Just twenty-eight years old, and already she is a ten-year veteran in the Korean entertainment business. But in a recent interview with reporters, Park Jin-Hee revealed that the only reason she got into acting was to earn money for tuition. Park comes from a modest family, and in order to pay for extra lessons during highschool, she worked part-time at a coffee shop, but at 1,500 won (~ US$1.50) per hour, it seemed impossible to earn money quick enough to pay for the 100,000-won class fees. It was during this time that her brother’s friend, who worked in the entertainment business, suggested to her that she should give acting a try.
By a stroke of luck, Park was cast in the 1996 KBS teen drama ‘Start [스타트]’, which also marked the debut of the late Lee Eun-Ju (이은주). After that role, Park was soon offered a role in the 1998 teen horror film, ‘Whispering Corridors [ 여고괴담]’, and she seemed set to shine in both the TV and film industries, at the tender age of twenty. Her career continued to progress through youthful and innocent roles on TV, and even though she mostly played supporting roles, the audience was already noticing her sharp screen presence.
In 2001, Park was given a chance to star in her own mini-series, ‘Stock Flower [비단향꽃무]’. The drama about a struggling teenage mother inspired many, especially abroad, and by riding on the hallyu (Korean wave) movement that was gaining momentum in Asia, Park began to attract an international fanbase as well. After the 2002 MBC weekend drama ‘Since I Met You [그대를 알고부터]’, Park began to focus more on her film career. She went on to star in a number of box office misses, such as ‘Byul [별]’ and ‘Love Talk [러브토크]’, and even though her film ‘Love in Magic [연애술사]’ with rising star Yeon Jeong-Hun (연정훈) received mild success, Park seemed ready for something different. So in 2006, instead of continuing with the traditional cute and innocent roles she’d been playing all this while, Park took a chance to star in the current SBS mini-series ‘Come Back Soonae [돌아와요 순애씨]’, in which she plays a married 40-year-old woman trapped in the body of a 20-something-year-old.
Through her hilarious portrayal of a dancing, loud-mouthed, brash ‘ajoomma’ (middle-aged woman), Park is earning praise from audience and critics alike, with impressive ratings as proof, and she seems to have finally established herself as a skilled actress beyond a pretty package.