It’s the QUEEN’s birthday! Let’s raise our glasses for a toast as we celebrate her birthday. Here’s a special write-up showing her marvelous transformation in the industry, from a bright little star to a splendid sun, through the years. Let’s take a look back and see what must have been an odyssey to this lady. Ladies and gentleman, HA JI WON.
Asia’s Horror Princess, The Drama Queen, Korea’s Top Actress, The 10 Million Movie Actress, Korea’s National Actress, The Pearl of Asia, The Amazing Woman, The Queen, The Queen of Action, Korea’s Angelina Jolie, Korea’s Kate Middleton — are just some of the monikers given to Ha Ji Won for always being the best in whatever she does. But little do some people know, this actress, who gained much popularity as the rebellious high school girl Jang Se Jin in the 1999 KBS drama, School 2, in fact, had failed over 100 auditions before she had her debut. Apparently, it wasn’t an easy feat. There were hardships and obstacles along the way, but with talent, perseverance, and humility, all those impediments were just appetizers for every new beginning. As the quote says, “The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory,” and Ha Ji Won’s long journey has proven that it’s a fact. What’s amazing about this actress is how she always exceeds her limits and how she manages to shine even in a few bipolar writing works (such as Empress Ki). And even though I’m a staunch fan, I have to be honest that there are times when I don’t like the way she picks a script (The Huntresses, Sector 7, to name two) because I think those types of roles just limit her range. Right now, Ha Ji Won’s Hollywood venture after signing on with the United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the largest talent agencies in the world and also home to Hollywood veteran actor Johnny Depp, is being talked about here and there. One thing I don’t like about the Hollywood is that Asian actors tend to be typecast there, the reason why a part of me wants Ha Ji Won to just stay in Korea where she’s well-loved. But hey, that’s a new challenge, and I believe that she’ll do well like what she always does.
Ha Ji Won’s Transformation: From A Rebellious High School Kid To Yuan Dynasty’s Empress
Initially, she was rejected by some PDs and even got No-she-can’t-do-it comments; she was even humiliated and shouted at by the PDs of Dragon’s Tears and Truth Game. But then, look at her now. She’s emerged as one of the most sought after and award-winning actresses, proving those people wrong. From a rebellious high school kid to Yuan Dynasty’s Empress, from Jang Se Jin to Empress Ki. It was like a wonderful evolution of a bright little star to a splendid sun.
School 2 (1999-2000)
A young Ha Ji Won made her TV debut in the 1996 KBS teen drama, New Generation Report: Adults Don’t Understand Us!. She then appeared in the 1998 KBS historical drama, Dragon’s Tears, where she played the role of a young lady who seduced the King, and in the 1999 KBS drama, Dangerous Lullaby, where her character, Young Eun, ended up committing suicide in the sea, landing her numerous supporting roles in dramaland. But it was through the 1999 KBS drama, School 2, where she played the role of the troubled teen Jang Se Jin, when she was finally recognized as actress Ha Ji Won.
School was an extremely popular series that premiered in 1999 and aired a total of 4 seasons with a new set of characters each time. It featured fresh young faces and real-life high school issues. It was more like a star-making factory than a drama series, as the names Ha Ji Won, Kim Min Hee, Lee Yo Won, and Kim Rae Won, who were all from School 2, can attest. The popular series got a revival through School 2013 that was broadcast from December 2012 to January 2013, with Lee Jong Suk and Kim Woo Bin as the students.
I haven’t watched School 2 because I can’t find a complete copy of all the 43 episodes. Where can I find it, this series is so old! So all these are coming from my own research. What I’m sure is we’d see a very different Ha Ji Won, she even smoked! Every time I read an article mentioning how she gained popularity and recognition through this drama, my interest to at least know more about it increases.
Truth Game (2000) — Release Date: March 18, 2000
Asia’s Horror Princess was perhaps the first ever moniker that was placed under a rookie Ha Ji Won’s belt for making her big screen debut through the thriller movie, Truth Game, in 2000 alongside Korea’s National Actor, Ahn Sung Ki. Truth Game was then followed by 2 horror movies, Nightmare and Phone, which apparently why she was named the Horror Princess. Playing a daring character with a split personality wasn’t a little success — it was a great triumph, as it earned her 3 major awards: Best Rookie Actress at the 2000 (37th) Daejong Film Awards, Best Rookie Actress at the 2000 (1st) Busan Film Critics Awards, and Popularity Award at the 2001 (24th) Golden Cinematography Awards.
