Making comebacks at the same time, Kim Ha-neul got criticized for her “unchanging image” while Kim Hee-sun was highly praised for her new image with “pink hair”.
The performance of Kim Ha-neul when returning to the small screen for the first time after two years was quite disappointing. Her comeback drama “Kill Heel” ended with a rating of around 4%. The situation of Kim Hee-sun, who also made a drama comeback at the same time, is similar.
Although both “Drama Queens” recorded unexpected performances, the public’s reactions toward the two actresses are so different. The viewers gave a coldhearted gaze at Kim Ha-neul’s attitude of staying with the same concept. Meanwhile, Kim Hee-sun, who tried to change her character with a drastic image transformation, is receiving enthusiastic support.
Ever since her debut, Kim Ha-neul has starred in many works as the main character. After making a film debut with “Bye June” in 1998, Kim Ha-neul has shown her excellent acting skills and wide acting spectrum with works of different genres, from romantic comedy to melodrama, such as “Ditto”, “My Tutor Friend”, “Lovers of Six Years”, “My Girlfriend Is an Agent”, “Blind”, etc.
She has also been so active in dramas and made several hits one after another. Some of her representative dramas are SBS’s “Happy Together”, MBC’s “Into the Sunlight”, “Secret”, “Romance”, SBS’s “On Air”, “A Gentleman’s Dignity”, etc. She helped a drama reach the highest rating of 40.2%.
It was in 2016 when Kim Ha-neul got married that her “Drama Queen” title began to be taken away. KBS2’s “On the Way to the Airport” achieved a viewership of 9.3%. It was not a bad performance, but the double-digit record that Kim Ha-neul had kept for a long time was broken for the first time. The downward trend in her performance has continued since then. The average ratings of her later work – JTBC’s “The Wind Blows” and “18 Again” were 5.7% and 3.2%, respectively.
The crisis that came to Kim Ha-neul was something that was self-inflicted. During her debut days, Kim Ha-neul was known for her strength in digesting any kind of character. She was given the title “Actress without limit” through her different images and appearances, including the female lead in a tragedy, a role involved in an unconventional theme of the student-teacher love, and even a blind.
Of course, the acting ability of the “trustworthy actress” Kim Ha-neul is still excellent. However, she is now rarely seen changing her acting styles and challenging different images like how she did during her heyday. It seems Kim Ha-neul is pursuing a more stable direction, insisting on similar characters, actings, and stylings without new transformations.
Kim Ha-neul’s representative work “My Tutor Friend” attracted 4.93 million moviegoers. Her character in this movie with an innocent, refreshing and lovely appearance is still talked about 19 years later. After becoming well-known with the “teacher” image, she repeatedly selected similar roles afterward. In the 2002 drama “Romance”, her famous line “I’m a teacher, and you’re a student!”. However, this concept didn’t work for the third time. In 2017, she aimed for another box office hit with the movie “Misbehavior” but recorded the lowest achievement ever with only 110,000 tickets sold.
On the other hand, Kim Hee-sun, who was considered Asia’s most beautiful goddess, is still renewing herself. As an actress, she changed the way the viewers look at her through a variety of transformations focusing only on her appearance.
After achieving back-to-back success through KBS2’s “Men of the Bath House,” SBS’s “Mr. Q,” and “Tomato,” she challenged herself in the martial arts genre through the action movie “Out Live.” Later, Kim Hee-sun also drew praise for her portrayal of Oh Dan-hee, a bubbly and brave character in SBS’s romantic drama “Smile Again”.
After she rose to the top, instead of sticking to the same image and being safe, Kim Hee-sun continued to take on new challenges in acting. In 2012, through the fantasy drama “Faith,” she moved past her ‘goddess’ image and showed a new side of her as an actress, giving the audience a refreshing surprise. In 2015, she garnered attention by transforming into a resilient mother who is notorious for fighting and touching viewers’ hearts by showing warm maternal love in MBC’s “Angry Mom.” In 2018, she challenged herself by accepting a lawyer role for the first time through tvN’s mystery drama “Room No. 9.”
Dubbed the most beautiful actress in Korea, it must not have been an easy choice for Kim Hee-sun to make drastic changes to her appearance. However, she was willing to do that to showcase her versatility as an actress. In addition to going from long hair to a bob cut, through the drama “Wedding Dresser,” Kim Hee-sun once shocked viewers when she appeared with a big afro. She also took everyone by surprise when she showed up at an award ceremony with reggae hair.
In the 29th year of her debut, Kim Hee-sun‘s transformation is still not stopping. The 46-year-old actress is appearing in MBC’s ongoing drama “Tomorrow” with trendy short pink hair and red eye makeup as she plays a Grim Reaper. Not only boasting beautiful and elegant visuals, but she also stuns viewers and dominates the cast with her rough tone and overflowing charisma.
Each production starring Kim Hee-sun is accompanied by the phrase “rediscovery of Kim Hee-sun,” because she always brings something new to the table and introduces an exciting, never-before-seen side of hers. Kim Hee-sun also laughed about this at the press conference of “Tomorrow,” saying, “I’m being rediscovered for the 22nd time.” It is also proof that Kim Hee-sun challenging herself in diverse roles and images was successful. This is why things like the number of audiences and viewership ratings don’t matter to Kim Hee-sun.
What’s important is the process, not the result. One of the advantages of being an actor is that you can disguise and immerse yourself in a variety of characters. Although Kim Hee-sun has already become a well-respected top-tier star in the industry, how she is still passionate about her job and constantly renews herself is drawing admiration.