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Korea’s top teen actress talks youth and haters

In an exclusive interview, popular starlet Kim Yoo Jung shares her ups and downs in the Korean acting industry

With her fresh face and cute demeanour, Kim is in high demand in Korean films and dramas
With her fresh face and cute demeanour, Kim Yoo Jung is in high demand for Korean films and dramas

With her sweet and gentle smile, Kim Yoo Jung is often fondly regarded as Korea’s most popular child actress. At only 15 years old, she has already starred in 45 productions in cinemas and on television.

Her career began at just three in a TV commercial, after her mother submitted her photos for an online contest. Since then, Kim shot to fame with her roles in dramas like “Dong Yi”, “Moon Embracing the Sun”, and “May Queen”.

Most recently, she portrays a free-spirited novelist in the tense “Secret Door” series. Weekender gets an exclusive interview with Kim, who reveals her thoughts on starting early, coping with the stress, and her desire for eternal youth!

Tell us about your character in the drama “Secret Door”.

Seo Ji Dam is a novelist with the penname Bingae. She is a fierce, bandit-eluding, literarily-brilliant woman, who is capable of speaking banmal (informal language) with men twice her age. She is dying of curiosity as if she was a girl detective.

What do you like to do while waiting between takes?

I sometimes read, eat ice cream, (start) fanning myself – and, of course, I will not wear traditional sandals between takes! I wear a pair of comfortable slippers.

The Secret Door (Behind the scenes) (1)
Kim (right) with “Secret Door” co-star Lee Je-Hoon

As a child actress, do you have fears about your future in acting?

Yes I do. I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried. But I think fear is necessary for my development… I hope to pass into the next stage of my acting career as smoothly as possible.

Do you have memories from before your acting days?

No, I have no memory of those earliest days at all… I realised that, at a certain point, I’d accepted that I was an actress without really knowing how it even started. So I’ve always thought of it as destiny.

What kind of roles do you want to try playing?

My biggest goal as an actress is to play an evil role so well to the point where the audience would curse at me.  That would really mean that my acting was accepted and done well. I want to be a bad person.

You have a very mature mindset! Do you feel like your adolescence is over?

Adolescence isn’t over for me, but the storm (has) passed. I had many fights with my mum. I went to (America) on my own and I came back – I felt more relaxed and freer.

During my trip, I ate anything I wanted, I did anything I wanted all alone on the days I had no filming. I even put on some weight.

Busy, busy! Kim running about on the set of Secret Door
Busy, busy! Kim running about on the set of Secret Door

So how do you manage your health and your love for eating?

I like eating fast food and greasy food. I’ve been acting since I was very young, so I controlled a little bit what I ate… If I hadn’t been an actress, I think I would have been overweight.

I really enjoy eating… I even feel that I was born to eat. I can even eat three to four bowls of rice in a row.

Your skin is so flawless! How do you keep your face so fresh?

I do have acne break out when I’m tired due to a long filming but I maintain my clean complexion with thorough homecare… I also apply aloe soothing gel before giving my skin a second shot of moisture with an aloe pack (to) overcome skin dryness.

Would you like to grow up quickly and play grown-up characters?

It’d be nice not to become an adult. I really feel good (being) at my age right now. As you get older, your sense of responsibility always increases. I hate thinking about how I must handle the things I want. I eat the food my mum cooks and I like doing the things I want right now.

The Secret Door (Behind the scenes) (4)
With her doll-like face, Kim is usually cast in innocent ‘candy-girl’ roles

All celebrities have anti-fans. How do you deal with negative feedback?

Although I am calm on the outside, I do get hurt a bit on the inside. However, I try to receive them as a good chance to change my flaws.

If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?

Hmm… My original dream was to be a doctor. And I also want to be a designer, chef and reporter. I’m also interested in the arts and physical education, so athlete as well! (laughs) But I’m not strong enough to be a soccer player so maybe jump rope?

Did you ever want to be a K-Pop idol?

I’d wanted to be a singer as well but I think I’d feel lonely if I debuted as a solo. (And) I’d be in conflict with other people if I debuted in a group because someone would be more popular than another person.

I think being a trainee is very tough as well so I like acting the best. (laughs)

Kim Yoo Jung (far left) stars in the latest Korean period drama Secret Door
Kim Yoo Jung (second from left) with the cast of Secret Door

By Pamela Chow

Catch Kim Yoo Jung’s latest series, “Secret Door”, every Monday and Tuesday at 8.55pm, exclusively on ONE! ONE is available on both StarHub Ch 823 nd SingTel Mio TV Ch 513.

Photos: ONE, Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia