Korean media fans may know Kim Sejeong primarily from dramas such as Business Proposal, Today’s Webtoon and The Uncanny Counter. In the 2022 drama Business Proposal she hilariously plays a woman on a blind date—pretending to be her best friend—when she discovers her date is her boss. Part of the rom-com’s success was her pitch-perfect comedic timing and the performance earned her the 2022 Asian Artist Award for Best Actor. She followed that performance with the 2022 TV drama, Today’s Webtoon and in 2023 revived her role as a demon hunter in the second season of The Uncanny Counter.
But what her drama fans may not know is that Kim, known simply as Sejeong, already has a varied and successful musical career. She was a vocalist in two k-pop groups, I.O.I. and Gugadan, then launched a solo career, writing and composing her own songs, while also appearing in musicals and on variety shows. Some of her songs were featured on the soundtracks of the dramas Legend of the Blue Sea, Mr. Sunshine, Crash Landing On You, Record of Youth, Business Proposal and both seasons of The Uncanny Counter. It all began with just wanting to sing.
“When I was 15, I had a strong desire to sing,” said Sejeong. “I would practice singing in the school playground just outside my house. It was during this time that I seriously considered pursuing a career in this field and contemplated receiving private training. After making my decision, I remember discussing it with my mother. That’s when I embarked on proper music training and practice.”
Sejeong treasures every moment she spent singing with the girl groups I.O.I. and Gugadan. “Those times will never return and even if they do, they will never be the same,” said Sejeong. “Having someone to lean on and share my worries was truly comforting during those moments.”
I.O.I. disbanded in 2017 and Gugadan in 2020. “It’s heartening to have friends to share stories and have discussions with even if they did not always provide me with certain solutions to my problem,” she added with a laugh.
Throughout her career, she’s drawn inspiration from those she admires: singer-actress IU, Girls Generation member Taeyeon, female pop/folk duo Rooftop Moonlight and the indie pop folk singer Zitten.
“IU has been a constant companion in my journey toward becoming a singer,” said Sejeong. “Her music has offered me solace and resilience, serving as a source of strength during challenging periods. Singing along to her songs has also played a pivotal role in refining my musical abilities and emotional control. Taeyeon’s music accompanies me during my morning vocal warm-up sessions. It has become a routine for me to prepare my voice for the day ahead by singing her songs. Rooftop Moonlight enlightened me on the potential of sincere lyrics and genuine vocal delivery to create a profound connection with the audience. The depth of emotion that Zitten brings to his work makes me eager to collaborate with him. Given the opportunity, I would be thrilled to join forces on a song project.”
Sejeong released her first full-length album Door on Sept. 4.
“This album revolves around the theme of the “Door” and is presented in two versions: the Key version and the Lock version,” said Sejeong. I chose this theme to explore both the challenging and optimistic aspect of venturing into the unfamiliar world beyond the door, as well as the uncharted territories inside the door that only I am aware of. During the process of producing this album, I was given a lot of time to reflect on my journey as an artist, from the first day that I dreamt of becoming one to the present where the journey is still unfolding. This infused the album with songs that hold a distinct significance for me compared to before.”
Door has 11 new songs with lyrics written by Sejeong, who also worked on the composition for nine of the tracks. The pre-release title track Voyage is an Irish-style pop-rock track with acoustic guitars and fiddles meant to invoke the atmosphere of sailing aboard a ship. The title track Top or Cliff is a vocal-heavy R&B track while other tracks, ranging from pop, rock and jazz genres, are: If We Do, Sea of Hope, Between Summer and Winter, Destiny, Jenga, Indigo Promise, Send a Letter, Over The Rainbow and In The Rain.
The music video for Top or Cliff is a short but intense melodrama about a woman trapped in a mansion. She longs to burn down her beautiful prison. Sejeong’s sweet raspy voice is so eerily soft and her moves so elegant during her violent escape, that it’s tempting to believe she’s merely imagining it. The press release for her album notes that her new songs will reveal a hidden side of her. That matters to her because as an artist, it’s important to be sincere and genuine with her fans.
“While similar emotions might be shared among people, how they are addressed and comprehended may greatly differ,” said Sejeong. “Ever since I realized that being true to my feelings can become my authenticity, I have started to share those feelings. The world has consistently shown its support, so I believe that it is my role to share more stories with my fans who have eagerly awaited them.”
Although she appeared in a few dramas before Business Proposal that role marked a turning point in her career as an actress. Her performance received a warm reception.
“I was quite surprised by the overwhelming love that this drama received,” she said. “While I knew that Korea excelled in producing some of the best romantic comedy genres globally, like Business Proposal, I never anticipated such an extraordinary response. As for the impact this had on my life, my involvement in The Uncanny Counter gave me the confidence to take the next step, and Business Proposal allowed me to see the possibilities. I have often struggled with self-doubt and insecurity, yet these two dramas have given me the courage to push past my apprehensions, motivating me to take on challenges without becoming overly consumed by the outcomes.”
Her role in both seasons of The Uncanny Counter involved plenty of action scenes. Although she’s fairly athletic Sejeong found that her experiences of being in a k-pop group was helpful when shooting demon-fighting action scenes in The Uncanny Counter.
“Honestly, even though I do not exercise as some would expect, I do develop muscles with minimal effort, thanks to my natural muscle properties,” she said, laughing. “When there’s a stunt scene planned for filming, I do go to an action school but apart from that, I do not receive any other training. If I’m required to shoot action scenes for a drama, it is more important to memorize the action sequences with other actors for synchronization, so my experience as a member of a k-pop group greatly helps.”
Her career was born out of a desire to sing, but she also wants to continue to act.
“In terms of differentiating accomplishments between these two fields, I now perceive more similarities,” said Sejeong. “Effectively conveying intended emotions and ideas holds significant importance in both realms. While there are still concerns and worries about venturing into new endeavors, I recognize that the sense of accomplishment shares some common ground by feeling excited about every new opportunity.”