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Gangnam Beauty Im Soo-hyang tells all

Actress Im Soo-hyang gave an interview on her JTBC drama that recently ended, My ID is Gangnam Beauty. It was based on a popular webtoon about a girl named Kang Mi-rae who was reborn through plastic surgery after she was bullied for many years for being ugly. The drama explores her early college years as she learns to adjust to campus life and finds her inner beauty.

Im Soo-hyang plays the main protagonist who has an overwhelming insecurity about her appearance, which leads her to make the decision to permanently change her look. With a face that has clearly went under the knife, she’s constantly compared to her classmate Hyun Soo-ah, played by Jo Woo-ri, who is a natural beauty. However, her scars begin to heal under the warm protection of two knights-in-shining-armor: her childhood friend Do Kyung-seok, played by Astro’s Cha Eun-woo, and her sunbae Yeon Woo-young, played by Kwak Dong-yeon.

“I think a lot of people identified with Mi-rae’s plight, thinking ‘Was I ever like that?’ Mi-rae’s situation is very different from heroines of other dramas because she’s not wealthy or pretty or knowledgeable, and she doesn’t have everything going for her. She’s kind but insecure about herself. She judges people’s appearances because she’s wrapped up in her own trauma. I think because we all have our own scars that are similar to Mi-rae’s, everyone rooted for her to overcome them.”

Initially, some people may have found Mi-rae to be frustrating because of her passive personality and victimhood. But by the end of the series, she finds her voice and rightfully expresses her anger when confronting Soo-ah, who continuously antagonized her throughout the drama.

“I thought this was the most important scene highlighting the entire premise of the drama, and I wanted to perform it well. But I don’t know if I did because I only had one hour of sleep the night before, and I think I could have prepared better. I didn’t know that I would cry that much. ‘Why do we have to do that? I’m going to find a way to live happily,’ were lines that showed Mi-rae’s growth. I remember the scene well because it contained the message we were trying to deliver. I hope it was conveyed well to many people. It was also the highlight of Soo-ah’s arc, and I think the dialogue played out well so that Soo-ah became more relatable and gained more fans too.”

My ID is Gangnam Beauty wasn’t merely a college drama, it put societal issues like image obsession and hidden cameras in the spotlight.

“In my profession, I am constantly judged on my appearance, probably more than a thousand times a day. So there are times when my self-confidence goes down. In those times, I try to concentrate on something else to find my mental balance. I internally firm up, or resolve it some other way, so I identified a lot with the drama. And even though I know strategies to mitigate it, I think I also obsess about my appearance sometimes.”

“I want to become pretty and I like hearing that I am pretty. And my profession is one where I do have to be concerned about my appearance. But through this drama, I reaffirmed and realized again that appearance is not everything. So while I was filming this drama, I also was comforted and healed by it.”

Image obsession and plastic surgery are hot topics in Korea lately. This drama provided an outlet for people who related to these struggles to express their opinions.

“Younger viewers who were having difficulty in school because of their appearance said that they were encouraged by Mi-rae. And viewers who were already in the professional stage of their lives, who felt isolated and lonely, also expressed that they were comforted by Mi-rae. Students who are going through a time when they begin to be aware of their appearance normally write a lot of comments asking how to become prettier, but I think after watching this drama, their perspective may have changed a little bit. I tried to communicate a lot throughout this drama with fans by writing replies to comments. I felt my heart becoming warmer, and I’m grateful that our viewers expressed they were healed through the drama.”

“Plastic surgery is an individual choice, so I don’t think there is a right or wrong. There is no guarantee that you will become prettier through surgery. Although Mi-rae’s appearance changed through plastic surgery, she didn’t feel pretty for a long time. Because she was a beauty created from plastic surgery, she was ridiculed and teased as a plastic surgery monster. So plastic surgery is not the solution to everything. However, if one makes that choice and is comforted and happy with it, as long as it is reasonable, I respect that choice.”

“I received a lot of positive energy from people’s love and interest in the drama. I also had some depressing parts of my life, but playing Mi-rae, who is so lovable, allowed me to become brighter. It felt refreshing. In terms of acting, I was able to show a side I hadn’t been able to show before. Because of the tone, I tried to loosen up in my acting, and I tried to relax while acting. After relaxing, I felt like I was able to see myself—my charisma and individual color—more clearly.”

“I, like Mi-rae, also have obsessed about my appearance, and I think that’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. As a woman, I think it’s a given that we want to become pretty. But in truth, this drama is not about stopping that desire to be pretty, but to also realize your inner strength, beauty, and individuality. Everyone’s standard of beauty is different. Trends change all the time, and you can’t change your face each time. After this drama, I think that if you have your own inner strength, even if not everyone likes you, there will be at least one person like Do Kyung-seok who will stick by your side. I grew up a lot through this drama.”

With regard to her next steps after My ID is Gangnam Beauty, Im said, “First, I’d like to follow through on the ratings promise I made earlier. At an interview at the beginning of the drama’s run, we promised to give out song-pyeon [Korean traditional rice cakes]. As the leader of this promise, I collected money from the actors and staff to provide food for the needy, and prepared 700 servings of song-pyeon. The rooftop members will all be going with me to distribute the food. I’m trying to make Kwak Dong-yeon my second-in-command.”

“After that, I’m planning to go to my home in Busan. Then I’d like to be on some variety programs, and to return with a new project that’s bright and cheerful. I promise to come back with a good new project, and while I’m resting I will study more piano and English.”

Awww, I’m definitely a little sad to say goodbye to the cute Mi-rae and Kyung-seok couple. But I’m looking forward to Im Soo-hyang’s new projects now that I’ve seen what she can do with a good script.

Via Chosun Sports

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she's amazing in gangnam beauty. the driving force of the drama, and considering the behind the scenes videos, also the one to set the mood as the oldest from the main cast. I never paid a lot of attention to her before but I became a fan now and will follow her on her next projects.

this drama will always have a special place in my heart because mirae was everything from the first episode to the end. she was the heart of this story, I feel everything she felt and rooted for her happiness all the time. she deserves all the praises and compliments for this project, she was the best parter eunwoo could have to be honest. I already miss them.

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She does! I was a bit skeptical when I read about her casting because she's reasonably older than the character, but 1. It was in the script that Mi Rae looks older & 2. I can't imagine another actress doing this role.

I think i read about an interview with the PD where he said that he's grateful to her for taking the role. It seems no one wanted to take it because the character has had plastic surgery and actresses don't want to be associated with it.

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I also thinks that since the webtoon is famous in South Korea, actresses are burdened with the expectations from the webtoon fans (either from the adaptation or the acting itself)

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yeah, I read about this too. I can see why actresses would be nervous about taking the role so I'm even more glad that she was brave to take the challenge. makes the overall positive reaction even more rewarding...

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I plan to watch this but I wanted to point out that perhaps the actress didn't shy away from it because anyone that had seen several of her projects knows that's not her natural nose. It varies from project to project and in one series - Inspiring Generation - it changed from episode to episode. I don't know if she'd had an accident that caused the nose to need to be restructured again during filming but it was very distracting to watch the character.

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This is fascinating. Its fairly obvious her nose is not natural indeed but I didn't kNow it was THIS obvious. Thanks.

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Talking about that drama is a bit funny, but I first saw her in the New Tales of Gisaeng. I stumbled upon it and that show was the beginning of my love affair with K-drama (as weird as it sounds now even for me, however it had too many things to captivate the one who knew nothing about that side of the world.) And I have watched every drama she acted in ever since.
What I liked the most in this drama was the messages she sent through the T-shirts she wore. Those were so poignant and they added to the social discussions of the drama. I was surprised by the heaviness of the topics and how actual they are, even hidden behind all the fluff of a college drama.
All in all, going back to her 2011 drama, I realise how much the K-drama universe has changed in this short while. I don't think that such topics would have been so openly dived into. And this is not the only show to go serious and heavy. (Of course, I may be wrong, but once I started, I was trying hard to make up for all the things that I missed, so I would watch most of the ongoing dramas in a week, so I think I can talk from experience now - the only good use I can put my long hours spent in front of my computer.)

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Oh my. You also noticed the t-shirts. I loved them all. The drama wasn't only educating and entertaining but it touched pungent societal issues

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I enjoyed watching her in Five Children and I loved her and her character's growth in Gangnam Beauty even if she frustrated me at times. Beauty standards are such difficult things to live with in this world and different people find different ways to deal with it. For me, my transformation happened when I started wearing the hijab. I realized that people can't judge me if they can't see my body. I've always been heavy so I had and still have a lot of body image issues. Just like the surgery, wearing the hijab doesn't automatically mean I become more confident but it's something for me to use as an armor on days when I don't feel pretty at all.

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We have the same reason. I wear hijabs and big clothes....it really feels like an amor to wear and boosts my confidence. But now I am slowly changing, I still wear my hijab but Wear clothes that are my size.... I guess with time we will all change and love ourselves more...

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I've also started trying to dress to fit my body. I still struggle with the idea that my body looks much different in real life than I think it looks in my head. Sometimes I think I'm thinner than I really am and sometimes I think I'm bigger than I really am.

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We all go through the same struggles in fact not only us everyone does...is sth we have to learn everyday in our lives...with time we will one day realise that we are ohk....

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I can relate so much to the mind and reality perception!
It's like our eyes are those weird fun-house mirrors that always change and distort things.

I was on the heavy side until high school, when I naturally lost weight due to puberty. But even though I was objectively thin and have a small frame, I still thought I was chubby for such a long time that it's ridiculous....which is why I can understand how Mi-rae didn't feel pretty even after surgery.

**hugs to my beautiful hijabi chingu** Fighting!

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Kumowo chingu....Fighting!!!!

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I enjoyed Gangnam Beauty so much. But this show could have been soooo much more. It kept on treading important issues, but would never FULLY address them, or they'd brush by them. The script was fine (and I understand it's a pretty good adaptation of the webtoon), but with a bit of fine tuning it could have been extraordinary. I wish they'd have given more dimension to Mirae just like they did to Soah (I loveeeed her development in the end, i deeply believed she was sick). Kyungsuk needed more dimension as well. I simply cannot buy that he is completely impervious to beauty. but for a thunder male lead Cha Eun Wo did his job perfectly.

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I’m still watching this drama but I’m completely loving it. I’m Soo Hyang is amazing as Mi Rae and does a beautiful job. The show has so much more depth than I thought it would and I can’t wait to see how it wraps up!

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I am glad that people got the underlying message behind the drama. I hope it helps a lot. ..as it has helped me too...
It's time people realize that beauty comes from within not outside and judging people from the right looks should pls become outdated in this century....

I hope a time comes when physical beauty won't matter anymore....is that too much of a big dream???

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Unfortunately I don't think so ((cries))

Especially since we all react to beauty on a subconscious level, especially when some basic standards of beauty are correlated with health--which we are geared to be attracted to...

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Yea you are right.... it was just a far fetch dream of mine that I know won't come true....

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Yes it very much is a dream that cannot become true- at least to some extent. At least some of our attraction to beauty is hardwired into us, according to many scientific studies. Which is why the actress in this interview is right is saying that we should honor the choice that some people make to undergo plastic surgery- at least in reasonable amounts- if they want to.

But I would also like to point something else out- physical beauty is not all important- and not the only way to be attractive. And there are many examples of this, but I am going to limit myself to just one: Cleopatra.

From the movies you have been lead to believe that Cleopatra was a gorgeous beauty (like Elizabeth Taylor). She was not. We actually have a good idea of what she looked like from the many coins from her time- and she was really fairly ordinary looking- not totally plain but no looker either. Yet she is famous for a being an amazingly seductive and alluring woman. That did not come from her physical appearance but from her high intelligence and her personality. It was not her looks that made her so attractive- it was everything else.

Our problem- here and in Korea- and elsewhere- is that we teach young girls that physical beauty trumps everything else- when in fact it never really has. It certainly counts for something and always will- but it will never be everything nor more than just one factor among several.

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Thanks for your kind words and story. I think I became more confident while reading it. Is it ohk if I can post it on my fan wall so other beanies can read and won't miss it?

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Of course

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I was not a fan of Im Soo Hyang before but this drama made me a fan of hers. As the heart of this drama, she did a wonderful job. Looking forward to her next project.

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Im Soo Hyang has now became one of my favorite Korean actresses.

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However, her scars begin to heal under the warm protection of two knights-in-shining-armor: her childhood friend Do Kyung-seok, played by Astro’s Cha Eun-woo, and her sunbae Yeon Woo-young, played by Kwak Dong-yeon.

Lol, not quite my interpretation but I guess...

Actually, including this drama, I watched two of her other dramas in a row so now I miss her. It definitely seems like she likes to take on roles concerning various women's issues. In the other two dramas of hers I watched recently she was a working single mom (and was looked down on because of it) and the other she was giseang in a fictionalized seoul that still had gisaengs as a line of work (so sort of a commentary on sex-work or escort services imo). She'll probably come back with a weekend drama or daily drama since she does those often.

Anyway, the show had it's flaws and I still think it missed out on loads of important character moments, but it's nice to see it resonated with people (Mi Rae is a character who is near and dear to my heart also). Seems like it's another step in a changing Korean drama climate where more women-centric dramas are coming out or writers are more often trying explore the issues that come along with womanhood (at least that's what I feel). Perhaps it will lead to another show where they try to tackle the questions and issues ID=GB highlights. It's also interesting; I think the "looks don't matter" message seems deeper when trying to view it from a Korean perspective where plastic surgery or the pressure to get it seems more ubiquitous.

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Thanks for this @tineybeanie. It's so nice to hear her thoughts after the series is done. She's so down-to-earth. I'm glad to find that the show was healing to her personally as it was to lots of viewers. It's message is one that needs to be repeated many times, because we are assaulted by the opposite message over and over again as well.

To all the Soo Ahs and Mi Raes and ourselves, we are all lovable and beautiful as we are, and do not need to appease the 'secular' judgement of what makes us good or successful. Have a lovely rest of the week!!

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Thanks for translating this interview! She was very good in Gangnam Beauty! Looking forward to her in new projects.

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I love her in MIIGB. 😊
Will keep an eye out for her next projects.

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Just like you guys, I became an instant fan of her. I started watching
(and currently watching) this because well of CEW and KDY. But boy, I really feel her insecurities which I can relate because I was teased a lot too about my ears and I remember that it did cross my mind to have it fixed as soon as I heard you can have plastic surgery. Good thing we can't afford it.

Imagine even when I am already working someone still tease me about it and I was like "Grow up dude, grow up".

One strategy though that I used was to have that feature of you (that you don't like that much) be seen every time that others will get used to it.

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@coby
That's true about getting people used to something. I remember that I forgot all about my colleague's odd eyes because I saw her everyday. It was just perfectly normal.

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@tinybeanie Thank you so much for translating this interview. Really appreciate it and wish there were more articles like this on Dramabeans.

I can't say I became an instant fan of Im Soo Hyang after this drama, but after reading this interview, I definitely appreciate that she put so much thought into her acting. I felt that she could have brought a bit more to the role, but am not sure if that was due to script / webtoon limitations.

The drama could have been so much more if it had just tackled the issues a teeny bit more. But I love that more and more mainstream Korean dramas appear to be braver in approaching taboo topics. And Kudos to ISH for broaching the new frontier.

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She is a good actress. I particularly like her voice, very gentle and sweet 😊

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I am happy with this drama for their assemble of classmates and sunbaes Mi Rae has, and how she resolves her relationships with them. After the summer holiday, she is now more content with herself, less conscious of her face, and with Kyung Seok by her side... I can feel that she is getting along with her friends better,... Unlike Cheese in the trap drama, the female protagonist has to cope with unreasonable friends 'til the end and they are just getting worse...

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And in my opinion, the writing directs this drama towards such a satisfying ending to me. I am happy to see Mi Rae finally feels happy and certain of herself.
This interview was definitely a nice read! I don't really like Im So Hyang in Iris, and I'm ok with her in Five Kids, but mostly becos of her characters. But I now have to acknowledge her for her acting and how she perceives Mirae as a character that speaks to her heart...

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She did a fabulous job- almost too good, because she stayed in character throughout the entire drama. Given that her character has been traumatized by years of disapproval that meant being someone who would remain timid, passive, and almost depressed for a long time. At the end she is coming out of her shell and finding her voice but those of us who watched were impatient for her to get their sooner: Yet, logically, it has to take a while and it must have taken huge amounts of self-discipline for this actress to keep up that traumatized character through so many episodes. But we must not forget that part of what she needed was the love of her parents, her friend and especially her very steadfast boyfriend- a young man who, despite his own issues hangs in there- a real model to other young men who watch the show of how to be a good man, just as her father is a good model of how to be a good father.

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I just realised now so very belatedly that Im soo-hyang's name is literally perfume in Korean read backwards

This can't possibly be just a coincidence...

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I liked reading what she had to say. :)

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