[BAEKSANG AND BEYOND] Lim Ji-yeon aims to continue evolving

Actor Lim Ji-yeon, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' TV section [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

The Baeksang Arts Awards is one of the most prestigious award ceremonies in Korea. Held by the JoongAng Group, it has honored excellence in film, television and theater in Korea since its inception in 1965. The 59th edition took place on April 28 in Incheon, with this year’s focus on works that received international acclaim thanks to online streaming platforms. In this interview series, the Korea JoongAng Daily sits down with Baeksang award recipients to talk more about their wins, careers and plans for the future.

One of Korea’s biggest drama hits of this year, “The Glory,” is one where the villains are just as — if not more — crucial in building up an excruciating sense of agony that leads to catharsis.

At the center of this glorious antithesis was Lim Ji-yeon, who plays the luxuriously brutal school bully Park Yeon-jin against whom main character Moon Dong-eun directs her vendetta.

“I hoped that everyone in the world would hate me because then that would have meant that I had succeded as Yeon-jin,” Lim said, “but I was surprised to see that they didn't.”

“The Glory” was a true breakthrough for Lim, who debuted in 2011 but had only been seen in short films or smaller roles in feature movies. The Netflix series became the most popular show globally just three days after the release of the first season’s last episodes in March, taking the top spot in 38 countries globally.

Lim was nominated for the Rookie Actress of the Year in 2015 but did not win. But after receiving rave reviews for her spot-on acting, Lim received the Best Supporting Actress award for the television category at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards for her portrayal of an elegantly selfish villain.

“I’ve always been harsh on myself and never complimented myself,” she said. “There were moments throughout ‘The Glory’ where I thought I did ok, but even then I didn’t let myself enjoy it. But with the Baekang Awards, I finally thought, ‘Let’s compliment myself for what I did. I deserve this, I truly do.’”

Lim sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily to discuss her big win at the awards, her 12-year acting career, and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Actor Lim Ji-yeon as school bully Park Yeon-jin in Netflix original series ″The Glory″ [NETFLIX]

Q. What were your thoughts when you saw yourself on the screen alongside the other nominees in your category?

A. I was just so excited. I was thinking, “Oh my god, I’m on that screen, I’m at the Baeksang Arts Awards, I’m here with the other ‘The Glory’ team members, there are so many actors here, there’s Park Eun-bin — I’m a huge fan! I’m a fan!” All these thoughts were just racing through my mind. There were a lot of comedians and things that I had only seen on YouTube.

The whole situation just seemed so magical to me that it wouldn’t have mattered whether I won or not. I would have been so happy even if I didn’t win. But then I did, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “I’m screwed.” I really didn’t prepare a speech or anything because I truly didn’t expect or hope to win.

Why did you not hope to win?

I knew that if I built up too big of an expectation in my mind, then I would be disappointed by as much if I didn't win. But I didn’t want to ruin such a great festivity with such a disappointment. I don’t think I would have liked myself if I was disappointed in myself for not winning.

“The Glory” was loved by so many people and that was enough for me. So I told myself, “Let’s just take in this moment and remember all the love that they gave us.” Plus, there were so many other people from “The Glory” who were nominated, so we told ourselves that we will enjoy this night no matter who takes which award home.

Lim Ji-yeon gives a speech after winning the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' TV section last April in Incheon. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Your white dress that you wore on the day got a lot of compliments. How did you choose that outfit?

I chose it with a lot of care because I thought that this night may never come — I may not return to the Baeksang Awards ever again (laughs). I wanted the dress to be very “Yeon-jin,” an extravagant and luxurious actress, maybe? I chose the dress very carefully from a selection and went with a pure-white dress. Then I saw [actor] Song Hye-kyo [who played the protagonist in “The Glory”] and regretted it instantly.

“I should have gone with a different color!”

You mentioned that you went through very tough times when you blamed yourself. Why do you not compliment yourself much?

I honestly don’t know why, but I only see my own faults and find things that I didn’t do well. I think it’s an inferiority complex of some sort. I only see my shortcomings as an actor and feel like I have to try extra hard. I think that’s just a part of who I am.

But with Yeon-jin, my character, I really wanted to compliment myself and tell myself, “Bravo, Yeon-jin.”

Actor Lim Ji-yeon, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' TV section, poses for photos after an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily in Sangam-dong, western Seoul. [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

What got you through such hardship?

I think, just in acting. I know that my career has been rocky. There are people who’ve asked me, why did you choose such a tough path? But I think that very up-and-down curve is the reason I’m an actor. I was given such an honor but I never know when I will go through such hard times in the future again. But looking back, I think those times are also the ones that have made me who I am and helped me grow as an actor and a person.

So did you not believe all the positive reviews you got with “The Glory”?

Honestly, I knew that “The Glory” would do well; I just didn’t think that the spotlight would be on me as a person. I didn’t believe the audience's reaction at first. I actually thought that they were based on the press release written by my agency or Netflix. I thought, “Wow, these guys are really good at their job!”

But afterward, I watched “The Glory” myself and found that I really did help the audience sympathize greatly with [main character] Dong-eun — that much, I credited myself for. But everything was meticulously planned by the director and the crew. Nothing was improvised and I think the director really brought everything together so well.

Actor Lim Ji-yeon, second from right, poses for photos during a press conference for Genie TV original drama series “Lies Hidden in My Garden” along with her co-stars on June 19 at the Stanford Hotel Korea in western Seoul, as her first work since "T

“The Glory” was very well received globally too. Did you expect that as well?

It’s actually so amazing. I got messages from my friends living abroad, telling me that it’s all the rage overseas. I got messages from fans in Japan, the United States, Singapore, Thailand… I actually went on a business trip to Thailand and heard people say, “Yeon-jin-a,” like the line in the drama. I really felt the power of Korean content then.

Do you have a message for these overseas fans?

Thank you so much for loving K-content. I hope you look forward more as it ascends to even greater heights. And I hope you look forward to my future work as well!

What kind of an actor would you like people to see you as?

I personally consider myself very versatile. My career has been long, but not too long, and I think my strongest asset is that I have more sides of myself to share with the audience.

I hope that people don’t recognize me in a new work until they see my name. If they saw me in something and realized that it was me later, and say, “That was Lim Ji-yeon? That was Yeon-jin?” I think that I would count that as a success if people felt that I was truly versatile. I hope people see me as a passionate, hard-working actor who is happy when she’s acting. I want to seem like a solid actor.