For Jung Ryeo-won, It's Time to Kick Back

    December 04, 2005 20:49

    At the tender age of 24, Jung Ryeo-won has decided to slow down. “I have been charging ahead, and now I’ll take a rest for a while. While I relax, I’m going to lay out a daily schedule of things I really like to do,” she says. Fresh from her leading part in the MBC TV hit drama “My name is Kim Sam-soon”, she was offered a starring role in “Wolf” due next January -- and politely turned it down. Apart from TV commercials already shot, she only has a stint as presenter of the MBC “Entertainment News” lined up.

    So how will she fill the empty hours? “I’m going to watch myself in my dramas, one after the other,” she says. “It’ll be really interesting. And I’ll cook lots of tasty delicacies and exercise hard.”

    The second of three children, Jung Ryeo-won emigrated to Brisbane, Australia in 1991, when she was in fifth grade. Her father has a retail business. “In the first few years in Australia, I couldn’t get along with Australian students,” Jung admits. “Since there were few Asians in the neighborhood, the Australian students were very curious about me, but they also bothered me. When I was in sixth grade, I was standing at a pedestrian crossing one day and a car stopped. The driver rolled down the window and spat at me, shouting, ‘Go home!’

    “At first, I didn’t even understand what he said. I had never been abused for being yellow before.” Since then, she studied English hard. “I thought, ‘Hang in there and you’ll soon be able to hold your own in English,’ and I made progress quickly. One year later, I gave a speech as a representative of Asian graduates and talked about my experience of discrimination. I got a big round of applause.”

    By junior high school, Ryeo-won had adapted to school and had a lot of part-time jobs as well. “I worked in supermarkets, pharmacies, clothes shops, bookstores, libraries, lottery stands... I wanted to become independent. It was a great experience and lucrative as well. I came to Korea with my savings.” She says one remarkable thing about Australia is that Christmas falls in the middle of summer, since antipodean seasons are the opposite of Korea’s. Her family used to go swimming on the Gold Coast every year. “Australians love to travel and eat out with their family. They have barbecue parties at weekends. But here, I found that Korea at night is brighter than in the daytime. There are too many bars and too many wives waiting for their husbands at home.”

    Her childhood dream was to become an academic. After graduation from high school, she got into Griffith University, majoring in international business. But then, during a short visit to Korea in 1999, she was spotted by a show biz scout in Apgujeong, and the rest is history. She hit a low in 2002, when she became confused about her identity between worlds. “I wondered what brought me to Korea. Sometimes I felt alienated from my fellow Koreans, and my work as a singer wasn’t what I had expected.”

    There is one more thing she would like to do with the quality time ahead: go out with a man she can respect. Asked what she thinks of Daniel Henney, her costar in “My name is Kim Sam-soon”, she retorts, “He’s just a friend. I often exchange text messages with Kim Sun-ah, Daniel Henney and Hyunbin. We’re a family now.”

    When she returns to the entertainment business, she hopes to become someone of the caliber of Mel Gibson or Ethan Hawke. “Aside from acting, I want to go to New York to study jewelry design. I keep lots of jewelry I designed and manufactured at home,” reveals in parting, already full of plans again. “I also hope to publish a collection of my journal, notes and pictures.”

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