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Park Eun-bin: Embracing the special and the average

It’s kind of crazy to think about how long Park Eun-bin has been in the industry, given her young age and the relative volatility of the entertainment industry, where actors and actresses can shine and fade quickly in the spotlight. At 25, the young actress is a veteran in her field with nearly 20 years of experience under her belt, but I have to admit that for the longest time, I was more familiar with her roles as the younger counterpart to the main leads, like in Glass Slipper, Legend, and Queen Seon-deok.

It was when I saw her in Secret Door that I first thought she would make a commanding leading lady, which is why I was really excited to see her cast in the ensemble youth drama Age of Youth. Though Song Ji-won couldn’t have been any more different than the regal, bold Lady Hyegyeong, there’s no doubt that Park Eun-bin’s personal charisma is what made each character so easy to root for. Ji-won, especially, underwent a particularly poignant journey of atonement and self-discovery in the second season of Age of Youth, and the viewers were with her every step of the way.

When asked if there was something that specifically spoke to her about this newest season, Park Eun-bin replied that during the production stage, she read the treatment of the script, which included the lines, “We retain many memories of when we get hurt, but retain none of when we hurt others. The supply and demand of pain don’t align.” The actress remarked that reading those two sentences gave her goosebumps, and that she reflected a lot on Age of Youth 2’s spotlight on the wounds unintentionally inflicted and unintentionally received in the course of people’s lives.

Speaking of wounds, Park Eun-bin cited that, as a viewer, one of the most memorable scenes in Age of Youth this season was when Jin-myung (Han Ye-ri) told Heimdal (Ahn Woo-yeon) rather callously that he lacked talent as an idol, and that he was a nobody among the nobodies. A friend of hers thought it quite a cruel scene, but Park Eun-bin said it made her think back to when she would herself struggle with doubts about her own talent in her chosen field, and whether she was more average than she thought. She mused that it’s an internal struggle that’s not exclusive to the entertainment industry, but to anyone who works hard to achieve their dreams.

The former child actress continued that it was when she entered university that she really began to question whether she was average or special. Thankfully, she found her answer: “I started acting when I was five, and ever since then, I was average but not, and special but not. When I was a student, I was just your everyday student, and when I was acting, I believed I was more special than anyone else. Those two sides were still me, and I can now embrace both of them as myself.”

We learned a lot more about Ji-won’s backstory this season, so it makes sense that Park Eun-bin may have had some difficulty assimilating this new information so that her character had continuity from last year’s portrayal. However, the actress relayed that the events that unfolded this season regarding Ji-won’s past were surprisingly aligned with her own conjectures.

“Ji-won last season had so many gaps in her character’s development that I started making up my own backstory for her. I went back to my notes from last year, and although I hadn’t written anything specific, the general reason I came up with for her propensity to lie was pretty similar. I had thought she had experienced an event as a young child where she wasn’t able to tell the truth, and to avoid the pain that she wasn’t able to handle, she began to subconsciously reject truth. Because I had set up this backstory for her, I feel I was able to more naturally incorporate this season’s revelations into her character.”

Song Ji-won was such a particular, unique character that it’s hard to separate Park Eun-bin from her onscreen persona, and it’s even more surprising to hear that the actress is nothing like her Age of Youth character. Last year, she had reportedly said that her relatives had been shocked to see her act as Ji-won, wondering whether she had always been that way. That shock hasn’t worn off, apparently, and she says her family is still as surprised when watching her portrayal of the delightfully strange Ji-won.

But it’s always fun to watch the actress behind the character bleed through, and Park Eun-bin confessed that in the epilogue that showed all of the Belle Epoque housemates revealing their past lives, her laughter at the end of hers wasn’t scripted and was just her losing her composure at having to mimic a horse. I don’t blame her, lol. “That scene was done in one take, and I honestly thought the broadcast wouldn’t include anything past me whinnying. But when I saw the show include my laughing, I was so shocked that I let out a little scream.”

