[BAEKSANG AND BEYOND] Park Eun-bin is still feeling sensational after Baeksang win

Actor Park Eun-bin holds her Grand Prize trophy for the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily held at the JTBC headquarters in western Seoul. [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.

The 59th Baeksang Awards’ TV section was an ode to those marginalized in society, with the highest honors going to shows depicting stories of people with disabilities and victims of school bullying.

At the center of the festivity was “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” and lead actor Park Eun-bin, who won the Grand Prize in the television category for her portrayal of protagonist Woo Young-woo, an attorney with autism spectrum disorder.

“My heart made all the noise that you could think of,” Park recently told the Korea JoongAng Daily, reminiscing back to the moment that her name was called out on the night of April 28. “It’s such a rare experience to be able to burst out in tears because of happiness, and that moment was it for me. There is still that tingling sensation left in my heart.”

Park debuted in 1996 as a child fashion model and has been building her filmography since, appearing in the JTBC series “Hello, My Twenties” (2016-17), SBS’s “Judge vs. Judge” (2017-18), “Hot Stove League” (2019-20) and “Do You Like Brahms?” (2020), and KBS's “The King’s Affection” (2021).

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” Park’s latest and biggest drama so far, was one of Korea’s most beloved hits of 2022, recording a whopping 17.5-percent viewership rating when it finished on Aug. 18 on cable channel ENA. It became the most-watched cable channel drama series that summer.

The drama’s never-before-tried choice to center the plot around a person with disabilities and the cleverly-written script that won the acclaims of legal experts were enough to win a unanimous decision from Baeksang’s judging panel.

A scene from ″Extraordinary Attorney Woo″ (2022) starring actor Park Eun-bin [NETFLIX]

“Woo” and its crew were nominated in eight different categories, the most nominations for any work competing at the 59th Baeksang Awards.

“I’ve only had very vague dreams because then, you don’t get disappointed in yourself for not achieving them,” she said. “One of those dreams was ‘to become somebody else’s role model.’ I had forgotten about it and I was ok about not winning awards, because I wasn’t acting to win something. But this award made my dream come true. I’m so grateful.”

Park sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily to talk more about her big win at the Baeksang Awards, her 27 years of acting and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. How did you feel the moment when your name was called out as the winner?

A. I felt like my heart had stopped. I knew that our team at “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” had been nominated the most, which we were so excited about. We were all hoping for great results and wished that more people would win the awards so that we could all share the joy.

But as the ceremony kept going, we kept slipping away from the trophy and I was starting to grow really worried. Then the director, Yoo In-sik, won the Best Director Award for TV Section, and that brought me to tears. I realized that this is how it feels to be happy for somebody else.

I had no idea that my name would be called out. When they read out "Park Eun-bin," I just couldn't believe it. It’s such a rare experience to be able to burst into tears because of happiness, and that moment was it for me.

Actor Park Eun-bin gives a speech after receiving the Grand Prize in the TV section for her portrayal of attorney Woo Young-woo in the 2022 hit drama series ″Extraordinary Attorney Woo″ at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards held on April 28 in

How do you feel now, having won the Grand Prize?

I’ve been congratulated so much and it’s made me realize what a fulfilling life I’ve lived. There were people who felt happier for me than I was myself, and that was another thing to be grateful for.

But I think there is now this gap between what people think of me and the person that I think I am. I wrote a little about this on my social media but based on how I’ve lived my life so far, I don’t think I’ll be changing much of the lifestyle I’ve been observing until now. I won’t take this award as pressure on myself in any way. I don’t think I’ll be swayed — I’ll probably just stay the same.

You debuted at the young age of four. How would you describe your 27 years of acting?

I’ve never actually been a person that likes challenges. In fact, I really like to play it safe. I like my life without change and I hope that nothing major will happen.

Even in my acting, I don’t think things like, “I’ll try this or that because it feels special and I’ve never come across anything like this in my own life.” Rather, I just do what I can and then realize in hindsight that it was challenging for me. I don’t start something with a particular goal in mind, but just do it thinking, “This is another mountain I have to climb, another mission for me.”

I try not to bite off more than I can chew. I try to think about the best I can deliver for a work or a character. But I do try my best and I think that all of these experiences are building up inside me.

Actor Park Eun-bin during an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily held at JTBC headquarters in western Seoul. [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

The roles you've chosen in dramas and films have earned you the nickname "bankable star." How does that make you feel?

All I try to do is think of myself in other people's shoes. I try to think about how others would feel watching my work — and the same goes in life, so I try to always treat others the way I want to be treated.

Consuming content means that people are using their time and effort. I choose what I want to watch very carefully. We’re consuming energy when we’re watching something and it involves some kind of decision-making that may not always be so easy for some people.

So I always do my best thinking that I’m taking someone else’s time away and I want to make it worthwhile. This is the thought that I’ve had for a long time. I may not seem so “bankable” to some people, but I hope that I can keep on delivering good stories for people to enjoy.

Who is Park Eun-bin as a person?

Who am I as a person? There was this point in time when I was offered a part, I thought, “Wow, this is how other people see me.” If I was given a role about justice, I would think that that’s how people thought of me. But these days, I’m getting a more diverse range of roles and I think that it’s proof of the expectations people have of me, which I want to live up to.

Whenever I feel like life is unkind to me, I try to think of the end — not in a bad way. I think about what I can leave at the end and I hope that I’m more on the good side than the bad side. I wish to be assessed as a good person, a good grown-up.

What goals do you have, now that you’ve won the Grand Prize?

I don’t intend to feel pressured by this award. I’ll keep on doing what I’ve been doing and do the best at anything I'm given.

The 59th Baeksang Arts Awards made me realize that my dream had already come true. Right now, I want to keep the same goal I had as a child, which is that I want to be a good grown-up. I think the award has actually helped me let go of a lot of the burden off of my shoulders because my dream has already come true. I can now really enjoy myself when I’m working rather than spur myself so harshly to work.