These days, more and more all-rounders are wanted and many entertainers are working hard to be recognized as such. It is not easy to make continuous efforts in several fields. Nevertheless, there is a woman of versatile talents who does not lose her courage and passion and leads her own life by actively participating in various areas. This time, SMT reporter met Mun Hee-kyung, who has long been loved by the public for her solid acting and singing ability.
Before starting the interview, please introduce yourself to Sookmyungians.
Hello, Sookmyungians. I am Mun Hee-Kyung, and I am a graduate of the Department of French Language & Culture '84. Now I am working as an actress and singer. I'm glad to meet you.
Is there any experience that you can remember until now, in your major or your whole school life?
At that time, I sometimes participated in some literary activities like reciting poems. Also, there was a "chanson contest" which was held by my major with the French embassy and other schools' French Language and Literature departments. Actually, I thought it could be beneficial to enter the contest because I was more interested in singing rather than studying French. Learning French was helpful in singing chanson well and I was even the winner of that contest.
You were interested in singing and were so good at it that you won the "chanson contest." We wonder whether you had a dream to be a singer at that time.
Actually, the chanson contest was not how I became a singer. My first dream, which I had when I was a young girl in my hometown, Jeju, was to be a singer. Therefore, I wanted to go to Seoul and entered SMWU to achieve my goal. A year after I participated in the "chanson contest," I was also the winner of the MBC <Gangbyeon Music Festival> in 1987. People usually became famous singers if they won and debuted at this festival, but I gave up on becoming a singer, appeared in a musical, and then began to act.
Having changed fields twice, we thought there were some struggles for you. Please tell us about any hardships you faced during that time, and how you overcame them.
I think my 20s were the hardest because I wanted to be a singer but it didn't suit me, and I realized it was too hard for me. So, I gave up and appeared in musicals and movies, eventually becoming known as a drama actor. When I was younger, I was constantly thinking, "Is this the right path for me?" since I was hoping for quick success, but it didn't come easily. However, I was never frustrated with my dream and pursued another one. I think that's the most important thing — to not give up — and I think that's what made me who I am today. If you are in trouble or having a hard time thinking about your career, just don't give up. If you keep trying, you'll find something that really suits you.
You are active in both musicals and dramas, so it is possible for you to be cast in various roles. What are your criteria for selecting which role to take on?
First, I consider whether I can embody this character and if a character has her own story regardless of its weight. Sometimes, there can be some characters that I am not confident in portraying, or I feel it is more suitable for other actors. I am not being too greedy when I think like that. I do not covet every character.
Dramas and musicals share similarities but also have different characteristics, so it is thought that preparing for them will also be different. Please explain to us how they vary.
In the case of a musical, all the actors participating in it keep in tune together during the given practice time and then perform on the stage. On the other hand, in the case of a drama, we receive a script, practice respectively, and then start shooting after a rehearsal. If I make a blooper, other people also have to wait around. As it can cause inconvenience to others, it is very important to fully memorize and be aware of the script. Therefore, for me, dramas should be prepared more thoroughly.
You emphasized the importance of preparation. We wonder how you research or analyze your preparation for the role. Do you have any special process for preparing?
If the characters are comparable, I try to portray them as differently as possible because it can be boring to express similar roles in a similar way. For example, I tend to give variety to the new rich and members of a wealthy family as they are both rich and indistinguishable. Therefore, I prepare for my role by considering factors such as the tone and speed of my speech, costume, hairstyle, and makeup. In the case of make-up or clothing, I explain my opinions about my role with stylists to express my character fully. If I put on a costume or makeup that matches the role, I think I can act well and suitably. The analysis of character is extremely important and can be half of the preparation.
In your acting life for 36 years since you debuted, you have expressed many characters. What has been your most unforgettable role, and which role would you like to take on in the future?
Oh Nam-sook, the character in <GIANT> who is the wife of the chairman and wants her biological son to be an inheritor instead of her stepdaughter, is the most memorable one. In the beginning, this role had little weight, but it was gradually given more, so it made me excited while acting. I still feel grateful now as I think many viewers could know me through this character. In the future, I hope to play someone who is independent and confident and has a specific job such as a lawyer, like a career woman.
As an actor, you have met a lot of responses from fans as you have challenged yourself in various fields and performed in various productions. What was the best interaction with your fans for you?
About two months ago, I went to a pub in Jeju in the evening after work, and two young men sitting at another table recognized me. Later, they told me that they wanted to treat me to chicken and beer. Sometimes my fans behave like that, but I didn't accept it at first because they were too young to give me a present. Then, they said to me it was their wish to treat me, so I thanked them and accepted. I still can't forget them, and if I see them again, I want to treat them too.
Challenging in the field of singing, you released the dance song "Enjoy It" recently. Is there a message you wanted to convey to people through this song?
I released this song with the thought that it would be the last song I would release because now I want to concentrate on my acting. For those who have been looking ahead and working hard for their families, I released the song with the message of living a life that one enjoys and finding the things that make you the happiest. It's an era when people live for a long time, so let's live by doing what we want to do. Thanks to this message, I want most people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s to be impressed by this song and tell me that they find healing through it.
You've been in the entertainment industry for a long time and have experienced a lot of things, but there may still be new things that you want to try or new goals. Please tell us about your plans for the future.
If I had one dream, I would like to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress like Ms. Youn Yuh-jung. I would like to have the opportunity to find a role that is as good as that and show people my passion for acting. I'm always doing my best and preparing for that time looking forward to that day. I think I'm trying to make myself feel fulfilled in life through various activities. I'm learning line dancing and saxophone now, because those skills can be used whenever and wherever. If I fill myself with these dynamic activities, I think another opportunity will come.
For the many aspiring actors out there, what advice do you have for getting into the field or making a career out of it?
I would like you to think about whether you can be happy and good at it when you choose to be an actor. You need to consider that you can consistently do this job because there is no guarantee that this job will bring you quick success. Success doesn't happen in the short term. Finally, it is most essential to act responsibly when you choose that path. I will always support you.
Finally, please one word for Sookmyungians who are trying to follow their dreams.
I always think that Sookmyungians are strong and have a global mindset, and SMWU can show the best image of women in Korea. I want you to be proud of being Sookmyungians, and successful enough to make Sookmyung proud of you. I hope that you will strive to become a senior who will be interviewed for The Sookmyung Times in the future, just like me. I believe you can make a good impact on society and leave a better school for the next generation. Thank you.
- Seogwipo Girls' High School (1984)
- Sookmyung Women's Univ., (B.A.) Department of French Language & Culture (1988)
- Dankook Univ., (M.A.) Department of Performing Arts (2005)
- 1st place at the 1st "Chanson Contest" in SMWU (1986)
- 1st place at the 8th MBC <Gangbyeon Music Festival> (1987)
- Awarded Best Supporting Actress at the 10th Korea Musical Awards for the musical <Beauty and the Beast> (2004)
- Awarded Best Supporting Actress at the 8th Busan Film Critics Association Awards for the movie <Shim's Family> (2007)
Lee Han Jiwon / Woman Section Editor
Lee Park Jeongeun / Reporter