For some, stability may be one of the most important factors when searching careers. The high unemployment rate, uncertainty of the future, and the social pressure for employment cast shadows on an individual's pursuance of dreams. Despite such tendencies, Lee Su-ryeon actively wades through the rough waters to pursue her dream as a budding actor. Lee put her days as the first female bodyguard at the Blue House behind to achieve her ambitions once again.
In 2004, graduating as an English Language and Literature major with a minor in Communication Studies, Lee moved on to work in the Blue House as the first female bodyguard to serve the president. Always up for a challenge, Lee had previously tried and applied for many other jobs and activities, ranging from a freelance reporter at SBS to a cabin crew for foreign airlines.
“It was fun, and those applications actually helped me monitor myself and realize my own strengths,” Lee said.
As the first ever female to become a bodyguard at the Blue House, Lee faced some difficulties. Making space and facilities, such as separate bathrooms, night duty rooms, and changing rooms for a female bodyguard initially created discomfort and tension within the male bodyguards.
“I worked hard to break the ice between co-workers by going to work early, doing extra work, and being assertive, regardless of the difficulty at hand,” Lee said. “When being in charge, I tried to be brighter and friendlier to make things less awkward for them.”
Like her colleagues, Lee went through various and rigorous training such as target, guerrilla, parachute practice. In addition, Lee acquired habits that are the result of interlacing caution on the job and escort etiquettes. Having spent a lot of time escorting people, Lee admits, old habits die hard. Holding doors open for people, pressing elevator buttons, and observing other people in a public space are some of the habits Lee still has.
Starting from 2004, Lee worked at the Blue House for 10 years, serving three presidents. With her fluent English, Lee worked many hours escorting guests of state.
“Once, I had to escort a secretary from the U.S.,” Lee said with a smile. “The U.S. bodyguards were shocked to find out that I was in charge, due to my relatively small frame. They conferred within their group and then asked me, with sincerity, whether I was a ninja, with special skills up my sleeve.”
Despite the excitement and vast experience Lee had as a Blue House bodyguard, in 2013, just before her promotion as a fifth grade deputy director, Lee decided to pursue a career in acting. In contrast to the common notion that value stable jobs, Lee gave up a stable government job and moved into a much versatile career as an actress.
“Though many don’t understand, I felt as if my life was stuck in a rut,” Lee said. “Since it was a small community, I always saw the same people, did the same job, and my future was too predictable.”
Always impressed and excited while watching a movie or a TV drama, Lee realized her passion in acting. The value of understanding various types of characters opened up a new perspective of the world and enabled tolerance of many different situations. Due to this, Lee wished to remain quiet of her unique former career, worried that it would limit the diversity of roles she would be offered.
“My dream role would be an active one like Colin Firth's role in Kingsman: The Secret Service or Scarlett Johansson’s in Ghost in the Shell,” Lee said. “Otherwise, I want to play a character with a dissociative identity disorder like Amy in Gone Girl.”
Yet, as Lee points out, the movie industry lacks diversity of roles available for actresses. Most female roles demand dainty and young actresses, reducing the variety of characters and limiting the period of actresses’ career.
Also, recent box office hits have been centered around male characters, whilst there have been few for female characters. Hoping to play a role in the proliferation of female centered movies, Lee will continue acting.
“For students discouraged by the lack of social support for pursuing their dreams, keep in mind that when you are thoroughly prepared, chance comes to you,” Lee said. “My life motto is ‘chance encounter.’ Chance comes to you when you least expect and when it does, gather courage and pursue your dream with all your might. After all, you only live once!”