For years, blockbuster films full of actors have dominated the Korean film industry.
Melodramatic films focusing on women’s roles were few and far between and actresses in their late 30s and 40s had a hard time finding roles befitting their status.
Yet, Son Ye-jin, a 36-year-old actress dubbed the “queen of melodrama” is defying the odds and enjoying exceptional success on both the big and small screens.
Son’s new film Be With You, in which she plays the mother of a little boy, has had strong ticket sales at cinemas since its March 14 release.
More than 2.5 million tickets had been sold for the romance up to Monday, surpassing the break-even point of two million.
It still ranks as the fifth most-viewed film at the box office, signalling that its ticketing power may last longer.
On the small screen, Son’s drama, Something in the Rain, her comeback after five years, is seeing a continuing rise in the ratings.
She plays the role of a woman who falls in love with her best friend’s younger brother.
The fourth episode, which aired on Saturday on JTBC, posted a 4.8 per cent rating, outrunning JTBC's most successful drama The Lady in Dignity, whose fourth episode posted 3.3 per cent and finished with 12.1 per cent. Hopes are running high that Son’s new drama may do even better than The Lady in Dignity.
The actress, best known for her role in the 2003 film The Classic and 2004’s A Moment to Remember, made her debut in 2000 with a supporting role in the film Secret Tears.
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Since then her stellar acting career has been studded with commercial successes.
Out of all 17 films in which Son has starred as the leading actress, only four films did not meet the break-even point in the local market – including Into the White Night and The Truth Beneath.
On the small screen, she continues her winning streak, with the viewership ratings of all her past dramas easily posting more than 10 per cent.
“Among the actresses who started their careers nearly concurrently, Son and Jun Ji-hyun are the few who made it through to grow into big-name actresses with long-running popularity,” culture critic Lee Moon-won said.
He says Son’s enduring popularity stems from her successful transition from a young actress appealing to male fans to one with largely female fans.
“Her fandom started with the explosive support of male fans, but it moved toward women with more stable ticketing power.”
In her early acting career, she mostly played as weak characters that men protected, creating many fans among men but not among women.
Yet, by taking on more challenging roles, she continued to expand her acting horizons and earned the approval of both men and women.
This article originally appeared in Korea Times.