So Ji-sub

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So Ji-sub
So Ji-sub.jpg
Born (1977-11-04) November 4, 1977 (age 40)
Seoul, South Korea
Occupation Actor, rapper
Years active 1995–present
Agent 51K
Korean name
Revised Romanization So Ji-seop
McCune–Reischauer So Chisŏp

So Ji-sub (born November 4, 1977) is a South Korean actor. After making his entertainment debut as a jeans model, he became known for his leading roles in the television series I'm Sorry, I Love You (2004), Cain and Abel (2009), Phantom (2012), Master's Sun (2013) and Oh My Venus (2015-16) as well as the film Rough Cut (2008). So has also released several hip hop EPs.

Early life[edit]

Self-described as introverted and insecure in his childhood and teenage years, So Ji-sub trained to become a professional swimmer[1] for 11 years and bagged the bronze medal[2] at the Korean National Games. His parents divorced at a young age. He has one older sister who lives in Australia.

He tried out modeling simply because he wanted to pose alongside hip-hop artist Kim Sung-jae, who was the celebrity face for a clothing brand at the time. "I was never really interested in becoming a celebrity," So said. "My life was all about swimming and hip-hop music. I did modeling because I wanted to see Kim and also because it was the best way to earn good easy money."[1]


Acting career[edit]

So was chosen as a model for jeans brand STORM in 1995,[3] then made his acting debut in the sitcom Three Guys and Three Girls and the television drama Model. But whereas fellow STORM model Song Seung-heon quickly rose to stardom, So had difficulty raising his profile.[4] He appeared in small roles on television throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, and started to gain popularity when he was cast as the male second lead in Glass Slippers in 2002.

So began to rise to fame with 2004 hit drama What Happened in Bali, but was again overshadowed by co-star Jo In-sung. At that time, So thought he would end up being a supporting actor. But later that year, he had his breakout role as a tragic hero in the critically acclaimed melodrama I'm Sorry, I Love You. It established him as a top star in Korea, as well as all over Asia.[4][5] In a 2009 interview, So said he still considers the two the best television dramas in his filmography.[6]

So enlisted for mandatory military service in 2005 as a public relations officer with the Mapo District Office,[7] and was discharged on April 27, 2007.[8] He made his comeback in Jang Hoon's directorial debut Rough Cut, in which he played a gangster who dreams of becoming an actor.[9] Because of the film's low budget, So and costar Kang Ji-hwan decided to invest their fees back into the movie, and were credited as producers.[10] So's performance was well received by audiences and critics, and the film became a surprise box office hit.[4][11]

In 2009, So attempted to break into the Japanese and Chinese markets. In I am GHOST, an action drama that aired in 24 five-minute episodes on Japan's mobile-exclusive broadcaster BeeTV, he played a mysterious killer on the run with a high school girl.[12][13] So spoke no lines in the mobile drama, and was "worried whether (their) emotions would be delivered just through (their) motions." The year before, he had appeared in a supporting role as a monster in the Japanese manga live-action adaptation GeGeGe No Kitaro 2: Kitaro and the Millenium Curse.[14]

So starred opposite Zhang Ziyi in the Chinese romantic comedy Sophie's Revenge, saying, "I wanted to do a bright and cheery role because I've played so many sad and gloomy ones."[15][16] He later signed with a Chinese talent agency, ATN Entertainment.[17][18] So then returned to Korean television with Cain and Abel, about two doctor brothers with an intense sibling rivalry.[19] His performance received critical acclaim, and won him Best Actor at the 2009 Grimae Awards, an honorable award chosen by directors in every broadcasting station in Korea.

In 2010 So headlined the big-budget Korean War epic Road No. 1, but despite high expectations, the series tanked in the ratings, averaging 6% for its entire run.[20][21][22][23][24]

So then played a boxer who falls in love with a blind girl in romantic melodrama Always (Korean title: Only You), directed by auteur Song Il-gon.[25][26] It was the opening film of the 2011 Busan International Film Festival.[27][28]

After portraying a workaholic detective in the cyber criminal investigative service in TV procedural Phantom,[29][30][31] So starred in the film A Company Man, about a hitman in a killer-for-hire company who, after he falls in love and decides he wants out of his job, finds himself the target of his former colleagues.[1][32][33][34]

Later that year he starred in Master's Sun, a horror-romantic comedy written by the Hong sisters. Known for his melodramatic roles, So made an acting transformation in Master's Sun, playing a character with charm.[35] The drama was a commercial hit and renewed his domestic and international popularity.[36] So then starred in another romantic comedy series Oh My Venus (2015), about a celebrity trainer who helps a lawyer lose weight and find her inner beauty as they heal each other's emotional scars.[37][38]

