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[Herald Interview] Ha Ji-won still seeking action

Actress shares her secrets on enduring, varied acting career

Characters associated with Ha Ji-won tend to be strong women with strong personalities.

She is one of few actresses here who are not afraid to pull off action stunts in films or TV dramas ― be it wire action sequences, shooting arrows on horseback, or boxing.

But beneath the fierce heroine veneer is a 36-year-old actress who simply enjoys venturing into different kinds of genre, and the fun accompanied with each role. And in doing so, she is able to combine femininity and elegance with being a powerful, strong woman.

Asked what has propelled her through her acting career, she answered, “I just say ‘go’ when I have my mind fixed on a certain film.”

“I rarely regret the acting choices I made in the past,” Ha told The Korea Herald last week “because I am the one who chooses to do them.”

“I also don’t worry whether or not (a film) will be a hit. The only thing I can do is to prepare copiously and diligently, all while thinking happy thoughts,” she added. 
Ha Ji-won (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
Ha Ji-won (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

Maybe it is this “work hard, play hard” mantra that has brought her success. Her star power has not waned over a nearly 20-year career.

Since her debut in 1996, the actress has starred in countless works both on the small and silver screens, becoming one of the most in-demand actresses here. She is especially remembered for her roles as a fearless Joseon-era detective in TV drama “Damo” (2003), the owner of a faltering seafood restaurant in the disaster movie “Haeundae” (2009), and a stuntwoman in the romantic drama “Secret Garden” (2010).

Ha is known in the industry as an actress who throws herself into her role, leaving nothing to spare.

“I thought everyone was doing it that way,” said Ha, who admitted her love for filming action flicks.

Despite a fear of heights, Ha welcomes wire work and high-flying action.

Most of the time, she does her own stunts.

In one case, she fractured her neck. She almost lost her sight in another shoot, and putting a raw steak on bruises to heal faster was routine while making the 2007 film “Miracle on 1st Street,” in which she played a boxer.

“I didn’t have a chance to see how other actors or actresses did their action scenes, so I just focused on myself and did my best,” Ha said.

She said she learned to do action stunts through rhythmic gymnastics. In a typical practice session, she would wield her juggling clubs, then the stunt teams would fall on the ground and pretend to be dead.

“I liked that kind of fantasy,” she said.

“It was like dancing, and that’s how I got started,” said Ha. “I think the good and fun memories were a catalyst for me to go into action films, even if it meant my body aching.”

In a departure from her invincible fighter roles of the past, Ha plays a mother for the first time in the film “Chronicle of a Blood Merchant” based on Chinese bestselling novel by Yu Hua.

Playing a mother of three kids was a lot of fun, said the actress, who is single and has no children. “I didn’t really take care of or do something particularly for the kids. All I did was hang out, play games and try to have a fun time together on the set.”

When asked whether marriage was on the radar, she says having three boys ― just like the film ― plus a daughter would be really great. But she is not under pressure to get married any time soon.

“It seems like my dad doesn’t want me to get married,” Ha said with a smile. “They just want me to get some good rest between films.”

“I like having fun,” she added. “I think that is where my passion comes from.”

Although nothing is set in the stone, she is currently auditioning for Hollywood films.

By Ahn Sung-mi (
Korea Herald Youtube