Kang Hye-jung in "Welcome to Dongmak-gol"
Perhaps most people still think of her as actor Cho Seung-woo's girlfriend, but Kang Hye-jung is the subject of great expectations in her own right.
In "Oldboy" she was Mi-do, the girl in the sushi shop who would unwittingly engage in incest with her father. She's the art student Hong who throws the protagonist into an abyss in "Rules of Dating" and in "Welcome to Dongmak-gol," she is Yeo-il, the girl with the flower behind her ear who breaks down the wall between the South Korean and North Korean soldiers. Kang chooses only characters that avoid the sweet fantasy filmgoers expect.
"I take a lot of abuse,¡± she says. ¡°Because I don't get along with groups and crowds and I draw the line too clearly between people I like and dislike. I make films because I want to show off my acting to the people I like. And that isn't a small thing. People are the most important thing for me."
At the time of making "Oldboy" she was a newcomer who still had to fight for parts, scoring the role of Mi-do by taking a borrowed sashimi knife to the audition. Now she is almost buried under a ton of screenplays that land on her doorstep. She says she picks the ones that appeal to her by "smell and touch."
"When you're walking along and smell kimchi stew, you can tell, ah, this is delicious, pure stew without artificial flavorings. Screenplays are the same. With 'Welcome to Dongmak-gol,' starting with the title, there was a clean scent, as if there were no enemies involved. It was the same when I read the script for ' Rules of Dating.' When you read the letters in the script, you can feel just how hard the director or screenwriter worked to get it right."
We ask her to tell us within 10 seconds what the happiest and most annoying times in her week are. "The happiest time was when I was with him, and the saddest was when he wasn't at my side," she says. ¡°He¡± -- Cho Seung-woo -- saw "Welcome to Dongmak-gol" and said he ¡°wanted to thank the older actors who worked with me in the film, even by text message. So I let him know their cell phone numbers." At this point Kang, so far unruffled, starts to blush.