Jung Woo-sung

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Jung Woo-sung
190501 정우성.jpg
Jung Woo-sung in 2019
Born (1973-03-20) March 20, 1973 (age 47)
OccupationActor, director, producer, model
Years active1994–present
AgentArtist Company
Korean name
Revised RomanizationJeong U-seong
McCune–ReischauerChǒng Usǒng

Jung Woo-sung (born March 20, 1973[1]) is a South Korean actor. He is also the first Korean UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Jung started his career as a fashion model, rising to stardom and teenage cult figure status with the gangster movie Beat (1997), for which he received the Best New Actor award at the 17th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.

One of the top South Korean stars, Jung is also widely popular in other Asian countries, notably in Japan. He is a versatile actor known for playing leading roles in films from a wide spectrum of genres including high-grossing box office hits: Steel Rain (2017), The King (2017), Asura: The City of Madness (2016), The Divine Move (2014), Cold Eyes (2013); martial arts pic: Reign of Assassins (2010), fantasy: The Restless (2006); dramas: Don't Forget Me (2016), City of the Rising Sun (1999), erotic thriller Scarlet Innocence (2014); romantic movies:A Good Rain Knows (2009), Daisy (2006), A Moment to Remember (2004) and historical epic Musa (2001). His critically acclaimed film Innocent Witness (2019) won him the Best Actor Prize at the 40th Blue Dragon Film Awards and the Daesang (Grand Prize) for Film at the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards.

He is also an accomplished television actor. For his first major TV drama part in Asphalt Man (1995) he received Best New Actor award at SBS Drama Awards and at 32nd Baeksang Arts Awards (TV). His other prominent roles were in high-budget espionage TV series Athena: Goddess of War (2010) and romance drama Padam Padam (2011).

Early life[edit]

Jung grew up in Sadang-dong, then one of the poorest towns in Seoul.[2] He gave up studying, dropping out of high school after one year, to work and thus support the family budget.[2] He never concealed this fact and stated he did not regret his decision.[3] He grew very tall already in primary school, his height causing him to constantly hunch.[4] Later, when trying to break into the film industry, he was told he was too tall to become an actor, so he first worked as a model.[citation needed]



Jung Woo-sung made his film debut with a leading role in 1994's The Fox with Nine Tails, one of the first Korean fantasy movies and the first to use computer-generated imagery. He debuted together with the actress Ko So-young, who later co-starred with him twice including his breakthrough 1997 film Beat.[5] Directed by Kim Sung-su, Beat is a story of a high school student caught up in gang life against his will. The movie brought Jung widespread fame and started his rise to Korea's A-list actor and one of the most sought-after commercial models.

Jung Woo-sung at BIFF in 2013

In 1999 he starred in another iconic movie of the director Kim Sung-su, City of the Rising Sun, portraying friendship that develops between an unsuccessful boxer and an equally unlucky swindler. His co-lead in the movie, actor Lee Jung-jae, became his lifelong friend.

In the following years Jung played a naval lieutenant in Phantom: The Submarine, and a marathoner in Love.[5]

2001's Musa marks his third collaboration with director Kim Sung-su. In the epic blockbuster Jung played opposite Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi and received wide exposure abroad as well as in Korea. After spending time in 2002 directing a series of music videos[6] and appearing in a large number of commercials, Jung took on the eccentric lead role in Mutt Boy, the fifth film by director Kwak Kyung-taek.[5]

Jung's next roles would be in highly romantic roles that played off his established screen image. In the box office hit A Moment to Remember he played an architect whose wife (played by Son Ye-jin) is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and in the Netherlands-set Daisy, he played a hired assassin who falls in love with a street artist played by Jun Ji-hyun.[5] He portrayed a happily committed fireman in Sad Movie,[7] and played a demon hunter seeking for lost love in The Restless.[8][9]

Kim Jee-woon's "kimchi western" The Good, the Bad, the Weird inspired by Sergio Leone's work, would become one of Jung's most iconic roles, using his physicality to great effect as the Clint Eastwood counterpart in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.[10] The film was screened out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival which also marked its world premiere. Jung attended the festival together with his co-stars. He won the Best Supporting Actor award at the 3rd Asian Film Awards and the Outstanding Achievement in Acting Award at the 2008 Hawaii International Film Festival for his performance. Shortly after Jung would work again with Kim Jee-woon on a short film for W Korea.[11]

Jung Woo-sung on set in 2008

Jung then starred alongside Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan in Hur Jin-ho's romance film A Season of Good Rain,[12][13][14] and Su Chao-pin's martial arts film Reign of Assassins with Michelle Yeoh.[15]

In 2011, it was announced that Jung was cast in the English-language 3D remake of John Woo's The Killer.[16] The film was to be shot in Los Angeles, and reunite him with A Moment to Remember director John H. Lee and Reign of Assassins director John Woo acting also as producer.[17] The project has been put on hold while John Woo works on another film.[18]

Jung drew praise in his first villain role in Cold Eyes, an action thriller that became a box office hit in 2013.[19][20][21][22] He portrayed the ruthless head of a criminal organization specializing in bank robbery, eluding the detectives chasing him with uncanny dexterity.[23] Jung next played a baduk player seeking revenge in The Divine Move,[24][25][26] followed by an adulterous university professor gradually losing his eyesight in Scarlet Innocence.[27][28] Scarlet Innocence had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, meeting with positive reviews from critics.[29] He then took a leading role in the melodrama indie feature Don't Forget Me, also known as Remember You, a remake of the 2010 short film Remember O Goddess, both directed by Lee Yoon-jung. Jung had also co-produced this movie, explaining that he wanted to protect the director's original ideas that other producers wanted to modify.[30]

In 2016, he starred in the noir crime thriller Asura: The City of Madness,[31] his fourth collaboration with director Kim Sung-su. Jung played a crooked detective who attempts to save his terminally ill wife while arresting a corrupt town mayor.[32] Asura premiered globally at the 41st Toronto Film Festival in September, 2016, where it was shown in the Special Presentations section.[33] The actor's second movie shot in 2016 and released in 2017 was Han Jae-rim's political drama The King, whose plot revolves around a senior prosecutor being manipulated by an overambitious younger colleague connected to the mafia.[34][35]

In 2017, Jung stars in Steel Rain, playing a former agent from North Korea's intelligence bureau.[36] In 2018 he played an officer of the elite police unit in the science fiction action thriller Illang: The Wolf Brigade. The film, based on the Japanese anime Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, was his second collaboration with director Kim Jee-woon.[37][38]

In 2019, he is set to star in drama film Innocent Witness as a lawyer.[39][40] His performance earned him the Grand Prize in film at the Baeksang Arts Awards.[41] The same year he starred in the thriller Beasts that Cling to the Straw.[42]

Jung is set to star in the sequel of Steel Rain, titled Summit: Steel Rain.[43] Jung is set to produce upcoming Netflix series The Silent Sea.[44]


In 1995 Jung appeared in his first major television role in SBS drama series Asphalt Man, playing an aspiring race driver who leaves to United States to realize his dream. The part not only expanded his popularity but also brought him critical acclaim with Best New Actor award at 32nd Baeksang Arts Awards and SBS Drama Awards.

In 2010 Jung returned to the small screen after 15 years' absence in the big-budget spy series Athena: Goddess of War, playing an NTS (National Anti-Terror Service) agent. Athena was a spin-off to the 2009 highly successful KBS2 drama IRIS.[45] With a budget of ₩20 billion (US$17 million), the series was shot on location in Italy, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.[46] The aired in SBS channel, and its pilot episodes gathered 22.8% of the audience share.[47] Jung and another actor were injured during filming in January 2011, causing a week's postponement of one of Athena's episodes. The series was also edited into a two-hour movie version, and released in 2011 as Athena: The Movie.

He made his Japanese drama debut with a guest appearance in episodes 6 and 7 of Good Life ~Arigatou, Papa. Sayonara~.[48]

Jung followed that with another TV series Padam Padam which marked the establishment of new cable broadcasting station jTBC. Jung said he "decided on this drama because (he) was drawn to the way Noh Hee-kyung writes 'family drama.' Whether mother-son or father-son, the love and pain experienced by families is something (he)'d like to try portraying in a realistic way."[49] He played a man who has recently been released from jail after serving a 16-year sentence for a crime he didn't commit.[50][51] The series premiered on December 5, 2011.