The epilogues this season were rather shocking for us viewers as well, and were the subject of much speculation and angst. “After watching the viewers’ reaction to the epilogues, I wondered whether I should just leave the truth to their imaginations. Originally, the epilogues were supposed to show the housemates watching a horror film, or donating blood. But due to various circumstances that made it necessary to change them, the epilogues with the housemates’ epitaphs and the child were added to the show. When I saw that one of the housemates’ urn read that she would die in 2025, I was curious to know who it was. After doing a little investigating, I found out that it was Ji-won. My mind became totally blank, wondering why and how she died. I felt like I had just received a diagnosis for a terminal illness, and like the viewers, I went into denial and also searched for answers.”

“When filming ended, I had the chance to meet the writer (Park Yeon-seon), and I asked her why Ji-won will die in 8 years. She replied that she felt like Ji-won would die then. She felt that after fighting on Moon Hyo-jin’s behalf, Ji-won would become a journalist who would continuously fight to bring truth to light and in the course of chasing after injustice, be killed by those she was trying to expose.”

That’s the most heartbreaking, bittersweet, and beautifully tragic character synopsis I’ve ever read. And one I desperately wish would actually play out on my screen! Especially when Park Eun-bin confirmed with the writer that the daughter featured in the epilogue was indeed Sung-min’s child. Park Eun-bin added that if their story were to continue, “I thought they really have no choice but to end up together.” I almost laugh-cried when Sohn Seung-won, who portrayed her grumpy classmate, quipped in his own interview that it felt almost unfair that his character, “had a one-sided crush, then finally married Ji-won, only to become a single father.” So. Sad.

Also, this song makes me tear up every time, thinking of their too-short relationship and marriage:

It sounds like Park Eun-bin has made her peace with Ji-won’s fate, though, even if the rest of us haven’t: “I believe Ji-won’s living well. I think that past the events of the show, Ji-won will have decided to enjoy life as it comes, thinking of her childhood friend who can’t do the same, and find happiness in her everyday; so much so that she could call her every moment a fortune on her urn.”

And, acknowledging that many viewers were left disappointed that Ji-won’s loveline with Sung-min didn’t progress as much as desired, Park Eun-bin said, “There are so many films that depict friendships between men and women that all eventually develop into relationships, as if saying that men and women can’t remain platonic, that I first thought it would be fine to leave Ji-won and Sung-min as just friends.” But she came to recognize that their relationship was left very much unresolved.

“Ji-won experienced a life-changing event in the show. And in the midst of it all, Sung-min was always there for her, and more than anyone else, put Ji-won first. When I watched Sung-min, I thought to myself that it’ll be difficult to meet someone better than him. If you think about it, they fit so well together that it would be impossible for anyone to come between them and replace the other.”

Park Eun-bin doesn’t think Sung-min’s efforts went unnoticed, either, and said that she tried to impart a change of heart into Ji-won while acting in the last episode of Age of Youth 2. It’s true that Sung-min’s actions went pretty above and beyond what would be expected of “just a guy friend,” and Park Eun-bin commented that, “Ji-won’s not a complete idiot, so she won’t have been oblivious to Sung-min’s feelings for her.” I’m not sure how much I agree with Park Eun-bin’s assessment of her character’s perceptiveness, though, since she seemed to be completely unaware of Sung-min’s gazes directed at her throughout the whole series. Sohn Seung-won stated in his interviews that he took particular care with his expressions when Ji-won wasn’t looking at him.

Asked about her chemistry with her co-star Sohn Seung-won, she cited his theater experience as the reason why their characters had such an easy rapport and quick banter. “He could take whatever I spontaneously came up with, so it was that much more fun. When he tried one thing, that got me thinking to try something else.”

Admitting that she herself doesn’t have many guy friends, Park Eun-bin confessed to being jealous of her Age of Youth counterpart and that she’s made up her mind to make guy friends, though she acknowledges guys like Sung-min don’t actually exist. (Don’t kill my fantasy!)

In conjunction with the disappointment surrounding their unfulfilled loveline, there’s been a lot of requests for Park Eun-bin to take on a romantic comedy next. If Sohn Seung-won’s free, can someone call him up please? In response, she said that she plans to continue acting, so “when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll probably do a romantic comedy sometime in the future.”

Another loose thread Age of Youth 2 didn’t get to resolve was the trial against Moon Hyo-jin’s art teacher molester. Park Eun-bin recognized the reality of these kinds of situations, though, and took a philosophical approach to the events in the season’s finale: “Judgments in cases like these don’t materialize automatically. I thought the ending, with another survivor coming forward, was a hopeful one.”

“As we delved more into Moon Hyo-jin’s story, what left the biggest impression was receiving messages from women who have been in Hyo-jin’s shoes, and from those who have been in Ji-won’s shoes. In some ways, Ji-won’s courage to speak out about this injustice, late though it was, gave comfort and healing to these women, and I was grateful to have left meaning with someone through Ji-won’s story.”

And finally, in response to the flood of calls for a third season of Age of Youth, Park Eun-bin said she felt “incredibly thankful” at getting the opportunity to do a second season but that there was no guarantee of a third one. She went on to say that playing the same character twice was a gift and getting to do a third season would be “close to a miracle.” She called Age of Youth a project that delivered “fresh surprises and fresh energy,” and that it was a show that captures her own youth in the summers of 2016 and 2017.

Via Osen (1), Osen (2), Osen (3), Osen (4), Osen (5), Osen (6), Ilgan Sports (1), Ilgan Sports (2), Seoul Kyungjae, Ten Asia (1), Ten Asia (2)

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wow thanks for the long feature! park eunbin is really an underrated gem and it's surprising to see that she was unknown for a really long time. glad she finally gained ecognition.

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She wasn't unknown at all, just not as popular as the 3 Kims among the younger viewers. She was slaying in sageuks where most viewers were older.

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PEB and the three Kims are from different generations tho, they have a 7 year age gap.
She belongs to the 90-92 line generation with Lee See Young, Shin Se Kyung, Park Shin Hye.

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I'm comparing talents. Some were lucky to breakout earlier like Shim Eun-kyun, Nam Ji-hyun and the Kims etc.

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Oh i get it now :).
Yes the three kims are lucky they got their talents recognized earlier and steadily when transitioning from child actresses.

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Song Ji-won is basically one of my favorite female characters in k-drama 2017. She's such a cool and unique. Park Eunbin is so talented. She stole the show in this season.

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I think both Ssong & Sungmin realize about their feelings but once again is it boyfriend or girlfriend better that a good friend? Oh, pabooo you two.. Just date already! I'm so annoyed HAHAHAHAHAHA

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I just log in to comment on this hehehe.
Park Eun Bin has climbed to the top of my favorite k-actress now and Song Ji Won will be one of my favorites characters ever.I'm still hoping for a season 3 but if we don't get one i still appreciate what Song Seun Won and Park Eun Bin they did with their characters, their friendship was precious and their dynamic was on point .And let's not talk about how strong of a base that friendship is for a romantic relationship because i can talk about it for hours and hours...

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I enjoyed Park Eun-bin so much that I'm going to marathon all of her projects.

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Same!

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OH! Thanks for this - it's nice to get some background on the amazing Park Eun Bin. I'm almost sad to hear that she's nothing like Ji Won in real life, but then again, Park Eun Bin seems to have her own brand of Awesome. "Fighting!" <3

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Once again, thank you Sunny SNSD for turning down this role, otherwise probably still not many people know her like these days. I have no doubt about her skills, but it would be great to see more people love and recognize her. Age of Youth needs to be a franchise like Reply so many other underrated and new talented faces can get more recognition.

Looking forward to see her next project.

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Thinking back, I started to recognize and love her more after seeing her and Kim So-eun in Empress Chun-chu, and from there both started to become my favourites although I might follow KSE a little bit more. lol. It would be nice to see these two reunite in any conventional sageuk. Both them shared some similarities and kinda taking long and safe road in their career.

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There probably are some very close platonic relationships that exist between men and women, but most of the time it's breeding ground for one-sided love 💔💔💔.

I loved her character in age of youth;however, PEB sounds a bit more reflective, self aware, and philosophical than her drama counterpart. She sounds like someone that would be fun to have coffee with.

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this.was.such.a.good.read

"If you think about it, they fit so well together that it would be impossible for anyone to come between them and replace the other."

from the smallest details to major problems, they've been together -listening to what she says even if it's a corny joke or just a foolish talk at times; teasing him when opportunity arises; and just being there for one another

their friendship has always been so beautiful that i never really bothered asking for more from the writer...

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thank you for translating this! so many shared emotions like doubting yourself and your talents and that: "I felt like I had received a diagnosis for a terminal illness." (!!!!) Totally.

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I notice her first in operation proposal and in I'm in awe in her acting. She has already showing alot of acting talent the first i saw her there. Outshining her partner leading man. Should I check out secret door to look at her acting talent in sageuk? And i can't believe when i found out she is starring in one of my drama rebirth. How can i hardly notice?

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Secret Door worth checking for amazing acting by the casts, but not so on the storyline. Not so terrible, but not good either.

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Thanks for this! What a nice long interview and what beautiful photos!

It's nice to know what would have been if Age of Youth had continued. It's just a drama but there's something about it so true to life. No pat endings, no certainties or totally fairy-tale happily-ever-afters. Just the continuation of life as we know it.

And the actress herself is so down-to-earth and relatable. I look forward to lots more of her work.

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It was a little heartbreaking to read her interpretation of Heimdal, but also so very truthful. I have definitely faced feelings of imposter syndrome, feeling like I just was not enough. It was interesting to read about how she thinks about characters, and how she considers no just her own, but others, and the reasons behind their actions. It almost seems as if she approaches characters as insights into different worldviews, and to consider the lives of others. I think she would be interesting to chat with about why people do certain things, not just her own characters, or even all fictional characters, but people in general, because she seems to have interesting introspective thoughts. But I will gladly settle for instead seeing her play a variety of roles, where she can apply that to her characters.

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THANK YOU Park Eun-bin for your amazing portrayal of Song Ji-won.

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P.S. No thanks to you writer-nim (Sorry, i'm still bitter)

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This girl! Wow. I love reading her thoughts and perspective about the drama.

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Awwwwwwwwwww
I really do hope there's a season 3
We all know this is so unreal for dramaland even to get a season 2 with most of the original actors intact but let's change the status quo. Let's do what dramaland hasn't done ever before: A season 3 with the main cast intact.
Hwaiting Age of Youth!!!!!!

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I really hope Park Eun Bin will accept Nothing To Lose offer if the script is good. Would love to see her in non-reserved feminine role

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*non-reserved role like Song Jiwon is

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Me too, me too! I'm in love with her now so I hope the next show she makes me watch is at least worth it...

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I'm really happy that she confirmed our thoughts about her and sungmin. I'm sad that she confirmed that jiwon died. I'm even sadder that we will probably not get to see them make that transition on screen. They were such a great couple.

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Her acting is so good I love how she is versatile in her acting, I love her since Queen Seon Deok. I absolutely loved her in both of the 2 seasons of Age of Youth too. I think that she makes every drama she acts in more enjoyable. I just wish she could be paired again with Son Seung Won in another drama, a rom-com with them would be amazing.

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(Don’t kill my fantasy!) RIGHT!
I wouldn't have minded a platonic relationship, like, at all. But the subliminal hints were all over the place, it's a shame their chemistry didn't develop into more as I clearly remember a certain writer promise for the 2d season! Never forget. Ji-won💓Sung-min forever.

Park Eun-bin had been steadily performing her parts and imh opinion more than average. I'm glad te read she's embraced her place in the industry. 25 is still an age where she has the time to both grow and accomplish much more and shine like the star she has become.

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Thank you for this article! I didn't know PEB but got curious when I read here in DB that she is a good actress so I checked out Operation Proposal. Then Age of Youth came along and I just can't help but love her. I hope she gets dramas that will make her shine.

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Yes, yes, hope she get many more interesting dramas.
I came to Secret Door because of Han Seok Kyu and Lee Je Hoon (even ignoring big WARNING alert, how disappointing that drama is) and discovering PEB. She awed me there and AOY solidified my love for her.

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She is a very good actress, and I hope to see her as the lead in a good drama. At first I wished she had been cast as the lead in WYWS, I know that she would've killed that role. However now I hope she finds a really good drama, she is an actress to look out for. But I wish she will pass on that judge drama though, because I just find it too ridiculous for someone like her to be cast as a judge (no matter how hard I try, I can't see her in a judge's robes, she looks so young).

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I believe in miracle!!

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That ssongsungmin theme song is crazy!
So I play the song video, and proceed to keep reading the article below the embed video.
I don't understand any of the word at all, yet as I keep reading, I cried.

or maybe I cried for jiwon who has a short life, or sungmin who has a tragic love story.

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thanks for the article + translations!

i luv this girl:) she's amazing as SJW in AG1/2. glad to read that she made backstories for her character to fill in the gaps, sign of a good actress. she's great in nuanced acting, her actions as bubbly SJW is balanced with the introspective side when her character was revealed to have a difficult past that she'd rather forget.

i hope she picks good projects to hone her acting skills!! sorry i really tried watching FITCOY but the storyline was just to shrill for my liking...

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Awwwh what a nice interview. I knew she's perceptive and thoughtful (at least that's the vibe here), and I was first shocked to see her as crazy bubbly Ji Won, very much unlike her characters in Choco Bank (with Kai) and what I saw of snippets from Secret Door (even my love for Lee Je Hoon can't make me watch that drama). She was a 'lady', so to speak. But she's killing it as Ji Won, playing it with heart and subtlety, and being crazy all at the same time. Definitely not an easy feat!

I'm glad we get a beautiful story out of Ji Won and Sung Min, also thanks to a newfound gem that is Son Seung Won. But Park Eun Bin, 'Sung Min's exist! Don't crush our little hopes for a better world :(

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Lovely interview. But I too thought that she didn't really express any soft affectionate gazes towards SungMin to indicate a romantic love on her part. Her romantic love is shown offscreen, explained by her in this interview. I am somewhat satisfied with the finale but I would like to know if she made a conscious decision to be acting platonic towards Songmin, or the writer/director wanted her to be that way. Was the bleeding lip scene a sign of her romantic subconscious ? When she told him that she had no one else? Ugh. Maybe I wish for more romantic expression from her to compensate the lack of kisses.

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Thank you for featuring her interview! ^^ I was also so heartbroken about her seemingly early death but I love how she interpreted it as:

"...Ji-won will have decided to enjoy life as it comes, thinking of her childhood friend who can’t do the same, and find happiness in her everyday; so much so that she could call her every moment a fortune on her urn.”

And I'm thinking, even if she died young, if she was still that feisty, funny, loveable girl and was happy with Sung-min and her daughter, that would have still been a life well-lived :')

BUT - I'm still hoping for a Season 3 and wishing a little that the writer decides to change her fate

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oh good god. Ji Won actually dies 8 years later. I... I can't ..deal with this...

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Lovely interview!

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Thanks for the translation of the interviews. It provides some form of closure to fans who were left wanting more and have so many unanswered questions. What are the chances of Son Seung Won's interviews getting translated and posted here too? 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

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