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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Kim Yun-jin Unveils Hollywood Life

Actress Kim Yun-jin in front of a crashed Boeing 747, at the production site of ABC hit series ``Lost'' in Hawaii. ``I starred in Korea's first blockbuster film, 'Shiri' -- but I was completely overwhelmed by the making of a pilot clip for an American TV series!''

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The first Korean to successfully break ground in the United States as a star of hit TV series ``Lost,'' actress Kim Yun-jin offers an intimate glimpse of her passionate ``love affair'' with Hollywood through her diary-like book.

``Kim Yun-jin's Hollywood Story'' takes readers on an intriguing, amusing and above all, truly inspiring adventure as she ``treat(s) Hollywood like you would treat your boyfriend,'' as advised by her management agent.

The book is thoroughly enjoyable as the 33-year-old pours out her fears and frustrations, and courage and determination in an honest voice, spiced with occasional humor.

The story unfolds from the climactic moment at the 2002 Daejong (Grand Bell) Awards, the Korean equivalent of the American Academy Awards. Crowned Best Actress for her performance in ``Ardor'' (2002), Kim is at the height of her career.

Turning down a string of lucrative offers, the heroine in 1999's ``Shiri,'' Korea's first blockbuster film, decided to do the unthinkable.

``It's like diving headfirst toward the ground,'' her own manager said when she announced her plans to leave the country to pursue acting in Hollywood. But what appears to be a sudden move stems back to a long-standing determination. One night, Kim comes across a long-forgotten item.

``Three years, the top, money. 2:39 a.m., November 3, 1999'' read the message inside the small pendant. And indeed, exactly three years later, Kim had realized all three wishes.

It was now time to live out her childhood dream while growing up in the United States -- to succeed as an actress there. ``Hollywood top, marriage, happiness,'' she updates the note inside the pendant.

``Hollywood Story'' reveals the excruciating work behind the glamour and glitz of the entertainment business, even for a well-established actress like Kim (or perhaps because she is one).

From preparing her show reel to nerve-wrecking auditions, Kim ventures off on a tough yet exhilarating journey. Although reading lines for Steven Bochco (creator of hits such as ``NYPD Blues'') may seem far away, anyone who has ever prepared for a job interview will be able to relate.

There are the initial pains of having to step down from being the leading lady to a novice. Even after being cast as Sun in ``Lost,'' a role that J. J. Abrams specially created for her, she had to overcome frustrations of being out of the spotlight.

``Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors,'' she repeats Konstantin Stanislavsky's immortal words.

Yet, there are other concerns. With large almond-shaped eyes, Kim feels that her looks do not conform to what seems to be the ``Western standard'' of Asian beauty, notably slanted eyes and strongly defined cheekbones. But this does not let her down.

Just when all begins to go well, however, the actress is struck with a viral infection that paralyzes one side of her face. The book testifies Kim's amazing sense of determination as she overcomes the disease.

It is also heartwarming to see Kim as an individual possessing great integrity. The Korean-American chooses to retain her Korean name even though adopting an English one would spare the trouble of ``Yun-jin'' being butchered.

``Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey became stars despite their difficult names,'' she quotes her high school teacher as telling her. ``Fine acting will have people seeking you, after practicing your name hundreds of times. So concentrate on acting.''

A passionate and diligent student, Kim spent four hours everyday on the road to study at the High School of Performing Arts in New York.

Having lived near the studio of ``The Late Show with David Letterman,'' the Boston University graduate fantasized about appearing as a guest and signing autographs for fans.

In December 2006, the star finally did -- and did not forget to take the time to sign autographs for those who waited with ``Shiri'' posters and DVDs.

One of the most valuable insights the book has to offer is her firsthand account of how the American production business compares to that of Korea. Also impressive are Kim's conscious efforts to positively represent the Korean community and to correctly present Korean culture.

As much as ``Hollywood Story'' intrigues readers with encounters with iconic filmmakers and stars, it shines upon Kim -- how she constantly makes an effort toward self-improvement, and how she spreads inspiration like a virus.

Toward the end, Kim is exhilarated to be able to work with her ``longtime idol'' Margaret Cho, one of the first Asian faces to appear on U.S. national television. But Kim herself is now such an idol to many.

``I'm going to win the award for Best Actress at the Academy Awards!'' she exclaims, and so her challenging journey continues.

``Hollywood Story'' includes colorful pictures that invite readers into the actress' world -- from photos that capture her ordinary side, like hanging out around Hollywood Boulevard in jeans and a T-shirt, to exciting peeks into the production set of ``Lost'' and glamorous red carpet portraits and magazine covers.

Visit www.yunjinkim.com (in English and Korean) to learn more about Kim.


(original text)

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