This is the fifth in a series of articles about rising stars who are expected to stand out in the coming year. - Ed.
By Shin Hae-in
, the heroine of "Winter Sonata
", is still enjoying high popularity in Japan through "Yulmugok", a TV series jointly produced by Korea and Japan. With the Korean Wave queen's continued presence in the neighboring country earning her the nickname "Jiwoohime", actress Han Hyo-joo
is readying herself to join the wave of Korean stars.
Last year, when singer-turned-actress Sung Yu-ri
pulled out of "Spring Waltz
", an ambitious TV drama produced by "Winter Sonata
" creator Yoon Seok-ho
, the producer announced 19-year-old Han as the replacement.
The announcement surprised many people as Han was a newcomer to the entertainment world, who made her first appearance on TV merely six months ago.
But Yoon seemed confident with his decision, saying, "Just wait and see. I didn't just find an actress to play the heroine, I found the heroine herself".
Han is known to have originally auditioned for a smaller role in the drama. But after the contract with Sung did not work out, producer Yoon immediately cast Han as the heroine, thinking that her innocent and naive image was just right for the role.
Getting her name known first at a teenage beauty pageant in 2003, Han's only experience of acting is a brief stint on the campus sitcom "Nonstop 5". A freshman at Dongguk University School of Theater and Film, Han has been showing potential as a future top actress through several TV commercials and music videos.
Rare for a novice entertainer, Han also proved her smooth emceeing skills while hosting an SBS live music show with Andy, a member of idol group "Shinhwa".
Although only a small role, Han set off to a good start in the movie "My Boss, My Teacher
", which swept 300,000 viewers on the first day of release.
Despite her fragile appearance, Han is known to be a passionate and hardworking actress, which led many TV critics to evaluate her as a future top star.
The young actress was also selected as the up-and-coming star of 2006 in an online survey taken by MaxMP3 of 3,129 internet users.
Moreover, Han grasped the chance of becoming the next Korean Wave queen by getting the lead role in "Spring Waltz
" which will be aired beginning in March.
As the final part of producer Yoon's "season tetralogy" following "Autumn in my Heart
" (2000), "Winter Sonata
" (2002) and "Summer Scent
" (2003), the drama has already signed contracts to be aired in over 20 countries throughout East Asia.
"Han is a potential star with a bright head on her shoulders", said Yoon in an interview with an entertainment magazine. "Not only is she a hard-worker, but she appears to be born with the ability to quickly adapt to different situations, which is an ability every actor and actress must possess".
Long before creating the "Winter Sonata
" wave which presented actor Bae Yong-joon
and actress Choi Ji-woo
with the delightful Japanese nicknames of Yonsama and Jiwoohime, respectively, Yoon was dubbed a "star maker" for his insight on finding new faces.
Yoon discovered actor Ryu Si-won
and actress Myung Se-bin
who made debuts through his dramas "Feeling" (1994) and "Purity" (1998), respectively. Actors Song Seung-heon
and Won Bin
as well as actress Song Hye-kyo
became the biggest stars of Korea through "Autumn in my Heart
"Although they may lack acting skills, new faces have the ability to spread their youth and vitality throughout the drama", said Yoon, explaining why he selected Han as the lead actress without hesitation.
After appearing on Yoon's lyrical and heart-aching love stories, actresses become immediate idols of Korean men who love to pin up their pure and innocent image.
Playing the heroine who meets her destined first love after losing touch with him for 15 years, Han is much expected to be showered with the same attention through the upcoming romance.
After spending 22 days on an overseas shoot in Austria earlier this month, Yoon praised Han more enthusiastically.
"I am now confident that Han is ready to show everything she has through this drama", he said. "By analyzing the character thoroughly, Han has managed to bring alive the character exactly the way I had her in my head".
Knowing that her future as an actress relies largely on the success of "Spring Waltz
", Han said that she planned to live as the heroine until the shooting of the drama was over.
"People tell me that I have diverse images", said Han. "I think the various images root from the desire for acting. Although acting is still difficult, I am so much in love with it and am ready to give my best".