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After watching The Glory on Netflix back in January, I wrote an honest review of the phenomenal Korean drama. It gave me a lot of thoughts to ponder thanks to the meticulous storyline written by Kim Eun Sook, paired with Ahn Gil Ho's thorough directing that kept the trajectory of the plot in place. The Glory also introduced me to the actors whom I never got the chance to watch before. In time for the release of the highly-anticipated part two, we're putting the spotlight on the show's main antagonist Lim Ji Yeon—the star who is basking in her well-deserved glory at the moment.
Lim Ji Yeon recalls the time when she went to a lot of plays and musicals during her younger years in an exclusive interview with us. She mentioned that her mom would often accompany her, and she remembered saying to herself: "'I am going to be an actress for sure.'"
Lim Ji Yeon originally wanted to go to an art school but since her parents were against it, she went to a humanities high school instead. While deciding on her course back in her sophomore year, she was able to get a job and pay for her acting classes herself. In college, she majored in Acting at the Korea National University of the Arts and was known as the "Face of Class 2009." During that time, she also started appearing in short films and musicals such as the 2007 stage play Sea Fog (Haemoo), which later became a critically-acclaimed movie produced by Parasite director Bong Joon Ho in 2014.
Lim Ji Yeon's debut piece was the 2014 erotic thriller Obsessed, wherein she played the main character. Set in the late 1960s, the film tells the story of Jong Ga Heun—the wife of a military captain who works under Colonel Kim Jin Pyeong (Song Seung Hoon). One encounter between Ga Heun and Jin Pyeong started their secret love affair and it had the *obsessed* type of love which showed the extremity of "not being able to breathe or live without that person." With her exceptional portrayal, Lim Ji Yeon obtained nothing but great praise from director Kim Dae Woo. "When I first saw her, I thought, 'She is Jong Ga Heun.' Her ability to not be intimidated and make direct eye contact with Song Seung Hoon made her Jong Ga Heun. The word 'daring' is not enough to describe her. She is going to grow as a great actress." And grew, she did—Lim Ji Yeon mastered her craft throughout the years and bagged several roles that showed her versatility.
In Obsessed, viewers are left with the feelings that Ji Yeon expressed as Ga Heun: It's when you feel elated because you're with the person whom you truly love, yet the conflicting thoughts that what you're doing is morally not right constantly haunt you as well. No matter how hard you try to hold yourself back from seeing the person again, you always find yourself breaking your words and being back in his arms. Lim Ji Yeon's outstanding performance nailed those crucial emotions for the film, earning her a nomination for Best New Actress in the 51st Baeksang Arts Awards, a.k.a the Oscars of South Korea.
Obsessed paved the way for Lim Ji Yeon to be known more in the industry. She won Best New Actress at the 23rd Buil Film Awards, the 51st Grand Bell Awards, the 34th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards, and the Korean Film Actors' Guild Awards. Take note that she was just a rookie at that time. Lim Ji Yeon deserves all the applause for this breakthrough, and the director did not lie when he said that she is going to grow as a great actress.
By 2015, Lim Ji Yeon starred in her first small screen project titled High Society, which is a story about love and class division. Here, she was cast as Lee Ji Yi, a woman from the middle class who works at a department store. She is paired with Park Hyung Sik who played Yoo Chang Soo, the son of the department store founder where Lee Ji Yi works at. The chemistry between the two was just too good in this show that it even made some of Park Hyung Sik's fans jealous—a sign of how effective she is as an actress.
Lim Ji Yeon was also able to work with Hallyu star Rain in Welcome 2 Life, a K-drama about a parallel universe that shifts at the same time and with the same events as the current world. In this series, she transformed into detective Ra Si On who's also a lovely and optimistic working mom in another domain. After its broadcast, Lim Ji Yeon and Rain became nominated for the Best Couple Award, with Lim Ji Yeon taking home the Top Excellence Actress recognition at the 2019 MBC Drama Awards.
Last year, Netflix released a second part of Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, the Korean spinoff of the popular Spanish series Money Heist. Lim Ji Yeon's character named Seoul was an addition to the show and her appearance was yet another proof of her versatility as an actress. You wouldn't think that the sweet, angelic image of Lim Ji Yeon would be fiercely holding a gun and pointing it at task force leaders! A few months later, Lim Ji Yeon starred in her most prominent and challenging role so far.
