South Korean actress Lee Min-jung wants to be a man.
“It’s because I have been a woman. I know women’s mind,” the 34-year-old beauty explains in an exclusive e-mail interview. “I can be popular,” she cheekily adds, alluding to ways to woo the fairer sex.
To put things in perspective, Lee is responding to a question about swapping bodies. Her latest acting project – the K-drama Please Come Back, Mister – revolves around two men who come back from death in the bodies of others.
In the 16-episode fantasy comedy, the actress plays Shin Da-hye, a devoted housewife married to workaholic department store manager Kim Young-soo (played by Kim In-kwon).
Unfortunately, Young-soo dies on the job due to exhaustion. In a bizarre twist of fate, the deceased returns to life – in the body of super good-looking Lee Hae-joon (played by hallyu star Rain) – to tie up some loose ends.
An unresolved problem isn’t something that Lee reckons she would end up regretting. “If you spend your time preciously, your life can be worthwhile,” she says.
“I make decisions carefully whenever it happens, so that I can do my best,” she adds. Coming from a woman who has weathered a major scandal, that statement takes on a graver tone.
Lee is married to dashing actor Lee Byung-hun. Two years ago, the Terminator Genisys actor was embroiled in a blackmail scandal with two K-pop girl group members who threatened to release a compromising video of the man (see sidebar).
Throughout the controversy (the 45-year-old actor subsequently won a legal battle against the women), Lee staunchly stood by her man – maintaining a calm and collected front. That perseverance to keep their union strong paid off when the couple was blessed with a son named Lee Joon-hoo in March last year.
“My baby makes my family bright and warm. I think this stimulates me in a good way. I want to show people that I have been mature,” she opens up, indirectly addressing that bleak chapter in her life.
The granddaughter of renowned painter Park No-soo, Lee is a relatively “late bloomer” in the entertainment scene, having made her debut at 25.
While her contemporaries began chasing after the limelight in their teens, she decided to pursue higher education instead – graduating with a theatre degree from the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University.
Reflecting on her experiences in the industry, Lee says she’s open to the idea of her son following in her footsteps. What advice would she pass on to him then when the time comes?
“I want to tell him to try his best all the time. I would ask him if he really likes acting, and I’ll tell him that he has to put up with some parts,” she muses.
At the moment though, she’s just soaking up her new role as a mother. “I haven’t changed much, but I think I get much more emotional due to my baby,” she says.
That new-found sentimentality is working in her favour. Despite its light and fluffy undercurrent, Lee’s role in Please Come Back, Mister – as a widow coping with the sudden death of her husband – requires her to turn on the waterworks numerous times in the series.
The actress reveals that she was exhausted by the crying scenes in the series. But what made it harder was how sometimes those sad emotions stayed on long after filming wrapped up for the day. The fact that the drama is a comedic offering makes things even more challenging.
“I think acting in comedies is harder than acting in melodramas. Everyone has a different sense of humour,” she offers.
That doesn’t mean she will deliberately avoid the genre though. Ultimately, she wants to build a diverse and impressive body of work.
Lee has appeared in a range of movies and TV series – from frothy romantic comedies (Cyrano Agency, All About My Romance, Cunning Single Lady) to dramatic thrillers (Searching for the Elephant, White Night).
The idea of second chances with loved ones was partly the reason she decided to pursue Please Come Back, Mister. It may sound morbid, but how would she like to be best remembered by her family and friends?
“I hope they remember that I was very precious.”
Please Come Back, Mister airs every Thursday and Friday at 8.55pm on ONE HD (Astro B.yond Ch393).