In Truth Game, Ha Ji Won played the role of Han Da Hye, the president of the fan club of a popular rap singer and also the suspected killer of the same rap singer, who had been stabbed to death during a rowdy concert. Da Hye surrendered herself to the police and confessed her crime, but the prosecutor (Ahn Sung Ki) believed that she was innocent and that someone powerful was behind the case. The prosecutor’s investigation opened a Pandora’s box as it led him to the seedy world of the fan club.
I watched Truth Game in 2012, and all I could say was Ha Ji Won was freaking amazing! The role she played, Han Da Hye, was a bipolar character, yet she managed to pull it off very well with the use of her distinct eye expressions. At one moment, you’d think she was innocent, then a moment later, you’d say she was the killer, and she’d make you think if she was the good or the bad. Her portrayal of this character was fearless that most of her scenes gave me goosebumps. The tale had a twist in its tail, which would answer whether she was indeed the killer or not. Watch out for some R-rated scenes!
Ditto (2000) — Release Date: March 27, 2000
Yes, Ha Ji Won was the cute college girl, who always hanged around Yoo Ji Tae, in Ditto. (Note: Ditto was released just 9 days after Truth Game.) She was awarded Best Supporting Actress at the 2000 (21st) Blue Dragon Film Awards for this movie.
Ditto was about two people separated in time: one (Kim Ha Neul) was from 1979 and the other (Yoo Ji Tae) was from 2000, who were somehow able to talk to each other using a ham radio. It was a classic tale of romance between two college students in the same university living in different times. In this movie, Ha Ji Won played the role of Ji In’s (Yoo Ji Tae) best friend, Seo Hyun Ji, who was secretly in love with him.
I actually like love stories with a theme like this, love that transcends time, which is probably the reason why I liked Ditto despite being mediocre as a whole. It was only a supporting role for Ha Ji Won, alongside main leads Kim Ha Neul and Yoo Ji Tae, but her jovial character, Seo Hyun Ji, was like the cherry to the pie. Others might find Hyun Ji a bit annoying for always clinging around Ji In, but I liked her and even her one-sided love for him. For one, she never asked or insisted Ji In to love her back nor did she intervene in his life. She just let him do what he wanted, she let him find the girl he liked, whom he’d gotten to know through the ham radio, and even supported him in his decisions, as much as it hurt her to see him liking someone else. And that was plainly admirable! It was so lucky of Ji In to have Hyun Ji by his side. What’s fated is fated because in the end, Ji In accepted Hyun Ji’s feelings for him. Overall, Ditto was not a tearjerker, although you might be touched by the story.
Nightmare (2000) — Release Date: July 29, 2000
Year 2000 was jam packed with Ha Ji Won movies, 3 movies in a row! Following Truth Game and Ditto was Nightmare, and by its title, it was a horror movie, wherein Ha Ji Won herself was the ghost.
Nightmare was about the 7 members of the college club, A Few Good Men, who were all admired for their dreams. However, the members suddenly got separated by causes which were never revealed. Years later, as Hye Jin (Kim Gyu Ri) was getting ready for her graduate school exam, she received a surprise visit from her friend, Sun Ae (Choi Jung Yoon), who just returned from the USA. Hye Jin was shocked to see Sun Ae tormented by somebody whom the latter said was chasing her. In order to find out where Sun Ae’s dread was coming from, Hye Jin made an investigation and later found out that all that was happening had something to do with the mysterious death of their friend, Eun Joo (Ha Ji Won).
Ha Ji Won played the role of Kyung Ah, but grew up as Eun Joo. Kyung Ah was believed to be a jinx, as accidents and bad things kept on happening whenever she was around, and as a result, her hometown people hated her so much, so what she did was leave that place, changing her name and identity to Eun Joo. Eun Joo went to the same college, where Hye Jin and Sun Ae were studying, and was even accepted to be a member of A Few Good Men Club. Admired for her beauty and charm, Eun Joo easily captivated the heart of Hyun Jun (Yoo Ji Tae), who was also a member of the same club. Sun Ae, who was secretly in love with Hyun Jun, felt extreme jealousy toward Eun Joo, and that was what triggered her to reveal Eun Joo’s true identity and secret, which she’d just found out. That secret was too much that it caused Eun Joo’s death, with her ghost hunting the members of A Few Good Men Club… one by one.
