Photos: ONE TV Asia
At the tender age of 15, South Korean starlet Kim Yoo Jung, also known as “the girl who is always acting as the younger version of female leads,” has starred in 27 dramas and 15 movies to date.
Dubbed as the “nation’s little sister”, the sweet-looking actress had her first taste of show business at the filming of a Seoul Milk TV commercial – though she has no recollection of what went on back then – when she was just three years old.
“Although my parents decided for me to be an actress, I have no regrets. I love to act. When I'm acting, I am able to experience another person's life and emotions,” she shared. “I heard my relatives were against the idea of [me] entering the industry at such a young age, but now they're proud of me. I accepted my job as an actress without really knowing how it even started, so I’ve always thought of it as my destiny.”
Becoming an actress may not have been a choice she made for herself, Yoo Jung proved to be a natural thespian, having previously won the Best Child Actress Award at Korea’s three major TV stations, SBS, KBS and MBC.
Remarkably, Yoo Jung recently made her US debut through a horror film titled Room 731, an accomplishment that triumphs many of her sunbaes (“seniors” in Korean).
In her latest project Secret Door, a sageuk (Korean historical drama) that revolves around King Youngjo (Han Suk Gyu) and Crown Prince Sado (Lee Je Hoon) during the Joseon dynasty, Yoo Jung plays a fictional character named Seo Ji Dam, a feisty mystery novelist who goes by the pen name “Bingae”.
Even though it was challenging to inject life into the multi-faceted character, the talented actress gained confidence from the director’s advice and was especially thrilled to don the Joseon costumes. “The opportunity [for such roles] may not come again, so I’d better seize the chance!” exclaimed Yoo Jung.
The type of roles she takes on depends on her mother, whom she’d discuss it with first before the latter makes the decision. This may explain why the Moon That Embraces the Sun star habours a not-so-secret aspiration to interpret an evil character and is “slightly frustrated” for being repeatedly casted in goody two shoes roles.
“My biggest goal as an actress is to play an evil role so well that the audience would curse at me. That would really be a huge recognition. I want to be a bad person,” she reiterated.
Pictured: Kim Yoo Jung and co-star Lee Je Hoon on the set of Secret Door
Kim Yoo Jung wants to look good for her favourite celebrities
Most of Yoo Jung’s childhood memories are made up of days spent on set. “I used to be very quiet, but I gradually started talking more as I worked,” said the actress.
Like every teenager, the 15-year-old has had her rebellious moments, such as fighting with her mum. And it seems like her recent acting stint in the US has helped tone down her angsty vibes. “I went there alone and came back feeling more relaxed and free. On the days when I didn’t have to film, I ate and did anything I wanted on my own. I even put on some weight!” she laughed.
The self-professed glutton, who reckons that she was “born to eat” (downing four bowls of rice in one sitting is not an issue for her), also confessed her love for greasy and fast food. “I’ve been acting since I was a child, so I had to exercise self-control as my job is to appear before the cameras. But I think it is a good thing; if I hadn’t been an actress, I would have been overweight,” Yoo Jung quipped.
So, has showbiz caused her to become image conscious?
“I don’t care about how I look when I’m acting, but it would be nice to appear slimmer and prettier in photos, or when I’m in front of the celebrities that I like,” she chortled.
On puppy love, anti-fans and comparison with Kim So Hyun
Despite her positive image, Yoo Jung could not escape being targeted by detractors. “I've been told that the phrase ‘Kim Yoo Jung anti [fans]’ pops up when you type my name in the search engines. My friend also informed me that I have anti-fan sites, though I’ve never entered any. I may seem calm on the outside, but I do get a little hurt sometimes,” the actress sighed.
However, the cheerful girl has learned to take it in her stride and view the negative comments as a chance to reflect and work on her flaws. As a number of young celebrities have failed to stay in the spotlight past their teens, Yoo Jung hopes for a smooth transition from a child actress to a mature artiste in the near future.
Due to their similarities, Yoo Jung and her same-age actress friend So Hyun have often been measured alongside each other. Instead of seeing So Hyun as a rival, Yoo Jung believes that they have their own charm and acting style. “We collaborated on a few projects before. We encourage and advise one another, so when I read articles that compare us, I don’t feel good,” she admitted.
Previously declared that she would refrain from getting involved in boy-girl relationships until she turns 20, Yoo Jung is satisfied with the “indirect experiences” through her roles for now. The doe-eyed actress, who once dated a guy for 300 days, claimed that she has yet to form a “good sense of judgement”. Thus, she has decided that she would rather use her youth to develop herself, before she gets carried away with matters of the heart.
Secret Door airs every Monday and Tuesday at 8.55pm on ONE (SingTel mioTV Ch513, StarHub TV Ch820).
Kim Yoo Jung: I’d be overweight if I were not an actress
The 15-year-old actress lets on about her showbiz experience and gastronomical indulgences
- Kim Yoo Jung