action, romance, optimism, kindness

Ji-won: Yes, those would be interesting challenges. I’m open to any role that would challenge me, but I’m not ready yet to give up on action-type roles. After all, men perform in those roles well into their fifties, why not women?

Lover: I can’t argue with that, but I have to be blunt, I’m not really into action movies – though with you as the hero I’d comfortably make an exception. But I find James Bond, for example, the most insufferably boring character on the planet. Scenes of violence in movies either bore me (when they’re meant to be exciting) or cause me too much real pain (when they’re meant to highlight human cruelty). I can’t watch war movies, for the same reason that I could never join the military. Violence sickens me, and I’d be happy to put my queer shoulder to the wheel to find alternative solutions. I prefer dramas with complex characters and clever language. Dilemmas, moral complexities – and of course romance.

Ji-won: Well, romance is a pretty strong theme in my work, but often I find it hard – even harder than action stuff. Love and loss, and all the uncertainties… It can be very draining, emotionally. And even when it ends happily, the series or the movie ends, and the character I fell in love with vanishes.

Lover: And your own character vanishes and you’re back to being good old Ji-won.

Ji-won: Well you know that’s one value of being single – I’d hate to put a partner through all my anguish regarding my relationships with other characters!

Lover: Ha you really think deeply about others, even imaginary others! I’d love to talk more about your singlehood, being as I’m in love with you and all that, but it’s a scary subject and I don’t want to lose your trust, so let me talk more about your work, both as an actor and as – well, as a celebrity, in relation to your fans. I know you found celebrity difficult to deal with in the early days, and yet you seemed to actively seek it. Can you talk about that… contradiction?

Ji-won: Well, mmmm… [ long pause] I don’t think I was seeking celebrity, what I wanted was to be successful in my career, the best I could be. I didn’t really make the connection, not consciously, that success in this business would lead to celebrity. Then I started getting fan letters, and they were really touching and caring, and really supportive of me, and so I wanted to succeed for their sake in a way. To make myself worthy of their support. Also, celebrity became a kind of challenge for me, to move in that kind of spotlight world and yet be myself, or to try to be my best self in that world. Not to lose myself. And also I want to use celebrity for good and not badness ha ha.

Lover: Well I think you’ve promoted the cause of strong, independent women, both in your roles and in your off-screen life and activities, but you’ve also promoted, through your personality, a lot of other positive values, such as optimism and enthusiasm, a strong work ethic, sensitivity and care for others, team spirit… I’m sure I could go on ha ha.

Ji-won: That’s enough, thank you, haha, you’re very kind.

sainthood, celebrity, ambition, versatility


Lover: You have an amazing and enviable reputation among everyone you work with it seems. You’re regarded almost as a saint! Why do you think that is?

Ji-won: Uhh, haha… I can’t answer that. It’s  … no, I can’t say… It’s nice of course. But I’m not a saint!

Lover: I’m sure you’re not – saints really aren’t that loveable, but you are.

Ji-won: Mmmm, thank you. So, what d’you want to talk about?

Lover: Well, you, of course, as I’ve said. And not just your acting but your very intriguing character. You are, I suppose, a celebrity, though I remember you saying, way back in that 2001 interview, that you didn’t feel like a celebrity, and I’m sure you still don’t feel like one. And you explained the psychology of it very well, but you know, you must be one of the most photographed women on the planet. It makes me wonder if you have a private life at all.

Ji-won: Haha well I don’t think I’m that popular. I like to keep busy though, and if I don’t have so much privacy, well it’s the life I’ve chosen and I’m not complaining.

Lover: Yes I note that when you talk to your fans you often urge them to keep watching your stuff and to spread the word. As if you want more celebrity. What’s that all about?

Ji-won: Haha yes I do that. I’m not sure, I don’t really analyse it. It’s as if I want to create a happy community around me. Maybe I’m insecure and I need people to believe in me. You think it’s really odd?

Lover: I don’t know, I think maybe you’re being very smart in a way that’s a bit foreign to me, but I’ve never been a celebrity or ever seriously considered that I could be, though I was sort of ambitious at one time to be recognised as a writer. Nowadays though I’m just happy to write and be a teacher and to learn about the world through reading about science and history and such. So in that sense your sort of ambition is a bit of a mystery to me, as mine might be to you. Though I have to admit, I’d love to be loved the way you’re loved.

Ji-won: I know I’ve been lucky to have the life and success I’ve had…

Lover: But you’ve worked damn hard, it’s not all luck.

Ji-won: Mmm, I’ve been given great opportunities, and I’ve always felt the need to prove that I’m worthy of the faith that others put in me.

Lover: You’ve created a reputation and now you have to live up to it. You’ve created a monster haha. But I’m wondering, now that you’re getting a bit older (I can say that, I’m old enough to be your father), whether you might want to tone down the action hero thing and go for a – well a more intellectual character – a scientist say, or a lawyer? That might be the next challenge to your well-established versatility. I’d love to see you in a really clever role like that.