A fondness for reptiles spurs a rising star’s career

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A fondness for reptiles spurs a rising star’s career

A new face has emerged as a rising star on Korean television, and she loves reptiles.
Kim Deanna,16, appears every Sunday morning on the SBS-TV’s “TV Animal Farm,” a show dedicated to animals and pets. Ms. Kim introduces reptiles on the show to viewers all across the country. Although she has only been on television for a couple of weeks, she already has a fan club that numbers 10,000.
Ms. Kim is the child of a former American soldier stationed in Korea and a Korean woman. Even though she is half Korean, the country held no particular significance for her until recently. Ms. Kim was born in New York and lived most of her life in Dallas.
“My parents once brought me over to Korea, but I have no memories of it at all,” Ms. Kim says. “And I grew up not thinking about the fact that there was Korean blood flowing within me.”
Korea became something special for her only two years ago. In 2001, after Ms. Kim’s father failed in business, Ms. Kim’s mother suggested they start over in Korea. The family moved to Bupyeong, Incheon, and opened a pet reptile farm. The move coincided with a pet reptile fad, and the farm soon flourished. Today there are more than 600 snakes, 300 lizards and 1,000 turtles at the farm.
Ms. Kim initially gave no thought to becoming part of the entertainment world. Indeed, when she lived in the United States she thought celebrities were snobbish people. It was pure coincidence that prompted her to enter the business.
“Not long after I came to Korea, a Korean friend suggested that I try out for a modeling competition at a shopping mall,” Ms. Kim says. “I tried out just for fun and had low expectations but I placed third. An entertainment agency asked if I wanted to become a celebrity.”
Ms. Kim began her career as a model, but it soon expanded to television commercials and a Korean pop music video. Ms. Kim appears on other TV shows, and is trying to become a pop singer. Her album will likely appear next year.
“I don’t feel any discrimination being of mixed blood in Korean society. I heard in Japan mixedblood people are a subject of envy,” Ms. Kim says. “The major Japanese star Amuro Namie is half Italian.” Ms. Kim says she hopes to become the Amuro Namie of Korea.

by Namgoong Wook
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