[January 2016 – Elle] Hwang Jung Eum – Interview

I heard you came back after traveling for two weeks from Prague to Firenze. Did you enjoy your trip? Of course! Going on a trip is the gift I enjoy the most after I finished filming a drama. The scenery of Prague old city part itself was a nice sight. The nightview of the castle hill was amazing. I enjoyed watching passerbys in Italy. Especially in Venice where even the street cleaners were handsome!

And many fans recognized you too. I was surprised that some local fans came to find me at my hotel. When I was in Italy, foreigners walked up to me and showed me a poster of “She Was Pretty” asking me if it was me. We also took pictures together. I usually don’t take pictures, but I changed as I turned 32. These people muster their courage up to approach me and talk to me, so I’m giving them the best attention when it’s possible. And strangely enough, every time I walked into a restaurant, there were many Korean people (smiles). I ate while talking with the ajhummas sitting at the next table.

This isn’t about utterly forgetting Hye Jin, right?

Hye Jin was really adorable. I think I won’t be able to come across a character like that in a while. I really liked my previous drama “Kill Me, Heal Me”, but anyone can see that this drama was about Ji Sung. The fact that I must adjust my acting according to each drama I play was stressful. I didn’t like “She Was Pretty” because I was the lead. I liked it because I was able to do many things. I had avoided comic roles, but I trusted the fact that this drama was written by Jo Sung Hee whom I worked with when I shot “High Kick”. I started with a “going on a picnic” mindset, but filming was actually exhausting (smiles).

I think actresses will probably think over more if they want to portray a “ugly woman” because Hye Jin set the standard pretty high.

I truly ruined my image. I’m also curious to see if there would be someone able to ruin their image like I did. I like characters bringing strength and variety. I like stepping away from the standards, regardless if it’s a melo or a comedy. I hate doing the exact same thing as others.

You seem to hate ambiguity. Does this also aply to what you like in your daily life?
No, I dress in an ordinary way. I don’t like standing out behavior. People think I have an off-the-wall personality, but I’m absolutely not. Right (she turns to her manager to get his/her confirmation) ? I’m a normal person. I’m very realistic.

Viewers enjoy each drama you shoot. It was the same for this drama.

I didn’t know it would do so well. Every time I start shooting a drama, I think of terms of “this is mine”. It can’t be helped if it doesn’t do well. It turns out well if I get only what I can work hard for, what I can go for. It’s a job I must do for the rest of my life, so I can’t tell myself “I definitely cannot ruin myself this time”.

Thanks to “She Was Pretty”, my job became “hot”. When I introduce myself as a feature editor, people ask “ah, like Kim Shin Hyuk?”.

This is the power of dramas. I also felt it once again.

It seems that the actors really got along.

We all got along and the atmosphere on the set was really fun. The kids are really sweet. When I act, I’m not overly ambitious about myself. I was working again with Joon Hee after 4 years, and she had improved in as many ways as possible. Siwon is very lovely and Seo Joon is someone whose acting ambition is unique. They talked to me a lot and they trusted me, so I couldn’t not take care of them. Playing the big sister made me busier.

Which drama do you think gave you a new image?

“Do You Hear My Heart?”. I really kept wearing the exact same clothes day and night. In other dramas, even when the lead girl is from a poor family, she changes clothes and purses every day. I was stubborn about doing it this way. First of all, when I start a project, I go in thinking I’m going to do things the way they go in my mind. And I also take into consideration what the director may say. No one knows the character better than I do. Preparing myself perfectly on my own beforehand, then adjusting to the acting of my partners and the filming set by doing more or by doing less, that’s my style.

For a few years, you’ve kept shooting dramas and working hard more than any other actress.

I’ve always thought to myself “I want to become like Ha Ji Won”. Shooting projects without taking breaks. However, I realized at some point that it was the way I was doing things indeed. Some actresses won’t do something because it’s exhausting or because they don’t know how, I’m the opposite. I think doing the things that I can’t do is the right thing to do. I must try, because it will widen my acting range. I’m not scared of failure because what’s done is done, you can do better next time. I’m a very positive person. And I think I have a little bit of luck on my side. I always did better at my exams, compared to the amount of what I had studied. When I go into a parking and I say “this is my spot”, I really get my spot.


