Chungmuro/Film News
Kim Sun-ah, from cancer patient to Fighting Spirit
by | October 1, 2011 | 43 Comments

Are you having Kim Sun-ah withdrawals yet?  Because I seem to be, so I thought I could share my fix with the rest of you, until we can get the real goods when she decides to do another drama (hopefully soon!). 

In her new interview with Movieweek, Kim shares her newfound wisdom on marriage and secrets to living a fulfilling life with her fans. Kim always searches for what message each of the role she takes on leaves behind. From the movie Fighting Spirit, she has learned what it is like to be living a married life, and from her most recent drama Scent of a Woman she realized how she should be living her life. Let’s read on to see what other words of wisdom this dynamic actress has to share with us.

While watching Scent of a Woman, we were once again reminded that Kim Sun-ah is the reigning queen of romantic comedies. You seem to have a knack for playing the role of someone who experiences a sweet and dreamlike love affair while remaining realistic and tangible at the same time.

This is it for me. If I can’t see myself in the role, going through the same experiences as the characters myself, then I don’t think I’ll be able to get the words out.  Whether the stories are written for the present or the year 2300, the words need to touch my heart when I read the script, and my heart must start to race.  I need to be touched in order for the viewers to think, “That can really happen” through my acting.  I’ve never been good at lying.  Although I have been known for little white lies.  He he.

It really does seem obvious. So much so that if I had to pick only one scene where I thought, “Kim Sun-ah seems really enthusiastic in this role,” I don’t think I’d be able to.

Truthfully, if I’m not in a good mood, I’m not really able to do anything.  That’s why I give a lot of effort to nurture my heart.  Whether someone calls me crazy or not, I will even go to a corner of a shooting scene to act goofy to pep myself up.  He he.  [I can’t be the only one here who can literally picture her doing this, can I? –sassychef

All the projects I’ve worked on so far with the exception of one or two, I have done with enthusiasm.  I wonder if I’m being too blatant right now?  And I don’t like to look at the script too often.  When I read a script for the first time, the feel and the flow of the whole project goes through my head and I don’t want to lose that by re-reading the script too many times.  I want to hold onto the initial feeling I get from the project.  But because of that, I tend to not memorize my lines too well.  Ha ha.

You spent your middle school and high school years in Japan. Also, your college years in America.  That makes your Korean speech a bit different, no?  At first, it was thought to be a disadvantage, but now it seems to be an advantage to you instead.

This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but even to this day, I have trouble with difficult words.  When I made my debut, I constantly heard people say, “You can’t say the words right.  You can’t act,” so in 1997 or 1998, I started to take acting lessons.  But that doesn’t mean I learned to speak with an accent.  I still take lessons from the teacher I met in 2002, and the first thing I learned to do was to yell. 

Around that time, I was doing a project where there was a shouting scene, and my best was sounding like a tiny ant. People seem to think I like to yell like Sam-soon, but until 2002, I never had reason to yell or raise my voice much. My personality has always been to watch those around me and even when I got upset, to bottle it in.  [You’ve come a looong way there, Sam-soon.] If I hadn’t learned the art of yelling at that time, I probably wouldn’t even had been able to dream of doing projects like My Name is Kim Sam-soon. [Thank goodness for that acting coach.  Otherwise, what other name would samsooki have chosen?]

Because of that experience, I was able to understand Scent of a woman‘s Yeon-jae better.  Yeon-jae also lived the first 30 years of her life keeping everything to herself, and after finding out about her condition, then she was able to start saying the things she needed to say. 

Fighting Spirit is about a major league baseball player Do-hoon and his wife Yoo-rhan.  When you get a glimpse of the character, it almost seems like a comedy, but once you look at the scenario, it really isn’t.

Fighting Spirit is the story of one man’s growth.  I play his wife who supports him.  That’s why I thought I should support Kim Joo-hyuk even away from the movie.  I thought playing such a supporting character, I could really learn something from it. I also learned a lot from the role I played in Great Expectations  with Park Joong-hoon.  After City Hall wrapped, the project I was supposed to work on next kept getting delayed.  That’s when I really wanted to play a supporting role.  I really thought I could learn something from playing those roles and characters.  I don’t think that you need to play the lead role or one of the main characters to learn from the experience and walk away with something. 

Your character Yoo-rhan becomes exhausted with having to support Do-han, and throughout the movie, Yoo-rhan goes through her motions expressionless.  Kim Sun-ah expressionless?  Truthfully, I can’t even imagine that.

My Name is Kim Sam-soon’s Sam-soon, City Hall’s Mirae, Scent of a woman’s Yeon-jae, Fighting Spirit’s Yoon-ran.  They are all of a similar age.  However, Yoo-ran’s quality of life is different. Marrying Do-hoon as a wide-eyed, innocent 20-something, everything must have looked rosy for her. But as she started to have kids and raise them, things started to get more and more hectic and the time just passed by her without her even noticing.  One day she just noticed that the smile she used to carry just vanished. She became transparent and lost herself through the years of taking care of her family. 

