Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Young-Ae’s Vow (Book) English Translation

To hear the behind story of the Korean drama "Dae Jung Geum (大長今)", below is the summarized translation from a Japanese fan of the interviews of Lee Young-ae in her 2006 Japanese autobiography, "Young-Ae’s Vow" (ヨンエの誓い). I only corrected the obvious spelling and grammatical errors in order to keep the originality of the translation. The LYA official fansite is leeyoungae.net.

I added some Korean names in Hanja (漢字) for easy reading. For Chinese translation, go to the post at right.

[Young-Ae’s Vow - translated by Keiko]


The beginning was quite a coincidence, and then each surroundings around me became inevitable and it were tied like each piece of a puzzle got to fit one by one. It became the great work for me "Dae Jang Geum".

After the shooting of "One Fine Spring Day" (春逝), I took a long rest for around 2 years. I needed the rest. While the rest, I received a lot of offers for works. I got an offer for a heroine of "Winter Sonata". I don't think it was not only for me though, or I don't know whether it might be successful if I accept it.

I heard that the heroine should have lost her memories originally instead of Bae Yong Joon, and after the decision of the casting of BYJ, the story was changed accordingly.

I started to think about appearance for movies. People around me thought that I would choose a movie. Actually I was offered for some attractive works. But I feel the destiny, just like a man and a woman meet and love each other and get married, the fate of an actress (actor) and a work.

When I got the offer for DJG, I was puzzled and I had no confidence in acting in such a tough historical drama and I never thought that I would do it. In the mean time, I felt something attractive and recommendation by people around me helped to decide the appearance.

As for the title of the drama, "Dae Jang Geum" was a contemporary title and we have many other ideas. I liked and recommended "Dae Jang Geum" among other titles proposed.

It's still mysterious why I chose this drama. I had played historical dramas twice before. One of them was "West Palace" (西宮) and the other was "Chanpumdanja" (饌品單子). One of the reason why I hesitated and took 2 months to decide to accept the offer for DJG was because I knew well how hard historical drama would be by my experiences.

I heard it after shooting that there was a lot of anxiety for DJG among the drama by MBC. That's because Jang Geum (徐長今) is an unknown historical person. Besides DJG was the first long drama for the script writer Ms. Kim Yeong-Hyeon (金榮眩) and it was the first case that female script writer wrote the historical drama.


I had good timing for receiving the offer after a long rest, but it was not easy to accept such a long drama of 50 episodes or so.

But after I watched some of the works of the director Mr. Lee Byeong-Hun (李炳勳), "Ho Jeung" and "Sando" etc, I was sure that I would be able to believe him. I can guess what the director is like when I see his works. For example, I worked with the director Mr. Yoon Seok-Ho at the works "Invitation" and "Silverrein". I feel he is very genuine person like a boy, very sensitive..... I believe that the sense of humanity reflects their works. I felt that the director Mr. Lee Byeong-Hun expresses humanity exactly. When I actually meet him, my trust in him deepened. At the same time, a hunch of a hit of this drama budded in my mind.

The cast for the role of Lady Han (韓尚宮) was for the other actress than Ms. Yang Mi Kyung (梁美京). After we finished the rehearsal, the cast changed to her. I felt that the hunch which was beginning to bud budded more.

One day I chattered have some tea with Hong Ri-Na (洪莉娜) about the offering for DJG I received and she granted the director. After a while, I heard that she was also casted for the role of Choi Geum-Yeung (崔今英). I was very surprised and I felt things went well like each piece of the puzzle was placed and fit well.


I felt fear that DJG might become a similar drama as "Ho Jeung". I talked with the director Mr. Lee and the script writer Ms. Kim Yeong-Hyeon again and again. When I read the synopsis and knew that the drama will begin with the story of cooking, I felt relieved and surprised.

The person "Dae Jang Geum" just appears in fragments in the "Annals of Joseon Dynasty".

I was so surprised that such a great drama was made by spreading wings of imagination. I felt worth doing and joy for my work as an actress to convey the existence of a historical person who has been never known by people by playing in the drama.

