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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

'Lost' actress is no timid Asian woman, after all

By Susan King
Los Angeles Times

The hit ABC series "Lost" is threaded through with story lines — there are more than 13 characters in the ensemble portraying crash survivors on an island in the Pacific — and Yunjin Kim's demure Sun has been one of the highlights.

Yunjin Kim initially faced criticism that her "Lost" character, Sun, was the stereotype of a subservient Asian wife.

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At the outset, Sun and her possessive husband, Jin-Soo (Daniel Dae Kim), spoke only in Korean and isolated themselves from the rest of the survivors. Recently, though, Sun revealed that she speaks English and proved that she possesses more inner strength than anyone had imagined, even her husband.

Kim, 31, grew up on New York's Staten Island but has called Seoul, South Korea, home for the past eight years. She's appeared in numerous mini-series and movies, including the international hit Korean thriller "Shiri."

Before reporting to work on "Lost," Kim was on a popular reality show in which celebrities foster orphan babies to help them get adopted. Kim, who is single, fostered a 10-month-old boy for two weeks before a family was found for him.

Q. Will all the secrets of the island be revealed on the finale of "Lost" on May 25?

A. I think the writers will give us something, but I think it will be another cliffhanger. You have to come back for the second season. For us it's frustrating, too. We are just as much in the dark as the rest of the audience. We get our scripts pretty late. Sometimes we get them the day before we go to shoot, which is fine because you are only doing eight pages a day, and I don't say very much.

Q. But now, with Sun speaking English, you have a lot more dialogue.

A. (Thankfully) everyone knows now (that the character can speak English). I can mingle with others. I can get involved in other people's crises. There are some characters Sun has never even talked to! Still,

I get this fan mail from all over the world that says they kind of wish that Sun doesn't speak English or just speaks Korean. They liked the fact I didn't say much. They said sometimes they didn't need to read the subtitles to understand what was going on.

Q. Wasn't the reaction from the Asian community rather negative to Sun and Jin-Soo?

A. In the very beginning, we were sort of portrayed as a bad stereotype of an Asian couple — the subservient wife and domineering husband. But I kept on saying that you have to watch the characters because they will continue to grow, and you will see the reason why he is treating her that way and why she is reacting that way. In the beginning, I was really concerned that the whole Asian community would be turned off.

Every character on "Lost" is an archetype, and ... once they are in motion, they break away (from the archetype).

Q. Sun's defining moment was defying Jin-Soo by wearing the bikini.

A. I got more response from coming out in a bikini. I thought it was really silly. They thought it was very symbolic, and I thought it wasn't like just a girl in a bikini — it had a meaning. It was Sun finally putting her foot down and saying, "I am going to go and take a swim."

Q. You were born in South Korea but attended the High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York. How did you end up back in Korea as a working actress? Was it just lack of decent roles in America?

A. No. When I graduated from Boston University, colorblind casting was in fashion, so I didn't have too many problems getting roles onstage. I was always constantly busy, and then back in 1997 I got cast in a Korean miniseries. It was just a random thing. I was in New York, and I had a friend who knew a producer who was coming to New York to shoot a miniseries. It was like 15 episodes, and they were going to shoot three episodes in New York and then go back to Korea. I got cast on the spot. Before I knew it, I was in Korea shooting this mini-series. And it took off.