As the K-Wave gathers more momentum and Europeanbased brand Swarovski makes her a global ambassador, Park Shin Hye sits on the cusp of world domination. But while we all know her face, how well do we know her story?
Last Summer Pierced Earrings, $189; Last Summer Necklace (Moon), $149; and Remix Bracelet, $149; all from Swarovski. When it comes to celebs from the West, we have intimate access to their lives at the tap of a smartphone. We’re fed a constant stream of selfies. We can follow their stories (literally, on Instagram) as they unfold in real time. They can clear up rumours via the new version of a publicist, the screenshot note.
Compared to their Western counterparts, fandoms in South Korea rely a lot more on traditional channels – press releases, TV appearances and interviews – to find out what their fave celebs are up to. Korean talent agencies are notorious for guarding their stars and their reputations very closely. And as the popularity of Korean stars continues to rise all around the world, it seems to be working for them. We always want to know more.
Park Shin Hye is riding the crest of that K-Wave. At 28, she’s been acting – and in the public eye – for half her life. We know so much and so little about her at the same time.
And so it begins
It was 2003 when a 13-yearold Park Shin Hye first appeared on our screens in the quirky music video for Lee Seung Hwan’s “Flower”. Later that year, her breakthrough role arrived: the younger version of Choi Ji Woo’s character in Stairway to Heaven. She then earned praise for her turn in Tree of Heaven before starring in her first film, My Evil Twin, at the age of 19.
Practice makes perfect
Shin Hye told Korea’s Entertainment Weekly in February 2016 that “everything becomes rusty if you don’t do it regularly.” Luckily for her, her acting career hasn’t paused long enough for this to happen.
In 2009, she played a cross-dressing role in You’re Beautiful and sang two songs on the soundtrack. Then came Miracle in Cell No. 7, one of the highest-grossing Korean movies, and the popular drama The Heirs.
By 2013, at the age of 23, Park Shin Hye had been acting for a decade. To celebrate, she embarked on the 2013 Park Shin Hye Asia Tour: Kiss of Angel, becoming the first Korean actress to tour across Asia.
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The “Park Shin Hye effect”
Her career continued to soar, but it was in 2014 when Pinocchio came out that it became clear just how impactful she truly was. Dubbed “The Park Shin Hye effect”, sponsor brands like Mamonde saw a huge spike in sales in the shade of lipstick she wore in Pinocchio. Two years later, the blue and white Bruno Magli bag she wore on Doctors sold out, while Mamonde continued to benefit, with their Highlight Lip Tint in #6 Pin Spot becoming a runaway hit after Shin Hye posted a selfie on Instagram.
For the record, we aren’t surprised that everyone wants to emulate her. On-screen, she plays upbeat, lovable characters. And in all her interviews, the real Park Shin Hye seems to follow suit, coming across as incredibly warm and sweet.
But despite many paragraphs dedicated to her prolific acting and singing roles, there remains only one line regarding her personal life on her Wikipedia page. It reads: “On March 7, 2018, it was confirmed that Park has been in a relationship with actor Choi Tae-joon since late 2017.”
Despite having previously joked that she would secretly date until she was ready for marriage, her representatives confirmed that she’s in a relationship with her classmate and fellow actor, saying that “they started off as close friends but began dating at the end of 2017 after developing romantic feelings for each other.”
She’s also pretty open about the ways we don’t see her portrayed too: “I’m not a person who works like a machine. I’m just like everyone else. Sometimes, I cry and get angry. It’s not like I don’t get stressed from having a healthy image. Somewhere along the way, I became ‘a person who only wants to live the right way,’” she said in an interview with Kukmin Ilbo. She also divulged to Elle Korea in their July 2016 issue that she had a quick temper and fought with her parents.
While this again bucks the trend of many K-Stars who play their cards close to their chest, knowing these flaws somehow works to make her seem even more imperfectly perfect.
The more you’re in the spotlight, the less personal space you have, something Shin Hye is very aware of. “I want to go to the bar or club and have a drink, but I’m worried because I can’t do things like that. But more than that, [as an actress], I’ve experienced a lot of good things, so I’m willing to let that go,” she added in her interview with Kukmin Ilbo.
After working non-stop for two years, Shin Hye went backpacking in Europe in 2015, where she said no one recognised her – a brief moment of freedom, but perhaps also of isolation.
In an Elle Korea interview the following year, she confessed that, “Everyone thinks I’m a strong person, but the people who are close to me know I have a personality where I get lonely easily. When I’m alone, I have too many wild thoughts. In order not to have that kind of thoughts, I go out. I will drive, exercise or go to a bookstore.” She tries to go horse riding regularly too.
As Korean exports from sheet masks to boy bands continue to gain a larger presence on the world stage, so has the popularity of Korean dramas – and that of their stars. Descendants of the Sun has already been picked up in 32 countries and Netflix is making a play in the market, with shows like Busted.
For Shin Hye, backpacking anonymously, even halfway across the world in Switzerland, will likely soon be a thing of the past. Already this year, the star has already been tapped as the global face of Swarovski, upping the ante on their three-year relationship.
But as the global cultural landscape changes around her, and as she seemingly sits on the precipice of world domination, she continues to do the one thing she’s done all along: act. Next up, a TvN fantasy romance, Memories of the Alhambra. (Then the world.)
One of the perks of Park Shin Hye’s job? Acting alongside these handsome co-stars.
“Everyone thinks I’m a strong person, but the people who are close to me know I have a personality where I get lonely easily.”