HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HA JI WON!!!
Daddy-Long-Legs (2005) — Release Date: January 14, 2005
In 2005, Ha Ji Won, this actress, who didn’t rest every year and whose work was continuous, did 2 movies of different genres. She costarred with Yeon Jung Hoon in Daddy-Long-Legs, which was loosely based on the novel of the same title written by Jean Webster. The film was about Cha Young Mi (Ha Ji Won), who’d lost her parents at a young age, and through the help of a mysterious benefactor, whom she called her Daddy-Long-Legs, Young Mi was able to finish her studies and even fulfilled her dream of becoming a writer at a broadcasting station, where she met a man named Kim Joon Ho (Yeon Jung Hoon).
Daddy-Long-Legs turned out to be entertaining, funny, and emotionally uplifting, and I enjoyed watching this film. Although this movie was a melodrama, it surprisingly had a sense of humor thanks to Shin Yi, who’d always played Ha Ji Won’s heroine’s best friend and sidekick in here for the third time after Sex Is Zero and Something Happened in Bali. Shin Yi just never failed to fill her scenes with humor, keeping the movie’s tone light. This film wasn’t a tearjerker, but it was truly very touching that I ended up wiping my tears. Ha Ji Won successfully played the role of orphan Cha Young Mi, a simple and cheerful girl who’d been wanting to know the identity of her Daddy-Long-Legs. There wasn’t much romance involved, but the love between the 2 people could be felt. While the movie wasn’t a box office hit, it did deliver a beautiful, heartwarming story.
Ha Ji Won & Yeon Jung Hoon at Various Promotion Events
[CAMEO] Fashion 70’s (2005)
Fashion 70’s, starring Lee Yo Won, Kim Min Jung, Joo Jin Mo, and Chun Jung Myung, was about the lives of 4 young people, who were intertwined by destiny, from their childhood during the Korean War. It also focused on the passion and dedication of female fashion designers who’d introduced Korea to the world of fashion. Because of the friendship they’d built through Damo in 2003, Lee Jae Kyu requested Ha Ji Won to make a cameo appearance in Fashion 70’s, the drama that he was directing at that time. Ha Ji Won agreed and had a very brief cameo appearance in Episode 3 as a university student during the Korean War.
Duelist (2005) — Release Date: September 8, 2005
Following Daddy-Long-Legs was Lee Myung Se’s Duelist, Ha Ji Won’s first action, historical movie, opposite the very handsome Kang Dong Won and Korea’s National Actor, Ahn Sung Ki, whom she’d worked with in Truth Game. Billed as one of the best movies in the action-historical genre, Duelist garnered many praises and several awards including Popularity Award for both Ha Ji Won and Kang Dong Won, Best Art Direction, and Best Lighting at the 2005 (26th) Blue Dragon Film Awards, Best Movie Director for Lee Myung Se at the 2006 (42nd) Baeksang Arts Awards, and Best Art Direction at the 2006 (43rd) Grand Bell Awards (Daejong Film Awards).
While Duelist was set in a historical era in the late Joseon Dynasty, the film used modern style of storytelling. As an action-historical, this movie reminded me of Damo in someways. It centered around Namsoon (Ha Ji Won), a newbie detective working with Detective Ahn (Ahn Sung Ki) of the Left Security Station on a case of money counterfeits. The two were after the secretary of the National Security and his man (Kang Dong Won)—a mysterious sword master noted for his Sad Eyes, whom Namsoon had previously encountered—as the suspects. In the process, Namsoon realized her feelings for Sad Eyes, but Detective Ahn advised her to let go of her feelings because Sad Eyes was a criminal and she was a detective. Soon, a predestined battle between Namsoon and Sad Eyes happened…
Ha Ji Won and Kang Dong Won were PERFECT! Why was there no kiss scene in this film? Seriously, why?!~ Their chemistry was EFFORTLESSLY FREAKING BREATHTAKING and SENSATIONAL! There were lots of gazing in the movie, and the way they gazed at each other was beyond what anyone could’ve asked for because all the gazing was so sexy that I thought it was eye sex, and the interactions between Namsoon and Sad Eyes—yes, I’m talking about the sword fighting as pictured above, “They were fighting like they were making love,” as stated in the movie—were done with such passion and beauty. That particular scene was like art, art that could make you feel something. Ha Ji Won and Kang Dong Won are two beautiful people, and the film, as a whole, was done so beautifully. I wouldn’t trade Duelist for the world, and I’d be so happy if Ha Ji Won and Kang Dong Won happen to reunite and work together again someday. It NEEDS to happen.
