[ENTERTAINMENT]An Overnight Success - Over 3,500 Nights

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[ENTERTAINMENT]An Overnight Success - Over 3,500 Nights

Flip back through the list of award-winners at international film festivals over the last 50 years and you'll see many more Korean women winning acting awards than Korean men. Perhaps the best known is Kang Soo-yeon, who won three best actress awards in the late '80s.

A new face was present at the lakeside setting of the 54th Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, held Aug. 2 to 12. Kim Ho-jung, 32, took the Bronze Leopard trophy for best actress for her performance in the movie "Nabi" ("Butterfly"), directed by Moon Seung-wook.

Because the film has not been released in Korea, the award came as something of a surprise at home. After the Cannes Film Festival, the Locarno is the oldest film festival.

Her overnight rise to prominence may sound a bit like a Cinderella story, but in truth Ms. Kim has a solid acting career behind her. Although she has only recently become recognizable in Korean films, she has established a big name in theater, having obtained best actress awards at several Korean drama festivals.

This reporter caught up with Kim Ho-jung as soon as she returned to Seoul last Tuesday. Despite her jet lag, Ms. Kim was still glowing from her triumph. Unusual for a 32-year-old actress in Korea, she wore no make-up.

Ms. Kim's venture into film began just last year with "Flander's Dog," in which she played a small role as a wife stunned by the tragedy of a miscarriage.

"It took me 10 years to understand theater and I always thought that movies and I wouldn't go together," she said of her late film debut. "It was only recently that the charm of the movies hit me. Before, performing on stage meant everything."

Her role in "Butterfly" initially left Korean critics unmoved. The movie deals with a mysterious virus that erases only its hosts' bad memories.

The film is set in a society in which technology has destroyed both the environment and the social community. When "Butterfly" was shown at a press premiere in Korea, reviewers described it as confusing and hard to follow.

Audiences at the Locarno festival felt differently. Juries praised its innovative approach and awarded it not only the Bronze Leopard, but an award from a youth commission. "The reaction we received was much better than we anticipated," Ms. Kim said.

It's probable that the actress will now be in demand on the movie scene, and Ms. Kim said this will allow her to be more choosy. "I will only take parts which satisfy me, even if they aren't main roles," she said. "I'm not interested in being a big movie star. And I will continue performing on stage."

Not long after she returned to Seoul, Ms. Kim headed to rehearsals for her next stage play, "Cello and Ketchup," opening Aug. 28 at the Munye Theater. For reservations call the 02-760-4800/1 (automated response service).

by Shin Yong-ho

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