[BAEKSANG AND BEYOND] Park Se-wan says acting is her vocation

Actor Park Se-wan, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' film section for her role in comedy flick ″6/45,″ poses for photos after an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily in Sangam-dong, western S

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.

In a letter that actor Park Se-wan wrote to her 30-year-old self as a child, she amused herself with all the big dreams and goals she thought she would have achieved by the time she had fully grown up. Now in her late 20s, standing proud in front of the letter was difficult for Park — until she met comedy flick "6/45" (2022) that won her first-ever trophy at the Baeksang Arts Awards.

"6/45" is a two-hour-long comedy film about North Korean soldiers who pick up a winning lottery ticket that a South Korean soldier loses near the border and the incidents that take place during both parties' pursuit of wealth and happiness through the piece of paper.

"6/45" refers to what South Koreans call a lottery ticket because you have to guess six numbers out of 45.

Park was given the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards film section for her portrayal of Yeon-hee, a female North Korean soldier who helps a South Korean soldier hiding inside a North Korean military base in disguise and ends up falling in love with him, and her spot-on North Korean accent and playful acting.

"Seeing my name on it makes it real, but everything felt like a dream — and still does, in a way," she said after seeing her trophy.

"All the compliments and congratulatory messages I received after winning the award made me feel like they were telling me that I had been making the right choices, that this was the right path. There were times when I was struggling and doubting myself. But this made me feel like I was doing alright."

Born in 1994, Park landed her first television role in 2016 and worked on smaller parts until she took her first lead in KBS2 drama series "Dance Sports Girls" in 2018 and won the Best New Actress award at the KBS Drama Awards that year.

Park was also the lead for domestic online streaming platform Watcha's original series "Ultimate Weapon Alice" (2022) and played the younger version of actor Lee Na-young's lead role as Park Ha-kyung in "One Day Off," also an original series for domestic streaming platform Wavve.

Actor Park Se-wan as North Korean soldier Yeon-hee in comedy flick ″6/45″ [CINNAMON HOME CHOICE]

"I've never taken a break," Park said. "I don't like slacking. I like acting, and I just want to get to the next set. I've never taken acting classes so the set is where I get to learn and then try something new for myself. I really want to compliment myself for not having taken a break."

Park is currently filming "Victory," a musical film on cheerleading. The details for the movie's release have not been announced yet. So until then, all she wants to say is, "I am actor Park Se-wan. Please remember me."

Park sat down for an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily to discuss more about her big win at the Baeksang Awards, her career and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Congratulations on your award. How did you feel when your name was called out at the ceremony?

A. I feel like I'm going to cry again just thinking back to that moment. Lee Hyo-ri and IU once said in a show that they are obsessed with composure because they don't like how they feel when they're excited. I agree with them. And I agree with them because I'm such a coward, and there are a lot of moments when my self-esteem is low.

So I was trying so hard to hold all my emotions back, not just at that moment but throughout my career, but they all just burst out as soon as my name was called out. Tears were flowing out, and I felt dizzy. I was recovering from the flu back then, so adding that to the nervousness meant I couldn't think of anything.

Actor Park Se-wan gives a speech after winning the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' film section for her role in comedy flick ″6/45″ last April. [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

Did you really not expect that you would win?

Not at all, and I tried not to think so, too. I tried not to get too excited or hopeful. Now that I think back, I really shouldn't have held myself back like that and just enjoyed myself at that moment.

How do you feel now, having won the award?

When I was younger, I would watch these shows and admire everything. I just very vaguely wished I could be there too, especially because I'm an actor too, and it's only natural for an actor to think that. But I got to be there, the place I only dreamed about.

I wrote a letter when I was younger to my 30-year-old self. There were so many dreams and goals that I thought I would have fulfilled, and I really got to live them thanks to "6/45" and Baeksang.

I've never had any grand goals since I debuted and started acting. I just thought about what I could do here and now, so the win made me feel even more overwhelmed with joy.

How did you come to choose "6/45"?

I overthink, so I traveled to Jeju Island alone [to clear my head], and that's when I received the script for "6/45." I guess I must not have liked the title very much because I had been putting off reading the script until I was done with my trip.

But I started reading on the subway on my way home, and I couldn't go home because the script was so good. I remember standing in front of the subway gates and being unable to put the script down because it was so good.

"6/45" was the first work I chose purely because I liked it. I didn't think about anything else. I just chose it because I felt it was good. And the chemistry on the set was so great, too. All everyone was ever talking about on the set was how to do the scenes. If I did something, then people would give me pointers and suggestions on how to do it better. I really think it was thanks to the team I turned out so well in the film.

Actor Park Se-wan, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' film section [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

What did you mean that you didn't think about anything else?

I started acting because I like acting. But somewhere along the way, I started thinking, "Well, this is a main character, and that is something else." I was thinking more about things other than the film itself. Doing so wore me out. Every job is tiring and difficult, but all I could do was think about what I did and regret it at the end of the day.

But with the works I chose purely for myself, I found myself smiling even if things took a bad turn and were exhausting. So now, I'm determined to keep making the same choice in the future.

Did you ever regret becoming an actor?

Never. Not once. I'm actually liking it more now. I want to make this sound fancier, but after you peel all my skin off, the roots that I'm left with are in acting. I like acting, and I don't have anything else other than that. I keep doing it because I like it, and that's just it.

So was it acting that got you into difficult times but also pulled you out, too?

I really didn't have a hobby. My life was all about acting and nothing else. Even if I worked out, it would be for a part in something, or if I learned to play the guitar, that would also be for a part in a drama. That actually led me to a very big burnout because there was no "me."

Then one day, I was on the sofa looking myself up on YouTube. I had always thought of myself as this person who's never good enough and lacking. I always think things like, "Why did I do that? Why did I make that choice?" I just keep on criticizing myself. But what I found when I looked myself up on YouTube was that I was prettier than I thought I was a few years back — so much better than I thought I was.

The work that I was on didn't do well, but looking back, I had learned something anyway. And at that moment, it hit me. Why did I always think so badly about myself? I had set my standards of happiness too high and told myself that I can only be happy if I reached a certain point. So now, I'm trying to find happiness in small things and find my true self.

So yes, it was acting that got me through.

Actor Park Se-wan, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award at the 59th Baeksang Arts Awards' film section [BAEKSANG ARTS AWARDS ORGANIZING COMMITTEE]

What are your goals as an actor?

My goal is to keep acting, which I love so much, for a long, long time. I wish to be in people's memories for a long time.

When I was younger, I was worried that I wasn't "unique" enough. I didn't have that particular image as an actor, and people told me they were confused to learn that some of the characters that I had done were by me. So with "Life Is Beautiful" (2022) and "6/45," people wouldn't recognize the two different characters were by me.

I used to worry that I don't leave an impression on people's minds, but I think that may be my strength. Whether it be a new hairstyle or outfit, I can fit into anything and transform myself greatly. I think that's a strength that will keep me acting for a long time.