Ha Ji Won & Kang Dong Won at Various Promotion Events
Ha Ji Won & Kang Dong Won at Various Promotion Events in Japan
Ha Ji Won & Kang Dong Won — Magazine Photoshoots & Interviews
2005 (10th) Pusan International Film Festival
[CAMEO] All For Love — Release Date: October 7, 2005
Ha Ji Won also made a cameo appearance in the movie, All For Love, which depicted a lovely week in the lives of the main characters played by Uhm Jung Hwa, Hwang Jung Min, Im Chang Jung, Seo Young Hee, and Kim Suro. It was directed by Yoon Je Kyun, whom Ha Ji Won had worked with in Sex Is Zero. She played the role of Kim Yoon Joo, mother of Kim Yoo Jung’s character, and appeared in the flashback as the girlfriend of Kim Suro’s character.
KBS: Hwang Jin Yi (2006)
Hwang Jin Yi was undoubtedly a very important and unforgettable project to Ha Ji Won and even to her fans. The drama was very successful and highly and critically acclaimed as lead actress Ha Ji Won alone bagged a total of 5 awards, including Best Couple Award with Jang Geun Suk, Netizen Popularity Award, and Daesang Award, her first ever Daesang in many years, at the 2006 KBS Drama Awards, as well as Best Actress Award both at the 34th Korean Broadcasting Awards and at the Bulgarian National Television 32nd Golden Chest International TV Festival in 2007. She also earned a nominations for Popularity Award (TV) and Best TV Actress at the 2007 (43rd) Baeksang Arts Awards.
Starring South Korea’s most promising young actors then, Ha Ji Won, Wang Bit Na, Kim Jae Won, Ryu Tae Joon, and Jang Geun Suk, together with veteran actresses Kim Young Ae, Kim Bo Yeon, and Jeon Mi Sun, Hwang Jin Yi was based on the historical life of Hwang Jin Yi, the most famous kisaeng of all time in the Korean history, who’d lived in the 16th-century Joseon. Ha Ji Won played the titular character, whose ambition was to become the greatest kisaeng artist of her time. Hwang Jin Yi trained under Im Baek Moo (Kim Young Ae)—one of the best court dancers in Joseon but a strict and manipulative mentor—to become the country’s top kisaeng. Jin Yi was said to be a gifted child because of her outstanding talent in dancing, passion and knowledge about poetry (one thing that women of her time didn’t have), and skills in playing the geomungo (a musical instrument that only men knew how to play; women played the gayageum). In the process, a number of men fell in love with her because of her exceptional beauty—her first love Kim Eun Ho (Jang Geun Suk) whose parents were strongly against their relationship because of social class; Kim Jung Han (Kim Jae Won), a high government official and also the King’s most trusted subordinate; Byuk Gye Soo (Ryu Tae Joon), a royal relative who was obsessed with her; and her personal bodyguard, Yi Saeng (Lee Shi Wan). At the same time, Jin Yi also faced Bu Yong (Wang Bit Na), her rival in dancing and love…
Historically, Hwang Jin Yi was born about 1506 in Kaesong, which lies in what’s now North Korea. Her mother, Hyun Geum, was said to be a kisaeng herself; She was a beautiful woman, and a nobleman named Hwang Chinsa fell in love with her and took her as his mistress for a time. They had a daughter, Jin Yi, whose beauty and talent in music had been recognized since she was young. Some sources say it was Jin Yi’s own decision to become a kisaeng, but others say it was her mother’s. She used Myung-wol (lit. means Bright Moon) as her kisaeng name, and as a kisaeng, she showed off her charms without wearing any makeup when most kisaengs painted their faces elaborately, and she always dressed beautifully with very little jewelry. Her beauty, personality, skills, and intelligence enabled her to make a lot of men fall in love with her. But modesty was apparently not her virtue as she named herself as one of the “Three Wonders of Kaesong”, together with the Pakyon Falls and philosopher Seo Kyung Duk, the only man she ever admired. Hwang Jin Yi wished to die the way she’d lived and asked to be buried in a simple grave on a riverbank in Kaesong. Technically, the kisaengs were of the slave status, whose duty was to entertain the noblemen and kings, but the government didn’t claim ownership of them until about a century since Hwang Jin Yi’s death. This means Hwang Jin Yi had lived in freedom her whole life that the kisaengs of the later generation were deprived of.
