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Han Sun-hwa feels more relaxed after quitting K-pop girl group

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Singer-turned-actress Han Sun-hwa / Courtesy of Cine Sopa
Singer-turned-actress Han Sun-hwa / Courtesy of Cine Sopa

Han Sun-hwa has her first lead movie role in 'Cinema Street'

By Kwak Yeon-soo

As a K-pop singer, Han Sun-hwa didn't love every facet of her job. She lived with a high amount of anxiety and struggled with the lifestyle that came with being famous. She couldn't even enjoy a cup of coffee with her friends because she felt guilty about taking time off from work.

After working ceaselessly for seven years ― from the time she shot to fame in girl group Secret in 2009, until she left the group to pursue acting in 2016 ― she was exhausted, both physically and mentally.

"As a member of the girl group, I was always so busy. I didn't have any time for relationships. There was no time to step back and ask myself, 'How do I actually feel?' I was too hard on myself, believing that my skills would deteriorate if I were to take a break. My biggest fear, at that time, was falling behind my competitors," she said during a recent Zoom interview with The Korea Times.

Luckily, the singer-turned-actress learned how to take steps to care herself after shifting her career. "I've learned a lot about balance," she said.

The 31-year-old celebrity explained that the biggest difference between being a singer and an actor is that she now feels calm and more composed than she has felt in a long time.

"When I was working as a singer, everything was happening so fast. As an actor, I feel more relaxed. I try to take breaks between jobs, and I love to travel during my free time. As it's difficult to take an overseas trips due to COVID-19, I am enjoy traveling to Jeju Island or Namhae in South Gyeongsang Province," she said.

"I like to see new places and meet the local people there. When I visit lesser-known places, people don't recognize me. I feel comfortable because they treat me just like everyone else."

Han has appeared in about 15 TV dramas, including, "Rosy Lovers," (2014) "School 2017," (2017) "Save Me 2," (2019) "Backstreet Rookie" (2020) and "Undercover," (2021) but never had the chance to act in a feature film.

Han Sun-hwa in a scene from the film,
Han Sun-hwa in a scene from the film, "Cinema Street" / Courtesy of Cine Sopa

After 10 years of hard work since Han added acting to her career, she finally landed her first lead movie role in the romance drama, "Cinema Street," which is about ex-lovers who meet again for work and become emotionally attached to one another.

Han portrays Sun-hwa, a location scout from Busan who works with a film's pre-production team to find the most suitable place to shoot in the port city, while her acting partner, Lee Wan, plays the role of filmmaker Do-young, who comes to Busan to work with her.

"I used to play sad, conflicted characters in the past, but my character, Sun-hwa, in 'Cinema Street' is cheerful and lively," she said.

Han confessed that she got comfortable on the set because she was able to speak in her hometown dialect. "The director and the film crew put so much effort into making this film. Because it's a low budget film, we put our energies together and shot everything under a tight schedule," she said.

"As an idol, I used to not be able to roam freely around the streets in the city, but this time, I was in charge of the traffic control while shooting. The younger people, especially teenagers and those in their early twenties, didn't know I was a singer."

Han described the similarities and differences between her character and herself in real life.

"What's different from Sun-hwa is that, when I wanted to become a singer, I came to Seoul because it has good infrastructure and there's a higher chance of succeeding in show business. Sun-hwa believes that she can do just fine in Busan. But Like Sun-hwa, I believed in myself that I could do this and I wasn't going to stop until I made it," she said.

On starring with Lee Wan, she said "He's really calm and comfortable to be around. We both have a keen interest in golf, so we often chatted about that."

Actors Lee Wan, left, and Han Sun-hwa in a scene from the film,
Actors Lee Wan, left, and Han Sun-hwa in a scene from the film, "Cinema Street" / Courtesy of Cine Sopa

She recalled that the first audition she went in for was when she was 13, in Busan. "The small theater where I actually auditioned to become a singer appears in our film. In my memory, the stage seemed big, but when I visited the place again, I realized that it was a small venue. It made me realize how time really flies so fast," she said.

Han said that she worked extremely hard to achieve her dreams, even harder than her character Sun-hwa in the film.

"I don't remember exactly when and how I decided to go into the entertainment industry. I think it was all driven by a desire to be on TV," she said.

"There were so many twists and turns. I went through a series of failed auditions. Then, after I joined one agency, it went out of business."

Asked if she has any intention of reuniting with Secret's members or releasing songs, Han said that she wants to concentrate on acting.

"I would very much like for the audience to see me as the character itself. I'm low on energy and my legs hurt. I don't think I can dance like I used to onstage. My brother is also a singer (Seung-woo of K-pop boy band VICTON) and I'm worried that he might break a bone someday," she sighed.

However, she expressed support for other girl group members who are heading to the small and big screens. "It's really interesting to see my close colleagues now starring in dramas and films. I feel mixed emotions while watching them. I realize we've grown old and I also feel motivated to work harder," she said.

"Cinema Street" hit theaters on Sept. 16.


Kwak Yeon-soo yeons.kwak@koreatimes.co.kr


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