The other fear for me was how huge the scale of the drama was as 50 episodes (finally it became 54). I asked the director whether it can be made shorter. The reason why I didn't accept his offer soon and let him wait for 2 months was because I had no confident I can carry out the work. The director promised me that he would give me enough time for acting without feeling any stress, but actually I couldn't help it and at the first stage, I kept shooting for a month or two without any day off. Series of TV dramas are usually broadcasted twice a week in Korea. It makes the shootings very hard.


The announcement of the production for "DJG" was very crowded with a lot of mass media. We had a kind of trouble. A wrong report was informed at that time. The drama "Damo" had been broadcasted before "DJG" and it had been very popular with a lot of enthusiastic fans. A report saying "DJG will win Damo" was carried on article against my intention, and a lot of comments of complaint by fans of Damo flooded into the internet, and we were thrown into confusion.

I know well how hard shooting of dramas are for actors or actress and I also know well Mr. Han Jeong of Damo is very hard worker, so I can't say that way. Such a misunderstanding made me feel sad.

What I wanted to say was that I hoped that "DJG" become an enjoyable drama like kimuchi which is loved by people regardless young or old, men or women.

I had a lot of time to think and chose this drama since I got to have confident, but there are some disputes by internet and media such as Lee Young-Ae will fit for Jeung Geum or not. However I tried to concentrate the drama without getting stressed out by such things. Although the shooting of DJG started with stormy like that way, fortunately it really became a drama like kimuchi.

And I decided to publish this book. It's because I hope this drama which is loved by everyone will remain in viewers’ memories forever.



As DJG was attracted the attention of people, I thought I needed to prepare enough for it.

At first, to learn cooking, I was taught by Teacher Han Bongnyo of the Court Cooking Study College. I ate a lot of delicious foods and had a great time there.

Although I wanted to learn medical act from professors of Korean herb doctor, I couldn’t do it due to lack of time, so I read “Eastern Medicine Epitome” written by Ho Jeung at the age of Joseon dynasty, and read many other historical books.

Such processes to prepare for playing gives me power. Works thinking of the background, it’s my great pleasure as an actress.

Far another preparation, we have careful camera tests as the lightings, profile, hanbok etc. I tried on about 20 hanboks. The director told me that light color hanboks wouldn’t suit me because of my broad shoulders. I couldn’t wear hanbok which I’d like to wear although others wore hanboks with beautiful colors.

But I think the actresses wearing big wig might have a really hard time. I wore it only a short time when I got to be the chief of the loyal kitchen. I also had a tough time with heavy wig and I still have a scar on my head.


We had the first meeting with co-stars.
I met Kyon Miri (甄美莉) as Lady Choi (崔尚宮) for the first time. I felt she was quite friendly and fanny. She’s frank, open-minded and cute. Her son was 6 years old at that time and he seemed my fan. He presented me some money with his tiny hand which he saved. I of course gave it back later though. His pretty act relaxed the atmosphere of the shooting.

I know well Hon Lina (洪莉娜) as Geumyeong (崔今英). She was worried about and also kind to me while shooting. In the winter shooting, we used pocket warmers together. She gave me a small portable heater and I got along with her than before.
Ji Jin-Hee (池珍熙) was co-star in a CF of LG card before. When I asked him what he was going to do in the future, he answered that he wanted to be an actor. I said to him that I hoped we could costar together in a good work. I’m very glad that it became true. I heard that he should have been originally casted in the drama “Invitation”.

Imm Hyeunsk (林玄植) as Gang Deokku (姜德九) who is familiar in the works of the Director Lee Beong-Hun, I met him after a long time. He is very nice and his humorous ad-lib is the best in the world. As the matter of fact, he resembles my own father in looks.

I always tried to be and have meals with them while shooting.

The drama made a big sensation from the beginning. Calls and e-mails flooded into MBC and the media made a fuss. I kept in mind firmly to try to stay calm and play as usual.

Up to the 5th episode, Cho Jeoung Wong (趙廷恩) acted as the child’s part of JG.

When I met her for the first time, I felt that she was very clever girl. Her nice performance led to the best start, but at the same time, it put pressure on me.
Luckily the ratings increased after JG grown up.


We started lines rehearsal once in a week and I was drawn into a violent whirl of DJG for several months.

At first I was overwhelmed by a lot of lines of JG with a lot of specialized terms.
We have not enough time and I sometimes received the script on the right day of the shooting. I had nothing but to memorize them in a few hours. There was no knack to memorize them.

In my case, it seems that I spring a mysterious power when I’m forced to be put in an extreme situation.

Anyway it was pretty tough works even just to memorize lines. It might be the fate of drama which is pursued by shooting schedule.

Even in such a hard schedule, I discussed thoroughly with the director. It was the big talk in Korea that there was a kiss scene with Ji Jin-Hee as Ming Jong Ho (閔政浩)

I wondered whether the expression by kissing was proper way or not, and I asked the director. He agreed with me but the rumor of the kiss scene had been taken on a life of its own and many reporters came over the shooting. I think it’s also important work for actors to think well and correct it accordingly when we think it’s something wrong.


We had a lot of locations in local areas and we went throughout the country, to Jeju Island, Busan etc….. I was asked for shaking hands by local people and was requested to touch their children. Some of them believed that my touching their children led to recover the children’s illness. I felt there were such a lot of genuine people in local areas. I like to go to temples although I was not Buddhist. I sometimes went to old temples and prayed there.

There is MBC’s stage set for historical dramas in the north suburbs of Seoul which is called “DJG Theme Park”. We rested and enjoyed chatting sitting on the grass. We often utilized a near inn. We once had a lot of snow and couldn’t go anywhere. We often did all-night work. Although many dishes were treated, I was the role of serving them, only the king could eat them. Some actresses ate the dishes in front of them secretly.

When Park Chonsk (朴貞叔) ssi as the empress and I were at the same scene, the director forced me to finish once or twice as I was a professional, on the other hand, she could take it again and again for the reason of she’s not. As she was MC and the director might feel responsibility as he casted her. Not only her but many young actresses played there and I felt sometimes jealousy when the director was absorbed in an actress. A woman is jealous by nature.….. It’s a joke. We actually got along well with them.


Compared with Japan, Korean drama is rarely made beforehand, and it causes us to have very hard schedule. It has an advantage that we can reflect it to the drama seeing viewer’s reaction, that is, it could be changed synopsis accordingly.

For example, Lady Han should have died in the episode 7, but she was a very favorite by viewers and her appearance became much longer.

Korean way has shortcomings. The extension of the first half affected the second half. The love triangle among JG, Min Jung-Ho, and the King became much shorter. I was persuaded to make the episodes longer by the director, but I sobbed that I couldn’t do anymore, and we agreed to add 4 more episodes.


This drama has many difficult words and lines, I was deeply moved when I heard that some of the special words such as Surakkan (the royal kitchen in the court), Chego-Sangun (chief of the royal kitchen, 最高尚宮) etc. became familiar in Japan.

I was at a loss when I played JG in this drama, for I was regarded that I was good at cooking or I know a lot about the history.

As to the history, I learned it in school but I was not so excellent especially.
To understand the historical background is important when we play the historical drama, and I was more and more interested in the history through DJG.


When I played with handling kitchen knife, I cut my finger with it, and I had an operation. It’s the ring finger and I still have a sore when I touch it.

As the bleeding wouldn’t stop, the director suggested going see a doctor and I went to the near plastic surgery. I was sewn up the wound immediately. How painful it was…. I was crying during the operation thinking about hard works since then. More over even a thought occurred that what I should do if it would leave a scar on my ring finger which I would be going to wear a marriage ring on.

I returned to the shooting right after the operation. Although I would do all the cooking scenes, the director never let me do after the accident. Since then the rather plump hands appeared.



“Dong Gigan”(Same Period) for an attached drama for me although it was not successful unfortunately, and there are many other dramas which made my grow than DJG. I believe that piles of experiences of my life before I became an actress reflect my present performance.


I have two elder brothers and we often played pro-wrestling. I was a child with full of curiosity and had a strong sense of justice just like as Jang Guem.

What I wanted to try when university were backpack travel, part-time job, and get-together meeting. I joined into get-together several times but I didn’t get a favorite of boys at all.


I did part time job as a model for “Orion chocolate” CF with Andy Lau, and also did CF of cosmetics “Mamond”. The catch phrase for me “Oxygen Lady” was born in this CF.

