[ENTERTAINMENT] Meteoric Rise But No Sign of Fizzling Out

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[ENTERTAINMENT] Meteoric Rise But No Sign of Fizzling Out

For Korean actresses, there are - or at least used to be - two things to avoid to survive in the harsh entertainment industry. One is marrying while young - not to mention getting a divorce - and the other is hitting 30.

But Lee Mi-yeon, 31, has broken both these taboos, and she is still making good, or making even better, after she married, divorced and turned 30.

Lee Mi-yeon made her debut in 1989, starring in the domestic movie "Haengbok-eun Seongjeoksun-i Anijyanayo" ("You Can't Find Happiness Through Grades") as a teenage girl who commits suicide after finding herself unable to deal with the by now well-documented pressure that Korean students face to get good grades.

The phenomenal response Ms. Lee gained for her role catapulted her onto the A-list of 1980s attractive teenage stars, along with Kim Hye-soo and Chae Si-ra.

She married Kim Seung-woo, now also a successful, well-known actor, but then just a hopeful, in the early 1990s. From then on, she faced some predictably difficult times trying to further her career as a married actress. She said it was almost unbearable for her, as a one-time hotshot actress, to face rejection from so many quarters for nearly a year.

But Ms. Lee mastered her hardships by scoring roles in the movies "Number 3" and "Yeogo Goidam" ("The Spooky Story in the Girls' High School") in 1997. As the 1990s rolled on, both Ms. Lee and her husband earned a respectable status in the Korean film industry, starring in many Korean movies as well as TV dramas.

She decided to get a divorce in 2000, but contrary to all the disadvantages she was led to believe she would face as a divorced woman, Ms. Lee rose even higher in public estimation than in her happily married days. Her impressive, matured performance in the movie "Mulgogi Jari" ("Pisces") in 2000 even won her the award for best leading actress at the Cheongryong Film Festival.

In 2001, she plans to follow up on her success with the Korean movie "Indian Summer," to be released on April 28.

And in her next role in "Heuksuseon," which is shooting now, she stars with two well-known actors, Lee Jung-jae and Ahn Sung-gi.

But Ms. Lee hasn't stopped with her conquest of the Korean acting world. She is also trying her hand in the music industry, selecting 68 songs to be included in a four-CD compilation album, "Yeon-ga." Released last January, nearly 750,000 sets have been sold already, breaking records.

A Korean poet, Choi Young-mi, once remarked that you turn 30, the feast is over. But it seems that this is not the case with Lee Mi-yeon, still alive and kicking - and doing it even better - at 31. Now it remains to be seen whether she will still make good when she's 64.

by Chun Su-jin / Shin Yong-ho

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