In 2017, So starred in the film The Battleship Island, which depicts the unknown history behind the actual Hashima Island, where thousands of conscripted Joseon people were forced to work to death during the Japanese colonial era.[39] He plays Gyeongseong's best fighter who brought peace to the entire Jongno district.[40]

In 2018, So starred alongside Son Ye-jin in the romance film Be with You, based on the Japanese novel of the same name.[41][42][43] The same year, he is set to return to the small screen with MBC drama My Secret Terrius.[44]

Book and music releases[edit]

In 2010, So published his photo-essay collection, So Ji-sub's Journey. The volume covers stories and photos over the past 13 years since his debut, using unpretentious language and sensitive photography taken during So's trips to the DMZ and Gangwon Province. The usually taciturn and stoic actor revealed his inner thoughts throughout the book, with essays on his favorite number 51 (reflected in the name of his company - it means a 50-50 probability then believing just 1% more; the K stands for Korea), Romeo and Juliet, why he likes rainy days, and stories about his interactions with other celebrities and artists such as Tiger JK. Within ten days of its release, the book hit the bestseller list, and entered its third printing.[45][not in citation given]

A professed longtime hip-hop lover,[1] So rapped for two original tracks – "Lonely Life" and "Foolish Love" – under the artist pseudonym "G" or "G-Sonic" for the soundtracks of Rough Cut and Cain and Abel respectively.[46] In 2011, he released another digital single Pick Up Line under his own name. Two teaser videos were released, the first one described as a comedic version that featured guest stars Jung Joon-ha (who is a close friend of So's) and Kim Byung-man (whom So named as one of his favorite comedians). The single, along with the music video itself, was released on February 17, 2011, but recorded low sales.[47]

In 2011, he published a second book of photo-essays titled Only You with So Ji-sub featuring photographs, notes and commentary on playing his movie character.[48][49]

On March 14, 2012, he launched a magazine for his fans titled SONICe; inside were So's suggested dating ideas and locations, favorite food and books, and more stories through his eyes. Its name is a combination of "so nice" and "Sonic," which is So's nickname.[50][51][52]

So's first mini-album (or EP), Corona Borealis was released in March 2012. It featured collaborations with songwriter Kim Kun-woo, vocal trainer Mellow, soprano Han Kyung-mi, and singers Huh Gak and Bobby Kim. Bobby Kim complimented So's rapping in their duet track That Day, a Year Ago, saying, "So has a talent in feeling the groove and it's as good as his acting skills."[53][54] So also starred in a music video of the album's title song "Some Kind of Story".[55]

In January 2013, So released another rap EP titled 6 PM...Ground, and his recording process aired on Music Triangle as part of Mnet's Collabo One project.[56][57] The four songs of the album were combined together to make a 12-minute music drama starring So, Park Shin-hye and Yoo Seung-ho; which was also re-edited into individual music videos for each track.[58]

In June 2014, So released his third electro-hip-hop EP titled 18 Years, which represents how long he has been in the industry since he debuted as an actor. He wrote and composed the title track (featuring the vocals of singer Satbyeol), and the other two tracks were collaborations with hip-hop group Soul Dive.[59] He released another single in July 2015 titled So Ganzi, his second collaboration with Soul Dive.[60]


So was named the goodwill ambassador of Gangwon Province in an effort to boost tourism there,[61] and a 51 kilometer-long trail in the province was named "So Ji-sub Road," which was unveiled to the public on May 20, 2012. He was the first Korean actor to have an entire road named after him.[62][63]

He was also named promotional ambassadors for cyber crime prevention by the National Police Agency, helping to raise awareness and prevent cyber crimes such as hacking and Internet fraud by taking part in various promotional activities.[64]


So is the owner of the Apgujeong-dong branch of CJ Foodville's A Twosome Place.[65][66]

He has also helped imported foreign films, having invested in art-house films such as the U.S.-British-French co-production "Philomena" (2014), the Chinese film "Coming Home" (2014), the Japanese crime thriller "The World of Kanako" (2014)" and the American horror film "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" (2015).[67]



Year Title Role
2002 Can't Live Without Robbery Choi Kang-jo
2008 Kitaro and the Millennium Curse Yaksha
Rough Cut Gang-pae
2009 Sophie's Revenge Jeff
2011 Always Jang Cheol-min
2012 A Company Man Ji Hyeong-do
2015 The Throne King Jeongjo (cameo)[68]
2017 The Battleship Island Choi Chil-sung
2018 Be with You Woo-jin

Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Network
1996 Three Guys and Three Girls Kim Chul-soo MBC
1997 Model Song Kyung-chul SBS
1998 MBC Best Theater episode 316:
"What You Cherish Can Never Be Forgotten"
Dong-woo MBC
I Hate You, But It's Fine Chul-min SBS
2000 Love Story episode 6:
"Miss Hip-hop & Mr. Rock"
Oh Chul-soo SBS
MBC Best Theater episode 389:
"Have You Ever Said 'I Love You'?"
Kyung-min MBC
Wang Rung's Land Park Min-ho SBS
Because of You Yoon Min-ki MBC
Joa, Joa Park Ji-sub SBS
Cheers for the Women Hwang Joon-won SBS
2001 Long Way Ki-hyun SBS
Delicious Proposal Jang Hee-moon MBC
Law Firm Choi Jang-goon SBS
2002 We Are Dating Now Choi Kyo-in SBS
Glass Slippers Park Chul-woong SBS
2003 Thousand Years of Love General Guishil Ari / Kang In-chul SBS
2004 What Happened in Bali Kang In-wook SBS
I'm Sorry, I Love You Cha Moo-hyuk KBS2
2008 U-Turn Ji-sub OCN
2009 Cain and Abel Lee Cho-in / Oh Kang-ho SBS
I am GHOST Ghost BeeTV
2010 Road No. 1 Lee Jang-woo MBC
2012 Phantom Kim Woo-hyun / Park Gi-young SBS
2013 Master's Sun Joo Joong-won SBS
2014-2015 One Sunny Day Kim Ji-ho Line TV
2015 Warm and Cozy Jeju Island restaurant owner
(cameo, episode 1)[69]
2015-2016 Oh My Venus Kim Young-ho / John Kim KBS2
2018 My Secret Terrius Kim Bon MBC

Music video[edit]

Year Song title Artist
1997 "Goodbye Yesterday" Turbo
1999 "For You" Ryu Chan
2001 "The End" Lee Hyun-woo
"Beautiful Days" Jang Hye-jin
2005 "Mr. Flower" Jo Sung-mo
2008 "Lonely Life" G
2010 "Smiling Goodbye" Soya n Sun
2011 "Pick Up Line" So Ji-sub feat. Shi Jin
"Take" Seo In-guk
2012 "Some Kind of Story" So Ji-sub feat. Huh Gak and Mellow
2013 "Picnic"[70][71] So Ji-sub feat. Younha
"6PM...Ground"[72][73] So Ji-sub feat. Mellow
2014 "18 Years" So Ji-sub feat. Satbyeol
"Boy Go" So Ji-sub feat. Soul Dive

Variety show[edit]

Year Title Network Notes
1997 Saturday Power Start "Oh Happy Day" KBS
1999 Declaration of Freedom Today is Saturday MC
Joy Super Sunday TV "Let's Go Dream Team"
Show Express MBC
Sunday Sunday Night
"Shin Dong-yup's Fateful Drama"
1999-2000 Music Camp MC, co-hosted with Chae Rim
TV Entertainment Tonight SBS
Good Friends
결정 인기가요43 KMTV MC
2000 Beautiful Life "Crossing the Korea Strait" SBS
2018 Little Cabin in the Woods tvN Cast member with Park Shin-hye[74]



