Actress Yoon Jung-hee-I
seems to have changed little since she rose to stardom last year with her leading role as Ja-kyung on the SBS drama "Love in Heaven
", a huge hit that drew ratings of some 40 percent. That show secured for her a legion of middle-aged female fans who shed tears for her conflicted character: the daughter-in-law to her own biological mother who abandoned her as a baby.
Now she has returned with a role in KBS 2TV drama "A Happy Woman"
, playing another challenged woman. But her new character, Lee Jiyeon, is a cheerful, strong single mother who continues to smile even though her husband deserted her for another woman.
Yoon's character is one of the reasons the new show is increasingly popular. With its ratings passing 25 percent in two months, "A Happy Woman"
is expected to top the drama chart soon now that MBC's mega-hit drama "Jumong
" has concluded.
"Ja-kyung and Ji-yeon may seem similar but actually they're quite different. Ja-kyung had that deep-rooted grief but Ji-yeon is a strong woman who rarely expresses her pain", Yoon says. "But it's difficult to play her: Ji-yeon can be neither too lively nor too depressing".
Yoon's mild, gentle image is a change from the sharper, more conspicuous good looks of other Korean actresses. Yet it may be this difference that has brought her so much popularity with her two dramas. She's humble about her appearance. "I don't think people watch my show because I'm in it. I think it's the story that attracts viewers. I still need to learn a lot".
While shooting "Love in Heaven
" Yoon tossed and turned at night, worrying that her pronunciation was unclear. But with the new show, she seems to have gotten over the complex. "I got to like my weakness", she explains. "I still get angry and disappointed in myself when I have trouble with my pronunciation in emotionally-charged scenes. But I've learned to accept it and that lets me feel at ease. I realized that the more I tried to hide my weaknesses, the more obvious they stood out. I freed myself from my obsession that I had to pronounce every word and every line clearly, and that's made it possible for me to act naturally".
Quiet and slow to anger, Yoon says that acting in dramas allows her to vent her feelings in a kind of catharsis. When asked what she would do in real life if she found that her husband was having an affair, she says, "Everybody makes a mistake, so I'd probably tolerate it once if he meant everything to me, like in a drama. Although I couldn't forgive him completely".
Although she has had few career obstacles since "Love in Heaven
", she had to overcome many before her debut. After finishing as a runner-up in a local beauty pageant in 2000, Yoon lived in obscurity for some six years while trying to find work as an actress. "I had a hard time because some people told me I wasn't talented", she says. "An agency I worked with told me more than once, 'You can't dance and you can't sing. You're not talented enough'. I just wanted to act, but they concluded that I wasn't talented because I wasn't so active. That hurt".
Her wish is to become a blissful (happy) woman like the title of her show. "I want to be the best in whatever I do. I've been lucky because so many people have helped me come this far. Now everything is up to me", she says.