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Kim Yunjin to Play Major Role in ABC's New Series

2004/06/22 Source

By Han Eun-jung
Staff Reporter
Among ABC's fall season lineup is a new adventure drama by the creator of "Alias", J.J. Abram, which follows the aftermath of a devastating plane crash. Appropriately titled "Lost", the survivors of the ill-fated flight are left to survive on a deserted island where eerie X-File-like occurrences take place.

As a network that has apparently been experiencing some prime-time problems in recent years, ABC's high hopes for the soon-to-be launched series are understandable. The pilot is reportedly the most expensive in the network's history. But why are local fans also excited about the September premier of this U.S. show?

Featured on the main cast is a face many may find familiar. She is Kim Yunjin, a South Korean film star who shot to fame playing the memorable role of Lee Myun-hyun in the 1998 blockbuster "Shiri".

"Sun, as a South Korean woman headed for the United States after a stay in Australia, is half of an international couple stranded with 13 others", Kim Yunjin explained when The Korea Times met with her at a casual Apkujong cafe.

Like the island and the other characters, Sun and her husband Jin (played by Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim) have a secret. "The secrets will surface as the story unfolds", Kim said. "Sun has her reasons for keeping quiet. How the couple's relationship evolves as the survivors build a society together is an interesting aspect of the story".

Kim last year signed with William Morris Agency, a top agency representing big Hollywood names such as Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Kevin Spacey, and Reese Witherspoon, which excited her fans but did not come as much of a surprise. If a Korean starlet were to knock on Hollywood's door, many expected it would be Kim.

A member of the 1.5 generation, a term referring to Korean-Americans born in South Korea but brought up in the U.S., Kim is fluent in both her native tongue and English. As a shy and soft-spoken teenager still getting used to life in the U.S., joining the school drama club in the 7th grade was what led to a passion for acting.

"When singing and acting on stage, I didn't feel the least bit awkward. I felt so at home under the lights", Kim said. "Something about being on stage just felt right".

From there she went on to New York's High School of Performing Arts (the setting to "Fame") and the University of Boston before taking up acting full time upon graduation.

She was appearing in plays in New York when a friend called up one day back in 1996 and asked if she would to take on a temporary job as a location manager for an MBC crew shooting in the area. Kim caught the eyes of producers and was cast on the spot, gaining a role that had originally been reserved for Lee Young-ae.

A few minor roles in soap opera-style evening dramas led to her leading role in "Shiri". The success of the thriller in the domestic box office made her a household name. "Shiri" was also well accepted in neighboring Asian countries. Since then, Kim has done a string of films that include "Yesterday" and "Ardor".

Throughout the interview, Kim stressed that she was playing a South Korean woman in the TV series. "It's not a Korean woman playing a Chinese woman, a Japanese woman, or even an American woman of Korean descent", she said.

"Even as a teenager I recall how uncomfortable I felt with the way Hollywood portrayed Asian women. Rarely were the characters three-dimensional", Kim said. "Asian actors have struggled for a long time to earn a place in the industry. Most don't make it because there are not many roles available. As for the few that do, well, let's just say someone like Lucy Liu doesn't come along very often. She's a great actress and the roles she gets are better than the ones written up for Asians in the past, but even her characters carry a stereotype".

Kim says she would like to turn the clock back a decade. "I woke up one morning and was a star, or that's what people say", she said laughing. "This has its advantages as well as its disadvantages".

Kim said, "This is something I had wanted to do from the very start of my career. Though not intentionally, everything was put on hold once my career in Korea took off. It may take another 20 to 30 years before Asian actors and actresses are the least bit satisfied, but taking on this role will mean that finally I can contribute to setting the record straight".

Not selling herself short, Kim has taken on a smart role. Kim hopes that this will be the start of a sturdy, secure career that gives her the opportunities that she has obtained in the local scene.

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