Album information Track listing
고독한 인생 (Lonely Life)
  • Single
  • Artist: G
  • Released: August 13, 2008
  • Label: Kingpin Entertainment
Track listing
  1. 고독한 인생 (and Amazing Soul, feat. Park Da-ye)
  2. 고독한 인생 (Inst.)
미련한 사랑 (Foolish Love)
Track listing
  1. 11월 4일 그 후...(intro)
  2. 미련한 사랑 (feat. Chae Dong-ha)
Pick Up Line
  • Single
  • Artist: So Ji-sub
  • Released: February 17, 2011
  • Label: CJ E&M
Track listing
  1. Pick Up Line (feat. Shi Jin)
  2. Pick Up Line (Inst.)
북쪽왕관자리 (Corona Borealis)
  • EP
  • Artist: So Ji-sub
  • Released: March 13, 2012
  • Label: 51K & CJ E&M
Track listing
  1. 11월 어느 날
  2. 그렇고 그런 얘기 (feat. Huh Gak & Mellow)
  3. 일년 전 그날 (with Bobby Kim)
  4. 북쪽왕관자리 (feat. soprano Han Kyung-mi)
  5. 그렇고 그런 얘기 (Inst.)
  6. 1년 전 그날 (Bobby Kim only)
6시...운동장 (6PM...Ground)
  • EP
  • Artist: So Ji-sub
  • Released: January 23, 2013
  • Label: 51K & CJ E&M
Track listing
  1. 소풍 (feat. Younha)
  2. 지우개 (feat. Mellow)
  3. 눈금자 (feat. 테이커스)
  4. 6시...운동장
18 Years
  • EP
  • Artist: So Ji-sub
  • Released: June 24, 2014
  • Label: 51K & CJ E&M
Track listing
  1. 18 Years (feat. Satbyeol)
  2. Boy Go (feat. Soul Dive)
  3. 환상 속의 그대 (Inside the Illusion) (feat. Soul Dive)
  4. 18 Years (Inst.)
  5. Boy Go (Inst.)
  6. 환상 속의 그대 (Inside the Illusion) (Inst.)
So Ganzi
  • Single
  • Artist: So Ji-sub
  • Producer: DJ Juice
  • Released: July 22, 2015
  • Label: 51K & CJ E&M
Track listing
  1. So Ganzi (BLACK) (feat. Soul Dive, Newday)
  2. So Ganzi (WHITE) (feat. Soul Dive, Newday)

Digital singles[edit]

Title Year Peak chart

"Foolish Love" 2009 N/A Cain and Abel OST
"The Sound Of Memory" 2010 N/A Road No. 1 OST
"So Love"[76] 2014 N/A N/A
"Cola Bottle Baby"[77] 2017 N/A N/A
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that region.


Year Title Publisher Notes
2010 So Ji-sub's Journey Sallim photo-essays
2011 Only You with So Ji-sub 51K photo-essays
2012 SONICe Vol. 1 51K & CJ E&M magazine

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2000 SBS Drama Awards Best New Actor Joa, Joa
Cheers for the Women
2001 Fashion Model Awards Ms. & Mr. Davidoff Award N/A Won
2003 SBS Drama Awards Top 10 Stars Thousand Years of Love Won
Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Planning Drama Won
2004 40th Baeksang Arts Awards Most Popular Actor (TV) What Happened in Bali Won
SBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Nominated
KBS Drama Awards[78] Best Couple Award (with Im Soo-jung) I'm Sorry, I Love You Won
Netizen Award Won
Popularity Award Won
Excellence Award, Actor Won
2005 41st Baeksang Arts Awards[79] Best Actor (TV) Won
2008 25th Best Jeanist Awards[80] Best Jeanist, International Category N/A Won
28th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Rough Cut Won
29th Blue Dragon Film Awards[81] Best New Actor Won
7th Korean Film Awards Best Actor Nominated
2009 3rd Asian Film Awards Best Newcomer Nominated
45th Baeksang Arts Awards Best New Actor (Film) Won
8th New York Asian Film Festival[82] Rising Star Asia Award Won
10th Busan Film Critics Awards[83] Best New Actor Won
18th Buil Film Awards[84] Best New Actor Won
Best Dressed N/A Won
46th Grand Bell Awards Best New Actor Rough Cut Nominated
22nd Grimae Awards[85][86] Best Actor Cain and Abel Won
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Actor of the Year in Broadcasting Won
SBS Drama Awards[87] Top 10 Stars Won
Top Excellence Award, Actor[88] Won
2010 46th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (TV) Nominated
47th Daejong Film Festival[89][90] Achievement in Cultural Exchange N/A Won
3rd Style Icon Awards International Style Icon N/A Won
Korea Lifestyle Awards Best Dressed Male of the Year N/A Won
2011 Korea Tourism Awards[91] Special Achievement Award N/A Won
19th Korean Culture and Entertainment Awards[92] Grand Prize (Daesang) for Acting in Film Always Won
2012 5th Korea Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Phantom Nominated
1st K-Drama Star Awards Excellence Award, Actor Nominated
SBS Drama Awards[93] Top 10 Stars Won
Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Drama Special Won
2013 2nd APAN Star Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Master's Sun Nominated
SBS Drama Awards[94] Top 10 Stars Won
Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Won
2015 KBS Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor[95] Oh My Venus Won
Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Nominated
Best Couple Award (with Shin Min-a)[96] Won
2016 9th Korea Drama Awards Best Actor, Top Excellence Award Nominated
2018 National Tax Service[97][98] Beautiful Taxpayer N/A Won


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  2. ^ "8 Korean actors you didn't know were sports stars". DramaFever News. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
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