Directorial work[edit]

In 2000 Jung had started to try his hand at directing. His first works were music videos for one of the top South Korean pop music group G.o.d.. In 2012, he directed and starred in the promotional commercial for cable channel XTM.[52][53] And a year later, Jung was among four celebrities who directed a short film using smartphone Samsung Galaxy S4 with the theme "Meet a Life Companion." His short Love explored the feelings of first love, and recorded 1.8 million views on YouTube.[54] He then directed another short film for Samsung Galaxy S4, this time for the project "Story of Me and S4." In Jung's short Beginning of a Dream, Choi Jin-hyuk starred as an ordinary office worker who dreams of leaving his mundane existence and entering a world of fantasy; he is approached by a blue fish, rides a sports car at supersonic speed, sees a boy floating past holding a balloon, hangs out with a hippie band in their van, and meets himself as a young boy at a bus stop.[55][56]

In 2014, Jung along with Chinese actors Francis Ng and Chang Chen, directed three short films for Three Charmed Lives, an omnibus commissioned by the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Critics praised Jung's short The Killer Behind the Old Man as the strongest and most stylish entry. In it, a son hires an ultra-methodical hitman (played by Andy Choi) to assassinate his own father, but the killer however finds himself transfixed by the man's slow-moving and ordered life, and thus hesitates to carry through with his mission.[57][58] Jung was invited to present The Killer Behind the Old Man at the 9th London Korean Film Festival in November 2014.[59]

UNHCR engagement[edit]

In May 2014, UNHCR Korea appointed Jung Woo-sung as its first celebrity supporter. He was officially nominated UNHCR National Goodwill Ambassador on June 17, 2015.[60][61] He went on his first UNHCR mission to Nepal in 2014.[62] He then donated ₩50 million (US$46,000) to help victims of the April 25th earthquake.[63]

In 2015 he visited South Sudan and in the beginning of March 2016 he met with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.[64][65] In June 2017 he went to Kurdistan Region of Iraq and visited Qushtapa camp for Syrian refugees and Hasansham U3 camp housing mainly Iraqis displaced from Mosul region.[66]

Talent management firms[edit]

In October 2012 Jung left Taurus Films, his agent since 2009, and established new talent agency Red Brick House appointing his manager of 10 years as CEO.[67] In May 2016, Jung and actor Lee Jung-jae co-founded and became CEOs of the talent management agency, Artist Company.[68][69] Apart from the owners the company represents other artists, among which are: Lee Si-a, Go Ara, Ha Jung-woo, Esom, Nam Ji-hyun and Yum Jung-ah.

Film festival jury member[edit]

Jung has attended various international film festivals, not only as an actor or director, but has served on the following festivals' juries:

Personal life[edit]

He is best friends with fellow actor Lee Jung-jae, whom he met while filming City of the Rising Sun. They are co-owners and co-investors of several businesses, including management agency Artist Company.[53][76]

The actor is notoriously private about his romantic involvements. The only one that he publicly acknowledged so far was his short-lived relationship with Athena co-star Lee Ji-ah. After they were photographed on a date in Paris,[77] Jung confirmed in March 2011 they were dating.[78][79][80] But after Lee's married and divorced past with top Korean singer-songwriter Seo Taiji became exposed to the public the following month, the Korean press reported in June that Jung and Lee had broken up.[81][82] Despite this and contrary to some other South Korean mega stars Jung's life remains untouched by any scandals and he is often praised by fellow filmmakers for his cooperativeness and willingness to help junior colleagues on the set.[83] He is known for picking up the tab when eating with his co-workers or ordering meals for the entire crew.[84]



Year English title Korean title Role Notes
1994 The Fox with Nine Tails 구미호 Hyuk
1996 Born to Kill 본투킬 Kil
Shanghai Grand 상해탄 Ryu So-hwang
1997 Beat 비트 Min
Motel Cactus 모텔 선인장 Lee Mi-ku
1998 City of the Rising Sun 태양은 없다 Do-chul
1999 Phantom: The Submarine 유령 Number 431
Love 러브 Myung-soo
2001 Musa 무사 Yeo-sol
2003 Mutt Boy 똥개 Cha Cheol-min
2004 A Moment to Remember 내 머리속의 지우개 Cheol-su
2005 Sad Movie 새드무비 Jin-woo
2006 Daisy 데이지 Park Yi
The Restless 중천 Yi-gwak
2008 The Good, the Bad, the Weird 좋은 놈, 나쁜 놈, 이상한 놈 Park Do-won, the Good
2009 Present 선물 Min-woo W Korea short film
A Good Rain Knows 호우시절 Park Dong-ha
2010 Reign of Assassins 검우강호 Jiang Ah-sheng/Zhang Renfang
2013 Cold Eyes 감시자들 James
2014 The Divine Move 신의 한 수 Tae-seok
Scarlet Innocence 마담 뺑덕 Shim Hak-kyu
2016 Don't Forget Me 나를 잊지 말아요 Seok-won
Asura: The City of Madness 아수라 Han Do-kyung
2017 The King 더 킹 Han Kang-sik
Steel Rain 강철비 Eom Chul-woo
2018 Intention 그날, 바다 narrator documentary[85]
Illang: The Wolf Brigade 인랑 Jang Jin-tae
2019 Innocent Witness 증인 Soon-ho
Trade Your Love 어쩌다, 결혼 traffic cop cameo
2020 Beasts Clawing at Straws 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들 Tae-young
2020 Steel Rain 2: Summit 강철비2: 정상회담 Han Kyeong-Jae, President of South Korea

