The quiet elegance of Lee Da-hae in a traditional hanbok kept the eyes of the nation focused on living room television sets last night. This was to be expected as KBS and its filming partner, Olive 9, have been promoting Lee’s appearance in the new KBS drama “Hello, Miss” very seriously. It is Lee’s first television appearance since 2005.
A press conference welcoming Lee’s return was held at the lavish Imperial Palace Hotel in Nonhyeon-dong last week. Lee’s previous work has been with SBS in 2005 and MBC in 2004. Both dramas scored quite a coup, and it was KBS’s turn to test its luck. Despite all the buildup, the 23-year-old actress was calm and modest, at least in front of the press.
“I think a person can get only greedy if she or he keeps on winning,” Lee said as she leaned forward to talk into the microphone. “I can’t always expect my TV work to succeed, but I admit I have been very lucky so far.”
“I am not going to attempt too much this time, but only do my best,” she said.
In contrast to Lee, the producers had good reason to be nervous.
On the same night “Hello, Miss” is airing, rival MBC is ready with a new detective drama, “Hit,” starring Ko Hyeon-jung, and SBS has hired star scriptwriter Kim Su-hyeon and cast one of Korea’s best actresses, Kim Hui-ae, to appear in “My Man’s Woman.”
“I would be lying if I said I am completely okay [with competing against older actors whom I respect],” Lee said. “But our viewer targets are different. Ko is working on a detective piece and Kim’s drama is targeting an audience that would be older than mine.”
Based on a teen novel, “Five Kimchi Dumplings,” the drama “Hello, Miss” features Lee as the last living daughter of a once-respected clan in the countryside. She comes out wearing a beautiful hanbok, showing off her traditional feminine virtues. Her peaceful life is interrupted when the son of a rich investor, Hwang Dong-gyu, (played by singer and actor Lee Ji-hoon) demands she sell her ancestral house, which has 99 pillars, to him. (Under rules dating from the Joseon Dynasty, no one but a king could have a house with more than 99 pillars.) But she scoffs at his offer and tries to save her home by holding traditional home-stay programs for urban residents. She also finds that Hwang descended from a servant family that worked for her clan during the days of the monarchy.
“As you can tell, the drama’s genre is quite similar to what I have been working on before,” Lee said, carefully explaining that she was a producer’s favorite for romantic comedies. “I guess it’s up to me to make it different for the viewers and make it fun.”
Lee Min-hong, the director of the drama, was very proud of his actress.
“She would call me at night saying that she wants to talk about the next scene we will be filming,” Mr. Lee said. “She says she can’t fall asleep because she is so worried about it. She is a very responsible girl.”
Lee debuted on Korean television after graduating from Burwood Girls High school in Sydney. She won SBS Performance Awards’ Top 10 Popularity Award in 2006, SBS Performance Awards’: Performance Award ― Drama Special and the 41st Baeksang Arts Awards’: Best New Actress in 2005.