In the high school zombie series All of Us Are Dead, Park Ji-hu’s character, On-jo, doesn’t stand out at first. The teen has a crush on the classroom hottie, Su-hyeok (Lomon), while his friend Cheong-san (Yoon Chan-young) only has eyes for her.
When the outbreak occurs, we see On-jo fall to the cafeteria floor and get pulled to safety by Cheong-san. Just as we’re about to write off On-jo as a teenage damsel in distress, she kicks into survival mode and figures out what needs to be done to keep them both alive. On-jo, whose biggest concern is often which way her hair looks prettiest, may not have the grades to get into a top university, but she is savvy. Whether she’s eyeing her crush or using a firehose from the school’s emergency cabinet as a battering ram to get into a locked classroom, On-jo’s duality is brought to fully dimensional life by Park. Yes, we know zombie attacks are fictional, but Park’s portrayal is so layered that it adds realism to an unrealistic genre.
Given Park's craft, her ability to morph into someone else isn’t surprising. But the 19-year-old South Korean starlet consistently brings a sense of gravitas to her performances, embodying the youthful characters she portrays in a nuanced and truthful way. She could select girl-next-door or girlfriend roles that rely most on her physical beauty, but Park is an artist who has meticulously filled her resumé with intriguing roles that challenge her — and the viewer’s perception of who she’s playing.
It’s two days after Park Ji-hu celebrated Seollal, the Korean lunar new year, with her family in Daegu, and she’s now at her management company’s Seoul office for this hour-long Zoom interview. Dressed casually in a blue sweater and wide track pants, she's wearing her long black hair straight, letting it frame her inquisitive face. Park shows no sign of fatigue, even though the self-proclaimed night owl went to bed just a few hours ago. Around the time this article is published, the actor will start her sophomore year at Hanyang University, where she's studying film and theater.
About a week after this interview, the actor took her first trip to the United States for a photo shoot with Teen Vogue in New York. Before transforming into a dramatic, ethereal character dressed in a gorgeous green designer gown and heels for the shoot, Park was wearing an oversized black sweatshirt, listening to a playlist that kicked off with EXO’s “Love Shot.” (Yes, she’s a diehard fan of the K-pop group, and is especially fond of vocalist D.O.)