Korean actresses struggle to repeat Hollywood success at home


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After meeting global audiences via Hollywood productions, actresses Bae Doo-na and Kim Yun-jin have returned to their home turf, taking lead roles in local TV series.

Bae stars in KBS2’s “The Best Divorce,” a Korean remake of a popular Japanese drama, in the role of a warmhearted wife who divorces her cranky husband. Continuing to live with each other after the divorce for practical reasons, the two come to understand what true love is. 

Bae Doo-na speaks at a press event held to promote MBC TV series “The Best Divorce” in October in western Seoul. (KBS)

The actress has returned home after trotting around the world, shooting the third season of Netflix series “Sense8,” created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. Her relationship with the famed directors started in 2010, when she took part in Hollywood film “Cloud Atlas.”

According to Bae, who has appeared in numerous local and foreign productions since, the scenes of the US and Korea are greatly different.

“The power of US productions comes from the huge production budget and human resources while Korea has this great energy that comes from the people. We work hard together and become almost like a family,” Bae said at a press conference held last month to promote “The Best Divorce.”

Prior to the romantic-comedy series, the actress last year starred in tvN’s “Stranger,” which was well received, reaching an average viewership rating between 4 and 5 percent — considered high for a cable channel.

This time, the romance genre may have been too much of a challenge even for the international star. The Monday-Tuesday drama that started Oct. 8 has been putting up a hard fight, but is marking an average viewership rating of 2.7 percent. The 32-part drama is at its halfway point.

Though the storyline is sweet and heartwarming, it is obvious and didactic, with the characters coming to appreciate the value of the people around them.

Kim Yun-jin has returned to her home turf as well, taking the lead role in SBS series “Ms. Ma, Goddess of Revenge.” The story is loosely based on the fictional character of Miss Marple from Agatha Christie’s crime novels and short stories. 

Kim Yun-jin speaks during a press event held to promote SBS series “Ms. Ma, Goddess of Revenge” in September in western Seoul. (SBS)

Kim generated buzz in 2004 by starring in American TV sensation “Lost.” The drama finished with its sixth season in 2010 and Kim was able to secure a spot in the US entertainment scene by starring in another US hit series, “Mistresses.”

In the SBS mystery-thriller series, which premiered Oct. 6, Kim plays a mother seeking revenge for her daughter’s death. After being locked up in a mental institution for killing her daughter, she digs into the mystery to clear her name.

The Saturday-Sunday drama, also at its halfway point, has marked an average viewership rating of 6.9 percent, trailing behind MBC’s “Hide and Seek,” which has been raking in an average viewership share of 12 percent.

Though Kim has taken part in local films while pursuing her career in the US, the SBS series is her first return to the local TV scene in 19 years. At a press event held for promotions of the show, she said it was hard to find time to star in local TV productions as Korean production schedules are much tighter.

“I normally worked four days a week in the US, but since shooting (this series), I have not been able to find the time to do laundry,” she said.

“I have never imagined shooting 20 scenes a day, but everything goes so quickly. I was very worried when I first saw the shooting schedule, but things happened smoothly according to the timetable and I found it truly amazing.” 

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)


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