I myself have never been married or had any kids.  So I’m not familiar with those feelings… ㅣuckily, my director was my source of help where I needed it most when it came to dealing with those emotions. We never had a full discussion about it. If I approached him to talk about the movie, he’d reply, “What’s there to talk about? Let’s just go get a drink!” And he’d say that’s what men are like. He’d scream out, “I’m Yoon Do-hoon! I don’t know or care about a woman’s heart!” 

I even became really mad at the director once. But when I started to think about it, I realized that’s how Yoo-rhan must have felt towards her husband. I don’t know if this movie is the director’s way of telling his own story through Do-hoon’s character. I wonder if you can say this movie is like throwing the last pitch of the game when you’re already in the bottom of the 9th inning with 2 outs?  He he.

Fighting Spirit premieres on September 29.

Via Movieweek


43 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. jandoe

    is she… dating anyone? pure curiosity, because I really hope her Real Life self is as much loved by someone as her character-selves are. i wish I could read more interviews of hers during SOAW though, really want to hear her thoughts about that drama and all. but anyhoooo thanks for this, sassychef 🙂

    • 1.1 Zoe


      Thanks, sassychef~

    • 1.2 Ybin

      yeah. Lee Dong Wook 😉

    • 1.3 zsa

      Yeah,,,i’m with you,,,i hope she gets as much love as she pours to her dramas, her fans and everyone else…LOVE u…go get a younger man, that’s okay (wink…wink)

  2. mvl

    i too was having kim sun ah w/drawals sassychef, so thanks much for giving us herself on her birthday. here’s wishing her a very happy, health & wonderful birthday!

    • 2.1 Yasmin

      really, her birthday is today?? Mine too!! Except, i am 17…)

      • 2.1.1 Noemi

        Happy Birthday Yasmin! 🙂

        • Houstontwin

          Happy Birthday Yasmin!!! 17 is a great age – the whole world is open to you. Be brave and be willing to make lots of mistakes because that’s how you learn.

          (Can you tell that I’m a teacher?)

  3. Nano

    love her. hope she picks a (good) new drama soon~

  4. Laica

    Thank you for this, sassychef.

    She’s such an eloquent speaker. I’m always impressed by both her self-knowledge and humility, which don’t often coexist in someone as talented and famous as Kim Sun-ah. I love her equally on- and off-screen – probably the only actor I feel that way about.

    I hope her shoulder is doing ok.

  5. foraredrose

    Thank you for sharing this interview! I hope her movie does really well!! ^^

  6. Cam

    Ho Ho, today (Oct 1st) is her birthday, right? =D

    Hooorrraayy! I wish you a Happy Birthday & hope you will doing very well after surgery. I will be waiting for you to get another new drama someday!! Hwaiting, Kim Sun Ah!!

    Gosh, I really love alot since I first saw her in that drama “Kim Sam Soon”, fufu. ^__^

  7. kasieunha

    I hope she stars in another drama soon. Love her!

  8. Noelle

    Bottom of the 9th with 2 outs. LOL I love her. Even more now than ever. Please KSA, hurry and make another drama!

  9. MJ

    I would like to give a shout out to the birthday girl:

    “I wish you nothing but the best on your special day.”

  10. 10 Sunmi

    One of the most consistent actresses in Kdrama. Period. She’s pure amazingness bottled in pure awesomeness…which makes her amazingly awesome, yeah?

    • 10.1 msim

      Thumbs up to your comment!

    • 10.2 mary


  11. 11 samsooki

    hehe! <3

    • 11.1 samsooki

      Awesome job, sassychep. =) I don’t know if people know this, but I’m a pretty big fan of KSA. =)

      • 11.1.1 mary

        :O Really?!

      • 11.1.2 zsa

        more like..gigantic fan of kim sun ah the way i see it..hehe

    • 11.2 jastinel

      I don`t have any clue that U are a fan of KSA…hahaha!

      Thanks for MNIKSS recap Mr. samsooki!

      • 11.2.1 jastinel

        @samsooki, I forgot to ask, did u watched Scent of a woman, can I write your opinion about the drama…thanks in advance!

        • jastinel

          Can U write something about the drama.

  12. 12 Silvergirl

    Well, we are not the only ones having Kim Sun-ah withdrawals post SOAW. Even Kim Sun-ah herself as she still keeps posting messages and shout outs in her me2day weeks after the drama ended!

    Happy Birthday, Kim Sun-ah! Hope to see you in another drama soon!

