It is not just the tousled hair and the worn-out clothes of a typical "ajumma" that startle the viewers watching actress Choi Jin-sil
, on the KBS primetime drama "My Rosy Life
The eyes of the actress, who had once been the nation's everlasting sweetheart, no longer sparkle with confidence, but instead, shine with the uncertainty of a person who has learned that one can never be so sure of life.
With the persona of the actress constantly overlapping with the drama's main character, viewers confuse what is reality and what is an act.
Standing somewhere between reality and the stage, Choi has made a successful comeback after a painful one-year lull, unfolding what appears to be a story of her own.
in her early days as actress (right) and in "My Rosy Life
Maeng Sun-i, the main character of "My Rosy Life
", and Choi resemble each other in many ways. After highly publicized disputes which led to several noisy lawsuits, the 36-year-old actress ended her marriage with baseball player Cho Sung-min, 31, last September.
Like the heroine of the drama whose marriage is at risk due to her two-timing husband, Choi's life, based on a 15-year-long successful acting career, nearly collapsed due to the messy divorce.
Thus for Choi, making a comeback as Maeng Sun-i, the boorish heroine of the drama, probably meant taking a fifty-fifty chance.
Many had predicted that Choi's status as an actress was beyond recovery.
But "My Rosy Life
" currently enjoys the highest popularity among the three Wednesday and Thursday primetime dramas with nearly a 30 percent viewer rating.
Choi's lifelike acting, which evidently comes from her own pain and suffering, is regarded as the main contributor to the drama's success. Through Choi, viewers sympathize with the main character, and through the main character, viewers understand what the actress went through during the past year.
"I was afraid that viewers would confuse me with Maeng Sun-i and reminisce about the dark moments of my life", said Choi. "I was also afraid that there would be no more chance of a comeback if I fail this time".
Since her debut in the 1990 movie "North Korea's Southern Army", Choi had been a symbol of a "lovable sweetheart" to the nation.
With an image of youth and happiness, Choi established a strong grounding in TV and in movies, and thus, was always warmly greeted by the public regardless of the success or failure of her movies and dramas.
The peppy actress was more loved by the public for her pitiful family background, where she grew up supporting her single-mother and little brother Choi Jin-yeong, an actor-turned-singer. Like Choi, Maeng Sun-i is also an eldest daughter in the drama, who devotes her life to taking care of an alcoholic father and little siblings.
Choi and Maeng are also both mothers of two children that they must raise by themselves. As one of the most well-known actresses in Korea, Choi's private life was exposed to the public to the last detail. Although some fans felt sorry for her, most people felt "betrayed" by their sweetheart, and turned cold and harsh towards her.
Through the aching one-year she stayed hidden from the public. Choi had perhaps learned for the first time what it was like to face the public which no longer loved or greeted her.
Besides the courage to take the role of Maeng Sun-i, TV critics also praise Choi for the "clever decision" of choosing a character that would help her broaden the scope of acting.
Now in her mid 30s, Choi can no longer compete with other actresses using youth or beauty as her weapons. But with the new role, Choi, who had never been evaluated as a "good actress" despite her long career, appears to have found a grounding towards a true success as an actress.
A divorcee and mother of two, Choi still has a heavy burden on her fragile shoulders.
But it seems the actress needs not to be afraid of facing the public any more. To fans, Choi is no longer just an everlasting sweetheart, but a "real actress" who overcame her own difficulties with a passion for acting.
By Shin Hae-in