TV star dragged into political drama

TV still of Secret Garden starring Ha Ji Won, who played the heroine Gil Ra Im. The hit drama show has aired in at least 14 countries.
TV still of Secret Garden starring Ha Ji Won, who played the heroine Gil Ra Im. The hit drama show has aired in at least 14 countries.PHOTO: TWITTER ACCOUNT OF SBS NEWS

SEOUL • South Korean actress Ha Ji Won has become the most talked-about celebrity in her country after a news report revealed that President Park Geun Hye used the name of a character she played in a drama serial at a beauty clinic.

Cable channel JTBC said on Tuesday that Ms Park used the pseudonym Gil Ra Im at the Chaum beauty and anti-ageing clinic in the upscale Gangnam neighbourhood. That was the name of the heroine in the 2011 smash hit Korean drama, Secret Garden.

The presidential Blue House declined to comment.

Ms Park reportedly visited the clinic between January and July 2011, when she was a lawmaker, and continued to do so even after she took office in 2013. She allegedly received free health and beauty treatments worth tens of millions of won. Her long-time friend Choi Soon Sil, another VIP customer of the same centre, is suspected of pressuring government agencies into granting the centre business favours.

Chaum, where the enrolment fee is US$130,000 (S$184,000), offers anti-ageing, detox, food therapy and spa services, according to its website.

Secret Garden, about the life of a struggling stunt woman, Gil Ra Im, who falls in love with a rich department store owner, has aired in at least 14 countries.

The search term "Gil Ra Im" has become a buzzword on Naver, South Korea's top search engine.

"Park must have been a big fan of the drama," one netizen wrote in a tone full of ridicule.

The Instagram account of the actress was flooded with comments comforting her for being dragged into the country's political scandal, reported Korea Times.

REUTERS, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'TV star dragged into political drama'. Print Edition | Subscribe