The Korean heist film "The Thieves" attracted 2.11 million viewers as of last week, just four days after its release, to knock "The Dark Knight Rises" off its perch at the local box office. The only other domestic movies that have drawn over 2 million viewers in such a short space of time are the sci-fi slash-monster flicks "The Host" (2006) and "D-War" (2007).
Among the most-memorable characters in "The Thieves" is an agile, rope-climbing bandit called "Yenicall," played by Jeon Ji-hyun.
The slender thief scales building walls, not unlike Spider-man, and isn't afraid to spew out profanity-laden dialogue, contrary to the star's sexy but demure image in recent years.
When asked to explain the slump in her movie career after grabbing the spotlight through the huge hit "My Sassy Girl" in 2001, Jeon said she has still been sharpening her skills and remains devoted to her job as an actress.
"People criticized me for only appearing in commercials, but it was just part of the same kind of work to me," she said. "It's disappointing if you play a movie role you really craved but people don't go and see it. My fans had high expectations of me following 'My Sassy Girl,' but I don't think I took the easy way out [by focusing on advertisements]. I continued to hone my craft."
She starred in two Hollywood turkeys -- "Blood: The Last Vampire" (2007) and "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (2010) -- but was upbeat about the experience, saying it gave her invaluable experience and helped her appreciate her career in Korea.
"It's too bad there aren't many good films listed on my filmography," Jeon said. "When I was filming 'Blood: The Last Vampire,' I was so nervous about speaking even a single line [in English] that I couldn't sleep the night before filming. But that experience made it much easier to do 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan' as I gained experience and confidence."
"I also learned to appreciate the way I'm treated in Korea after working overseas, where the name Jeon Ji-hyun does not merit any special treatment."
Jeon, who married a banker earlier this year, said she is not having any difficulty juggling her career and her role as a wife. "Things could have been difficult as I'm still a newly-wed, but I met someone who is very understanding," she said. "I'm not really concerned, as I will do my best to build a happy family. Also, my career is not the be-all and end-all. I always give 100 percent to what I do, but I know better than to stake everything on my work."
Jeon said she wants to seek out more down-to-earth roles in the future. "I've starred in a lot of fantasy films, so now I want play more ordinary roles… maybe even a movie about the relationship between a mother and daughter," she said.