Korean star Kim Hyang-gi says improvement of working hours for actors is 'a simple yet significant change'

Kim Hyang-gi stars in 'Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist' opposite Kim Min-jae. Photo: Handout

Actress Kim Hyang-gi was apparently just 27 months old when she made her showbiz debut in a commercial in 2003.

Three years later, the Korean nabbed her first acting role in the 2006 movie Hearty Paws, followed by many other gigs including popular films such as A Werewolf Boy (2012), Proof Of Innocence (2015), the Along With The Gods series (2017-18) and last year’s war action film Hansan: Rising Dragon.

Now, at 22, she has amassed some 20 films and 13 drama series to her body of work.

Over the years too, Kim has won acting recognition from South Korea’s entertainment industry including the Baeksang Arts Awards’ Best New Actress gong for Thread Of Lies (2014), Blue Dragon Film Awards’ Best Supporting Actress for Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (2018) and Best Actress award again from both Korean Association of Film Critics Awards and Korean Culture And Entertainment Awards for her performance in Innocent Witness (2019).

Currently, she is starring in Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist opposite Kim Min-jae.

In this period drama, she plays Seo Eun-woo, a young woman who is widowed on her wedding day.

Unable to cope with the blame piled upon her by her cruel mother-in-law, Eun-woo attempts to take her own life.

Fortunately, she is saved again and again by Yoo Se-poong (Min-jae), who finally gets through to her that life is still worth living.

Gaining strength from Se-poong and the kind-hearted people who work with him at a clinic in the village, Eun-woo decides to do away with traditions tied to her noble heritage and learn to be a physician – an unusual thing for a woman like her during that time.

The series is presently in its second season.

In an exclusive email interview with StarLifestyle, Hyang-gi describes Eun-woo as a strong woman, and she found it a pleasure to get a chance to play a smart and strong person like her on screen.

Reflecting on what she likes about her character, she says: “I don’t believe that a person’s gender should matter when it comes to achieving your dreams or doing something for yourself.”

Below, Hyang-gi shares some of her thoughts about her character and the entertainment industry in South Korea.

Eun-woo went through many transformations in the first season. What are some of the things your character experiences in the second season?

In Season Two, Eun-woo’s confidence and skills as a physician have improved.

What do you think is the most important thing that Eun-woo has learned about herself, having become part of this group?

I think it’s humanity.

You have been working since you were a child, which could be stressful. Since this is a series that deals with mental health, perhaps you can share how you personally cope with mental distress in your life that could be of help to others?

It’s so important to create a hobby that interests you and create your own achievements, but there may be moments when it’s hard to even do that.

If so, you don’t really have to accomplish anything.

Just get up and bask in the sun, take five deep breaths, look at adorable things and take nutritional supplements.

Having started out as a child actor in the industry, what are the changes you are seeing now that you truly appreciate compared to when you were still very young?

There are too many. This can be deemed as an advantage or a drawback, but I have come to value “freedom through sharing”.

It is fun to know various emotions and sentiments, and that new works are created while actually sharing.

And the improvement of working hours seems to be a simple yet significant change that can be felt physically.

You have an impressive resume already. But are there any roles that you haven’t got to experience yet that you would love to explore?

There are so many I’d love to try ... such as noir, black comedy, fantasy, villain, psycho, a character based on a true story, etc.

I want to challenge myself if given the opportunity.

What’s next for you?

I’m the type who will get tired of my own thoughts because I just have too many of them.

This year, I’m trying to focus a little more on putting my thoughts into action first.

The penultimate and final episodes of Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist 2 air Thursday (Feb 9) and Friday, respectively, at 9.15pm on tvN (Astro Ch 395/unifi TV Ch 211).

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