Song Ji-hyo from ‘What a Man Wants’ / Photograph = NEW

There’s Song Ji-Hyo the multi-talented entertainer who’s known for being down-to-earth and easy-going, and then there’s Song Ji-Hyo the actress who has been growing gradually by giving every role her all – even when the roles she takes on are relatively minor. By making wise choices in both of these fields, Song Ji-hyo has been garnering love and attention as both an entertainer and an actress.

Song Ji-hyo, the star who has established an approachable image by showing off her unique, unaffected charm on SBS’s Running Man, has returned to her “day job.” Her newest movie, What a Man Wants, follows what happens when a femme fatale named Jenny (Lee El) enters the lives of long-time playboy Seok-geun (Lee Sung-min), who has been seducing women for 20 years; his brother-in-law Bong-soo, who just recently entered the world of infidelity; and Bong-soo’s wife Mi-young (Song Ji-hyo), who has an obsession with social media.

The film made headlines on the day it was released (April 5) by taking over the No. 1 spot in the country in terms of advanced ticket sales. As of 3:00 p.m. on April 5, What a Man Wants recorded reservation rates of 29.6%, overtaking Ready Player One which recorded rates of 26.5%.

Song Ji-hyo’s performance stands out in the movie. This is her first time back on the big screen after starring in New World (2013) approximately five years ago. Song Ji-hyo makes audiences laugh with her ability to portray an ordinary character and naturally melt into the film. It is surprising how craftily she is able to portray scenes of her character squabbling with her brother and engaging in loveless physical contact with her husband of eight years.

What a Man Wants received a restricted rating for being about infidelity. Although the subject matter puts Song Ji-hyo in danger of merely being consumed by viewing audiences for the sexual image she portrays, she has established a domain for herself by maintaining an appropriate gap between doing her character justice and coming across in an overtly sexual manner.  

Taking one look at Song Ji-hyo’s filmography shows that she is no stranger to R-rated films; she has made the news a number of times in the past by starring in movies like Sex is Zero 2 (2007), A Frozen Flower (2008), and New World (2013). What’s impressive about Song Ji-hyo is that she obviously has the will to gradually grow as an actress, and that she isn’t attached to things like audience numbers and trying to generate a lot of buzz.

When it comes to the Song Ji-hyo that we see on Running Man, “girl next door” seems to be a more fitting title than “actress.” On the other hand, the character of “Mong Ji-hyo” (Blank Ji-hyo; a nickname that refers to the expressionless stare that Ji-hyo often wears in Running Man) is one that’s nowhere to be found in her filmography. Pop culture critic Park Ji-jong had the following to say about the star: “She has a distinct identity as an actress. She draws a clear line between entertainment programs and acting, and is making wise career choices.”

Park added, There are actors who piggyback on the popularity they’ve gained through entertainment programs and suddenly step into leading roles. Song Ji-hyo, on the other hand, doesn’t try to bite off more than she can chew. She is building a solid filmography by choosing roles that are well-suited for her and that she can excel in. Song Ji-hyo gradually eased into leading roles. She now takes roles for movies she can take responsibility for and can pull her own weight. You could say she is a late bloomer when it comes to acting.”

Translated by Jennifer Earwood