Ock Joo-hyun started out in the entertainment industry as a member of the hugely popular girl band Fin.K.L. in 1998 and changed her career to become a musical actress with "Aida" in 2005.
Since last November she has been playing the role of the witch Elphaba in "Wicked."
"Do I ever get fed up with having to put on all the green makeup? No, I'm so accustomed to it by now that I can do the whole thing in next to no time," she said.
On April 11, she will give her centennial performance as Elphaba, considered one of the most difficult roles among all musicals. As Ock approaches the milestone, fans have been posting comments online praising her singing skills and method acting.
"Even before 'Wicked' was introduced in Korea I really wanted to play the role," Ock said. For the last six months she has lived as Elphaba, but she will hand over the reins to Kim Seon-young on May 8.
She said she felt an emotional connection to the role. Her performance convinced many spectators that Ock was telling her own story through the musical.
"Every time I stood in front of the audience after a performance, I suddenly felt overwhelmed and burst into tears," she recalled.
The musical is based on the story of the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz," but it presents her as being unfairly treated as a villain and public enemy. Ock said she could feel a degree of empathy as she was often the victim of unprovoked and malicious comments posted online after she debuted with the now-defunct girl group.
"This is about 'respecting difference,' whether that means a different skin color or different set of values," she said. "The more people put up walls, the more misunderstandings and stress there will be. That's the message of the musical."
Despite her proven singing skills, Ock was initially criticized for her poor acting when she made the switch to musicals. She had to practice for 10 hours a day to master the art and command people's respect. She shrugged off this trial by fire as being something that most musical actors have to go through.
"When I was in a girl group, everything was new and I was young and naive. But now I know what I need to be mindful of and I appreciate the fact that without the hard work of so many people it would be impossible for us to stage such good performances," she said.
"When I do a musical I get to live as another person for three hours, not just for three minutes like in a TV show. That's what's so attractive about the genre for me."