About Lee In Hye: At the age of ten, Lee In Hye (’00, Journalism and Broadcasting) appeared in the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Children’s Choir show, and soon afterward debuted in the Korean drama The Songs of Angels (1992), which marked the start of her career as a child actress. Since then, she has actively appeared in shows and films, eventually becoming a well-recognized actress. Lee In Hye later received her Master’s and Doctor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Korea University (KU). In 2015, she was appointed as a professor at Kyungsung University.
Eomchinttal is a Korean term that could be directly translated to a “mother’s friend’s daughter,” often signifying a person who is courteous, well educated, and charming all at once. In the October issue, The Granite Tower (GT) had an opportunity to interview one of the most eminent eomchinttals in the entertainment industry, Lee In Hye, who currently works both as an actress and a professor. Throughout the interview, Lee shared her memories at KU, the decisions she made as an actress, and personal advice on how she discriminates between her public and private life as a famous public figure.
What is the most memorable experience you had in KU? How big of a mark has KU left in your life?
Prior to middle school I was fully occupied by my career as a child actress and in high school I attended an all-girls school, which naturally isolated me from boys around my age. Therefore, KU offered the first official opportunity for me to casually mingle, chat, and simply socialize with male students. But most importantly, KU was the stepping stone in my journey to achieving my dreams. It was during my undergraduate years that I first envisioned becoming a professor, and I strongly believe that I attended KU at just the right time to start drawing up blueprints for my future. What are some distinct characteristics that make you stand out from other actors and actresses? Most actors try to claim the honor of being a top star, who is loved and recognized by many people. However, I have always aspired to something other than those typical dreams. Rather than hoping to become a top star, I challenge myself to embody diverse roles. I am actually the type of person who tends to visit the same restaurant and select the same thing from the menu every time I am out for a meal. Oddly enough, when it comes to acting, I boldly enjoy selecting roles that could contribute to expanding my horizon, rather than restricting myself to safe roles in my comfort zone.
What inspired you to become a professor at such a young age?
My mother is a human cultural asset as a traditional Korean dancer, so I grew up watching my mother teach and prepare lectures. Being exposed to teaching at an early age gradually built up my affinity towards teaching students. Also, compared to other occupations, acting is very unstable. Every time I complete one film, I take a year off so that the images of the subsequent roles do not overlap. Most of my close actor friends take advantage of that time to indulge in personal hobbies such as playing sports or traveling. However, I spent my entire life either studying or acting, so the only possible choice for me was to focus on academia.
How do you manage to juggle two distinct occupations?
Without a doubt, the two occupations of an actor and professor differ drastically. However, I believe that these divergent characteristics are what brings harmony into my life. While research is the sole focus of professors, actors often strive toward new, disparate goals since they have to cooperate with new teams, directors, and actors every time they receive new roles. The experimental characteristic of an actor adds a bit of diversity into my somewhat bland life as a professor. Meanwhile, since the nature of being an actor itself is quite unstable, the career of a professor adds stability into my life.
Do you tend to separate your private and public life? If so, how?
Since I worked as an actress from an early age, my mother was concerned that I would be bullied at school. At studios, I wore luxurious clothes but at school, my mother made me wear the ivory-stained uniforms passed along by the school’s previous alumni, making me look a bit shabby. My mother’s efforts to make me appear like a typical student have naturally inspired me to differentiate between my public and private life. Apart from my fancy occupation exists a normal and ordinary Lee In Hye, so I try to be myself in my personal space. During my college years, I attempted to fulfill my desires without putting constraints in my personal life, such as attending Membership Trainings (MT) and various extracurricular activities.
▲ Lee In Hye. PROVIDED BY LEE IN HYE.
Have you ever encountered hardships in balancing or distinguishing those two lives?
Back when I was in college I hung out with friends and attended classes without a manager, living the life of a typical student. However, once in a while, stalkers wandered throughout the campus, waiting for me. Fortunately, whenever my friends spotted a suspicious person lurking around, they gave me a heads-up, alerting me to “stay away from the Political Science and Economics Building” or “meander around the gate.” My status as a public figure intruded on my personal life, often giving rise to potential dangers.
What are some of the values you live by in your personal life?
We live in a world where competition permeates practically every facet of our daily lives. This competition is inevitable in the acting field; because auditions are required for every single role, everyone in the industry is forced to become competitors. However, just like how I am more of a long distance runner instead of a 100 meter sprinter, I prefer going through my work steadily to working at breakneck speed. I find it crucial to maintain my own pace, rather than forcing myself into the hectic standards of today’s world, and this, I believe, is one of the central values that I live by.
Do you have any final advice you want to offer to those who aspire to become actors?
Many people aspire to become successful celebrities like actress Kim Hye-su or singer Rain. Of course, I have great respect for them and believe that they have so many distinct qualities that others can learn from. However, I would like to emphasize that it is extremely important for us to become trailblazers and pioneers instead of imitators. In fact, this applies to everyone, regardless of what dream they hold. Since we all face personal hardships in different environments, I feel the need for us to take some time to do some soulsearching about our own unique circumstances in achieving our passions, instead of mindlessly following in the footsteps of role models.