Yoo Ah-in

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Yoo Ah-in
Yoo Ah-In at BIFF Open Talk.jpg
Yoo in October 2015
Born Uhm Hong-sik
(1986-10-06) October 6, 1986 (age 31)
Daegu, South Korea
Occupation Actor, creative director, gallerist
Years active 2003–present
Agent United Artists Agency[1]
Korean name
Revised Romanization Yu A-in
McCune–Reischauer Yu Ain
Birth name
Revised Romanization Eom Hong-sik
McCune–Reischauer Om Hongsik

Yoo Ah-in (born Uhm Hong-sik on October 6, 1986) is a South Korean actor, creative director and gallerist. He rose to fame after starring in the 2010 television series Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Yoo is best known for his leading roles in the coming-of-age film Punch (2011), melodrama Secret Love Affair (2014), action blockbuster Veteran (2015), period drama The Throne (2015), and the historical television series Six Flying Dragons (2015-2016).

A controversial figure in South Korea, Yoo is known for his politically charged views and his frequent involvement in online spats with netizens on his social media accounts. In late 2017, Yoo drew controversy for his allegedly anti-feminist comments, which ended in Yoo making a public apology. The following year, Yoo was again caught up in controversy for showing his alleged detestation for the Me Too movement in South Korea on his social media account.

For his work in film and television, Yoo won Best Actor at the Blue Dragon Film Awards and Baeksang Arts Awards respectively. In 2016, he ranked second in Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list.

Early life[edit]

Yoo Ah-in, whose real name is Uhm Hong-sik,[2] was born in Daegu in south-eastern Korea, the youngest of three children. In the first year of Gyeongbuk Arts High School majoring in fine arts, Yoo was discovered by a casting agent on the streets in front of the school. He came up to Seoul by himself and became independent, which he said developed into his own asset. He was enrolled in Seoul Arts High School, but before long he dropped out of school to carry on his broadcast activities. Yoo later entered the college (Dankuk University and Konkuk University) with GED test.[3][4]

Before debuting, he was once scouted to be an aspiring idol and trained to sing.[3][5]


2003–2005: Career beginnings and hiatus[edit]

Using the stage name Yoo Ah-in, he made his debut in a TV commercial in 2003. His first management wanted to create a pretty stage name for him that fitted an idol image because the name Uhm Hong-sik was considered too heavy and old fashioned. He then chose Yoo Ah-in, in which Ah-in was taken from the German world meaning "one".[6][7]

Yoo was then cast in the teen series Sharp 1 after auditioning, playing the role of a model student majoring in painting.[8] After the series aired, Yoo gained popularity[9] and was cast in romance drama April Kiss and one-act drama Shi-eun & Soo-ha. Yoo also appeared in various commercials including school uniforms and youth apparels.[10]

After that, however, Yoo took a break from acting and disappeared from the spotlight. According to Yoo, he got to live as an actor without any knowledge about acting and entertainment industry.[4] At first, he was overjoyed with cheers and popularity, but then was confused whether he really wanted it, and so had period of break in order to look inside himself. He was able to think about what is going to be for himself, not him being shown to others, and what kind of way the actor is. He had thought about his identity for a long time and drawn a picture of the future, then found himself who regarded acting seriously and started to have a passion for acting.[11] Afterwards when asked about the blank period, Yoo said:

It [spotlight] did not seem to be mine because I did not know what was happening to me and how to cope with it at the time. I can digest it now. After then, I got the idea that I have to be ahead, wait and stand firmly on my feet, rather than breaking down in any kind of phenomenon that rushes to me.[12]

2006–2009: Film debut[edit]

Resuming his acting career, Yoo starred in low-budget indie film Boys of Tomorrow,[13] which premiered at Busan International Film Festival in October 2006.[14] He expressed of the film "If I have drawn a picture of the actor career, this film must be within that picture".[15] Director Noh dong-seok cast Yoo because Noh was impressed by his performance at the audition.[16] Yoo's performance of a boy who is looking for a real gun to escape from the frustrating reality earned positive reviews, and he won the Best New Actor award at the Busan Film Critics Awards.[17]

He then starred in Jeong Yoon-cheol’s black comedy film Skeletons in the Closet, playing the role of a eccentric boy who believes he was a king in previous incarnation.[18] Yoo was nominated at the Blue Dragon Film Awards.[19]

In 2008, Yoo starred in historical drama Strongest Chil Woo, playing a cruel but lonely assassin adopted by a nobleman. He gained recognition from critics and viewers for his performance,[20] despite it being the first historical drama for him.[21] He also featured in Min Kyu-dong’s comedy-drama film Antique, adapted from Yoshinaga Fumi’s manga Antique Bakery.[22] For his role as a patisserie aspirant and former boxer, Yoo took boxing and baking classes.[23][24] He received the Best New Actor award at the Director's Cut Awards and emerged as the one of promising actors in Korean film industry.[25]

In 2009, he was cast in romance drama He Who Can’t Marry, as cheeky assistant who works at the architectural office, portraying the lively and bright sides of twenties.[26] He next starred in film Sky and Ocean, playing a pizza delivery man who makes his own livelihood.[27]

2010–2013: Rising popularity and breakthrough[edit]

In October 2013

Yoo's rise to fame came in 2010, when he acted in fusion period drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Due to the drama's popularity, Yoo shot to stardom along with the rest of the young cast.[28][29][30] He played the role of an unpredictable man who moonlights to reveal the corruption of rich nobles. Yoo's popularity was later referred to as "Geol-oh-al-yee" (Geol-oh fever/love sickness), named after his character.[31]

This was followed by his first big-screen leading role in the coming-of-age film Punch, a critical and commercial hit in 2011.[32][33] His costar, veteran actor Kim Yoon-seok predicted that "In the next 10 years, he will be one of the biggest names in Korean cinema."[34]

However, Yoo's next project Fashion King was poorly received by audiences, particularly its controversial ending.[35][36]

Cast as King Sukjong in the 2013 period drama Jang Ok-jung, Living by Love, a revisionist take on infamous royal concubine Jang Hui-bin.[37] Yoo called the role one of the biggest challenges of his career and he garnered favorable press reviews for his mature, charismatic and versatile portrayal of the historical figure.[34]

He then played the titular character in the film Tough as Iron, about a Busan pier worker who takes care of his mother afflicted with dementia and kidney disease.[38] Yoo and Tough as Iron co-star, Jung Yu-mi later collaborated again as voice actors in the animated film The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow.[39]

2014–present: Acclaim in film and television[edit]

In February 2016

In 2014, he appeared as a quirky supporting role in Lee Han's Thread of Lies (this was Lee's second film adaptation of a Kim Ryeo-ryeong novel after Punch).[40] This was followed by a leading role in cable melodrama Secret Love Affair, in which Yoo played a piano prodigy who falls for a married, much older woman.[41][42]

In 2015, Yoo starred in two top-grossing films.[43][44] He played an amoral young millionaire who faces off with a detective in Ryoo Seung-wan's crime thriller/comedy Veteran,[45][46] and as the tragic Crown Prince Sado in Lee Joon-ik's period drama The Throne.[47] He received Best Actor awards at influential film awards including Blue Dragon Awards, Korean Film Reporters Association Awards, Chunsa Film Art Awards, and Golden Cinematography Awards. The same year, he was named "Actor of the Year" in the 2015 Gallup Korea Survey[48] and ranked number two on Korea Power Celebrity by Forbes.[49]

Yoo was then cast in the historical drama Six Flying Dragons, reuniting with Fashion King co-star Shin Se-kyung.[50][51] The drama occupied the number one ratings slot throughout its run.[52] Yoo's portrayal of an ambitious prince Yi Bang-won won him Best Actor in the TV Category at the Baeksang Arts Awards.[53] Due to his success in both film and television, the entertainment media coined 2015 the "A-in-shi-dae" (Ah-in Era).[54]

The following year, he played a Korean wave star in ensemble cast film Like for Likes, his first romantic comedy since debut.[55]

In 2017, Yoo starred in fantasy-romance drama Chicago Typewriter.[56] He played double roles of a 2017 renowned novelist and leader of resistance group in 1930's Japanese occupation of Korea.[57]

In 2018, Yoo starred in Lee Chang-dong's film Burning, portraying a pure and sensitive young man who tries to solve the mystery surrounding the woman he loves in.[58] The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Yoo walked the red carpet.[59] He is set to star in the crisis film Sovereign Default, playing an investor.[60]

Other work[edit]

Studio Concrete[edit]

