Kim You-jung is no child. Yes, her wide, luminous eyes and round, exquisite face are those of a 15-year-old child actress, but in front of camera, she becomes a Joseon crown princess, a poor but alluring tomboy or a buoyant and adventurous vessel designer-to-be.
Her eyes sparkle with candor, her smile is sweet and earnest and her tears are true-blue.
"When I'm acting, I'm someone else," Kim said in a recent interview with The Korea Times. "I am able to experience another's life and explore another's feelings."
She said that one of her role models is Song Hye-kyo. "They are more like destinations for me," she said. "Once I reach that destination, I will search for another destination. In the process, I know I will discover a new me."
Only recently did she finish living the first part of Kim Baek-won's life on weekend television series "Gold Rainbow."
"But I will watch the series until it ends," she said. "It's always disappointing to leave a series when it's not over. I miss the actors and staffers I worked with when my part's over."
Kim debuted in 2003 on a TV commercial for a local biscuit brand. Since then, she has appeared as the leading role's younger self in several hit dramas, including "The Moon Embracing the Sun," "May Queen" and "Dongi."
"I love to act," Kim gushed. "But I heard many in my family were against my starting an acting career at such a young age. But now they're proud of me."
Kim's career was put on center stage when she appeared in "The Moon Embracing the Sun," opposite fellow child actor Yeo Jin-gu. Much-adored child actress Kim So-hyun also starred in the television hit.
"But Kim So-hyun is not a rival," Kim said. "She has her own charm, and I, mine. We encourage, assist and advise each other on performances."
But though her career seems to be smooth sailing, Kim admits she fears when she will have to make the transition from a child actress into an adult performer.
Though there are actors who have successfully turned over new leaves, some have failed to stay in the spotlight after their teens. Kim hopes to pass into the next stage of her acting career as smoothly as possible.
"I'd be lying if I said I'm not worried," she confessed. "But I think the fear I feel is necessary for development."
Kim mentioned that as she leaves behind this portion of her career, she feels that the environment in which child actors interact needs improvement.
"For instance, I heard that a bill was passed to limit the working hours of entertainers under the age of 15," she said. The recent bill requires entertainment agencies to limit the working hours of entertainers 15 or younger to 40 hours a week. These people will not be allowed to work between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without the permission of their parents.
"But I think all performers under the age of 15 should refrain from working between those hours, with or without their parents' permission," she said. "But I am thankful that people are showing interest in the working environment of child actors."