Actor Kang Ji-young, a former member of famed girl group KARA, is back in the spotlight for her upcoming Japanese flick, “Yaru Onna -She’s a Killer.”
Directed by Keiji Miyano, this film shows the journey of Aiko, played by Kang, whose family members were murdered when she was a young girl. Seeking revenge, Aiko grows up to become a contract killer.
When her contract with KARA came to an end four years ago, Kang decided to leave her agency and start her acting career by signing with a Japanese agency, Sweet Power, in 2014. Soon after, she started appearing in Japanese movies for the past four years.
Since KARA used to be very popular in Japan, it wasn’t difficult for Kang to make a name for herself as an actor there. But gaining recognition as a professional actor instead of a former girl group member is a different story.
Kang managed to prove that she can also be a competent actor after appearing in the 2015 action flick “Assassination Classroom.”
Kang recently made a short visit to Korea for the 22nd Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, which kicked off on July 12 and ends on Sunday.
To learn more about her life in Japan and her latest film, Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily recently met with Kang. The following are edited excerpts from the interview.
Q. Was it difficult to start fresh as an actor in Japan?
A. It was really difficult for the first two years. I was really lonely and I often cried. At first, my debut in Japan was an issue in Japan. Some criticized it, asking why a former Korean girl group member gets to be an actor in Japan. I lost confidence at first because I was worried how the Japanese public would take me. I also had difficulty with the language. To make my pronunciation as natural as possible, I had one-on-one Japanese lessons for many hours a day, just working on making my lines perfect.
Q. How did you deal with these difficulties?
When I got the lead role in a short film, I really wanted to do well but there were so many narrations in Japanese and Mandarin, although I played a role who was Korean. The director continued to point out my unnatural pronunciations and I got so upset that I burst into tears in the bathroom.
I just missed home so much I began singing the national anthem and to my surprise, I suddenly felt this courage and stopped crying. I gave myself a pat on the back and gained more confidence by telling myself that I was doing well and that I could do it.
Q. Do you have any plans to come back to Korea?
Of course. Actually, I’ve been reviewing some work [that has been offered to me from Korea]. But I didn’t want to go back before I really get recognized as an actor by both Japanese and Koreans. Some Koreans think I have no plans to go back and work in Korea but that’s not true. It’s just that since I’m here, I have the desire to succeed here before returning to Korea.
Q. Do you still keep in contact with members from KARA?
Yes. We still get along with each other very well, and we communicate with each other through our group chat. But since I’m in Japan, we can’t meet up that often. The [only] member that I meet frequently is Koo Hara, since she comes to Japan a lot.