The gorgeous Heejin Kim, contestant in last year’s Miss Korea beauty pageant, was an invited guest at the recently held 2013 DramaFever Awards in New York City where she accompanied Running Man's Gary on stage. Here are the secrets she told us about being in the Miss Korea pageant during an exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to enter the Miss Korea pageant?

That was my dream since I young, about six or seven years old. I wanted to take the opportunity to represent my country. After I moved to the United States, I was inspired even more to be part of it.

What were the reactions by your family and friends when they learned you were going to participate in the Miss Korea pageant? Who were your biggest fans and supporters?

They were very, very excited. My whole family, my friends were my biggest fans and supporters. They were super excited for me.

How much time did you spend in Korea as a pageant participant?

About one month. We had training for about a month, all the girls who were competing were all there. There were 54 of us in all. We were eating, sleeping, training, together for one month.

Did you experience culture shock or a language barrier?

Oh definitely! It was very stressful for contestants from the United States. The language barrier was more of a problem than I expected. I thought I was fluent in Korean, but when I was there I was not fluent compared to native Koreans. Also, the culture shock was…not sleeping well every day – we were sleeping for maybe three hours every day. There was a lot of extra hard work that I didn’t expect. I think the schedule was a big culture shock for me too. I don’t think the U.S. (pageant) schedule is nearly as strict as the Korean schedule. The Korean contestants expected that, so they were okay with it.

What was it like being a Korean American contestant among a group of Korean nationals? Did any of the Koreans speak English?

It was very different. At first, it was as if the Korean girls thought, "Who are these American girls?" But by the end of the pageant we all became friends. Some of Korean girls spoke a little bit of English. We would exchange some words. I would teach them some English, it was good. There were about thirteen of us that came to compete from the States.

Were there times when it felt like you were treated differently than the native Korean contestants, whether positively or negatively?

Yes, both positive and negative. Positively, I would say when it came the rules and the schedule, we would be sent here or there, and they would give us items to bring. Sometimes girls didn’t understand what to do. Certainly things they (the pageant organizers) would let slide. Negatively, some Korean girls didn’t have a very good attitude. Also, a lot of the American girls didn’t understand Korean – so I think there was also a language barrier issue.

Was there any pressure to get plastic surgery or lose weight?

No, nothing like that.

Did you receive any advice that turned out to be very helpful?

Not so much because we didn’t get a chance to ask other contestants who had competed before. My Mom and her friend did tell us: “Always be yourself”. That’s the advice that helped me. It was hard to constantly be around lots of beautiful women. Everyone was so beautiful. So for me, being myself was the most thing.

Heejin Kim, right, is second runner up in 2013 Miss Korea New York pageant held in April 2013.
Heejin Kim, right, was second runner up in 2013 Miss Korea New York pageant held in April 2013.

Photo Credit: Missology

What stands out as an especially good memory for you from the Miss Korea pageant?

There were so many. Me and my roommate, us waking up at 6am to get our hair and makeup done. In the middle of the night, with just three hours of sleep, we had to get ready and go in three minutes.

What advice would you give to a Korean American girl who dreams of competing for the title of Miss Korea, like you did?

Love yourself. I don’t think you have to change the way you look to compete in these pageants. It’s important to be confident. Love yourself and be confident so you don’t get influenced by the media or by contestants.

Do you ever blog about cosmetics or skincare?

Yes. I’m planning to do a beauty blog on YouTube. My friends asked me to do it, because I got training in how to do hair and makeup at the Miss Korea pageant.

Do you follow any special skincare regimen?

Yes, cleansing very well is important. I follow several steps to remove all makeup at the end of the day.

Do you ever watch Korean dramas or listen to K-pop? What are your favorite shows and groups?

I love Korean dramas! My Mom and I watch them together. Our favorite one recently was My Love From Another Star. Yes, I love listening to KPop. My favorite groups are 2NE1 and Big Bang -- I’m a big fan of G-Dragon!

What are your future goals and plans?

I am graduating from pharmacy school soon. I’m going to be a pharmacist. But I am also really into fashion blogging, too. I have a blog called THOHOINSOHO. I love SoHo very much.

Any final comments?

I am thankful to be here. Also, thank you for the interview. I would like to say this: Whoever wants to compete in Miss Korea, don’t have plastic surgery. I would recommend to them: Be yourself!

What do you think of Heejin Kim pursuing her dream by going to Seoul to compete in the Miss Korea pageant? Write your comments below.

LilySuzuki is an American who lived in Japan for 6 years and considers Tokyo a second home.She also worked in Bali, Indonesia for 2 years. A blogger on Asian cultures and trends, she’s an avid fan of Kpop, Jpop, anime and Korean dramas.

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And, check out Radiant Face Forward, her (mostly Asian) cosmetics and skincare blog.