  13. 13 Quiet Thought

    KSA interviews just as I imagined her: smart, thoughtful, self-aware. As for playing a lifeless character, I expect she understands the Spock Rule: you cannot play an “emotionless” character as unemotional. Instead, you use all your technical acting skills to tell the character’s inner life as subtlely as possible and make him part of the action.

    Which is why Leonard Nimoy was the best Vulcan on any version of Star Trek. He never disappeared into the background, never looked like a tree stump standing next to the other actors. You always knew what Spock was thinking and feeling.

  14. 14 glace

    wow, I have much more respect for her now…she’s a pure talent.

  15. 15 mary

    Thanks so much for the fun commentary on the interview sassychef. 😀

  16. 16 all4movies

    She lost her gaunt look and now she’s just radiating health and loveliness.

    Happy Birthday KSA!!!

  17. 17 LYJ

    As awesome as ever.

    Happy Birthday again!

    I read somewhere that she said she’s eyeing a rom-com for her next project! Yay!

    Thanks for this sassychef!

  18. 18 Atuka

    Sunny!!You can show the role of a character that you get as well. I will see you through even the delay of the broadcast in Korea. You’re the best actress. Now I remember Lee Yeon Jae and love her so much. You & Lee Dong Wook are the cutest couple. I can not forget “Scent Of A Woman”. (And I can not forget “SamSoon” , Soo Hee, Mirae and your movie) Fightingggggggg.. I wait to watch this movie “Fighting Spirit. I miss you so much.

  19. 19 jastinel

    Belated Happy Birthday lovely Kim Sun Ah!
    Thanks for this article sassychef, I hope you can translate more of her recent interview….hehehe!

    She`s an amazing actress and I`m so proud to be her fan!

  20. 20 sulyn

    She sure is one awesome actress. Her performance in Scent of a Woman is impecccable. Hope that she will not keep us waiting too long for her next drama. Really missing her already. Keeping my fingers crossed that her movie will be a great box office hit.

    Was your birthday a romantic one? Happy belated birthday to you, KSA.

  21. 21 sulyn

    Haha, what a coincidence! The header shows KSA. Boy, am I lucky? Thanks for the article, sassychef.

  22. 22 pikapuffie

    does anyone know what the project she mentioned that kept getting delayed after city hall was?

    • 22.1 jastinel

      If I`m not mistaken It was I`am Legend, that`s why she dropped the project!

  23. 23 Francesca

    Thank you thank you thank you for translating Movie Week, Sassychef^^ I always love their articles. It is deep and always reveals something new and shows the other side of the stars that surprises me. I hope to see some more interviews from Movie week on Dramabeans in the future 🙂

  24. 24 Jomo 143∞

    Thank you so much for bringing us news of KSA!
    I have been avoiding withdrawal by watching as much of her in other things as I can download.

    After watching some of MNIKSS for a few episodes, I couldn’t get a handle on KSA.
    The character seemed so deliberate, for lack of a better word. Her voice overs displayed a careful consideration of everything around her. KSS paused before answering questions, and told parables instead of just responding.

    I was surprised when I saw the NGs and bts videos of her -especially KSA’s lightning fast speech after a missed take. There was a twinkle in her eye that the character didn’t have. It was obvious, that KSA, the person, had the upper hand in her relationship with HB, the person. It was obvious that she really liked to make people laugh.

    Interesting that her people note a difference in Korean speech patterns. That is one aspect I am too green to hear.
    I also wonder if her music training – she majored in piano performance – also doesn’t affect the way she delivers lines, finding a different tone, adding crescendos and putting in pauses.

    I just watched her in the S-Diaries (2004) and She’s on Duty.(2005) Everyone liked her matched up with Gong Yu, but I was not as affected as I thought I would be. I don’t think GY was fully “formed” at that point in his acting career. On the other hand, I reeeeeeealy liked to see her kick a## with Ha Jung Woo. That was a great match-up of actors at their best. Could they please star in another film together, studio people?

  25. 25 asianromance

    Thank you so much for translating and posting this! I never realized that KSA had spent that much of her youth abroad! And I agree, thank goodness for that acting coach! Her Samsoon was just epic and has left an indelible mark on the k-drama industry and on its viewers.

  26. 26 tiffany

    I noticed I’m drawn to KSA’s news.. definitely withdrawals. Ah this addiction won’t go away for awhile.. I’m still following LDW and her me2day post 😛

  27. 27 Moira Eicholtz

    So. I am not the only one addicted To Kim Sun Ah movies – though I am probably one of the older ones! And, probably, one of the few Scots.
    It was after watching ‘My lovely Samsoon’ and some other Korean movies that I took a cruise that included Korea. Lovely country – what I saw of it.
    KSA has the cutest expressions. She definitely makes Korean movies very addictive.

  28. 28 Siska

    I’m her new fans, after discover drama this year..I watched everything with her.
    I wish her happiness..she is very good keeping her private life..

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