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Getting ‘Lost’ with Koreans

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Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim

Yunjin Kim and Daniel Dae Kim

ABC/Mario Perez

Viewers of "Lost" have no doubt noticed that two of the characters don't speak English — a relative rarity for an American TV series.

Two of the survivors of the plane that crashed on a deserted island are Korean — Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim), a couple who not only do not share the same culture and values as the other castaways but who cannot communicate with them.

Which wasn't part of the producer/writers' original plan for the series, exactly, until Yunjin Kim (who is not related to her "Lost" husband) came in to audition for the part of Kate (a part that eventually went to Evangeline Lilly).

"She was so amazing and blew us away," said writer/executive producer Damon Lindelof, "and we realized that she spoke fluent Korean. So we decided we should have a Korean character on the island. And maybe it was a husband and wife."

It wasn't something altogether inspired by Yunjin Kim. "One of the things we were talking about before that was, we knew we wanted to have a couple that didn't speak English," said writer/executive J.J. Abrams. "We just thought this would be really interesting — you're on an airplane that, sort of by chance, these are the people who are there.

"And when we met Yunjin, we were so blown away we actually started writing . . . her character and her husband, based on having met her."

Yunjin Kim, while not well known in the United States, is a star in Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia, playing the leads in a TV miniseries and such blockbuster films as "Shiri." While she was born in Korea, she was raised on Staten Island and attended New York's High School of the Performing Arts (the one fictionalized in "Fame"), never dreaming that when she went back to Korea in 1999 she'd find big success there.

"I went back and one job led to another," she said. "And so I've been spending time and working there as an actress for the past five years."

Daniel Dae Kim was also born in Korea, but moved to Pennsylvania when he was 2 and has built a career on roles that didn't specifically call for Asian actors. "I've really made it a point to try and take roles that are as assimilated as possible, so this is a real great chance to explore a whole different side of my career," said the actor, who's perhaps best known for his co-starring or recurring roles on "ER," "24," "Angel" and "Crusade," as well as in such movies as "Spider-Man 2."

And, while this marks the first time he's spoken Korean in an acting role, "I'm kind of looking forward to the first time someone comes up to me on the street and says, 'Oh, you speak English so well.' "

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com