CF is called “15 minute-art”, on the other hand it also needs momentary concentration especially at the ending of the drama. I feel techniques of the CF are very useful for the drama too.

It was 1995 that I decided to be an actress seriously, and I’ve also overcome many hardships like as Jang Geum.



Gorgeous loyal dishes and quick cooking scene by cook maids were big topics in the first half.

I like cooking. I tried and enjoyed various cooking during 2 year off after the movie “OFSD”.

I was taught by my mother how to preserve kimuchi preparing for winter. I searched the receipt and tried Jah-zhang noodle (black noodle).

Diet was one of another preparation. I usually don’t go on a diet, but self-control should be essential as long as I appear on the screen as an actress. Since about a month before the shooting I started to go on a diet. The way of my diet is not to eat after 6 pm, and to walk fast with strength of abdominals.


I was trying to act thinking about what we served to the viewers should be the sincerity of the cook maids and the beauty of the dishes instead of the real dishes. We had many dish matches. I like “buckwheat crust roll” especially among them.

DJG tells us Korean dishes are not only good for the taste but also good for our health.

I often think the common and different point between JG and me.

I don’t have such a firm belief as JG. I think it’s important to listen to my surroundings and carry out what I think it’s right. JG met a lot of hardships, but I like more calm and ordinary life. However in actual I met a lot of hardships and felt sense of failures. I was very depressed when I was spread groundless rumor but I’m not type of search for sources or excusing to the media. I have been patient alone. I don’t know whether it’s right or not though….


JG lost her sense of taste. I think it’s the biggest crisis in the first half and it was the big task as an actress how to get over the trials and how to act. JG panicked and tried to confirm her sense of taste. She tried to take hot water in her mouth. It was really hot and was surprised at it.

JG was always saved by someone and she never died and things worked out somehow because she’s the heroine. I sometimes didn’t like what she was.

I like an animation “Tom and Jerry”. I prefer Tom than Jerry. A cat Tom is bigger and plays tricks on Jerry, but after all he was defeated by a small mouse Jerry. I felt a good girl JG was just like Jerry. I sometimes even sympathized with Lady Choi and Geumyeong. I myself prefer the type of Lady Min, the most common and ordinary person. It’s the best way to live your life calmly for many years rather than full of ups and downs like JG.



Yang Migeon (梁美京) ssi and I, both of us have AB-type blood and we have common characters. We can understand each other without words. We prefer to be on our own.

Migeon ssi is quiet and hard to approach at a glance, but actually she’s very warm person. The role of Lady Han fit her very much.

We sometimes exchange e-mails and sometimes talk by phone. She’s been always cheering me up and supporting me.


A person, Hon Rina (洪莉娜) is quite different from Geumyeong. Rina ssi is very bright and cheerful.

She was pretty disappointment with the development of lost love with Min Jungho. She often joked with laughing “How come?” “Oh no, I can’t believe it!”


Thinking of Kyon Miri (甄美莉) ssi, I remember that act of eyes. Her eyes gave the drama vivid impression and were outstanding.

Her concentration was excellent in shooting; on the other hand, she kept a good atmosphere in breaks. She is quite different from Lady Choi. She has a sense of humor, and she likes to make others laugh.


Min Jungho’s love was always watching JG from the behind. I like the way.

As I can’t say “I love you.” even if there is a man who I love, I also prefer kind of assertive man, though…. Recently women are more active, and tend to tell their love to men.

It’s a bit regret that I did not have so many love stories with Min Jungho.



The heavy pressure was on my shoulder after half. I had to liven it up after Lady Han's dead.

The shooting in Jeju Island started from January and I was forced to have shuttle flights between Seoul and Jeju twice a week for almost 2 months. Since I saw the 9.11 terrorism case on TV, I got a fear of flight.

Another hardship was the weather. We were often suffering from sudden change in the weather peculiar to island.

Foods of Jeju were really delicious. I liked mackerels very much especially. I enjoyed the sights of undersea by submarine when I had time. I thought that I wish I live there when I get old.


I couldn't bear the cold weather in winter among many hardships. Pocket warmers were necessities. I once used 20 pocket warmers all over my body.

My fan club members gave us rice cakes with messages wishing to have over 40 percent ratings.

