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New show, new beginning

‘Although being an actress is a big part of me, I think that I should prevent the profession from absorbing me wholly.’

July 15,2010
Kim Hye-soo, an actress known for her social conscience, is the new host of MBC’s current affairs program “W.”By Jeong Chi-ho
Actress Kim Hye-soo, named the new host of MBC’s current affairs program “W,” says that the driving force behind her success has been her inferiority complex.

In an interview after rehearsing for her first episode of the show last Friday, Kim, considered by many to be a cultural icon, repeated “inferiority complex” and “lacking” throughout the duration of the interview.

The first edition of the show, hosted by Kim, will air on July 16 at 11:50 p.m.

“As I have lived the confined life of a celebrity since I was a teenager, I have always thought that I lacked the experience or sensibility that regular people have,” said the 39-year-old actress, who made her debut in a TV commercial when she was just 14.

The documentary program W has had five successful years on the air, with news anchor Choi Yun-yeong as the host. The show’s handling of risque topics, including coverage of Haitian children eating “mud cookies” (made of mud, salt and margarine) and the murder of a Korean woman by her British husband, has received both critical acclaim and public interest.

Asked about the rehearsal, Kim answered, “Oh, I don’t know,” before laughing. “I was trying to relax...”

Her previous experience hosting a show was her three-year stint on the SBS program, “Kim Hye-soo Plus You,” from 1998 to 2000. She said, however, that she feels nervous about doing her new show justice as W is a current affairs program.

Kim said that even before her gig as host, she was an avid fan of W.

“I originally heard of the program through my sister. Since my first viewing, I haven’t missed a single episode. It’s a great program,” she said. “When I see it, I sometimes become angry that those kinds of horrible things are still happening, while feeling empathetic towards those featured on the show.”

She said that one of her favorite episodes was the one featuring Haitian children eating the “mud cookies. Because she has a nephew in her life, the episode made her more sympathetic towards the children.

Besides being a top actress, Kim is also known for her social conscience. Her personal Cyworld Web page was at one point filled with news articles about subjects ranging from the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to the war in Iraq, as well as articles on other social, political and cultural issues of the day. She is also an honorary ambassador for Good Neighbors, a local NGO.

“Korea used to be one of the countries receiving the biggest amount of aid from the UN,” she said. “However, now that we have developed, we haven’t given as much aid as we could have. Now is the time to give back.”

The actress said that even if she has an all-night shoot, she tries to read a variety of newspapers in the morning.

“For a while, I stopped reading social news on purpose because I felt I was becoming too obsessed with current affairs and it was affecting me emotionally,” she said.

“Because I started this work from an early age, I didn’t have a lot of life experience. So as I got older, I felt insecure about lacking a ‘universal’ quality.”

She recalled, for example, an incident with her friend when she was in her early 30’s. The friend pointed to a persimmon tree and said, “Look! It’s a persimmon tree,” and she was shocked that her friend knew what it was because she did not.

Kim also said that her earlier obsession with aging has dissipated as she has gotten older, and that, compared to her 20’s, she is slowly maturing.

“I’ve never thought that being an actress is the most important thing in my life,” she said. “Although being an actress is a big part of me, I think that I should prevent the profession from absorbing me wholly.”

The interview lasted for more than an hour, and it was time for Kim to go back to the camera.

“I hope that no matter who is hosting the show, viewers of W will be able to experience a change in their hearts and turn that change into action. I don’t know how long it will last, but I want to stay on [as host] for a long time.”


By Kim Ji-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]



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