Kang Ji-hwan

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Kang Ji-hwan
Born Jo Tae-gyu
(1977-03-20) March 20, 1977 (age 41)
Seoul, South Korea
Occupation Actor
Years active 2001–present
Agent Jellyfish Entertainment
Korean name
Revised Romanization Gang Ji-hwan
McCune–Reischauer Kang Chihwan
Birth name
Revised Romanization Jo Tae-gyu
McCune–Reischauer Cho T'aegyu

Kang Ji-hwan (born Jo Tae-gyu on March 20, 1977) is a South Korean actor. He began his career in musical theatre, and has since starred in television dramas such as Be Strong, Geum-soon! (2005), Capital Scandal (2007), and Hong Gil-dong (2008), as well as the films Rough Cut (2008) and My Girlfriend Is an Agent (2009).


Jo Tae-gyu made his acting debut in musical theatre in 2001, in the Korean stagings of popular musicals The Rocky Horror Show and Grease. From 2003 to 2004, using the stage name Kang Ji-hwan, he began appearing in small roles on television, which included the sitcom Nonstop 4 and the Korean dramas Summer Scent and Save the Last Dance for Me.

Kang shot to fame in 2005 with Be Strong, Geum-soon!, in his first onscreen leading role as a fastidious doctor who falls for a widowed hairdresser (played by Han Hye-jin).[1] The drama increased his pan-Asian popularity, particularly in Japan,[2] China, and Taiwan. He then made his big screen debut in the role of a Jehovah's Witness who befriends an unemployed professor in the independent film Host and Guest, which traveled the international film festival circuit.[3][4]

Kang continued acting on television but his 2006 dramas Fireworks, about two cosmetics firm employees who plot revenge against their exes (opposite Han Chae-young),[5] and 90 Days, Time to Love, about a terminally ill married man who's in love with his cousin (opposite Kim Ha-neul), received low viewership ratings. In 2007, he and Han Ji-min starred in Capital Scandal, a period drama adapted from Lee Sun-mi's novel set in Japanese-occupied Korea.[6] His portrayal of a carefree playboy who transforms into an independence fighter garnered positive reviews.[7]

2008 became a successful year for Kang. He was cast as the titular Joseon folk hero in Hong Gil-dong, written by the Hong sisters. Kang said his portrayal was inspired by Stephen Chow, and the fusion-period-dramedy became a TV cult hit.[8] Later that year, he also starred in Rough Cut, a low-budget film directed by Jang Hoon and written by Kim Ki-duk about a gangster who wants to become an actor and a hot-tempered star who acts like a thug.[9] Kang and costar So Ji-sub were praised for their performances, and both won several Best New Actor awards.

Kang then reunited with previous leading lady Kim Ha-neul in My Girlfriend Is an Agent, a 2009 action-romantic comedy in which their characters are former lovers and spies trying to conceal their professions from each other.[10] It became the fourth highest grossing Korean film of that year, with more than 4 million tickets sold.[11] Afterwards, he played a looks-oriented architect whose eye problem magically causes him to see the homely heroine (played by Lee Ji-ah) as beautiful in The Relation of Face, Mind and Love, a "telecinema" which received a brief theatrical release and a TV run.[7][12]

In 2010, Kang starred in romantic comedy series Coffee House, in which he played an eccentric novelist who is caught in a love triangle with his publisher (played by Park Si-yeon) and his assistant (played by Ham Eun-jung).[13][14][15] This was followed by his return to the stage in the musical revival Cafe In, a love story between a male sommelier and a female barista. Kang produced the show's Korean and Japanese runs, and he also starred in the latter, becoming the first Korean actor to perform at the Tokyo Globe Theatre.[16][17][18]

Kang and Yoon Eun-hye then starred in 2011's Lie to Me, playing a hotelier and a civil servant who fake being married to each other after she tells a white lie that quickly spreads through the gossip channels.[19][20]

The 2012 comedy film Runway Cop reunited him with previous costar Sung Yu-ri (from Hong Gil-dong) and director Shin Tae-ra (from My Girlfriend Is an Agent).[21][22] During filming, Kang gained 12 kilograms and shed 15 kilograms two weeks later for his role as an overweight and messy detective who goes undercover as a fashion runway model to solve a case.[23][24][25][26][27] Following that, he and Lee Ki-woo appeared in a 25-minute "music video drama" to promote Kim Hyung-jun's EP Escape.[28]

In 2013, Kang starred in Incarnation of Money, in the role of a prosecutor with ties to a loan shark.[29][30] Then in 2014's Big Man, he played a "good-for-nothing" orphan who is tricked into thinking that he is the long-lost eldest son of a wealthy tycoon's family, when they only want to harvest his heart for a transplant.[31][32][33][34][35][36]

Kang and Yoon Jin-seo shot the gangster love story Heartbreak Hotel in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and the indie was released in 2015.[37] He was next cast in the Korean-Chinese romantic comedy A-lister Fall from the Sky, about a scandal-ridden Hallyu star who goes to China and encounters his biggest fan (played by Jiang Yuan).[38][39]

Kang reunited with Hong Gil-dong and Runaway Cop co-star Sung Yu-ri in revenge melodrama Monster, which aired in 2016.[40][41] In 2018, Kang starred in his first cable drama Children of a Lesser God, playing a genius detective.[42][43] The same year, he starred in the workplace comedy Happy If You Died.[44]