I had many hardships then but in the same time I spend a very happy and full life everyday.


In the latter half of the drama, I tried to express how JG was getting mature.
Lady Choi's end falling down from the cliff trying to catch a red ribbon hanging on the tree, it was in disappointment, but it's one of the most my favorite scene. I felt the deep love for Lady Choi by the script writer Ms.Kim Yeong-Hyeon.


Min Jungho rode a horse and came to save JG locked up in the shed, the scene was very cool but I know how many efforts he had to ride a horse.

I like the scene after that very much which JG stared at him with tears.

There is a good hot spring at the place of the shooting of this scene. I decided to go there with two female stylists. I thought it's not easy to recognize me with thick lenses, but a woman looked at me and cried "Aigo, Jang Geumma!" ......The rumor that JG came to the hot spring spread rapidly all over the small town. By the way, the quality of the hot spring was really excellent! I wish I had such a good hot spring near my house.


I remember the scene the most, the King and Min Jungho shot arrows from bows. They were very cool and I was very happy as an actress as a woman even in the drama. I missed the romance with them. I wish we extend 10 more episodes so that I could faced the love more if I still had enough energy.


I was surprised at the ending of C-section and at the same time I think it should be welcomed a lot. I think it's important to try to do a new challenge at that age instead of C-section itself.

The last shooting was done twice. We took it for the media again. The salute was fired and all staffs appreciated the efforts after the director's last cut. My eyes were filled with tears.

I had been sick in bed for over a week after the shooting. After I recovered, I posted the last message on the drama's homepage and my eyes were filled with tears again.



Director, Mr. Lee Byeong-Hun and the script writer Ms.Kim Yeong-Hyeon, who produced DJG in the modern age spreading the wings of imagination from a slight source of the fact.

I'm very glad about his words for me. He said that I might be a plane white canvas, and an actress whom he could draw in any way whatever he liked as a director.

Ms.Kim Yeong-Hyeon wrote many excellent lines. Unforgettable one is Lady Jung's lines when she was died. It made me think of lines when cook maids in the palace.
I could talk with her a lot while we all staffs went to trip to Singapore and Indonesia after the shooting. I would like to work with her again.



I expressed various emotion such as crying, laughing, getting angry, hating... as Jang Guem in DJG. I've been recently asked some questions if I have some techniques or drawers in acting. Of course I managed to get my own technique in acting for almost 10 year experience of actress. Actor and actress who have enough experience have their own way in acting. But it would be difficult to convey the true meaning of tears in viewer's heart if they indulge in acting without heart. Feeling from bottom of my heart than technique, I'd like never to loose it even when I get old.

I always had kept treasuring the feeling while I challenged to this drama. I can't say I can act perfectly. I tried my best and it was worth doing, but I still regret that I should have to do this way or that way. If it's allowed to excuse, one thing, I didn't have enough time in a tight shooting schedule and it leads to luck of time to sleep.

I was saved by an e-mail from Ms. Kim Yong Hyeon, script writer. I received it to my cell phone after a while the shooting had been over mentioning that "I now realized it very well how you'd been working hard." It was the most admirable word for finishing the shooting without ay trouble even in hard condition and never missing the drama, regardless to say about my acting. It was larger present than a hundreds of admires. However, it's my frank feeling that I still have regret for acting in DJG.

But I have tried my best so I feel my way of acting as an actress is not waste of time. I'm sure I showed an identity or color as of Lee Young Ae that others never do.

It broke my heart to know the column on a newspaper that DJG was succeeded because of the good director and the good script writer, not because LYA. I cried and was shocked when I read such a heartless word without knowing or denying how hard work I had.

I tried to make various efforts to supplement my weak points such as weakness of pronunciation, lack of lasting concentration, lack of empathizing of feeling.

I seem to be calm, but actually I'm rather short-tempered. So I always try to act staying calm with in state of meditation. I'm embarrassed when I see my acting in old drama such as "Invitation" or "fireworks" because I feel the tone of my voices were strangely high, although it was the best at that time.

What I'm usually doing for acting, it's looking at me in the mirror. Some people call me "mirror princess" but it's no shame at all. I'm sometimes surprised by seldom seeing my face and change of my face. Mirror shows previous myself and future myself, and it's also a tool to see outer myself and inner myself.


