Lee Jung-jae

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Lee Jung-jae
Lee Jeong-jae (cropped).jpg
Born (1972-12-15) December 15, 1972 (age 46)
Seoul, South Korea
EducationDongguk University
Master's degree in Theater and Film
Years active1993–present
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Jeong-jae
McCune–ReischauerI Chŏngjae

Lee Jung-jae (born December 15, 1972[1]) is a South Korean actor. He debuted as a fashion model, then began his acting career on television, notably in the campus series Feelings (1994) and the iconic drama Sandglass (1995). After his acting breakthrough in An Affair (1998), Lee's film career took off. He has starred in a variety of film genres, among them romantic films such as Il Mare (2000) and Over the Rainbow (2002), melodrama Last Present (2001), comedy Oh! Brothers (2003), action films The Last Witness (2001) and Typhoon (2005), heist film The Thieves (2012), film noir New World (2013), and period film The Face Reader (2013). He won Best Actor awards at the Blue Dragon Film Awards for City of the Rising Sun (1999), and at the Fantasporto Director's Week for The Housemaid (2010).


1993–1997: Beginnings and rising popularity[edit]

Lee Jung-jae was discovered by designer Ha Yong-soo while he was working at a café in Apgujeong, then worked as a fashion model for a number of years. Upon making his acting debut with the 1993 TV drama Dinosaur Teacher, Lee became a star practically overnight, and was almost always cast in lead roles thereafter. A year later, he received favorable reviews for his first big screen role in Bae Chang-ho's The Young Man, but it was the 1994 hit campus drama Feelings that made him a household name.[2]

In 1995, what was supposed to be a small supporting role as the heroine's silent, devoted bodyguard in ratings behemoth Sandglass turned Lee into a national heartthrob, such that his screen time was increased throughout the series' run.[3]

1998–2006: Breakout roles and mainstream popularity[edit]

Lee's acting breakthrough would come in late 1998 in the award-winning film An Affair by E J-yong. This was followed up by another success, City of the Rising Sun, for which he won Best Actor at the Blue Dragon Film Awards and the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.[4]

Though his time-travel romance Il Mare was not a popular success in 2000, since then it has developed a loyal fan base a la Somewhere in Time and attained the status of a minor classic among Korean cinema fans (Keanu Reeves played Lee's role in the 2006 Hollywood remake The Lake House).[5] Lee followed up with melodrama Last Present [6] alongside Lee Young-ae and action mystery The Last Witness directed by Bae Chang-ho; both of which were considerable successes.

In 2003, he starred opposite Lee Beom-soo in Oh! Brothers, a comedy about two brothers, one of whom has an unusual disease. The film was one of Lee's biggest hits ever, topping three million admissions at the local box office.[4] Nonetheless he remained out of the limelight for the next couple years. Finally at the end of 2005 he returned in Typhoon, a big-budget action blockbuster by Kwak Kyung-taek, the director of Friend.[7]

2007–2009: Career slump[edit]

Lee's much-anticipated return to television a decade after his memorable turn in Sandglass was not successful ratings-wise; Air City (2007) and Triple (2009) both flopped.[8][9]

With the period action comedy The Accidental Gangster and the Mistaken Courtesan, Lee said he wanted to try his hand at playing a different kind of role, a comical loose cannon type of character.[10] Though it was not successful at the box office, he still considers it one of his most memorable films.[11]

2010–2018: Career resurgence[edit]

Lee rejuvenated his career in the high-profile 2010 erotic thriller The Housemaid,[12] which screened at the Cannes Film Festival,[13] and Toronto International Film Festival.[14] Lee nabbed a Best Actor award at the Fantasporto Director's Week.[15] As his next project, he joined the star-studded ensemble cast of The Thieves, a 2012 heist film that became the second all-time highest-grossing movie in Korean cinema history.[11][16][17][18][19]

El Fin del Mundo ("The End of the World") is a 13-minute split screen film made by visual artists Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho, which depicts the destructive environmental changes the world faces in the future and the subsequent end of art and birth of new art based on dialogue between two artists in different times and space, played by Lee and Im Soo-jung.[20] The film was screened at dOCUMENTA in 2012, considered the world's most prestigious and innovative contemporary art platform.[21][22][23] A longtime art collector and honorary ambassador for the National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2011-2012, Lee also narrated the 2013 TV documentary Contemporary Art, Bury the Boundary which highlighted homegrown Korean artists.[24]

In the noir thriller New World (2013), he played a police officer who goes undercover in a crime organization.[25][26][27][28] Lee said he was grateful to co-star Choi Min-sik, who suggested casting him to the director.[29] He later signed on to be exclusively managed by C-JeS Entertainment, reportedly choosing the agency after he worked with Song Ji-hyo in New World.[30]

Lee then portrayed Prince Suyang opposite Song Kang-ho in the period film The Face Reader (2013), for which he won Best Supporting Actor at the Blue Dragon Film Awards and the Baeksang Arts Awards.[31][32] This was followed by action-comedy Big Match in 2014, where he played a mixed martial arts fighter trying to save his brother by winning an elaborate high-stakes game.[33][34][35]

In 2015, he reunited with The Thieves director Choi Dong-hoon and actress Jun Ji-hyun in Assassination, set in 1930s Korea and Shanghai during the Japanese occupation.[36] Lee won a Best Actor award at the 24th Buil Film Awards and was named Actor of the Year at the 3rd Marie Claire Asia Star Awards.