And it was remarkable! Portraying the characters, Eun Joo and Eun Joo’s ghost, was like playing dual roles. Eun Joo was like an innocent, gullible, little girl with a big secret from her past; whereas, Eun Joo’s ghost was like the alter ego of Eun Joo herself, but the difference was that the ghost was creepy and vengeful AND a killer! Eun Joo was a victim but also a killer, which would make you think whether you should sympathize with her or not. Playing this character was no joke, that’s why sometimes I really wonder why she wasn’t acknowledged for playing it. Perhaps a ghost doesn’t have much appeal to Koreans? But mind you, she was a darling even as a ghost with the dark makeup on, sounds strange, isn’t it?
Playing a rebellious teen girl wasn’t enough; Ha Ji Won took it to a higher level as she returned on TV as a despicable character in the love square melodrama, Secret, with Kim Ha Neul, Kim Min Jong, and Ryu Si Won, aired on MBC in 2000. Most antagonists are cursed at by the viewers, but in Ha Ji Won’s case, it was ironic how she received much love despite the fact she played the antagonist. It was carried out satisfactorily as she was awarded Best Rookie Actress at the 2000 MBC Drama Awards later that year and Best Rookie TV Actress at the 2001 (37th) Baeksang Arts Awards, her first ever Baeksang Award.
Secret was about half-sisters Lee Hee Jung (Kim Ha Neul) and Lee Ji Eun (Ha Ji Won), who both grew up in their father’s custody. Hee Jung grew up, knowing that she was an orphan adopted by Ji Eun’s father, whom she considered her real father. Things had been smooth between the “siblings” until Ji Eun realized the “secret” in Hee Jung—that Hee Jung was, in fact, a real daughter of her father, which made them real but half-siblings, and that Hee Jung’s mother happened to be a rich well-known fashion designer of a popular clothing brand. Ji Eun, a social climber herself, hid this fact from Hee Jung by all means, and presented herself instead as the daughter. Ji Eun’s envy didn’t end right there, as she soon found herself in a love square with Kim Jun Ho (Ryu Si Won), her ex-boyfriend whom she had always taken for granted, and Jo Young Min (Kim Min Jong), a fine bachelor whom she started to have feelings for, with both men fighting for her sister Hee Jung’s affection.
Ha Ji Won’s interview during “Secret” days
I watched Secret in 2012, and it was exciting to see another side of the talented Ha Ji Won. Even other K-drama watchers, who just watched Secret after getting to know Ha Ji Won through the mega-hit Secret Garden, were in awe to see her playing an abominable character. They’d give comments like, “Ha Ji Won is so evil here!,” etc. Although some of her face-off scenes with Kim Ha Neul were still a bit lacking, they were interesting enough for me to sit back and relax. The drama itself might be a makjang at its finest with the “birth secret” at the top of the list, but it wasn’t too bad to the point you’d wish to find a way out of the mess. As a rookie, Ha Ji Won was a robust villain that I want her to give it a try again because I’m pretty sure now that she’s a veteran, she can do a lot better. Bolder, more charismatic, and stronger!
Life Is Beautiful / Beautiful Life (2001)
Finally, in 2001, Ha Ji Won was given her first lead role on TV through the forgettable KBS drama, Life Is Beautiful, alongside Kim Rae Won. The drama was about an heiress, Yoo Hee Jung (Ha Ji Won), second daughter of a tycoon hotelier. She’d been assigned the task to manage the multiple hotel chains someday and had been sent to Switzerland to study hotel management. When she returned from Switzerland, she learned the business by starting at the bottom in the P.R. department. Hee Jung might look always happy and impulsive, but in reality, a deep emotional scar was left in her because of her boyfriend, who had died while trying to save her. In the process, Hee Jung met Lee Jae Min (Kim Rae Won), a man with a bizarre likeness to her dead boyfriend, hence, she got attracted to him easily. However, Jae Min turned out to be one of the province locals who were strongly against Hee Jung’s father’s cynical business practices. Soon, Hee Jung faced a dilemma of obeying her father’s order so as to be a filial daughter or going against her father in order to help Jae Min.
Basically rich-girl-falls-in-love-with-poor-guy style, which was so typical then and even today. Nonetheless, it was entertaining to see a young and playful Ha Ji Won portraying a carefree, cheerful, and placid character, for a change after being a bully in School 2 and a hostile sister to Kim Ha Neul in Secret. Life Is Beautiful’s story might be too light, as there was no much tension or excitement that’d make you anticipate for the next and upcoming episodes, but it was still good enough. Kim Rae Won and Ha Ji Won’s chemistry, though not that sensational, was able to make believe that—indeed, when a poor man and a rich woman (or vice versa) fall in love, it’s like the two of them against the world.
Days In The Sun / Sunshine Hunting (2002)
A year later, in 2002, the KBS’ Princess starred in unfortunately another forgettable KBS drama, Days In The Sun, costarring Ji Sung. Ha Ji Won played the role of Park Tae Kyong, who worked in a hotel, where Lee Seung Joon (Ji Sung) was a guest. Tae Kyong soon found herself attracted to Seung Joon that she even sneaked in his room to clean it herself and also to do some “stalking”. However, a violent robbery happened in the hotel, and Tae Kyong had to leave and move to Seoul, where she’d cross paths with Seung Joon again.
I don’t know much about Days In The Sun because I can’t find it anywhere, as much as I want to watch it. Oh well, just to mention, Han Ga In was an antagonist here. For the meantime, enjoy these pictures:
HA JI WON as Park Tae Kyong in “Days In The Sun”
Phone (2002) — Release Date: July 26, 2002
The Horror Princess returned to the big screen with her last horror movie, Phone, which was also her first lead role in a movie. I bet Ha Ji Won treasured Phone so much that she even had its poster (as pictured above) hanged on the door of her room in her house.
Phone centered around journalist Ji Won (Ha Ji Won), who received a series of threats via e-mails and phone calls, after publishing a controversial article about underage sex scandals. This incident caused Ji Won to change her cellphone number and move to the newly furnished house of her friend, Kang Ho Jung (Kim Yoo Mi). While staying in Ho Jung’s house, Ho Jung’s daughter, Eun Joo, answered a mysterious phone call on Ji Won’s new cellphone. Soon after that, Eun Joo began to show abhorrent behavior as more and more people began to die mysteriously. To unravel the mystery and to put an end to the death cycle, Ji Won made further investigations, which led her to finding out the identity of the previous owner of her new phone number who had vanished. Her investigation revealed that there was greater mystery than just a few evil calls—the horrific truth behind the disappearance of the phone number owner and her friend Ho Jung’s involvement in it.
In my opinion, Phone was merely a decent movie. The movie was a victim of poor writing, shoddy direction, and rapid editing. The main character, Ji Won, was sent off on her adventure with little logic, like she could just change her phone number again, why bother to look for the number’s previous owner? Granted, her curiosity was piqued, but her course of locating the previous owner was so out of the blue. Apparently, it was purposely made that way for Ji Won to discover what she should and to solve the mystery of the phone. Nonetheless, Ha Ji Won was vibrant as Ji Won and her distinct eye expressions were, again, off the charts. It was a pleasure to see the Horror Princess kicking the baddie’s ass, as it was like a premonition that she’d someday be playing badass roles.
HA JI WON at “Phone” Promotion Event
Sex Is Zero (2002) — Release Date: December 12, 2002
A sexy gross-out comedy movie? Ha Ji Won has been in such through Sex Is Zero, the 5th most popular movie of that year, costarring Im Chang Jung. The movie was indeed highly popular, as Ha Ji Won got Photogenic Award at the 2002 (3rd) Korea Visual Arts Festival and Popularity Award (Movie) at the 2003 (39th) Baeksang Arts Awards.
Sex Is Zero was about a group of goof-off college students, who loved drinking, partying, and focusing on sex. It followed the story of college law student, Jang Eun Shik (Im Chang Jung), who fell for the chic and gorgeous Lee Eun Hyo (Ha Ji Won). Eun Hyo was a college student in the same university and was admired for her beauty. She was also an aspiring aerobic athlete, who dreamed of winning at the national competition. Although Eun Hyo was aware of Eun Shik’s one-sided love, she picked one of the hottest and richest playboy in the university, Ham Sang Ok, who also seemed to take an interest in her even though he was already dating someone. Sang Ok and Eun Hyo began an affair, which caused complications. In the end of the movie, Eun Hyo went to Eun Shik and asked him if his feelings for her remained the same.
It was amazing that she could do aerobics, too. Others might take Sex Is Zero as complete mischief and nonsense because it was mostly about sex, but the story, particularly Eun Hyo’s arc, passion vs. temptation, gave morals to the youth nowadays. (Note: Ha Ji Won had personally asked PD Yoon Je Gyun to edit out her original bed scene on the script. The bed scene that was shown in the movie was more moderate and less skin and body exposure compared to others’.) It was adorable to see another side of Ha Ji Won, as a passionate aerobic athlete but with a happy-go-lucky attitude toward love and relationship. Eun Hyo was pretty but sometimes too puerile. Yet, after having a painful experience and after learning that life wasn’t always a bed roses, she grew up and matured. That was the message the movie wanted to convey. What I really liked about its story was Eun Hyo’s deep passion in aerobics and her ambition to win at the national competition. Sex Is Zero might look like nothing good but a porn movie, but mind you, its story was full of life lessons.
HA JI WON at “Sex Is Zero” Promotion Event
Im Chang Jung & Ha Ji Won in “CineBus” Weekly Magazine
Reversal of Fortune (2003) — Release Date: June 13, 2003
The following year, Ha Ji Won moved to the romantic comedy genre through the movie, Reversal of Fortune, alongside the talented Kim Seung Woo. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t ring the bell at the box office at that time. Years later, in 2012, Ha Ji Won was a guest at Kim Seung Woo’s KBS’ Win Win Talk Show, where the ROF couple made a public appearance together for the first time since the movie. The two even joked about how their movie hadn’t been well-received back then. Ha Ji Won jokingly said that Reversal of Fortune was the least popular among her movies (which I think was true. Lol.)
Reversal of Fortune was about former golf star Kang Seung Wan (Kim Seung Woo), who, at the moment, just worked as a poor stockbroker and was in debt to a gangster (played by the veteran Lee Moon Sik). The gangster was after Seung Wan for the money, and on the day the gangster nearly beat him to death, he drove through a tunnel, where he encountered his double. As Seung Wan was startled to see himself, his car crashed into the tunnel wall. After the car crash, Seung Wan woke up to find himself in a parallel universe, where he was a famous golf champion. What made the reversal more complicated was that he suddenly had a wife (Ha Ji Won), who was asking for a divorce, and he also had to compete in a major golf tournament.
I would say that Reversal of Fortune was male-lead centric, but even so, Ha Ji Won’s character, Han Ji Young, was the one that gave flavors to the show. Ji Young might look tough and cold to her husband, but it was evident through her actions how much she loved him. I loved how Ha Ji Won brought such an adorable character to life. I especially liked the way her character dressed up—simple yet elegant and sophisticated. As they say, every athlete has a number one fan, and here, there was Ji Young as the number one fan of her husband.
HA JI WON at “Reversal of Fortune” Promotion Event
Damo is something that cannot be missed when we talk about Ha Ji Won. It was a major breakthrough in her career, as she transformed from a villainous to a bonafide actress, with the help of a rookie PD but worked like an auteur, the one and only Lee Jae Kyu. Alongside 2 equally talented actors, Lee Seo Jin and Kim Min Joon, Ha Ji Won shined like a bright star in dramaland, as she caused a sensation throughout the country. MBC’s Damo was the first Korean drama that reached 1 million posts on the message board of its official website, and the number of posts eventually passed the 4 million mark. Fans even coined the term Damo pyeins (a pun for “pain”), referring to themselves. Even long after the drama had ended, the number of Damo pyeins continued to increase like an epidemic. What was even more amazing was the fact that Damo’s ratings were just average, yet it turned into a cultural phenomenon thanks to the huge popularity it enjoyed online. Later that year, Ha Ji Won got 3 major awards at the 2003 MBC Drama Awards—Popularity Award, Best Couple Award with Lee Seo Jin, and Top Excellence Award. Damo was also awarded Best Drama Series at the 2004 Asian Television Awards.
Damo was mainly about a love triangle, set in the Joseon era—Jang Chae Ok (Ha Ji Won) shared a forbidden love with her superior, Hwangbo Yoon (Lee Seo Jin), but while working undercover on a counterfeit money case, she found herself drawn to Jang Sung Baek (Kim Min Joon), the leader of the rebel group that she had infiltrated. There was a prologue, a very significant part of the story—Years ago, young Jang Jae Hee and young Jang Jae Mo got separated during their escape after their father, who was of the noble class, had been falsely accused of treason. Jae Hee stayed and grew up in the mountains with young Yoon, who was a son of a nobleman and a mistress. Years later, Jae Hee grew up into a young beautiful lady. Yoon, who had been in love with Jae Hee all this while, took Jae Hee with him to the Left Police Bureau, changing her name to Jang Chae Ok. In the process, Chae Ok met Sung Baek, a mysterious man, whom she felt a special connection with.
Yes, Damo is one of the two best sageuk dramas that I’ve watched. (The other one is The Princess’ Man.) Damo was amazing in many ways that I could hardly find fault in it. The love triangle was epic, so how could I choose which one to ship? Both Yoon and Sung Baek were equally passionate, righteous, and chivalrous, but one thing that made them different was that they came from opposing forces. They were actually two sides of the same coin—Yoon was a law-abiding police commander whose duty was to protect the country and the people; while, Sung Baek was a rebellious person, who fought for the people through his unlawful ways. The common denominator was both were seeking for justice for the people, only that it was the same goal but different ways. Both men were also important to Chae Ok—one had served as her “brother” and had taken good care of her when no one else did for many years; while, the other one was her biological brother. (Ooopps…SPOILER.) I’m not into tragic endings, but damn, Damo was an exception. Ha Ji Won’s performance can be attested by all the awards and recognition she received. She even confessed that Damo has a special place in her heart. Truly, Damo has a special place in K-dramaland.
“Damo” Wrap Up Party
Something Happened in Bali / What Happened in Bali (2004)
After causing much sensation through the highly popular Damo, Ha Ji Won proceeded to “Bali” in SBS’ Something Happened in Bali, her first SBS drama. Here, she got entangled in a perplexed love triangle with Jo In Sung and So Ji Sub. What a lucky girl! The drama received high ratings, with the final episode reaching a peak of 39.7%. Ha Ji Won also got Top Ten Stars Award and Top Excellence Award, Drama Special at the 2004 SBS Drama Awards, and Best TV Actress Award at the 2004 (40th) Baeksang Arts Awards.
Something Happened in Bali centered around 4 different people—Lee Soo Jung (Ha Ji Won), an orphan who worked as a tour guide in Bali, seeking her good luck over there with a hope to be taken out of her predicament by meeting a wealthy man; Jung Jae Min (Jo In Sung), son of a wealthy tycoon, uninterested in business, arrogant, irresponsible, a typical rich playboy; Kang In Wook (So Ji Sub), came from a lower-class family and worked in Jae Min’s company; and Choi Young Joo (Park Ye Jin), Jae Min’s fiancée who was from a comparable wealthy and powerful family but still in love with her ex-boyfriend, In Wook. While working in Bali, Soo Jung met Jae Min, In Wook, and Young Joo, who were in an awkward vacation. On Soo Jung’s way back to Korea, she met In Wook again, as they were coincidentally on the same flight. When she returned to Korea, her desire for success led her to finding Jae Min for a job. A course of events happened that made the lives of the 4 people more complicated, as Soo Jung found herself stuck between In Wook and Jae Min, with Young Joo’s presence making the situation even more complicated.
I’ll get straight to the point, Something Happened in Bali was not my cup of tea. I’d say that the love triangle was on the same level as the one in Damo, but the love line in this drama was more like a love square than a love triangle it was. While it had a solid story, smooth directing and editing, and outstanding acting, I couldn’t bring myself to like any of the characters even Ha Ji Won’s Lee Soo Jung. She was flawed, sorely ambitious, and uncertain of her feelings—one episode, she was kissing In Wook, then in the next episode, she was kissing Jae Min. Having said that, Ha Ji Won was marvelous as always, and the story was really engaging that you’d patiently wait for the next scenes. Not to mention, the acting and chemistry were off the charts. But don’t ever get me started with the ending—it was a NIGHTMARE!
100 Days With Mr. Arrogant (2004) — Release Date: January 16, 2004
While Something Happened in Bali was a ratings monster, conquering the small screen, Ha Ji Won made a big screen appearance through the romantic comedy, 100 Days With Mr. Arrogant, with Kim Jae Won. The movie came from the genre called internet fiction, like movies My Sassy Girl, starring Jeon Ji Hyun and Cha Tae Hyun, and A Millionaire’s First Love, starring Hyun Bin and Lee Yeon Hee. I just to have say that I really liked the movie’s poster (as pictured above), pretty cool.
100 Days With Mr. Arrogant was about a high school student, Kang Ha Young (Ha Ji Won), who had been dumped by her boyfriend just before their 100th day anniversary. She then met Ahn Hyung Joon (Kim Jae Won) when she accidentally kicked a empty can that hit his face while driving, causing him to damage his expensive car. Hyung Joon demanded Ha Young to pay for the damage, but since she was just a poor high school student, she had nothing to give him. Hyung Joon and Ha Young came up with an agreement—Ha Young would be Hyung Joon’s slave for 100 days, as a payment for the damage to his car. Ha Young soon found out that the damage to Hyung Joon’s car was only $10, thus, she planned to take revenge. But before she could do it, Hyung Joon showed up in her house as her new private tutor. And soon, Ha Young found herself falling for Hyung Joon.
It was such a hilarious movie! Kang Ha Young was a cute, funny, and lovable character, and so was the movie as a whole. Ha Ji Won’s previous 2 characters, Jang Chae Ok’s (Damo) and Lee Soo Jung’s (Something Happened in Bali) emotions were too substantial and heavy, that’s why it was refreshing to see her portraying an amusing and lighthearted character in a comical movie. It was a comedy with a lesson behind, like how Ha Young had started out as a foolish girl, who didn’t seem to care about anything at all, but eventually changed and worked hard to pass high school. I actually appreciate dramas and movies that could maintain a light tone from the beginning up to the end, perhaps the reason why 100 Days With Mr. Arrogant was somehow appealing to me.
HA JI WON at “100 Days With Mr. Arrogant” Various Promotion Events
Love, So Divine (2004) — Release Date: August 6, 2004
After leaving the TV viewers crestfallen with Something Happened in Bali’s SHOCKING ending, Ha Ji Won returned to the romantic comedy genre through the movie, Love, So Divine, alongside the handsome and talented Kwon Sang Woo. The movie, however, didn’t do well at that time. (Trivia: Kwon Sang Woo and Ha Ji Won converted to Christianity after the movie.)
Love, So Divine depicted a soon-to-be priest, Kim Kyu Shik (Kwon Sang Woo), who was sent to a small church in a rural area with his friend and also a soon-to-be priest, Shin Sun Dal (Kim In Kwon), for a month of service under Father Nam after making a scene at the seminary. Upon their arrival, Kyu Shik met Father Nam’s niece, Yang Bong Hee (Ha Ji Won), who had just returned from the USA to meet her boyfriend only to be dumped by him. Bong Hee had nowhere to go to and just stayed at her uncle’s church. After struggling to get along well with each other, Kyu Shik and Bong Hee gradually got attracted to each other, hence, Kyu Shik had to doubt his commitment to priesthood. What would be his decision?
It was truly a pleasure to watch Love, So Divine—its story was heartwarming and lovely. It’s actually the second best Ha Ji Won movie to me. Kwon Sang Woo and Ha Ji Won are also one of my favorite OTPs. Their chemistry on-screen was up the chimney, and their chemistry off-screen reached up to the stars. Back to the movie, the message it wanted to convey was simple yet very deep—it’s not necessary for one to become a priest (or a nun) in order to show pure love and devotion to God because one’s love for God can be manifested by simply loving and respecting oneself and others. The movie also showed how love could change someone for the better, like what meeting a priest-to-be had done to Bong Hee. Deo gratias.
Ha Ji Won at “Love, So Divine” Various Promotion Events
*I tried to complete it in just one post, but that’d be too long, as if this one wasn’t long enough.* TO BE CONTINUED…