Five or six years ago, I achieved everything I had planned for my acting career. It feels great. If you set yourself a goal, I think it comes true because of your behavior. When my friends thought about doing a project, they thought a lot in terms of “it will probably be like this, it will probably be like that”. And a few years later, I realized that there was a big gap between us. People think in a similar way when they use their brain. And I also realized that wise people, honest people can’t endure situations. I’m not smart like that, but I am where I am today because I lived with a simple mindset. When I was a kid, I had great stamina and I had a bit of a “striving forward” mentality because I danced. Should I say that it’s a matter of combined personality, efforts and luck? I’m very satisfied of who I am (smiles).

You have such positive energy.

It’s not because I struggle and worry over a problem that I will find a solution to solve it. And who in this world doesn’t have struggle? Even if I say that, I will go “it’s so hard that I feel like dying” for my next project. However, as time goes by, I realize that the struggle also makes me improve a lot. I was really annoyed/frustrated while I was shooting “She Was Pretty”. Because I couldn’t sleep and I was very sleepy and tired at dawn. In moments like this, I’d let all the frustation out and get back to work. I can’t force myself to endure something or to receive stress. I’m not really aware of people watching me. You’d wonder if I cuss or what. Then I just calm down and I can find my focus again.

So you really never went through moments when you feel so down and desperate like you hit rock bottom, but if you were to choose one?

When I was active as a Sugar member? It’s because I was so young back then. After thinking I was number 1 at everything and I was the best, I broke this mold. It was very different from the celebrity life I had vaguely imagined. It was so “oh.my.god”. However, when I look back now, I think my singing activities made me undergo many trials and errors which really help me today. Because failure is the mother of success! There were times when I didn’t work and didn’t feel like I existed. However, no matter how it may look like from the outside, here (touching her heart) I have an unexplainable confidence deep down inside my heart. That’s why I can fall and rise again.

How to give such base to a baby daughter growing up sheltered?

I think me being like a roly poly or a weed is a disposition I was just born with. My mom said [about me that] a mutant was born because everyone in my family is soft. Within the limit of not hurting others, when I handle something, I definitely handle it. When I eat with my friends, we dutch pay [t/n: each person pays for their own meal]. Haha. I save 10 won, 20 won on a daily basis. It’s the same when someone uses something, I ask what it is. However, when it comes to spending a large amount of money, I go all out. I have defined more precisely what I’m spending money on. My mom, my dad and my staff.

If you’re satisfied of the person you are today, does it mean you have no other hope?

No, my ambition is endless. People get envious when the projects of others do well, but I don’t. I want to get my personal plane, I also want to become a Chinese princess (smiles). It’s not that I want to become a top star. I just hope I will be able to keep working and doing the stuff I want as an actress who is close to the audience. Still, I must be applauded for my acting. I must keep acting and I must keep doing well in order to become happier. However, acting is getting harder as time goes by, that’s why it’s also about having fun while experiencing the struggles. Isn’t it exciting?

So what goal do you have right now?

I want to keep working without taking a break until I’m 40. I must get married before that. And have a child too. Because everything comes at the right time, as if it means to be. However, I’ll keep working without caring about how much I earn and how many awards I get. I don’t have precise goals for my life after I turn 40. Of course, even afterwards, whether I get a role once in 3 years or once in 5 years, acting will be my life. Instead of staying at home and living comfortably while spending the money my husband gives me, I’d rather work hard at my job, even if it’s exhausting. Instead of setting myself a limit, I’d rather want to become someone who can go as far as she can.

Do you mean that work is more important than love or marriage?

Of course, love is important. I also think love is the best happiness in life. However, I realized that what goes beyond that for me is having a sense of accomplishement through my work. I personally experienced how receiving compliments change someone. I’m narrow-minded and not free-spirited, but receiving compliments made me feel more at ease. After I finished shooting “Secret”, it’s something that I felt strongly. I pretended a lot that things were going well for me today, but to be honest, I’m really strict about myself. My acting thirst was big. I kept thinking “I’m lacking, I’m lacking”. I think that’s why I was able to improve and to work hard. Right now, I’m still kind of conceited, but I do have the sense to judge myself (smiles).

When will we be able to see you in a new role and no longer as Hye Jin?

I want to go back to acting real fast. I watched “Inside Men” yesterday and I really want to do a movie now. In the past, I felt like I would humiliate myself if I was on the big screen, but now I want to be in a movie if it’s a role with a big impact, even if I only have a few scenes. However, I like dramas better. The type of drama I want to do the most is a family drama. I want to become an actress of the daily life. Eating tasty food and talk with the sunbaes, I want to enjoy acting like this. To be honest, I can’t enjoy miniseries right now. My dream is to do the acting that I want and enjoy it more. Won’t I be able to do it around the age of 35?

Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com


7 Comments Add yours

  1. kfangurl says:

    Y’know, after reading this, I can’t help but admire Hwang Jung Eum for her positive outlook and energy. That’s a pretty big deal, since before KMHM and She Was Pretty, I couldn’t quite appreciate her as an actress. I don’t like the over-screamy parts, but I’ve come to accept that’s how she’s been directed to do it.

    So reading this is so refreshing. It shows quite a lot about what she’s about, and she’s full of substance. I like that she’s an actress who is so dedicated to her craft, that she’s consciously pushing her own boundaries to expand her horizons, even when she’s uncertain or afraid. That’s a very deliberate sort of courage, and I have to respect that. I really hope she’ll get to do all the acting she wants, and come to us in more good dramas in the future. 🙂 As always, thanks for your hard work, dear Sunny! This was a treat to read. ❤

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      I feel the same way about her. Right after “KMHM”, she said she didn’t feel like she was good for movies and here we are today, she’s ready to take on this challenge. I’m trying to be more daring like that, going out of my comfort zone but… it’s hard :/

      off topic: I’m really glad to have found your blog b/c it’s like you’re saying every thing on my mind but in a more concise and effective way.

      1. kfangurl says:

        Awww.. I’m so glad you found my blog too, dear Sunny! 😀 It’s been such a pleasure chatting with you, both here and on my site. I do love that we have so much in common with our drama tastes! ❤

        And absolutely, stepping out of our comfort zones isn't easy.. But, it's still worth challenging ourselves to do it. Fightinggg~! You can doo eeet! ^^

  2. ah, thanks for this! she is quite an interesting person and i love how she is very determined, one track minded, even. i hope as time goes on, she removes the perceived ‘wall’ that so many asian actresses seem to have about hitting 40. its that cultural ageism that lends them to think they are no longer viable as women when they reach 40; but must adopt a resignation and take what they can get. i find it sad. she seems to be a person who can surpass these mores in attitude but i am a little discomfited she feels it at all.

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      tbqh, I know it’s first and foremost a matter of actually writing the roles before wondering if there can be actresses in their 40’s who could tell these stories. There will always be actresses, it’s about opportunities and Hwang Jung Eum is really one of the few actresses in their 30’s that I feel can keep working after hitting the big 4-0… If she’s offered the right roles. Right now, it’s my understanding that she is still playing characters in their 20’s (which is a given, since she’s barely 30 lol). What I mean is I don’t feel like she has gotten many opportunities to portray “ordinary” stories. Whether it was a rom-com or a melo, her characters were in extreme situations. She’s definitely at a crossroad in her career. I think what she needs right now is… I wouldn’t say a melo sad role, but really a mature role. For instance, I don’t think she has Kim Hee Ae’s or Kim Hye Soo’s charisma yet. She doesn’t have a sexy image like Uhm Jung Hwa, so I think she’s more in the lane of Choi Kang Hee or Kim Sun Ah? Beautiful women who can play very ordinary women in a way that makes them stand out? Maybe dramaland won’t give her many opportunities in a couple of years, but if she has some box-office hits, she could branch out and explore her acting more through movies.

  3. maulidhappt says:

    thank you for this one!
    she is indeed one of those actress that works hard

    Playing the big sister made me busier. /aw dear big sis ❤

    I pretended a lot that things were going well for me today, but to be honest, I’m really strict about myself. My acting thirst was big. I kept thinking “I’m lacking, I’m lacking”.

    wow to that, I do hope she gets another mind-blowing and hit drama XD

    1. 1sunnylady says:

      she does work hard! I really respect her work ethics and how she likes to go out of her comfort zone

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