A former presidential bodyguard who protected top leaders for a decade is now ready to start a second life as an actress.
Lee Su-ryeon, 34, spent ten years working in the security unit at Cheong Wa Dae until 2013.
But just before a major promotion that would guarantee her a life-long career as an officer, she quit and began knocking on the doors of the film industry.
After a year of trying, she was cast as the main character in an action film in August.
"When I quit the bodyguard job, my colleagues tried to stop me, telling me I was crazy. But I thought it would be boring to live a life that is too predictable," Lee told The Korea Times during a recent interview.
"I didn't like picturing myself doing the same job for the next 10 or 20 years, so I went for a new career that could make my heart beat again."
Lee recalls her life as constantly one of pursuing new challenges.
During her college years, when she studied English at Ewha University, she started a career as a TV reporter.
Lee, once the main reporter at the SBS major program "Morning Wide," surprised her friends when she applied for the bodyguard post at the presidential office after graduation.
"I was intrigued that it was such a rare and special career," she said.
Her personality and character as a person who loves a challenge got her the job as the first female presidential bodyguard. She joined the bodyguard unit at Cheong Wa Dae in 2004.
But the duties of the job were not as action-packed as she thought.
For four months, she went through training programs, including those with the special police squad, the Marine Corps, airborne, and the underwater demolition unit (UDU).
Lee said she started her day at 4:30a.m. every morning and trained in the martial arts on a regular basis.
She mastered Taekwondo, Judo, and Hapkido during her decade-long career.
Even though her responsibilities and duties were the same as those of the male bodyguards, outsiders sometimes had a different view of her, she recalled.
"I was the leader of the security unit at the G20 and ASEM summit. The unit was composed of experienced soldiers and policemen who were older than I. Their reluctance to work with a young female was quite obvious," she said.
"But through a series of such episodes, I learned how to understand the feelings of those in different positions and learned how to work harmoniously with them."
She cherishes the experience from her career as a body guard, saying it was truly meaningful.
"Though it was tough, I was able to hang in there with a sense of pride. It was special that I was turning myself into someone willing to be killed on behalf of others," she said.
Lee says she is now enjoying her second career as much as she enjoyed the first one.
"It was challenging in the beginning. In acting, you need to express genuine feelings and that is tricky for me, especially since I was trained to hide my feelings from the public," she said, recounting an episode when she was warned by senior bodyguards when she burst into laughter along with the president while on a mission.
"I had to kill the feelings inside me to carry out my role. I had to numb myself, sadly, to cover up my actual feelings." she said.
"Now I love acting. The more I try to bring out the feelings inside me, the more I can understand the feelings of other people. I feel alive."