Gender- bending charm

Kim You Jung, 17, has acted in more than 50 films and TV dramas since the age of four.
Kim You Jung, 17, has acted in more than 50 films and TV dramas since the age of four.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Former child actress Kim You Jung scores a hit in her first adult lead role as a girl disguised as a eunuch in Love In The Moonlight

South Korean actress Kim You Jung's fan meet in Singapore last Saturday is titled First Memory. But the 17-year-old barely has any recollection of her early days in the industry. After all, she started acting at the age of four.

Speaking to local press before the meet, she says: "I can't remember what it was like before primary school. I have a memory of myself through watching my productions. It's embarrassing watching myself."

She appears to be far from a spoilt young star. In fact, she seems mature beyond her years and thoroughly professional - she turned up for the interview despite sporting a cast on her left arm as a result of a "minor" injury sustained from a fall a few days ago.

After building a filmography of more than 50 films and TV dramas, with fantasy hit Moon Embracing The Sun (2012) among the most well known, she is coming into her own as a grown-up actress after starring in her first adult lead role in historical drama Love In The Moonlight (2016), as a girl disguised as a eunuch, who ends up romancing the king.

"I think I was the most handsome among the cast," Kim says.

"Just joking. The other actors were good-looking, caring and nice. It was comfortable playing a guy. I didn't have to bother about how I looked when I ate."

Her gender-bending role charmed audiences, who voted her the Most Popular Television Actress at the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards earlier this month. The annual ceremony celebrates the best in South Korean television and film.

The spike in Kim's popularity translated into the opportunity to hold her first overseas fan meet in Taipei in February and in Singapore over the weekend.

The star was all smiles at the small-scale event held at a ballroom in Grand Copthorne Waterfront hotel.

Besides the usual fan meet programme of interactive games and a chit-chat segment, she serenaded the 200-plus fans with a rendition of the ballad Cloudy Day, a classic by Singapore singer Stefanie Sun.

There were times she showed she was just a wide-eyed high-school girl with a veteran actress' resume.

Stumped by interview questions, she threw glances in the direction of her minders in an obvious plea for help.

And the doe-eyed beauty wistfully talked about a rare opportunity to work on a school play with her friends.

She says: "I learnt a lot through acting. But I didn't spend enough time with my friends because I grew up on film sets. That is my one regret."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Gender- bending charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe