EXCLUSIVE: Kim Sejeong on Today’s Webtoon, Business Proposal success, Ahn Hyo Seop and Seol In Ah
Kim Sejeong has been active as a singer ever since her debut in May 2016 and as an actor since July 2017. During an exclusive conversation with Pinkvilla, the 26-year-old talked about her acting projects as well as deep dived into her thoughts about taking on challenging roles.
“Wow, I look really pretty”, Kim Sejeong’s iconic words, as she sashayed down the stage in a lilac dress that shimmied every time she took a step, from her 2022 fan meeting, went viral soon after she spoke them and onlookers could not help but agree wholeheartedly. She’s beautiful, she knows it and she does not hesitate to admit it. The perfect trio of acceptance from an ever-rising star in the ocean full of K-pop idols turned actors.
Kim Sejeong has been in the business for a few years now. Her career began with participating in SBS’ ‘K-pop Star 2’, however she truly shone with an entry in ‘Produce 101’ where she placed second after a series of utterly successful rounds, leading to her debut in I.O.I. Since then, she has also been a part of the nine member girl group Gugudan, its sub-unit Gugudan SeMiNa and has begun her acting career.
Kim Sejeong first starred in the famed ‘School’ series’ 2017 installment opposite Jang Dong Yoon and Kim Jung Hyun where she was praised for her role of the bubbly Ra Eun Ho, even earning herself the Best New Actor award. It was followed by ‘I Wanna Hear You Song’ and ‘The Uncanny Counter’ which allowed her to experiment with her acting. Meanwhile, Kim Sejeong continued to gain momentum as a variety star, even becoming a cast member of web-show ‘Busted!’ with Yoo Jae Suk, EXO’s Sehun, Park Min Young and more. It has aired 3 seasons so far, and has been a momentous program making fans wish for its return.
2022 became the breakthrough year for her as an actress as the webtoon-inspired drama ‘Business Proposal’ saw global fame. The 12 episodic show had her act as an employee who ends up on a blind date with her company CEO while trying to help a friend. What followed is a chaotic and heartwarming capture of events, making it one of the most talked about shows of the year. As Shin Ha Ri, fans witnessed Kim Sejeong bring out her sassy side dipped in couture. Her chemistry with Ahn Hyo Seop became a hot topic and the viewership ratings soared. She also worked with Seol In Ah for the second time after ‘School 2017’ and the two have remained good friends.
Soon after, she took charge as On Maeum in ‘Today’s Webtoon’, a former judo player turned intern at a crashing webtoon company. With a new look and yet another demanding character, Kim Sejeong put on one of her best portrayals so far. Testing herself out with a unique storyline, the drama ended its course in September.
Now, onto her next role and with more experience in place, she is expected to show a more riveting performance. Here’s what she had to say.
You recently rang in your 26th birthday. How did you celebrate?
I actually was shooting that day so we couldn’t hold a big celebration or anything. But the filming crew did gift me a cake so I was able to blow out some candles (laughs). What was memorable was that my mom did come up to Seoul to visit me and made me seaweed soup and steamed shrimp, which I brought to eat on site while filming.
How would you describe On Maeum? How is she very similar or different from Kim Sejeong?
I’d describe her as someone who protects everyone’s dreams because she respects them (laughs). She’s similar to me in that sense because she loves the idea of dreams and knows how to approach them. The idea of dreams is a favorite topic of mine as well.
In terms of how we’re different, I’ve come to either fall in the face of reality, or learn to compromise my dreams when I feel that I need to put either the public’s general perception or a more objective view ahead of my own opinions. In that sense perhaps I was too hesitant to believe in my own visions or push forward my own feelings.
In contrast, Maeum never compromised and chose to believe in herself at all times. On one hand, I was a little afraid for her (laughs). Because that will inevitably lead to some pain. But with someone like Maeum, she would’ve been able to overcome whatever pains she came across, and I always knew that she’d pull through.
On Maeum has the 500 won coin that she flips when Seok Jihyeong is about to leave Neon. Do you also have a lucky charm or something that you do during tough situations?
Sometimes I’d place my hand on hidden tattoos that I have, in the hopes that any happiness that I had experienced would last just a little longer, wishing that these happy moments would remain in my memories, not fleeting away (laughs).
I do believe that I’m on the luckier side, so I’ve always kept my mind open, accepting whatever came my way hoping that any difficult situation that I came across would result in some sort of lesson for me along the way.
On Maeum goes from dreaming about an Olympic medal in judo to part time jobs to an intern at a webtoon company. What are your thoughts on losing one's dream and starting from scratch?
I personally believe that there’s not much difference in starting anew with a new dream, whether it’s after you’ve succeeded on your last dream or given up on it. Regardless of the result, all goals fade away once you’ve reached them. And you have to prepare for whatever comes next.
Even if you’ve ended up giving up on your dream, the path that you’ve walked doesn’t fade away – you’re simply preparing for your next dream, and whatever path you choose to walk next will be supported by everything you’ve done for your previous dream. Any and all experience one goes through is bound to affect them. Perhaps, once you’ve managed to accept and reach your second dream, you might think something like this: ‘Ah, this was why I faltered. Thank you for shaping me up to reach this dream.’ Something along those lines (laughs).
If Kim Sejeong was in a similar place as On Maeum, what job would you go for?
Had I been unable to become a singer, I would have become a teacher for applied music. I wouldn’t have been able to continue dreaming (laughs). I would’ve had to be content with singing through YouTube covers or live café sessions. Even if I wasn’t able to become a singer, my ultimate dream would have been to continue singing (laughs).
But now, I’m able to both reach my dreams while being able to do something that I love, i.e. acting, I’m able to add more and more to my list of dreams I want to achieve.
What kind of judo training did you have to undergo while working on this character?
As this drama series was something I had to go straight into right after wrapping up ‘Business Proposal’, I unfortunately was unable to receive any proper training. That being said, the judo that I learned on-site was both fun and extremely difficult (laughs).
Are you a fan of webtoons? Could you recommend a few?
I used to read a ton of webtoons, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to keep up with them (sad face). I’d like to recommend ‘Your Letter’ for something short, and ‘Get Back’ for something a little longer!
The global success of 'Business Proposal' was unprecedented and applause-worthy. Why do you think the viewers like it so much? Have you had a chance to meet the cast since the show ended?
I think the biggest advantage that ‘Business Proposal’ had was that it was easy to digest (laughs). You know, something about the show that made it easy to watch and laugh alongside, waiting for the next episodes without worries because you know you’d be laughing alongside it once again. The chemistry between all of the actors was another huge factor. You can’t beat the chemistry that results from such a great working environment where all the actors and crew are on the same page. Said chemistry bled into our acting, and left such an impression on the watchers, which made the show that much more likeable!
Recently, I’ve even gone camping with In Ah (actress Seol In Ah), and shot a new commercial with Hyo Seop (actor Ahn Hyo Seop) (laughs).
You are known to take up bright and cheerful roles as well as challenging ones like Ha Na. What kind of characters are you looking to experiment with, in the future?
I’m all for accepting any roles that let me play a fun character. As in characters who are fun to act as. I’m all for antagonistic roles, or even charismatic CEO-type of roles. Maybe even the youngest of a group who’s too much to handle for everyone else? (laughs)
Please share a message for your Indian fans who are waiting for you to visit them someday.
To all the SESANG in India who I’ve always wanted to visit and meet someday! I’m always hoping for an opportunity for us to meet in person (laughs). I’m always thankful that you all send me so much love for both my singing and acting and I’ll continue to work hard to give back to you with as many great works as I can. Thank you all!
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