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Debuting at age nine, Shim Eun-kyung went on to become one of South Koreaís most bankable actresses, starring in hit television dramas, and box office blockbusters like SUNNY and MISS GRANNY.  Moved by her love of Japanese cinema, Shim immigrated to Japan to make films there. 

At Japan Cuts 2019, Shim spoke exclusively with LMD about her new horizons, and new film, BLUE HOUR, a story of an unusual friendship.

Dig it!



Shim Eun-kyung


The Lady Miz Diva:  As someone who enjoys your South Korean films and dramas, I hoped to meet you someday, but I never expected to do so at a Japanese film festival.

Shim Eun-kyung:  Yes, I actually think itís quite strange.  Iíve been working as an actor in South KoreaÖ  No, well, actually, Iím really a Korean person acting in Korea.  So, when I decided that I would work in Japan and make Japanese films, Iím actually really surprised that this film is here at Japan Cuts, a festival for Japanese film only.

It really makes me feel that movies transcend nations.  And it gives us opportunities to speak to people from all around the world.


LMD:  I think the natural question is, what drew you to want to make films in Japan?

SEk:  Iíve always had this ambition to work in films outside of Korea, in many different places, but one of those places happens to be Japan.  I have a lot of interest in Japanese culture, and I have been influenced by Japanese filmmakers; the names that come up are Kore-eda Hirokazu, and Shinji Aoyama.  Those are two filmmakers that I consider an influence. 

So, now that I get to make Japanese films, it makes me really happy, but it is also very strange, and I kind of canít believe it to this day.  But it is such a great chance for me, and I am just really trying my best.  I donít even know how to explain it, but I just have to say I am really lucky.


LMD:  As someone who speaks with a lot of Asian artists, I sense that often their managements seem unprepared for international interest, while the talent themselves are excited to collaborate with overseas artists, and meet global audiences.  

Was that part of your motivation to work internationally?  Why did you decide to actually make the jump?

SEk:  As actors, I think that many people want to work in different countries for many different reasons, but, myself, in particular, I want to have as many experiences as I can; and these experiences are what build up my ability to act.  So, if I receive a chance to act in a place other than Korea or Japan, I just want to take it.


LMD:  You are here with the film, BLUE HOUR.  What attracted you to this project?

SEk:  First of all, I think itís a story about women in this current generation, and IĎd say that it is pretty rare to see a film that is just about women, and so, I immediately knew that I wanted to do it.  I think that the script is really solid, and conveys the directorís feelings very directly.  And itís a story about adults today. 

Also, the character of Kiyoura, she is so evocative; she has many different feelings.  She experiences loneliness, but on the other hand, she is very humorous, and knows exactly how Japanese humour works.  And so, I knew that I would be able to express many different feelings through my acting.

Also, the director is extremely talented, and I knew that together with this director, we would be able to make something great.


LMD:  Tell us how you created the character of Kiyoura, and what you thought of her when you first read the script?

SEk:  For BLUE HOUR, I feel like it was such a collaboration between the actors and the director.  I really worked with her to build this character, and I think thatís clear in the film.  This character is kind of interesting, because her name is Japanese, but we donít really know where sheís from.  She has kind of like a manga character-like quality to her. 

One thing is, I would never try to say that sheís either a Japanese character, or a Korean character:  The things that I focused on were just her being; what she might feel or do in a certain scene.  To put it bluntly, sheís a very strange character.


LMD:  Why do you think Kiyoura and Sunada are friends?  Weíre told theyíve known each other for a long time, but they are such opposites.

SEk:  So, I really donít want to give too much away, but I think that when you watch the film until the end, Kiyouraís presence become clear.  Yes, Sunada and Kiyoura have a relationship, and yes, youíd call it a friendship, but actually this is a story about one woman.  I just really donít want to give it away, so Iím struggling not to say too much. {Laughs}

Kiyoura, to me, of course, she comes off as Sunadaís kind of strange friend, but if I were to say that if you represented Sunadaís soul, that Kiyoura actually shows one part of it.  She is a very multifaceted character.  Itís as if Kiyoura is able to speak for the pureness in Sunadaís soul.


LMD:  Because we donít know much about Kiyoura, did you work with Director Hakota Yuko to create a backstory, or make up one on your own?

SEk:  As far as backstory, I think maybe I made one up on my own.  I didnít really receive a backstory from Director Hakota, but in the film, Kiyoura appears quite suddenly.  The most that the director would do, was direct how I should act, or how I should play the role. 

For instance, she would suggest a lot of ad-libs, and in fact, there are a lot of ad-libs in the film.  She would ask me to ad-lib when {co-star} Kaho wasnít prepared, in a way surprising her, and a lot of my role was pulling out the character of Sunada.  So, as far as KiyouraĎs backstory, I think that was something that I could sometimes imagine while I was on set, but I canít say for sure where she comes from.  But one thing is for sure, and itís that she loves Sunada.


LMD:  Was ad-libbing a new experience for you?

SEk:  First of all, ad-libs are really difficult.  Itís really hard to time them in the correct way for each scene, because you run the risk of ruining it.  So, itís actually something that you have to think about very thoroughly.

I hadnít adlibbed a lot before in my films, but the director really wanted me to try them out in this one.  So, it was actually that I had to read the script really carefully, and immerse myself in the scene, so that once I was on set, they would come out naturally.  But in short, ad-libs are very difficult. {Laughs}


LMD:  You have literally grown up in the South Korean film industry.  Many times when actors make films overseas, they find that working with an international cast and crew gives them a different perspective, or approach to their own work. 

Has this opportunity to work in Japan given you a different point of view about acting? 

SEk:  I think, first, just describing the differences, the mood on the set is very different.  For instance, in Korea, to make a feature film, it might take three or four months; but in Japan, itís more common for movies to take a very brief amount of time.  In fact, BLUE HOUR only took two weeks to shoot.

First of all, the conditions on set are so different, and I have to match my acting to those conditions.  I threw myself into the script, and was reading the script in order to build my character; and through that process, I learned a lot.

Just by reading Japanese dialogue, I learned to feel a lot of new things, and thought, ĎOh, this is how I can build my character.í  In fact, I felt I kind of felt a little self-critical about how Iíd been building my characters before.  So, all in all, I would say that working in other countries is a huge learning experience for me.


LMD:  You have a lifetime of film experience, and meeting you now, I see that you have a very focused point of view about movies, and a deep curiosity in how they are made.  Have you been inspired to make films of your own, perhaps as a director, or writer?

SEk:  So, when I was a child actor, I definitely had the dream of becoming a director, but you can say that I kind of gave up. {Laughs}

I think that directing is a really difficult job.  In order to make a film, a director really needs to have a message that they want to convey to the audience.  Iím still a little inexperienced, and Iím quite young, and I donít know what I want to express yet; so letís just say that Iíve put it to the side, and right now I just want to focus on acting.


LMD:  What is next for you?

SEk:  As you know, Iíve been working in Japan for a bit, and Iíve been there for quite a long time, but I just really want to keep working between Korea and Japan, and Iíd kind of like to have parallel careers between the two countries.

Thereís a movie that Iíve been shooting for about a year, and thatís going to come out next year.  Itís in Japanese.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 28th, 2019


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Stills Courtesy of Blue Hour Production Committee


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