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[Herald Interview] Actor Jung Ho-yeon stays humble amid ‘Squid Game’ craze

Actor Jung Ho-yeon (Netflix)
Actor Jung Ho-yeon (Netflix)
For Jung Ho-yeon, 27, playing the role of Sae-byeok in “Squid Game,” directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, was an unreal experience as she was able to study and learn acting at a new level.

“I am honored and feel thankful (to the viewers) for loving my performance in the series. But I am well-aware of how much work I have to do and learn to become a better actor,” Jung said during an online interview with a group of reporters on Friday.

“I try not to dwell too much on the success of ‘Squid Game.’ For the fans, I think it is best to show Jung Ho-yeon improved as an actor, in my next work,” Jung said.

Having already made a name for herself on the Korean modeling scene, the global mega hit “Squid Game” was Jung’s first foray on Netflix and the Korean film industry.

Asked about the pressure of playing a major role in a drama series for the first time, Jung said she felt extremely nervous.

“At the time when I heard that I would be joining ‘Squid Game’ in the role of a North Korean defector, Sae-byeok, following the audition, I was uncertain about myself as an actor and questioned my ability,” Jung told The Korea Herald.

“At the beginning of the shooting, I asked director Hwang to have lunch together without a clear reason. I think I wanted confirmation that I was really suitable for the character. With Hwang’s advice and senior actors’ support, I was able to successfully complete my given role in ‘Squid Game,’” the actor added.

Given her short acting career, Jung said she tried to keep to the basics and was most concerned about portraying Sae-byeok.

“Before meeting Sae-byeok, I was more of a self-centered person. This might have been the biggest hurdle for me to overcome when playing the character. I tried many ways to become the real Sae-byeok, and writing a diary was one of them,” she said.

Actor Jung Ho-yeon plays North Korean defector Sae-byeok in “Squid Game.” (Netflix)
Actor Jung Ho-yeon plays North Korean defector Sae-byeok in “Squid Game.” (Netflix)
The actor added that the character influenced her greatly during and after the series. Sae-byeok’s willingness and determination to make sacrifices for the family made Jung realize that there is value to sacrificing oneself for others at times.

Although sad that her role had come to an end in the drama, Jung said she, like many others, is hoping for a second season.

“To be honest, I have never thought about (participating in) the next season, because I am dead,” Jung said jokingly. “We should all wait for brilliant imagination and ideas from the director and Netflix. Let’s wait together,” the actor said.

Jung, who gained overnight stardom, hopes to meet with fans in her future works.

“Acting in a new movie or series will be challenging, especially after ‘Squid Game.’ So I intend not to limit myself to a specific genre. I am left with only one choice, which is to work extremely hard. I want to meet my fans for a long time, as a real actor,” Jung said.

The nine-part series has topped the global Netflix chart since its release, and became the first South Korean show to hit the No. 1 spot in the streaming platform’s show rankings in the US.

By Lee Si-jin (