Kim Hee Sun experiences renewed popularity in 'Woman of Dignity'

The drama's success has renewed the popularity of Kim Hee Sun who suffered career setbacks in her projects in 2000s.

Kim Hee Sun
Kim Hee Sun in 'Woman of Dignity' JTBC

The Korean drama "Woman of Dignity" aired its final episode on August 19 with a rating of 12.065 percent, the highest rating ever achieved among all dramas aired by TV channel JTBC. It starred Kim Hee Sun and Kim Sun-ah, two of Korea's veteran actresses.

The drama's success has renewed the popularity of Kim Hee Sun who suffered career setbacks in her projects in 2000s.

"It was the same reaction with 'Angry Mom' in 2015, claiming that this is the second prime of my life. Not saying that it's wrong, I'm just thankful for all of the attention," she told Ilgan Sports and Korea JoongAng Daily.

"Woman of Dignity" started with just a 2 percent rating but it attracted viewers and became a hit.

"I did not expect this show to become as popular. An estimate of 7 percent would have been considered a success, and 9 percent was a pipe dream," she said.

The 2-percent rating depressed people on the drama set and they told writer Baek Mi-kyung to finish the next episode.

"She replied 'I thought you and Kim Sun-ah would have brought in better ratings.' That one felt particularly personal, so I responded, 'I thought the writer of 'Strong Woman Do Bong-soon' could do better than this.' This went on until episode seven, when it started gaining traction. To see the show surpassing expectations was astounding," Kim Hee Sun said.

In the drama, she played the role of Woo Ah-jin, a woman who married money but was betrayed by her husband.

She said she was not happy to play the role at the start.

"I was more inclined to play Park Bok-ja. Any actor would be attracted to a strong character like that. Since it would have been interesting to play a new role, I requested the director to switch roles before it was finalized for Kim Sun-ah. He said no and that my character was suited for Wu A-jin perfectly," she explained.

Kim Hee Sun is considered one of the most beautiful stars in Korea but she said there are many parts of her that she is not satisfied with.

"A surprising amount, actually. Age doesn't help - diet, habits and sleeping positions all accumulate on my face and skin. I like to imagine having appeared in a relatively more forgiving time, with less competition," she said.

When asked if she wants to do a movie, she said there is a bias against middle-aged actresses.

"Movies are a different breed of responsibility compared to TV dramas, because the structures are inherently different. Films depend on a talented actor first and foremost, which brings me to a point that I want to share. There are little to no opportunities given to an actress in her 40's in the Korean film industry, so if I were given a chance at a role I'd like to do it well," she said.

She added, "Sadly, middle-aged actresses are off the priority list due to prejudices and a fear of potential failure. This is something I hope does not continue in the future. Only a few people broke this taboo, such as Lee Mi-sook in 'An Affair' or Kim Hee-ae in 'Secret Love Affair,' but this was after strict image maintenance on their side."