Television series[edit]

Year English title Korean title Role Network
1995 Asphalt Man 아스팔트 사나이 Kang Dong-suk SBS
1996 Oxtail Soup 곰탕
1.5 1.5 Lee Jang-wook MBC
2010 Athena: Goddess of War 아테나: 전쟁의 여신 Lee Jung-woo SBS
2011 Good Life ~Arigatou, Papa. Sayonara~ 굿 라이프 Dr. Lee (episodes 6-7) Fuji TV
Padam Padam 빠담빠담…. 그와 그녀의 심장박동소리 Yang Kang-chil JTBC

As director[edit]

Year English title Korean title Notes Starring
2000 After You Left Me 그대 날 떠난 후로 g.o.d music video Shin Min-ah, Kim Kwang-il
2002 You Just Don't Know 모르죠 Shin Min-ah, Jo In-sung
Sad Love 슬픈 사랑
A Fool 바보
2012 EGO EGO편 XTM station ID Himself
2013 Love (4랑) 나와 S4 이야기 short film Seo Ye-ji, Jo Seung-hyun
Beginning of a Dream short film Choi Jin-hyuk
2014 The Killer Behind the Old Man 킬러 앞에 노인 short film from Three Charmed Lives Andy Choi, Woo Sang-jeon

As producer[edit]

Year English title Korean title
2015 Don't Forget Me 나를 잊지 말아요

As executive producer[edit]

Year English title Korean title
2021 The Silent Sea 고요의 바다

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1995 SBS Drama Awards Best New Actor Asphalt Man Won
1996 32nd Baeksang Arts Awards Best New Actor (TV) Won
1997 17th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best New Actor Beat Won
35th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Nominated
18th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Leading Actor Nominated
1999 20th Blue Dragon Film Awards Popular Star Award Phantom: The Submarine Won
2001 22nd Blue Dragon Film Awards Musa Won
2002 39th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Nominated
2003 24th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Leading Actor Mutt Boy Nominated
2005 13th Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Actor A Moment to Remember Nominated
2006 6th Korea World Youth Film Festival Favorite Actor N/A Won
2007 7th Korea World Youth Film Festival N/A Won
2008 Hawaii International Film Festival Outstanding Achievement in Acting N/A Won [86]
Korea Fashion & Design Awards Best Dressed of the Year N/A Won
17th Buil Film Awards Best Actor The Good, the Bad, the Weird Nominated
29th Blue Dragon Film Awards Popular Star Award Won
2009 3rd Asian Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Won [87]
2nd Style Icon Awards Style Icon Actor N/A Won [88]
2011 Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Distinguished Korean Wave Entertainer Award for Film N/A Won [89]
SBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Planning Drama Athena: Goddess of War Nominated
2013 6th Style Icon Awards Top 10 Style Icon N/A Won [90]
28th Korean Swan Best Dresser Awards Best Dresser Award (Actor) N/A Won
34th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Cold Eyes Nominated
2014 8th Asian Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
50th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (Film) Nominated
51st Grand Bell Awards Best Actor The Divine Move Nominated
35th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Leading Actor Nominated
2016 37th Blue Dragon Film Awards Asura: The City of Madness Nominated
Popular Star Award Won [91]
17th Busan Film Critics Awards Best Actor Won
2017 26th Buil Film Awards Nominated
6th Marie Claire Film Awards Pioneer Award Won
1st The Seoul Awards Best Actor (Film) The King Nominated
2018 54th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (Film) Steel Rain Nominated [92]
23rd Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Actor Won [93]
2019 55th Baeksang Arts Awards Grand Prize (Daesang) for Film Innocent Witness Won [94]
Best Actor (Film) Nominated [95]
39th Golden Cinema Film Festival Grand Prize (Daesang) Won [96]
40th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Leading Actor Won [97]
6th Korean Film Producers Association Awards Best Actor Won [98]
2020 56th Grand Bell Awards Nominated
29th Buil Film Awards Beasts Clawing at Straws Nominated
41st Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Leading Actor Steel Rain 2: Summit Pending [99]


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