Hwang Jin Yi proved Ha Ji Won’s deep passion for acting as she’d willingly learned a variety of stunts—including tightrope walking, fan dance, sword dance, and the fateful crane dance—to make her portrayal of Hwang Jin Yi realistic. And it was believable; it was practically real that you’d feel she was indeed Hwang Jin Yi. Another thing that I liked about her outstanding portrayal of the 16th-century kisaeng was the 180-degree transformation from the innocent, childlike Jin Yi to the broken, vengeful Myung-wol:
Her distinct eye expressions worked again!
Hwang Jin Yi Press Conference
Hwang Jin Yi Promotion Event in Taiwan (2007)
Ha Ji Won receives Daesang Award at the 2006 KBS Drama Awards.
Miracle on 1st Street (2007) — Release Date: February 15, 2007
After successfully wrapping up Hwang Jin Yi, Ha Ji Won reunited with her Sex Is Zero costar and director, Im Chang Jung and Yoon Je Kyun in the action, comedy, drama film, Miracle on 1st Street. The film did well at the box office as it was the 5th most popular film of 2007.
Miracle on 1st Street told the story of the useless gangster Pil Je (Im Chang Jung), who’d been tasked by his boss to evict the remaining houses in a poor neighborhood on the edge of Seoul to make way for new, modern, luxurious apartments, and Myung Ran (Ha Ji Won), a young female boxer who aspired to be the champion in the field of boxing to fulfill her sick father’s (played by action director Jung Doo Hong) dream. Pil Je started his task by scaring the residents and forcing them to give up their houses, and one of the residents turned out to be Myung Ran. However, Pil Je unknowingly became friends with Myung Ran and some neighborhood children, which changed things. Instead of forcing the neighborhood people to leave their houses, he helped them improve their lives. As this happened, Pil Je and Myung Ran gradually grew closer to each other.
Maybe it’s because I’m not into boxing, wrestling, or whatever that hurts the same way that I didn’t appreciate Ha Ji Won’s character that much, but again I admired her even more for learning boxing for this movie. One thing I liked in this film was Pil Je’s change of heart towards the neighborhood people and Myung Ran’s love for her father, the reason why she was struggling so hard to be the champion. Anybody would learn something from a comedy, and here it showcased the value of love for neighbors and more importantly…love for parents.
Miracle on 1st Street Cast at Various Promotion Events
Sex Is Zero 2 (2007) — Release Date: December 12, 2007
Afterwards, Ha Ji Won made a cameo appearance in the comedy film Sex Is Zero 2, the sequel of her movie Sex Is Zero, which had been released in 2002. The movie starred Im Chang Jung and Song Ji Hyo as the new female lead and reunited most of the cast from the original film, with Ha Ji Won reprising her role as Lee Eun Hyo through a brief cameo appearance. She appeared in the first scene at the airport, with Jang Eun Shik (Im Chang Jung) sending her off before they officially parted.
[CAMEO] His Last Gift (2008) — Release Date: February 5, 2008
This was a brilliant movie with a brilliant cameo by Ha Ji Won! Opposite talented actors Shin Hyun Joon and Heo Jun Ho, Ha Ji Won played the role of a mother for the first time in the film His Last Gift. This very heart-touching movie revolved around the life of Kang Tae Joo (Shin Hyun Joon), a man serving a life sentence for murder but was given a temporary release to be with his daughter, Jo Se Hee (Jo Soo Min), who was seriously ill and was seeking for a liver transplant. All Tae Joo knew was Se Hee was the daughter of his old friend Jo Yeong Woo (Heo Joon Ho), who was now a police officer, but upon discovering that Se Hee’s deceased mother was his ex-wife Min Hye Young (Ha Ji Won), he realized that Se Hee was, in fact, his daughter, and did anything and everything he could to save her from the illness.
If 2013 had Miracle in Cell No.7 to depict what a father could do and could give up for his daughter, 2008 had had His Last Gift to show what a father’s greatest gift for his daughter could be. I loved this movie, and I’d recommend watching this to anyone who’s looking for a tearjerker. This beautiful yet utterly sad story about a father and a daughter are worth your tears and emotions as mine were. I thanked Ha Ji Won for doing an impressive and vivid cameo appearance here because if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known this film. Hats off to Shin Hyun Joon and Heo Joon Ho for being wonderful daddies and for playing their respective roles so effectively. Even though Ha Ji Won only appeared in the flashbacks, she perfectly portrayed her character as a loving wife; she left a mark and made me believe that Hye Young would have been a loving mother to Se Hee, too. His Last Gift evoked both a feeling of happiness and an air of melancholy, with a story that others might see as cliché but totally heart-wrenching.
BA:BO (Miracle of Giving Fool) (2008) — Release Date: February 28, 2008
Ha Ji Won also worked with closed friend Cha Tae Hyun in the film BA:BO, together with Park Hee Soon and Park Ha Sun. BA:BO was adapted from a popular webcomic of the same title. Later in 2011, Cha Tae Hyun said he’d personally asked Ha Ji Won to be in the movie with him, but he was sorry because it hadn’t done well in the box office. Aww, it wasn’t his fault though. Hopefully, they can work together again someday, although Cha Tae Hyun said that BA:BO was the first and the last time because he was so sorry to Ha Ji Won.
In this film, Ha Ji Won played the role of Seok Ji Ho, a promising pianist who’d just returned from the US after studying there for years. However, because of a severe case of stage fright that she’d experienced in the past, she was unable to resume her career as a pianist. Returning home, Ji Ho was reunited with her old schoolmate Seung Ryong (Cha Tae Hyun), who’d suffered brain injuries at a young age because of an accident, causing him to have the intelligence of a six-year old child. His younger sister and his only family Ji In (Park Ha Sun) got sick one day, and his friend Sang Soo (Park Hee Soon) got into trouble, but with all these, he became their savior. In the end, Ji Ho finally overcame her stage fright all thanks to Seung Ryong.
I believed BA:BO was a very underrated film. Its story was decent and truly heart-rendering. Let me tell you, if you watched this movie and you thought it didn’t do anything to you or if you didn’t even flinch, you have no heart. Not to mention, Cha Tae Hyun acting as a man in his twenties but with a mind of a six-year old child hit daebak to me. I couldn’t imagine any other actor playing the role as perfectly fine as he did; he was amazing! Ha Ji Won, too, was really effective in playing her role as Seung Ryong’s childhood friend and as a frustrated pianist. She was happy, always smiling whenever she was with Seung Ryong, but whenever she remembered her passion for piano, her mood changed, and she got teary-eyed. She made me feel how disappointed she was that she couldn’t play the piano the way she’d done back then. I wouldn’t forget this line, “You know I can make bread, too. It’s a bit different from your toast. I take this long piece of bread and stuff it with ham, onions… But the thing is… My hands were fine in the kitchen, but even after twenty years of piano, I can’t play a single note. It just scared me to death. I couldn’t even think about it. Because piano was all that I had…”. It might be because BA:BO was mainly about the babo (means: fool) himself, Seung Ryong, that he was my favorite character hands down, but Ji Ho was definitely an essential part of the story. I think BA:BO shares the same spot with Love, So Divine as the second best Ha Ji Won movies to me.
Also, although Ha Ji Won had had studied piano when she was young, she’d received lessons from singer-songwriter Noh Young Shim. Thus, she performed on the piano herself in the movie.
Cha Tae Hyun, Ha Ji Won, Park Hee Soon at Various Promotion Events
Ha Ji Won & Cha Tae Hyun in Movie Week Magazine
Haeundae (Tidal Wave) (2009) — Release Date: July 22, 2009
Of course nobody would ever forget Haeundae and the huge success it’d brought to the Korean film industry. Billed as South Korea’s first ever disaster film with a budget of US$16 million, Haeundae starred South Korea’s A-list actors Sol Kyung Gu, Ha Ji Won, Park Joong Hoon, and Uhm Jung Hwa and was directed by Yoon Je Kyun. This was Ha Ji Won’s third time starring in a Yoon Je Kyun film. Haeundae, the setting of the movie, is also the name of Busan’s international city, located on the Southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, hence the movie’s title—Haeundae. The actors and the production team had also traveled to San Francisco, California in the US for special effects photography.
Haeundae was both critically acclaimed and a commercial success. The film had received a total of 11,301,649 admissions in South Korea, making Ha Ji Won, as the film’s heroine, The 10 Million Movie Actress, for bringing the glory of more than 10 million audiences. This had caused the movie to be the 4th highest-grossing film in South Korea that time, but it was later outperformed by The Thieves, Masquerade, Miracle in Cell No. 7, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, and Ode to My Father. In addition, distribution rights for the movie were sold to 15 countries. Ha Ji Won won Female HOT Movie Star Award at the 2009 (3rd) Mnet 20’s Choice Awards, Best Actress Award at the 5th Korean University Film Festival—her first ever Movie Best Actress Award—and Popularity Award at the 2009 (30th) Blue Dragon Film Awards for her performance in the blockbuster movie.
Haeundae pictured the lives of the people of Haeundae and how the international city drew a million visitors/tourists to its beaches every year. Years ago, Choi Man Shik (Sol Kyung Gu), a Haeundae native, had gone deep-sea fishing when a tsunami suddenly occurred, causing him to lose his co-worker. Now he was living a simple life and preparing to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Kang Yeon Hee (Ha Ji Won), who worked in a small sushi restaurant, despite his mother’s disapproval. It turned out Yeon Hee was the daughter of Man Shik’s co-worker, who’d died because of the tsunami years ago, but Yeon Hee knew nothing about this. Meanwhile, signs of the East Sea’s behavior being similar to the Indian Ocean’s at the time of the 2004 tsunami were discovered by a tsunami expert, but despite his warning, the Disaster Prevention Agency assured that Korea was safe. Man Shik prepared a beautiful and romantic surprised yacht wedding proposal for Yeon Hee, but instead of accepting it right away, Yeon Hee played coy and asked him that she’d give her answer on the next day. A red ribbon tied to her boat would mean a yes. However, there was no red ribbon seen on that day; it turned out Yeon Hee had found out about her father’s passing, and now she was planning to leave Haeundae. And while the people were enjoying a hot summer at Haeundae beaches, a super-tsunami was about to ruin EVERYTHING…
Honestly, Haeundae wasn’t my cup of tea. Many of those who’d seen the disaster film said the same thing. But surprisingly, Haeundae had shined the brightest at the box office as the no.1 most popular film of 2009. And I have to give credit to Ha Ji Won, again, for learning something new just for the sake of this movie, and this time, it was the Satoori, the Busan dialect. 오빠야… (Oppa yah…) *applause*
Haeundae Cast at Various Promotion Events
Haeundae Cast at the Film’s Premiere in Shanghai
Busan Mayor awards Ha Ji Won a trophy for the film’s breakthrough.
Haeundae Cast at the 14th Pusan International Film Festival Opening in 2009
Ha Ji Won on the 2009 (14th) Pusan International Film Festival Red Carpet
Sol Kyung Gu & Ha Ji Won in CINE 21 Magazine
Haeundae Cast in Movieweek Magazine
Ha Ji Won wins Female HOT Movie Star at the 2009 (3rd) Mnet 20’s Choice Awards.
Ha Ji Won, awarded Best Actress at the 5th Korean University Film Festival in 2009
Ha Ji Won wins Popularity Award at the 2009 (30th) Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Closer to Heaven (My Love by My Side) — Release Date: September 24, 2009
Here we go with Park Jin Pyo’s Closer to Heaven, and this is hands down the best and my ultimate favorite Ha Ji Won movie. My love for melodramas was one thing, but it was all thanks to the perfect tandem of Kim Myung Min and Ha Ji Won that everything in this film worked out above and beyond. Closer to Heaven was released during the peak of Ha Ji Won’s immense popularity for the glory that Haeundae had brought previously, and while it didn’t manage to acquire even just as half as Haeundae had had in the box office, it was the 10th highest grossing film of 2009, and it did really well in terms of acting (it was brilliant), directing, and storyline. It wasn’t only a favorite of moviegoers, it also became an award-winning project with Ha Ji Won winning 2 Best Actress Awards: the first was from the 2009 (30th) Blue Dragon Film Awards, and the second was from the 2010 (46th) Baeksang Arts Awards. It could’ve been 3 if only there’d been no controversy within the committee of Daejong Film Awards.
Closer to Heaven was about the love story of old friends Lee Ji Soo (Ha Ji Won)—a twice-divorced funeral director—and Baek Jong Woo (Kim Myung Min)—a law student who’d been battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or commonly known as the Lou Gehrig’s disease since he was a teenager—who were reunited when Ji Soo attended the funeral services of Jong Woo’s now deceased mother. Jong Woo believed it was fate that reunited them and asked Ji Soo to go out with him, and although Ji Soo was initially reluctant to accept his offer, she eventually gave in. Soon, the two got married even though Ji Soo’s father was obviously against the fact that his daughter was getting married for the third time, and this time, she was marrying a sick man. Jong Woo and Ji Soo fell in love day by day, and despite Jong Woo’s illness, they tried to live the life of normal couples. However, when Jong Woo’s condition began to get worse, he got extremely frustrated and started lashing out at Ji Soo. It hurt Ji Soo to witness her husband’s worsening and hopeless state, but she promised to stay by his side until the end.
I recommend this heartbreaking yet very beautiful love-story-of-a-man-who-had-personally-asked-his-wife-if-her-beautiful-hands-could-send-him-to-heaven to any human being, who appreciates love and dedication. This melodramatic film about a dying man and his funeral director wife will touch your heart. It’s worth your tears. It was given that Jong Woo would die because there was no cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease unless a miracle would happen, but this wasn’t a fairy tale that had to have a happy ending but a reality that had to be faced. Ji Soo knew that he’d die, but she hoped anyway that he’d get well because that’s what we, people, do when we’re under the same circumstance; we hold onto faith even though sometimes we confuse faith with delusion, and we become blind, almost to a fault. But I’d never call it Ji Soo’s fault for wanting her husband to live despite his illness continuously eating him because that was normal, and what she only wanted was some more time for him than what he was likely to get. She knew he was dying, but she wasn’t ready to let go, because God, what wife would be ready to? And that was the most painful thing, that she finally found the man she believed would never leave her, yet that man still had to go not because he couldn’t stand her job as a funeral director or anything, but for the tragic reason that all kinds of illnesses were, are, and will always be bastards.
I couldn’t care less that this film made me cry a bucket of tears for it was amazing. The beautiful yet short-lived romance between Jong Woo and Ji Soo was very well-executed; hats off to all the people behind the making of this wonderful project. Actually, Closer to Heaven would’ve been a reunion movie for my Love, So Divine OTP—one of my favorite pairings ever—if only Kwon Sang Woo hadn’t cancel the contract for this movie at the last minute. But somehow, I’m glad he broke the agreement, otherwise, we wouldn’t have witnessed how awesome actor Kim Myung Min could be. He’d lost at least 20kg for this movie just to make his character’s deteriorating condition realistic, and Ha Ji Won said it herself that she’d been crying during filming because it was a very unpleasant sight, but the dedicated actor Kim Myung Min went that far for the movie’s sake. (Not any actor would willingly do that, especially most young actors who could score lead roles effortlessly these days. Hence, I’d always prefer the actors that I saw in dramas during my childhood because they were better by a mile than most young actors of this generation.)
Kim Myung Min, Ha Ji Won, Park Jin Pyo PD at Promotion Events
Ha Ji Won & Kim Myung Min in ELLE Magazine (Photoshoot took place in The Netherlands)
Ha Ji Won wins Best Actress Award at the 2009 (30th) Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Ha Ji Won wins Best Actress Award at the 2010 (46th) Baeksang Arts Awards.
*Part 3, which is the last part, is coming up next…
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