Korea's first Vietnamese Actress Ha Hwang Haiyen came here for years ago, and she has now become a naturalized Korean citizen and gained some popularity. She made her debut on KBS drama "Flowers For My Life" in 2007, a year after moving here, and has since appeared in a number of soaps on terrestrial channels including SBS and EBS.
"All of the soap operas I'm appearing in are set in the countryside", she says. "I always have outdoor shoots on weekdays, so I'm busy all week as I have to travel to provincial areas like Yesan and Taean in South Chungcheong Province".
Haiyen says she is happy and grateful that her childhood dream of becoming an actress has come true. "Even when I lived in Vietnam, I was interested in acting, and I used to mimic actors on TV. I still can't believe that I'm an actress in Korea. I've been extremely lucky".
She believes that since the numbers of migrant workers and multicultural families in Korea are growing, there is an increasing demand for actors who can realistically portray that aspect of society. "Being a Vietnamese woman, I have an advantage in that area", she says. At first her roles were small and the dialogue was in Vietnamese, but they have grown with her experience. As her Korean improved, so did her acting, and now she can concentrate more on expressing emotions rather than on memorizing lines.
When she has time off she likes to stay at home and take a rest, but she also enjoys meeting friends, who are a great source of energy for her. She keeps in touch with friends in Vietnam through online chat and hangs out with friends she made in Korean language classes. "I chose business over acting for my major at college (Hanyang Women's University), because I wasn't sure whether I could bet on my acting career", she says. "Although I'm doing my best to support myself by acting, there's always a risk that I could find myself out of work, and then a degree in business will come in handy".
For now, she is on a roll, and her popularity in both Korea and Vietnam is picking up. Given the chance she would also like to pursue her acting career in Vietnam. Thanks to her fluent Korean, some people do not realize that she is a foreigner. "I've really become Korean", she says. "I used to be nervous all the time because I was afraid that people wouldn't understand what I was saying, but now I don't worry at all. I think acting helped improve my Korean a lot. When I read script and find a word that I don't know, I have to look it up in the dictionary and memorize it".
Haiyen is not content to be the first Vietnamese actor in Korea, as she doesn't want to be just a flash in the pan. "For the moment, I'm going to work hard to become a better actress and focus on my study as well", she says. "Maybe in the distant future I hope to set up a management agency for Vietnamese actors and actresses who need systematic support and management, and run my own entertainment business".
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards