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The girl behind the gumiho: Interview with Shin Mina

Before Shin Mina put on a white dress and started chomping down on cow like it was going out of style, no one ever imagined a gumiho could be so cute. Sixteen episodes later, My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho has come to an end, slaying us all with its mythic love and epic dimples.

Playing one half of the Hoi Couple with her Woongtastic co-star Lee Seung-gi, Shin Mina has set a new record for fandom: I’m pretty sure she’s got as many girls crushing on her as guys. In this interview two days after wrapping the drama, she reveals the myth behind the legend, and the girl behind the gumiho.

Note: This is a translation of responses culled from a few different interviews. They call the drama a melo (melodrama) a few times, not as a strict genre classification, but because it turns sad in the later episodes. Throughout the interviews she calls Seung-gi by the formal “Lee Seung-gi-sshi,” which he does as well (Mina-sshi), in case you were curious about what they call each other. I know I was. Seung-gi noted on his show Strong Heart that he sticks to formal names and jondae with her, refusing to call her noona. Swoon.

Many people were left confused at the ending: is Mi-ho a human or a fox?

“I think the writers left it open-ended on purpose. Mi-ho isn’t human yet and is still a fox with one remaining tail. The Samshin Grandmother made her the promise to let her live in the world if she found love, so that’s her, keeping her promise. In the end, Mi-ho is a fox. Because she has one tail left, she’s not a gumiho, but an il-miho [il = one].” (Laughs)

“It’s been two days since we wrapped, but it doesn’t feel real yet. Now that my sleep time has extended, I’m starting to realize that it’s over. Now that this project is done my heart feels a little strange. I don’t know if it’s because there were so many sad scenes at the end, but I’m sad, and I miss it…I have all these complicated feelings,” she laughed.

Were there any difficulties while filming the drama?

“I had to cry so much in the finale. I really had no time to sleep, or read my lines. The Hong sisters, the director, and the actors all wanted to be our best, so we filmed many takes. Because there were so many emotional scenes, we were so exhausted, but we were so absorbed in expressing our emotions that we forgot to sleep—that’s how focused we were.”

People are saying that this is their rediscovery of you.

“I think there were really very little expectations for me. Lee Seung-gi was preparing for My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho for a while, and it was an ambitious project for the Hong sisters. So I think there were a lot of expectations for the lead actor and the writers. That’s why I’m feeling the full effects of this warm reaction now, and I’m grateful. I think the Hong sisters created such a three-dimensional character for me. I’m thankful for the ensuing popularity and recognition.”

You said at the initial press conference that you were worried about the character. How did you want to portray Shin Mina’s gumiho?

“The popular understanding of a gumiho was a scary human-liver-eating creature. I wanted to change that image. Mi-ho seems a little dim, or just naive, but I thought if I portrayed her that way in the beginning, later she would eventually become more pitiable. I worked hard, but the writers made Mi-ho lovable and pitiable.”

What kind of ending did you want?

“At first I thought it would be nice to have a sad ending. I thought it would be good to end with Mi-ho’s tragic sacrifice. But as we went on, everyone wanted a happy ending, and the audience was so happy when Dae-woong and Mi-ho ended the show smiling together. So now I don’t feel unfulfilled in any way.”

A lot of new trends were born.

“I heard that Mi-ho’s sayings like ‘mating’ and ‘bubbly water’ have become popular phrases now, and that people do love’s finger guns at each other. I even heard DJs copying Mi-ho on the radio, so it made me happy to know that so many people like her.”

“Mi-ho has a child-like purity, and was really more human than most humans. Some of her lines, like ‘mating,’ made me wonder if I could really say those things. But strangely as I repeated the lines, they became trends, and they became Mi-ho’s character. So eventually I got used to her language.”

In order to portray Mi-ho, did you add any mannerisms yourself?

“‘Ah, tasty!’ [ma-shita] is something I added. I really just ad-libbed that like an idiot, but the writers liked it, so they added it often. I didn’t think of it calculatingly—I just thought that if I were Mi-ho, I would over-exaggerate like that.”

Are there any similarities between Mi-ho and yourself?

“Mi-ho’s style of expression is really exaggerated and very honest. I tend to be honest in my expressions as well. In that way, we’re similar. But I’m not honest to the point of stupidly saying everything.”

What is the real Shin Mina like, as a woman?

“I can be blunt, but then at times I can be coquettish too. Sometimes I’m unresponsive and cold. Other times I over-exaggerate my expressions like Mi-ho. With my close friends, I like skinship so I’ll stick to their sides, but then other people have told me that I’m very cold and indifferent. I have no definitive: ‘that is me.’ ”

It seems difficult to not get greedy over ratings.

“When we first started, Baker King Kim Tak-gu was such a high wall to climb. When we premiered, they were already past the 30% mark. So we thought that even the low teens would be great for us. When we heard that our premiere got 12% from TNS, we were so happy. We never knew we’d surpass 20%. But more than ratings, there was so much love, that ratings just felt greedy at that point. I heard that even our reruns got good numbers. I’m so thankful for everyone’s love.”

Even the director fainted from exhaustion. Were you okay?

“The director collapsed once during the fourth episode. But I’m healthy—I’m totally fine and I could shoot another drama right now. During the shoot it was so difficult that I thought I would get sick immediately after, but I’m holding out okay. I ate a lot of good food before the shoot, and learned how to play badminton to keep in shape, so I think it helped me stay healthy.”

Do you really like beef?

“During the shoot I ate a lot of really good beef. I do actually like beef a lot. I did grow a little tired of it in the middle, but I love beef so much that I managed to get over it.”

Lee Seung-gi said that kissing you was the best kiss of his life. But you seemed to not think it was anything special.

“Did I say that? I must’ve said that early on, about the first ‘kiss,’ when we exchange the fox bead. After that, when Mi-ho and Dae-woong really like each other and kiss, I got lost in Mi-ho’s feelings and liked it as much as her. The audience really waited a long time for Mi-ho and Dae-woong to kiss, but as much as they waited, they really liked the first kiss. From Mi-ho’s point of view, it was a moment of endless happiness for her, I think.”

Shin Mina’s best kiss scene of her life is?

“The fox-bead exchanging kiss with Dae-woong.”

How was the chemistry with Lee Seung-gi?

“We had to shoot really fast, so it would have been difficult if we didn’t work well together. But we clicked right away from the beginning, so I was really comfortable.”

Mi-ho seems like an unprecedented choice for you.

“It was so fresh and fun. The story was fresh, and I haven’t had many projects working with actors younger than me. Other than Byun Hee-bong, Sung Dong-il, and Yoon Yoo-sun sunbae-nim, I was the oldest. I have a hard time lowering my speech so I used jondaemal, but the younger cast members treated me like a sunbae, which was new for me.”

You still use jondae with Lee Seung-gi?

“Yes. We still use jondae. Lee Seung-gi-sshi calls me ‘Mi-ho-sshi.’ If you ask him why he doesn’t call me noona, he says that he’s acting in a melo, so he doesn’t think it’s right to call me noona. I call him ‘Seung-gi-sshi’ or ‘Dae-woong-sshi.’ Dong-joo Teacher (Noh Min-woo) calls me ‘Mi-ho-nim.’ ”

How close are you, really?

“We were really close. Before I’ve worked with sunbaes and oppas, but Seung-gi is younger than me and debuted after me…so I could freely ask him to run lines with me. We were comfortable with each other, so our reactions were good and I think that’s why people love the Hoi Couple.”

“Before we worked on the drama together I just knew him as an um-chin-ah [구의 들] [A shortened slang term to mean that perfect so-and-so son that your Mom is dying to introduce you to, common moniker for Lee Seung-gi.] He’s been voted the number one celebrity to have as a son-in-law. But he’s not just nice. He’s funny, he’s kind, and he’s a really charming person. He’s younger than me, but there have been times I’ve almost called him ‘oppa’—he’s got a dependable side like that. He told me not to worry about ratings and just trust in him. It really seemed like I should trust him…” (Laughs)

You’ve acted in a melo with Korea’s top um-chin-ah. Does it make you want to be in love?

“Even if it’s not in this project, I do want to be in a relationship. (Laughs) Because it was a melo we expressed so much love and affection, that it somewhat satisfied me. Dating…I always want to.” (Laughs)

Besides Lee Seung-gi, you’ve worked with Joo Ji-hoon, Won Bin, Rain.

“It’s nice but it can be a burden too. They’re all so popular. But then there have been lots of times that their fans have supported me too, because I worked opposite them. Because of their support, I think my image has improved, and although it’s rare, I think there are those among their fans who have become my fans too. I think there are many good points too. But because they’re so pretty, and there are so many ‘flower pretty boys’ out there, it can be a burden. How can their skin be so pretty? Lee Seung-gi and Noh Min-woo were especially like that.”

You’re called the CF Queen. What do you think is your secret to receiving the CF industry’s love?

“Even when I think about it, it’s not like I had a hit movie or drama that landed me a lot of CFs—it’s puzzling. If I recall, in the past year I had a lot of public appearances for the unveiling of new products. So then I had a stylist dress me for all of the events, which then led to the media dubbing me a fashionista, leading to a CF boom and a flood of offers. I think all those elements happening together landed me in the spotlight. Also I debuted at a young age, so I think people were surprised by my more mature image. I started shooting one or two like that, and then eventually, it led to this.”

As an actor, is there a worry of being upstaged by your image as a CF star?

I don’t want to be carried away by those worries, so I work on a lot of projects. With CFs I take with me ways to express myself and I have a lot of hunger for those projects too. I’ve worked on them diligently, and I plan to do so in the future as well.”

You expected a heart-wrenching melo?

“I’m now in the latter half of my twenties, so I thought I had somewhat matured. As a woman I wanted to express heartbreaking sorrow, and I wanted to show a more mature image. So I chose Gumiho, but then the character developed into the opposite of what I had envisioned. At some point I realized that I shouldn’t create an image of a role. It went in a direction I hadn’t considered. I thought I was at an age where I could no longer be cute and young. But it was so fun to play. So I learned that I shouldn’t limit myself.”

You earned confidence from playing a gumiho.

“I don’t know if it’ll happen, but I even thought that I want to try a full-on comedy. I wasn’t really a bubbly person before, but I felt the strength of a fun, lively set. And I had a hard time expressing myself directly. But Mi-ho’s directness made me realize that it’s beautiful and healthy to express your emotions. I want to try a role that messes me up.”

What does your family think of your rising popularity?

“Before, my grandparents’ friends used to just know vaguely that their granddaughter was an actress. But once they saw my face in this, and their grandchildren like the drama, my grandparents are hearing a lot about me now. My niece talks about stories she hears in kindergarten about Gumiho. My family feels some new self-respect because of me, which makes me feel…like I’ve accomplished something. With dramas the reactions come so fast, that you can feel it on your skin.”

She loves beef AND Seung-gi. Girl after my own heart. Miholicious!

Via Osen, My Daily, SPN E Daily

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i like u girl...

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Love her!!!

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私も!

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love her!

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She's doing great!~ I love miho too~~

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Me too ! I very love Miho ! Miholicious ! Thats right !

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I'm so first!

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aakkk! I guess not :(

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loved the bit when she recalled that there were many times she almost called Lee Seung-gi "oppa" because he was dependable, in addition to his being nice, kind, funny, and charming.. ^__^

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awwwwwwww she is so adorable!!! Thanks for the interview!

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Maybe not the prettiest girl in Korea but definitely the cutest! :)

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SMA doesn't have the prototypical features of a Song Hye gyo or a Kim Tae hee, but she has a distinctive look/beauty which, along w/ her charisma/expressive face, makes her even more endearing (I'd put Jeon Ji hyun in this category as well).

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I second that. All her public persona and screen qualities add to make her beautiful and so adorable.

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This title-role of her will forever be remembered. She finally had a solid mark in the industry.

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What the heck? I thought that was a fake tail at the last scene. Her last tail clearly disappeared.
I refuse to believe that Miho didn't become human lol, otherwise how is she and DaeWoong going to complete their life plan! :D

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i'm banking on the fact that daewoong had his life force returned to him *and* is also walking around with a fox bead! :]

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Oooh yes!
Which he would then make good use of to become a 'real-action' actor, heh.

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i think they're both immortals! DW will be living like DJ since he has the bead with him.

hoi hoi!

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she's one of my favorite korean actresses now. so pretty and loveable!

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Wa, she seems like a smart and down-to-earth person in real life.

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"How can their skin be so pretty? Lee Seung-gi and Noh Min-woo were especially like that.” LOL

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Shin Min Ah <33
She is so awesome :D I really miss MGIAG...

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best kiss of life?! whoa

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awww I think she is super adorable. During the show, there wasn't a minute that I didn't think of her as Mi-Ho...she did such a great job!

I haven't seen her in anything else, this was my first time, so I don't know if I'd watch anything else after MGIG because for me, she WAS Mi-Ho!
Gaaaah, I miss this show and the Hoi Hoi couple :(

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OhEmGee, can Shin Mina and Lee Seung-gi just get together like right now already?! They'd have the cutest babies ever on earth, with those killer dimples. Gah!

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Thanks. Before this drama I didn't even know who Shin Min Ah is, but now she is one of my favorite kdrama actress. Yes, she is absolutely adorable in the drama! I look forward to her next project.

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Thanks so much for putting this together, girlfriday! Wonder if one for LSG is coming up ...

Hoi hoi!

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she is A-DO-RA-BLE <3

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ohh i jst loved her in MGIG the character was so fresh

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I think I had a fan girl heart attack reading the comment about lee seung gi saying that it was the best kiss of his life. AH!

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SMA is ONE lucky girl =)

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I've always liked her as an actress but I haven't seen her in a role which made me love her until Gumiho ♥

PS. I ADORE HER DIMPLES.

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because you've mentioned the word - i want to be 'Miholicious' too!

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Me too !
MGIAG is the best !

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One lovely girl. Trully an honest person. She was well suited to play Mi-Ho. Trully captivating!

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Love her! So cute and her interview sounded smart. So, there!

“How can their skin be so pretty? Lee Seung-gi and Noh Min-woo were especially like that.”
Gah!!! I also envied them!! Noh Min-woo's hands and fingers!! - definitely saw those freshly out from manicure service in several scenes in MGIAG. I was like "GAH! Look at those fingers!!! They're much much more smoother than mine!" "Of course! He's an actor and that's his asset to make more money! Of course he has to take a good care of it!" Gaaahhh!!! I envy those fingers....

But, trully, shin mina, you made a great job in MGIAG!!! So cute and lovey! :)

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Some people adore eyes, some lips, some nose, and some abs, but me fingers. And those Korean male actors just have those pretty fingers. May they have choco abs, manly vibe, but their fingers are pretty like girls have - not including me, better get them exercise err manicure??

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Thank you, girlfriend, for compiling Shin Minah's responses from her numerous post MGIG interviews. I'm a long time fan of Minah sshi, and it's nice that this role has finally given her love from the public. Even her grandparents' friends acknowledge her now :)

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MGIG became one of my best, and still I'm re-watching it without any boredom.
now, I'm dying to hear that LSG and SMA dating for real! I can't imagine how happy I would be!

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I fell in love with her and even more so after reading this interview. She seems confident, about her career and herself. She has taken on quite some variety of roles and I have nothing else to say but 'Thank you' to her for choosing Gu Mi Ho as one of her projects. After watching almost all her movies, she sure has become one of my favorites.

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i miss MGIG and i miss this combo of MGIG and girlfriday :'(

thanks for your woongtastic miholicous recaps and this interview translations!

i hope there'll be Seunggi's version too.. or just anything related to our Hoi Couple coz i'm feeling sooo empty!

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i am still in mashida! land. i so love this drama and i so love lee seung ki and shin mina. i want to see alot more of them both! this drama will forever be on my list of best 5 of my life!

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that girl was pure love as miho! she was so so adorable and ha she so knows she's upstaged seung gi sshi in the drama! u go girl!! <3

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and oh my god the dog doctor calls her mi ho nim! bwahahaaaa! too good!

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Shin Mina's so pretty, and somehow lovable. I never read about antis even she got paired with famous actors.
How can you resist that smile, that pretty dimples?

Now, I have to finish watching MGIAG....

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Hoi Hoi!

I'm always reminded of her sad roles, from " A Love to Kill" and "Sad Movie"...

But omona... after MGIAG, all I remember is her cute cherry Miho!