Lee then starred in his first Chinese film, crime drama Tik Tok.[37][38] He returned to the Korean screen with the box office hit, Operation Chromite, playing a South Korean lieutenant in the navy, the man responsible for reversing the tide of the Korean War.[39][40]

Lee's films in 2017 include the historical epic Warriors of the Dawn and the fantasy blockbuster Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds.[41][42]

2019: Television comeback[edit]

In 2019, Lee starred in Svaha: The Sixth Finger, an occult film.[43] The same year Lee madde drama comeback in ten years with the political drama Chief of Staff alongside Shin Min-a, where he plays a political advisor.[44][45]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2008, Lee was awarded his master's degree from Dongguk University's Department of Theater & Film Art in the Graduate School of Cultural Arts.[46] He made his first foray into theater in December of that same year, taking on the titular role in Hamlet in Water. The play ran for four days at his alma mater's Lee Hae-rang Theater.[47][48]

Apart from his acting, Lee is known for launching a chain of upscale Italian restaurants in Seoul named after his movie Il Mare. Having studied interior design, he himself took responsibility for designing the interiors of his restaurants.[4][49] Lee also founded the real estate development company Seorim C&D in 2008,[50] and owns several businesses with actor Jung Woo-sung, his best friend since they starred together in City of the Rising Sun.[51] In May 2016, Lee and Jung established and became CEOs of their entertainment label called the 'Artist Company'.[52]



Year Title Role Notes
1993 Love Is Oh Yeah!
1994 The Young Man Lee Han
1996 Albatross Pyeong-san
1997 Firebird Young-hoo
Father vs. Son Park Su-seok
1998 An Affair Woo-in
1999 City of the Rising Sun Hong-ki
The Uprising Lee Jae-su
2000 Interview Eun-seok
Il Mare Han Sung-hyun
Asako in Ruby Shoes Woo-in
2001 Last Present Jung Yong-ki
MOB 2025 Dust Short film
The Last Witness Detective Oh
2002 Over the Rainbow Lee Jin-su
2003 Oh! Brothers Oh Sang-woo
2005 Typhoon Kang Se-jong
2008 The Accidental Gangster and the Mistaken Courtesan Cheon-doong
2010 The Housemaid Hoon
2012 El Fin del Mundo Short film
The Thieves Popie
2013 New World Lee Ja-sung
The Face Reader Prince Suyang
2014 Big Match Choi Ik-ho
2015 Assassination Yeom Seok-jin
2016 Tik Tok Kang Seung-joon
Operation Chromite Jang Hak-soo
2017 Warriors of the Dawn To-woo
Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds God of Death (King Yeomra)
2018 Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days
2019 Svaha: The Sixth Finger Pastor Park
Namsan Also producer[53]


Year Title Role Network
1993 Dinosaur Teacher SBS
Survivor's Grief KBS2
1994 The Lonely Man Jae-jung
Feelings Han Joon
Love Is Blue SBS
1995 Sandglass Baek Jae-hee
1997 Snail Dong-cheol
1998 White Nights 3.98 Lee Young-jun
2007 Air City Kim Ji-sung MBC
2009 Triple Shin Hwal
2019 Chief of Staff Jang Tae-joon JTBC

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1995 31st Baeksang Arts Awards Best New Actor (TV) Sandglass Won
Best New Actor (Film) The Young Man Won
33rd Grand Bell Awards Best New Actor Won
16th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best New Actor Won
15th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best New Actor Won
SBS Drama Awards Best New Actor Sandglass Won
1997 33rd Baeksang Arts Awards Most Popular Actor (Film) Firebird Won
1998 19th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Actor An Affair Nominated
1999 35th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (Film) City of the Rising Sun Nominated
Most Popular Actor (Film) Won
36th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Nominated
20th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Actor Won
19th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Won
2001 38th Savings Day Prime Minister's Commendation N/A Won
38th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Last Present Nominated
2002 Verona Love Screens Film Festival Best Actor Asako in Ruby Shoes Won
2006 43rd Grand Bell Awards Best Actor Typhoon Nominated
29th Golden Cinematography Awards Best Actor Won
2008 1st Style Icon Awards Style Icon Actor N/A Won
2010 4th Mnet 20's Choice Awards Most Influential Star[54] N/A Won
2011 31st Fantasporto Director's Week Best Actor[55] The Housemaid Won
2013 50th Grand Bell Awards Best Actor The Face Reader Nominated
Popularity Award[56] Won
34th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Supporting Actor[57] Won
33rd Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Nominated
CJ CGV Star Award[58] New World, The Face Reader Won
2014 5th KOFRA Film Awards Best Supporting Actor[59] The Face Reader Won
9th Max Movie Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
19th Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Actor Nominated
50th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Supporting Actor (Film)[60] Won
23rd Buil Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
2015 51st Baeksang Arts Awards InStyle Fashionista Award[61] N/A Won
24th Buil Film Awards Best Actor[62] Assassination Won
3rd Marie Claire Asia Star Awards Actor of the Year[63] Won
36th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Actor Nominated
2016 11th Max Movie Awards Best Actor Nominated
8th Style Icon Awards Bonsang ("Main Award")[64] N/A Won
8th Golden Lotus Awards Best Actor Tik tok Nominated
2018 2nd Elle Style Awards Super Icon (Male)[65] N/A Won
2019 12th Korea Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor[66] Chief of Staff Pending


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