Hyeon Min-ju is the main character in the SBS soap "Catch a Gangnam Mother". She comes from Seoul's affluent Gangnam area, south of the Han River, but she accompanies men at a bar in heavy make-up and a miniskirt to earn money to send her son to private tutoring institutes. Working at a hostess bar is the sort of thing she'd be willing to do, says actress Ha Hee-ra
, 38, who plays Min-ju in the soap, if her children's education was at stake.
"I heard that scene made a lot of people cry. I think they took pity on Min-ju, and I can understand why. Min-ju is so strong and has a very big ego, and yet she gave herself up just to send her child to a prestigious university. Before we say whether her decision was right or wrong, I feel I could have made a similar choice if I was a single mother. It was very sad".
"Catch a Gangnam Mother" has created a storm of controversy among viewers by examining the differences between Gangnam and Gangbuk mothers in their approach toward their children's education. Ha's brittle yet moving performance helped viewers to sympathize with Min-ju, since Ha herself is a mother of two elementary children. Ha's performance is flawless as she perfectly embodies the character's complex personality -- simultaneously brazen and naive.
When it comes to her own children's education, Ha has a firm principle: she will not be swayed by anyone else's thoughts or actions. "There are plenty of books about mothers who sent their children to Ivy League schools, but I think that's possible because it was that particular mother and that particular child. I am not that mother", she says.
"When I try to get my children to learn something new, I always talk with them first before making the decision. If they say no, then that's it. If they say they no longer want to learn something, I tell them to inform their teachers themselves since it's their decision", Ha says. Her children -- second-grader Min-seo and first-grader Yoon-seo ?- are both learning Taekwondo and English. Min-seo also swims and plays soccer while his sister takes piano lessons.
When the topic of conversation involves her kids, Ha can be very talkative. Her love for her children is intense, as it took her and her husband nearly six years and a few miscarriages before they were blessed with their first child. She put her star career on pause when she discovered she was pregnant, and concentrated on raising her family for four years. Even now, Ha says, she would give up her career at any moment to stay with her children if they asked her to.
Ha's husband Choi Soo-jong
also maintains a busy career in TV, playing the main character on KBS 2TV's historical drama "Dae Jo Yeong
". Their picture-book marriage is well-known in celebrity circles. "It can get pretty hot shooting my soap, but then I think about my heavily-armored husband out riding horses in this weather. I feel really bad for him. But he always goes out to play soccer on Sunday mornings. I don't understand it", Ha says with a smile.