Mashita!

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OMO OMO. 3 things that shocked me!

1. "Lee Seung-gi said that kissing you was the best kiss of his life." - OMG! Where did he say that? OMG. I now want to have a compilation of LSG's interview about the drama. Really? THE BEST KISS? Better than the real kiss he had (accdg from a Strong Heart ep)? The sweetness of these two could kill me now. Literally.

2. "I got lost in Mi-ho’s feelings and liked it as much as her..” Nomu Nomu Joa! :)) OMGGGGG!! They both liked it. OMG.

3. Shin Mina’s best kiss scene of her life is? -“The fox-bead exchanging kiss with Dae-woong.” OMG. You liked it!!!

YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU TWO, please date now! :) Don't mind your age gap!

Thanks girlfriday for this! I've been feeling so empty when it ended but then I was again refreshed with this interview. I hope there would be compiled responses of Seung Gi too. :)

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She was so adorable in the show. I love her dimples. :)

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Shin Mina is a great and talented actress and I love MGIAG! Looking forward to her next drama and I hope she will do another comedy to bring us laughter, love and sweetness :D

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Her "How can their skin be so pretty" comment had me rolling. How are they so pretty?

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their skin is really smooth and flawless! It almost makes me want to touch it on screen! lol!
haven't you noticed it?

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I've loved her ever since Punch, so I'm glad she's finally getting the recognition she deserves. :)

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That's where I fell for her too! I only wish that someone would pick up 'Punch' and sub the rest of it's episodes. I only saw the first eleven and am still looking forward to seeing how things turned out in the end...

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haha, me too! I actually joined S.O.S. to help with that series (now that I think about it, that was way back in 2007!!) Though sadly, the releases still remain few and far between, though not from lack of trying.

I think the main problem/hold-up is the encoding, since there are a lot of missing scenes, and some parts that were never translated. Basically, rather than subbing an entire episode from start to finish, it's like putting together a puzzle with missing pieces. Hopefully the encoder returns, and it gets going again...

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wow, for mashita word, it's really fit Miho's personality but I did realized she said it so many times after that,lol

I watched lots of her dramas/movies before but Gumiho is the first drama that make me respect her as an actress. Before this, I only remembered her as a girl who are lucky to be the female lead besides countless famous actors!

I will always remember her as a girl in T.O.P rumors too, haha!

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Thanks GF! I was surprised to know that she just ad-lib "ma-shita" and then the writers liked it and added it from there on. She is really a perfect gumiho.

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I agree!
I really thought the writers were responsible for this line because it was just something Mi ho would say!

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Ok that's it, I love her and I'd definitely go gay for her! Haha!

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She's so adorable.I really miss the hoi couple.I hope they'll work together again in the future.

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thank you so much girlfriday!

i, too, am a long-time shin min ah fan! :) i loved reading this interview. i'm so proud and happy for her! miholicious indeed!!!

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She is so adorable. Can't wait for her to take on a new drama. Still missing MGIAG, what an awesome show.

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SMN's gumiho is adorable! Another actress that I'm sincerely fond of!!

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have you guys all watch Lee Seung Gi - I Love You From Now On MV?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0DU3YuF2k0&feature=player_embedded

do you think the couple in there is SeungGi-MinAh or DaeWoong-Miho? the part where they are practicing with the big jacket on them, and when MinAh wants to do the hoi-hoi finger and Seunggi follows, basically all the bts in there. i'm wondering why does sbs not releasing any bts yet. i hope they have something special in plan for us. they better be!

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Ahh she is so adorable and pretty. And her dimples are to die for.

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hey guys, how was comic con? :)

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oh holy shortpants, wrong thread. sorry!

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u know what if anyone here is familiar with bollywood sma reminds me of preity zeinta...the smile the dimples and the cheeks...they both look cute as a button!

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You're right! They are both gorgeous and cute at the same time.

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I like Preity but Shin Mina is much cuter in my opinion ...

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I am! I am! haha!

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OMG !!. True that. They both have killer dimples.

I've loved Shin Mina ever since A Love To Kill. Although the drama wasn't the best but I thought she pulled off the role really well. I'm just happy to see that she is now becoming more popular. <3

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