Actress Minha Kim wears a Stella McCartney bodysuit, a skirt by Tory Burch and a dress by KkCo. PHOTO ASSISTANT: EVEN WOODS; STYLING: JENSEN EDMONDSON; HAIR: ERICKA VERRETT; MAKEUP: EMILY CHENG; MANICURE: STEPHANIE STONE PHOTOGRAPHED SSAM KIM
KOREAN ACTRESS MINHA KIM TALKS LANDING THE ROLE AS THE STAR OF APPLE TV+’S PACHINKO, NEWFOUND INTERNATIONAL STARDOM AND DEPICTING A DIFFICULT MOMENT IN HISTORY.
In school, Minha Kim, who grew up in Seoul, South Korea, was taught about the era of when Korea was under Japanese rule. However, learning about it only scratched the surface of true understanding for the actress, who’s currently starring as the teenage Sunja in the beloved novel-turned-Apple TV+ series Pachinko. “I tried to study that whole era not only in Korea, but also in Asia as a whole, and all the historical events of that specific era. I’ve also been watching a lot of documentaries and reading books [about that time] and my grandparents told me a lot of stories about their lives,” she says. “My grandmother, because she’s 94 years old, knows what happened in that era. The written facts are not something that I could feel immediately—[but with my grandmother’s stories] I felt those emotions right away.”
When Kim got the starring role and told her grandmother, the reaction of her relative was powerful. “[She] grabbed my hands and said, ‘I am really, really proud of you to have this role but I’m also really sad that you have to play this role,’” the actress recalls.
The romantic drama based on the New York Times bestseller follows four generations of a Korean immigrant family as they leave their homeland. To get the part, Kim auditioned for four long months. “I just tried my best and I did everything I could do,” she explains. “After the last audition, I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, even though I didn’t get this role, I don’t have any regrets because I did whatever I could do.’”
But after the call to her mother, the newcomer found out she landed the part. “I felt really happy,” she says, but wanted to make sure she could do the role justice. “Because this role represents all these women, all the daughters and mothers all over the world... I had a lot of responsibility.”
On set, Kim was joined by megastars such as Academy Award-winning actress Yuh-Jung Youn and Korean A-lister Min-ho Lee. It was Lee who gave her valuable advice. “He told me that after Pachinko you will get a lot of attention and the world will focus on you. … At the time, I didn’t believe him because I didn’t expect anything,” she says with a laugh. “And then he told me you should prepare for that and care for your mental health. It was really, really good advice.”
Looking back, Kim is appreciative of the guidance that foreshadowed her success. And looking forward, she hopes to take on a different challenge—in a musical. “I’ve been singing and dancing before I learned how to act,” says the rising star. We’re sure Grandma would be proud.