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[Herald Interview] ‘Remarriage & Desires’ offers new look at society: Kim Hee-seon

Kim Hee-seon (Netflix)
Kim Hee-seon (Netflix)

Marriage, infidelity, divorce, low morals, social climbers, political and business feuds were some of the major setting and themes that captivated Korean TV viewers up until a few years ago.

With their seemingly identical characters and implausible stories, such series were labeled “makjang dramas” and seen as trashy soap operas.

But while Netflix’s latest presentation revolves around similar themes -- with an upper-class matchmaking company the central point of the drama -- it seems to have caught on, not only locally but worldwide. “Remarriage & Desires” ranked No. 2 and No. 8 on Netflix’s Korean and global top 10 chart, respectively.

Finding a partner with an “acceptable” family, job, financial and academic background is considered important in South Korea, even though arranged marriages have mostly given way to blind dates arranged by friends, colleagues and even relatives.

“Such practices may be common in other countries as well. But I learned that matchmaking services specifically for marriage is a unique feature in South Korea. I was certain that it would trigger the foreign viewers’ interest,” top actor Kim Hee-seon said in an online interview Monday.

“Many Korean viewers may be surprised after learning about the matchmaking company as I was,” Kim added.

Though the actor knew about matchmaking services, she was shocked to learn about the details.

“Seo Hye-seung (played by Kim) has a good physical appearance and an impressive academic background. But her value is downgraded, because she is an old widow and has a daughter. It was a little bitter to see people being graded in charts,” the veteran actor said.
Kim Hee-seon plays Seo Hye-seung, a widow and teacher in “Remarriage & Desires.” (Netflix)
Kim Hee-seon plays Seo Hye-seung, a widow and teacher in “Remarriage & Desires.” (Netflix)

“I did not expect so many young people to be signed up to these services as well,” Kim said, adding that she believes matchmaking is a big business in Korea.

Playing the role of a widow and teacher, Kim shared that it was an “interesting” experience to perform a character who is completely different from herself.

“If I were Hye-seung, I would have slapped the villain Jin Yoo-hui in the first episode. Maybe I could have done something worse,” the actor jokingly said. “But ‘Remarriage & Desires’ is an eight-part series and a steady build-up is needed. Hye-seung’s actions may seem a bit stuffy and hesitant, but please watch the whole series to see how her story ends,” the 45-year-old actor said.

Kim said she is lucky to be an actor at a time when diverse films and drama series are being made by talented directors.

“In the past, most actresses in their 40s had few options when it came to roles. I think many people played hardworking mothers,” Kim said.

“As so many directors have become fearless in creating new series and attempt to adapt webtoons into dramas, I have been able to play fascinating characters, like the grim reaper Goo Ryeon in the fantasy series ‘Tomorrow,’” the actor told The Korea Herald.

Though the actor does not pay attention to rankings on the global chart, Kim said she got a sense of the level of international interest from the increasing number of followers and comments in different languages on Instagram.

“I believe most of the actors, including myself, feel unsatisfied watching their performances when the series is released, thinking that they could be improved. But I can see that many viewers definitely enjoyed our series. With that, I am satisfied,” the actor said.

The eight-part series, which premiered on July 15, is available on global streaming platform Netflix.

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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