The ratings of DJG had been very good from the beginning. However it made me alone. I had a fear that I'll lose the important thing if I also romp about as people do. So I tried to keep distance and keep reflecting on myself.

I think I have to be modest and strict with myself even when everything is going well.

I got nervous and rarely enjoyed talking at the beginning, but I feel I changed myself little by little and I finally can enjoy talking and eating with co-stars and staffs in the latter half of shooting. It's thanks to the director.

When I have hard time, my family always gives me emotional support. Family ties must be an immortal truth which should not be changed for thousands or millions years.

During recharging my batteries for two years between "OFSD" and DJG, I often went to trip with my 2 brothers, and nephews and nieces who are 6 in all. I leaned that warm love by our family makes relationship with others better.

It's often said that a real art won't be create if artists on top of actors and actresses are so good model of life, but I think that even if they act good, they won't express exactly unless the basis of their way to live is properly.

What is the happiest thing I get in the drama DJG, it's to meet people at various places and I felt the human feelings. The shooting of local areas were really harsh and it made me feel warm human feelings there.

Recent dramas and movies tend to be too stimulating. I performed the movie "SFLV" (親切的金子) which has a motif of revenge, but this movie tells the true permission as an original message, and relief of human being. On the other hand, so many movies and dramas which have a lot of scenes of violence and killing people without any reason. It breaks my heart as a human being. Those works pretend to the art have a big effect to people. One of those movies triggered an actual accident, and another movie was made by using the topic of an accident which happened actually.

Among such an age, it's my pleasure that the drama DJG which young and old, men and women, all family enjoy got a good review. I said that I'd like to make this drama like kimuchi before the drama began. I'm very glad that it actually became so.

I believe this drama has worth watching many times, and it should be kept watching and be delivered to more people.


I've been spending relax time slowly traveling with family, watching movies, doing pilates... I feel like I gained a little weight. During this time I'd like to find a good knocking-off point in what I have been done. I'd like to think about the way I should go to with care.

Of course, I'm thinking about little by little what kind of work I will perform next. Although I didn't decide yet, I feel like to perform a film such as a love story investigating for its reality, at the same time being wrapped by something like cotton candy.

I have no courage any more to fly to very far foreign countries these days; one of the reasons is that I dislike flight as I said before. I strongly wanted to get something by going to awful places to find myself in my 20s, but now I feel like it's the most comfortable for me to be in Korea. Even if I go overseas, it would be near countries like China. I'd like to visit silk road because I'm interested in history. After I told such a story and some of Chinese fans gave me a lot of books about silk road.

I'd also like to visit hot springs of local areas in Japan. I told that I hardly can go to hot springs even when I go to Japan due to lack of time, then Japanese fan sent to me 6 books guiding about various hot springs in Japan.

An actor said to me that "if you're asked "what do you like?" then you can answer "I like money." then you will get money. I couldn't stop laughing.

Oh, one more thing I like, it's Japanese Umeboshi. Many Korean people are not good at it but I like it.


The opportunity made me go into show business was CF of "to you chocolate", co-actor was Andy Lau. I also did MC at a morning TV program, and I performed in dramas.

My mother objected to be an actress and I had no confidence at that time. But when I was thinking of seriously what to do after graduation of university, I realized that I'm strongly interested in acting. It was 1995. I went to graduate school to learn theory of acting, and I wanted to be an actress who have responsibility of my name, and I challenged to perform a various kinds of roles. I think there must be no present "LYA" without the decision in 1995, or if I satisfied with "CF star LYA". At the time when I decided to be an actress, my target was settled clearly.

The feeling at that time has not changed still now, but I think I got a bit broad-minded and became to be calm enough in 30s. I'm also satisfied myself. In the mean time, as well as an actress LYA, I feel that it seems to be a big homework, to know the life which general people do as a woman, as an actress LYA. I'd like to grope the way of life which is suitable for my ages, 30s, 40s....

I like the word "like" because it's may be the word which accepts what it is naturally. Woman is like woman, actress is like actress, 30s is like 30s, I hope I behave it naturally.

I'm going to lead my life like LYA all the time forever.

Below pictures were posted by a Japanese fan, Toshiko.