With the actress' determination to try acting out various characters throughout her career, Lim Ji Yeon got her first villain role in the revenge K-drama The Glory. It's actually a bit hard to believe that this is her first time portraying such because her character, Park Yeon Jin, really got under my skin as I watch every single scene from the series. Lim Ji Yeon said that she debated with herself and had a lot of thoughts on her mind on how she will give justice to the role—going to lengths such as trying to understand why Yeon Jin would do these cruel things and what happened in her life that led her to be like that. But the answer that she found out was that Yeon Jin was oblivious and just didn't know anything. "She grew up in an environment where she did not know why it was bad to hurt someone, could have anything she wanted, and never had to put in the effort. She's a character who doesn't know how to feel guilty or apologetic about hurting someone," mentions Lim Ji Yeon in an interview.
Lim Ji Yeon found Yeon Jin's character as someone who has never had to try hard for anything in her life. Since she's never worked for anything, Yeon Jin knows no bounds as to what she can and can't do. "I got in character thinking that she does not know whether what she's doing is good or bad since she doesn't know what guilt is. Writer Kim Eun Sook and I agreed to not think about why she does all the bad things she does. As an actress, I was nervous about portraying an antagonist who has no reason behind her behavior. Maybe the audience would only view her in a negative light, or be persuaded by her if her actions were even a little bit justified, so I wanted to build Yeon Jin's character just as she is."
The Glory has a lot of emotional scenes and Lim Ji Yeon thinks all of Yeon Jin's parts belong to the intense ones. "The Glory was a new kind of genre—so much so it made me speechless. It was also meaningful because it was my first time portraying the antagonist. To give one example, there was a scene where Moon Dong Eun (Song Hye Kyo) finds Yeon Jin and her other perpetrators as an adult. I had to slap Song Hye Kyo and her cheek started to swell up. As I prepared for this scene, I thought Yeon Jin's reaction would be different from those of the other perpetrators. She is surprised but tries to act indifferent in her own way. I remember thinking long and hard about how to make Yeon Jin's character come to life in this scene."
Because Lim Ji Yeon has never played the role of a villain before, writer Kim Eun Sook wanted to be the first one to damage her image as an enemy. She wanted the depiction of someone who is angelic on the outside but has a devil's heart. The screenwriter thought that Lim Ji Yeon was the perfect actress for it. When she met the 32-year-old, she indeed smiled like a true angel. But Lim Ji Yeon told Kim Eun Sook that she would do her absolute best to be the evilest villain she could be.
When we asked Lim Ji Yeon about the most glorious moment in her life so far, her answer was straightforward: It's right now as she enjoys the success of The Glory and her career. For her, living every single day as an actress is in itself a glorious happening. "I'm happy to be able to act and do what I love with colleagues on set. Of course, I burn out sometimes, but I love acting on set. My present acting career and being able to be in interviews like this is my biggest glory." Lim Ji Yeon adds that her willingness to try new characters and her courage during her pre-debut led her to become the person that she is today. "My drive for acting is from my early beginnings. Recently, I've been focusing on acting, taking on more challenges, and feeling a sense of fulfillment. When I've successfully completed my role, I can't imagine myself doing anything else, or liking anything else."
Lim Ji Yeon tells us that she wants to be remembered as a versatile actress. "I don't want people to just have one image of me. I want people to say, 'Lim Ji Yeon shows a different side of herself' and 'I didn't know Lim Ji Yeon could take on this kind of role.' I want to be the kind of actress who comes on screen with a different kind of role every time, and the kind whose passion and courage to take on challenges shows through. I want to be Lim Ji Yeon, the humane actress."
Lim Ji Yeon knew from the very start that she wanted to pursue acting and she did everything she could to stick to that path. Maybe it has something to do with her being a Cancer, because Cancerians are known to be passionate and creative. As I got to know her more, what struck me the most was that she never failed to appreciate every single moment of her acting life. Seeing her as who she is now, Lim Ji Yeon is definitely an actress that holds a number of admirable traits that sets such an inspiring example. With her enjoying the steady rise in fame and expressing how much she wants to try diverse characters, Lim Ji Yeon instilled within me something that I will never forget—and it's to continually take on the opportunities that come your way, with a mindset that every single one of them might just lead you to the most glorious moment in your life.
You can watch all episodes of The Glory on Netflix.
*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
PRODUCED BY: Hanna Tamondong
ART DIRECTION BY: Pauline Moyano
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Netflix