"Quick" has drawn 2.5 million viewers since July 20. [JoongAng Ilbo]
No one's star has risen as quickly in the nation's film scene as Kang Ye-won's.
In the last three years, the 31-year-old actress has featured in three box office hits including "Haeundae" (2009) and "Hello Ghost" (2010), which together have racked up just under 15 million viewers.
Her latest movie "Quick", which opened on July 20, had drawn more than 2.5 million viewers as of Monday.
"I'm nervous and excited", Kang said. "In "Haeundae", I played a supporting role. This time, I had the responsibility of playing the lead. But the scenario was fun and I felt I could play the role well".
The release of "Quick" represents the culmination of Kang's 10-year career, much of which she has spent in obscurity, wandering from one minor role to the next.
Long after her fourth movie, "Haeundae", was released two years ago, Kang said people still recognized her for her role in the movie as the girlfriend of one of the main characters. Now, people recognize her on her own merits, she said.
Also indicative of her growing prominence, she estimates she has been interviewed more than 150 times since "Haeundae".
After a minor role in the 2002 movie "Addicted", Kang went four years without any movie roles until she won a minor role in "Miracle on 1st Street" (2007). Kang describes that period as "depressing" but said she retains the work ethic she developed then.
"I couldn't participate in the productions I wanted and the productions that wanted me didn't interest me", Kang said. "I couldn't see what the future held. I was scared and on the verge of bursting into tears".
So she decided to focus on preparing herself for future roles. She finished her degree at Hanyang University, studying singing, pilates, yoga, dance, swimming and kendo, as well as a foreign language.
The turning point in her career came at her audition for "Miracle on 1st Street", when she met Yoon, the "Haeundae" director, who cast her in the film. Since then, the two have also worked together on "Haeundae", "Harmony" (2010) and "Quick".
"Since Yoon and I met, everything has worked out well", Kang said. "Even in my everyday life, I try not to over think things. I'm happy filming, so I'm in good spirits".
Kang made her debut in the 2001 SBS sitcom "Honey Honey", and until she starred in "My 19 Year Old Sister in Law" (SBS 2004), she was known by her real name, Kim Ji-eun.
After playing supporting roles in "Miracle on 1st Street" and "Haeundae", Kang played leading roles in "Harmony", as a convict who kills her stepfather, and "Hello Ghost", as a hospice nurse struggling with family problems.
In "Quick", her seventh movie, Kang plays the role of an outspoken girl who lies about her age to get into a girl group. (She said the dancing lessons she took paid off for this part, although her offer to sing was turned down.)
Her character, Ah-rom, finds herself on a motorcycle driven by an ex-boyfriend (portrayed by Kang's "Haeundae" co-star Lee Min-ki), and wearing a helmet that is set to explode if they don't deliver a package on time. The high-speed, high-stakes race is reminiscent of the 1994 film "Speed" and the 1998 French film "Taxi".
"After "Haeundae", my mother said, 'Never do another film that dangerous'," Kang said. "So I wonder what she'll say this time. Maybe she'll watch the movie and cry".
Given her output of four movies in three years, the question for Kang is obvious: what's next?
"I've been working endlessly and it's too early to have plans", she said. "First, I want to see "Quick" succeed".
By Ki Sun-min, Kim In-koo
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards