By Han Eun-jung
Every year, actress Lee Young-ae
seems to get better. With each new television drama or film, the genre she chooses to explore and the characters she portrays have become more diverse and complex.
Her latest film, which opens Friday, is no different. In "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
", the 34-year-old actress plays Kum-ja, a woman falsely accused of kidnapping and murdering a little boy. Upon her release, she sets out for revenge against the man who put her through years of anguish.
"Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
" is "Old Boy
" director Park Chan-wook
's third and final installment of his revenge-themed series.
The media is already raving over Lee's chilling portrayal of Kum-ja.
However, this hasn't always been the case for the stunning actress who has managed to launch one excellent performance after another.
Fans first came to know of Lee in 1990 in a television commercial promoting chocolate in which he appeared opposite Hong Kong movie star Andy Lau
, and this led her to her first major break _ signing on to become the spokesperson of a major cosmetic brand _ one year later.
After that, Lee Young-ae
became the face of a popular cosmetics firm. But she was more than just another pretty face featured in a series of TV ads promoting beauty products. She also managed to become a role model to many young women as her characters exhibited strength, confidence and independence.
By the end of her nine years as a spokesperson, Lee had not only become known as the "Sanso Katun Yoja (A Woman Like a Breath of Fresh Air)", but she also put together an acting career.
However, the lasting impression as the main character to a wildly popular ad campaign seemed to work as a negative as she slowly crossed over to acting.
As her first role, she took on the part of Do Do-hee, a headstrong and smart _ perhaps even cunning _ girl who falls for a middle-aged married man, in the 1992 SBS drama "Taegui Nampyonun Oddosimnikka?"
Lee, who is known to be media shy, in a rare contribution to the Donga Ilbo in 2001, recalls how she quickly realized that trying to recreate her image and apply that new character to her first acting job was a mistake.
"I would be criticized after almost every shoot by fellow cast members like Yoo Dong-geun
and Song Seung-hwan
. Looking back, the mistake of applying the image I conveyed in the commercial to the role led to such dissonance", she said.
Despite the bad reviews, Lee pressed on, doing small parts in local productions. On the small screen, she's played everything from a college lecturer in "PaPa"
, a doctor in "Uigahyongje" and a screenwriter in "Pulggot".
With more acting experience, she got her big screen break by making her feature film debut with " JSA - Joint Security Area
" as Sophie, a key character in the story. In 2001, she received her first lead role in "One Fine Spring Day
Last year, she made her way back to TV with her stellar delivery of the clever court maid Jang-gum in the MBC period piece "Jewel in the Palace" - "Dae Jang Geum
". The drama has gone on to become a hit in Hong Kong and Taiwan, making her a household name there as well.
Now with her fourth major film waiting for the audiences' reaction, she expressed her content in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency.
"I feel full now", she said. "After `Jewel in the Palace' - "Dae Jang Geum
" I was anxious to take on a totally different role. Finishing `Sympathy', I feel that I have accomplished all that my heart desired, at least for the time being. Now I need some rest".