Contract disputes[edit]

In 2010, Kang was sued for breach of contract by his former talent agency Jambo Entertainment. Kang had signed with S-Plus Entertainment after asking to be released from his contract with Jambo, which the latter claimed was still valid for eight months.[45] S-Plus stated that of the six years that Kang was with Jambo, he was without a contract for three years, and after receiving no response from their overtures regarding Jambo's "unfair terms," they took steps to legally terminate Kang's contract.[46][47] Upon mediation, the Corea Entertainment Management Association (CEMA) instructed Kang to suspend his entertainment activities for eight months, but when he starred in Coffee House anyway, CEMA members threatened to boycott him unless he dropped out of playing the leading role in Faith.[48][49]

In 2012, S-Plus Entertainment moved to extend Kang's contract with them for an additional eight months, citing his lack of projects for that same length of time due to CEMA's edict. When Kang refused and began entrusting his business affairs to his lawyer, S-Plus sued him for breach of contract.[49][50][51] In 2013, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed the lawsuit and upheld the validity of the original contract; the court also ordered S-Plus to pay Kang ₩5 million in damages after the agency defamed him in the press.[52]


Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Network
2003 MBC Best Theater
"Confession of Murder"
Summer Scent Park Jung-ah's husband
(episode 20)
Nonstop 4 MBC
2004 More Beautiful Than a Flower Kim Jae-sik
(sticker photo on cellphone)
If You Only Knew Seo In-woo
Save the Last Dance for Me Shin Jung-kyu SBS
2005 Be Strong, Geum-soon! Goo Jae-hee MBC
2006 Fireworks Na In-jae
90 Days, Time to Love Hyun Ji-seok
2007 Capital Scandal Sunwoo Wan KBS2
2008 Hong Gil-dong Hong Gil-dong
2010 Coffee House Lee Jin-soo SBS
2011 Lie to Me Hyun Ki-joon
2013 Incarnation of Money Lee Kang-seok / Lee Cha-don
2014 Big Man Kim Ji-hyuk KBS2
2016 Monster Kang Ki-tan / Lee Guk-cheol MBC
2018 Children of a Lesser God Cheon Jae-in OCN
Happy If You Died Baek Jin-sang KBS2


Year Title Role
2006 Host and Guest Kye-sang
2008 Rough Cut Jang Soo-ta
2009 My Girlfriend Is an Agent Lee Jae-joon
The Relation of Face, Mind and Love Kang Tae-poong
2012 Runway Cop Cha Chul-soo
2015 Heartbreak Hotel John
A-lister Fall from the Sky Kim Hyun-joon

Music video[edit]

Year Title Artist Notes
2012 "Just Let It Go" / "Bad Guy Thing" Kim Hyung-jun From the album Escape

Musical theatre[edit]

Year Title Role
2002 The Rocky Horror Show
2004 Grease Danny Zuko
2010 Cafe In Jung-min


Year Song title Notes
2006 "Just a Person I Know" Track from Fireworks OST
2011 "Lovin' Ice Cream" (feat. As One) Track from Lie to Me Japanese OST

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2005 MBC Drama Awards Excellence Award, Actor Be Strong, Geum-soon! Won
Best New Actor Won
2006 42nd Baeksang Arts Awards Best New Actor (TV) Nominated
2007 KBS Drama Awards[53] Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Capital Scandal Won
Best Couple Award with Han Ji-min Won
2008 44th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (TV) Nominated
Most Popular Actor (TV)[54] Hong Gil-dong Won
28th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards[55] Best New Actor Rough Cut Won
29th Blue Dragon Film Awards[56] Best New Actor Won
7th Korean Film Awards Best New Actor Won
KBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Hong Gil-dong Nominated
Netizen Award Won
Best Couple Award with Sung Yu-ri Won
2009 45th Baeksang Arts Awards Best New Actor (Film) Rough Cut Won
18th Buil Film Awards Best New Actor Nominated
10th Busan Film Critics Awards Best New Actor Won
46th Grand Bell Awards Best New Actor My Girlfriend Is an Agent Won
5th University Film Festival of Korea[57] Best New Actor Won
2010 SBS Drama Awards Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Planning Drama Coffee House Nominated
2011 6th Seoul International Drama Awards Outstanding Korean Actor Nominated
SBS Drama Awards Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Planning Drama Lie to Me Nominated
2013 SBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Drama Special Incarnation of Money Nominated
2014 9th Asia Model Festival Awards Asia Star Award N/A Won
KBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Big Man Nominated
Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Nominated
2016 5th APAN Star Awards Best Actor in a serial drama (excellence award) Monster Nominated
MBC Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Project Drama Nominated


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  53. ^ "2007 Year-end Korean drama awards round-up". Hancinema. 7 January 2008. 
  54. ^ "The 44th PaekSang Arts Awards Sparkles with Stars". KBS World. 24 April 2008. 
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  56. ^ "Blue Dragon Award Goes to Sports Drama". The Chosun Ilbo. 21 November 2008. 
  57. ^ "Ha Ji-won Wins 1st Best Actress Award". The Korea Times. 1 December 2009. 

External links[edit]