Kim Jeong-eun, a popular actress in Korea, at a café in Samcheong-dong. Kim Jeong-eun greeted me with a bright smile on her face. The way she smiled and the way she talked was nothing different from her on TV. Back in 2002, Kim appeared the big hit movie “Marrying the Mafia.” Now she is back with her new movie, “Well-Being.” Her movie will hit the theaters during the Chuseok holiday season.

Her new movie is about a small rural town in Chungcheong- Province in the 1970s. At that time, too many babies in one household was a national problem. This is quite different when compared to the situation now in Korea. During the 1970s, the government set out a project to limit the babies born in one household. The project was aimed at providing the people with a better life since most of the money they earned was spent on childrearing. However, the movie asks the audience, “Did that project really make people live a better life?

When Kim took the role in the movie as a “birth control agent,” she met some of the real “birth control agents” who worked in the 1970s. According to her interview with the agents, “Men were given incentives to move to an apartment when they had vasectomies. Also, most of the men at that time simply didn’t know how to use condoms and other birth control methods. The former agent said that she feels bad about what she did in the past. However, the government couldn’t help but take control of the number of the babies.”

In the movie, Hyeon-ju, the role Kim, played, had to explain how to use a condom to several men. She says, “Sir, you have to wear a condom to prevent pregnancies” Then, one of the men says, “Where am I supposed to wear it?” According to the movie script, Hyeon-ju gets somewhat embarrassed and hesitates to answer the question. However, Kim says that she decided to change that part. In her opinion, Hyeon-ju was not the kind of girl afraid of answering those questions. She is a hard-working, iron-faced girl. So, she directly explains where to wear the condom to men. Kim, who is not married yet, said that she felt her face growing red while shooting that scene. She said, “When I start to show that I feel kind of awkward to act that part, then the situation will become more awkward. So I just boldly carried out that part pretending as if this is a piece of cake to me.”

Although “Well-Being” is a comedy, the movie staff put much emphasis on the background of the movie. Thanks to the staff, who had to go to many rural towns to get the right description of a rural town of the 1970s, the audience is able to recall the memories of the 1970s. Kim, who is known for her tomboyish and friendly character, says that she had a hard time falling asleep in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

She says, “You see that women say they will never give birth to a baby again after going through delivery. However, they forget about what they said and give births to babies again and again. That is what happens to actors and actresses in this field. I promised myself that I will never shoot a movie in winter again. I got another role in a soap drama and we’ll be shooting this winter.”

Last year, Kim appeared in the movie “Sarangni” (wisdom tooth). However, she says that she failed to “communicate with the public” in that movie.

She said, “I think the audience was kind of surprised to see me playing a serious and tragic role that is not like me. I don’t think that I have to get rid of my natural image, which is bubbly and friendly. It is good. However, if I always appear to be the same character in many movies, that will be a serious problem” Suddenly Kim grabs a napkin and pushes it slowly that was in front of her. She shows me that she would like to keep her originality while showing progress just like the napkin sliding on the table.

During the interview, Kim was making eye contact with the interviewer and she answered every question with sincerity. I asked her isn’t it tough to be happy all the time, just as her character known to many people in Korea. She said, “I feel gloomy time to time. However, I say to myself that I have work in a happy condition. I do not like those who make everybody feel unhappy because of his/her gloominess. On the other hand, it might be right to say that I am a bit selfish too. I always try to be happy because that makes me work in a more comfortable situation. If not, the whole movie will not work out.”

This year, the Korean public will be showered with new movies. Kim’s movie will be competing against one of the sequel movies of her own. I asked her if she felt uncomfortable about that fact. She answered, “‘Marrying the Mafia” is one of the best movies I appeared in. I thought that the movie world was welcoming me with a red carpet reserved for only me. After that big success, I felt as if I was going to collapse when any of my movies did badly in the market. However, the most important thing is the fact that I am an actress who has to sell herself as a commodity to the public. So far, I had a “pretty girl living next door” image. I am happy with that. But, I would like to be a more “trustworthy actress” to the public from now on. That is one of my wishes.” It seems that Kim wants to get a good reputation from the public rather than a blockbuster movie.

When asked about the true meaning of well being in her life, she answered, “I think it is to know when you are happy.” I asked her whether she was happy these days. She stopped for a moment and said, “Yes, I am ‘trying to be more happy these days.”

Source: The Dong-A Ilbo