By Claire Lee
- Ku Hye-sun broke into South Koreas entertainment industry after posting pictures of herself on Damoim, a now-defunct social-networking site.
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SEOUL – Ku Hye-sun has a reputation for multitasking. In addition to being an actress, the 28-year-old is a filmmaker, painter, composer and singer.
A decade ago, however, she was known for just one thing: her beautiful face. She broke into South Korea’s entertainment industry after posting pictures of herself on Damoim, a now-defunct social-networking site. Other members began sharing and commenting on her photos, and she soon achieved the status of an “eoljjang”—a term for those who achieve Internet fame for their good looks.
- A still from ‘The Peach Tree’
That led to mainstream-media opportunities. Ms. Ku shot her first television commercial in 2002, and appeared on Korean TV shows such as “Pure in Heart” and “Boys Over Flowers.” In 2009, a 14-minute short film she directed, “The Madonna,” played at a genre-film festival in Bucheon.
Later that year, she published “Tango,” a semi-autobiographical novel, and released “Breath,” a New Age album she produced for the talent agency and record label YG Entertainment 122870.KQ +0.49%. She also sang on two digital singles, 2010′s “Brown Hair” and this year’s “Marry Me.”
Her latest output is “The Peach Tree,” a feature-length movie she wrote and directed about conjoined twins who share one body, a tale that touches on alienation, desire and death. Ms. Ku, who also composed the film’s soundtrack, spoke with the Journal about her movie, the challenges of fame and what motivates her to be such an overachiever. Edited excerpts follow.
The Wall Street Journal: What’s the idea behind “The Peach Tree”?
Ms. Ku: In 2009, many people I knew passed away. One of them was film producer and my mentor Jeong Seung-hye. I’d always been inspired by the way Jeong lived her life. She’d always give her best in everything she does, and would hardly regret anything. I still admire that attitude of hers. Experiencing her death, as well as others, inspired me to live the kind of life that I want to live—no one else. I became less afraid. I knew I wanted to make another movie, so I just went ahead and did it.
Where did the conjoined twins come from?
I saw some creature that looked very much like the twins in a dream. My dreams are very often like sci-fi movies. The creature had two heads sharing one body. After seeing that powerful image, I wanted to create two characters who love each other, hurt each other and cannot live without each other. I also wanted to explore the duality of the human nature with the twins. Dong-hyeon [played by Ryu Deok-hwan], who has the full control of the shared body, except his brother’s head, is selfish and angry. Sang-hyeon [played by Jo Seung-woo], on the other hand, is giving and sacrificing. Though they share the same body, what they see and experience are very different from each other. They can never look at each other directly, as their attached heads always face the opposite direction. When Dong-hyeon looks at the ground, Sang-hyeon has no choice but to look at the sky.
It’s been almost 10 years since photos of you went viral. How do you feel about the word “eoljjang” now?
I’m grateful for what it has done for me. It was a great stepping stone. But I know I won’t be an “eoljjang” forever. It’s impossible by nature. How we look eventually changes as we age, and I am no exception. I will get wrinkles just like everyone else.
At the press screening of “The Peach Tree,” you said, “We all struggle while growing up.”
When my photos went viral on the Internet, I was just a kid. Although I wanted to be a popular singer, I had no idea what it means to be known by the public, to be constantly talked about by so many people you don’t even know. It’s something you can’t really understand until it happens to you. I had a hard time getting used to it in the beginning of my career, because somehow I wanted everyone who knew me to like me.
In the movie, Dong-hyeon covers his brother’s face in an attempt to look “normal.”
Dong-hyeon does reflect my own experiences. I’ve been very selfish toward my own family while working in this industry. For instance, I’d talk about my sister and share her photos on a TV show, without even asking for her permission.
The thing is, I didn’t even know that I was being selfish. I didn’t even think it could be a problem for my sister, because in my mindset, celebrities talk about their families on TV, and that’s just what we do. It’s only been about three years since I realized how this could really hurt my own family.
Film, music, TV—why do you work in so many different fields?
I’m obsessed with documenting my ideas—all of my ideas. Whenever I get ideas for my art works, I either have to write them down or draw something right away. When I think of random melodies, I have to write a score on the spot. Otherwise I’d soon forget, and that’s the last thing that I want.
Everything that I do aside from acting and directing—painting, composing, singing and writing—is in fact what I’ve been doing all my life, ever since I was a kid. I started painting lessons when I was 6. Throughout my childhood I thought I’d become an artist one day. When I was in high school, I’d send scores of my own music to entertainment agencies in the hopes of becoming a singer. I had about 100 songs written when I turned 20. One of the reasons why I enjoy filmmaking is because I get to incorporate all of these things, music, art and writing, into one piece of work.