Yoo is the representative and creative director of Studio Concrete. The creative collective 'Studio Concrete' was established in 2014 by individuals from various artistic and professional backgrounds.[61] Yoo and his friends founded Studio Concrete with the mission of "building a healthy support system for the future generations of creatives." The Studio Concrete space is located in a remodeled old townhouse with a gallery and cafe on the first floor and a workshop on the second. They host art exhibitions and display capsule collections by emerging Korean designers, many of whom are their friends and peers. To pay the bills, they also do creative consulting work for popular Korean brands like Lucky Chouette and Tom Paper.[62]


In 2013, Yoo donated to a campaign titled "I Am Against The Unfair Food Tray of Children" through The Beautiful Foundation. He had helped The Beautiful Foundation adding 22% to the fundraising goal, thus only 1% to go to reach 350 million Won. The Foundation published his letter encouraging participation, and soon after, the fundraising exceeded its goal.[63]

In 2014, he launched a local clothing line named Newkids Nohant to create Hangul-themed T-shirt designs.[64] He then donated the profits made through the clothing line, opening up the Newkids Yoo Ah In Charity Fund. The fund will be used to provide aid for college tuition and educational expenses for the students who attend college while living in or after retiring from residential care centers.[65]

Yoo also held a charity bazaar to celebrate Children's Day and donated to the Korea Children's Leukemia Foundation.[66] In 2016, he donated museum tickets for children.[67]

Public image[edit]

Considered one of the most outspoken and controversial Korean actors of his generation, Yoo drew media attention in late 2012 when he tweeted a strongly worded criticism against the withdrawal of Ahn Cheol-soo from the presidential race.[68][69][70]

Yoo is also known for his frequent involvement in online spats with netizens on his social media accounts. In late 2017, Yoo drew controversy for his alleged anti-feminism comments.[71] In 2018, he was again caught up in tensions with netizens for his alleged detestation for the Me Too movement in South Korea, by alluding the movement to a witch-hunt.[72][73]

Personal life[edit]

In 2017, Yoo revealed that he has a bone tumor, and thus had been delaying his mandatory military service. Yoo's representatives stated that his symptoms were benign, which meant that the non-cancerous tumor would have minimal effect on his everyday life and carry no risk of spreading.[74] On June 27, 2017, Yoo's agency announced that he had been exempt from military service after failing five medical examinations.[75]


In July 2011


Year Title Role Notes Ref.
2007 Skeletons in the Closet Shim Yong-tae [18]
Boys of Tomorrow Jeon Jong-dae [13]
2008 Antique Yang Ki-beom [22]
2009 Sky and Ocean Jin-goo [27]
2011 Punch Do Wan-deuk [32]
2013 Tough as Iron Gang Cheol [38]
2014 The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow Ko Kyung-chun (voice) animated film [39]
Thread of Lies Choo Sang-bak [40]
2015 Veteran Jo Tae-oh [45]
The Throne Crown Prince Sado [47]
2016 Like for Likes Noh Jin-woo [55]
CCRT Aerospace : Episode 1 Fragile : The Other Space Man short film
also producer
2018 Burning Jong-soo [58]
Sovereign Default Yun Jeong-hak [60]

Television series[edit]

In October 2015
Year Title Role Network Notes Ref.
2003 Honest Living Man #2 SBS bit part, episode 164
2004-2005 Sharp 1 Yoo Ah-in KBS2 [8]
2004 April Kiss 16-year-old Kang Jae-sup
2005 Shi-eun & Soo-ha Lee Min-suk Drama City episode
2008 Strongest Chil Woo Heuksan / Kim Hyuk [20]
2009 He Who Can't Marry Park Hyun-kyu [26]
2010 Sungkyunkwan Scandal Moon Jae-shin [28]
2012 Fashion King Kang Young-gul SBS [35]
2013 Jang Ok-jung, Living by Love King Sukjong [37]
2014 Secret Affair Lee Sun-jae jTBC [41]
Discovery of Love Woodworking class student KBS2 cameo, episode 16 [76]
2015-2016 Six Flying Dragons Yi Bang-won SBS [50]
2016 Descendants of the Sun Bank teller Uhm Hong-sik KBS2 cameo, episode 13 [77]
2017 Chicago Typewriter Han Se-joo / Seo Hwi-young tvN [56]

Reality show[edit]

Year Title Network Role Notes Ref.
2011 Yoo Ah-in's Launch My Life Mnet Fashion/business reality show [78]
2014 Wan-deuk who wants to Fly KBS1 Narrator Documentary [79]
2017 June Story Documentary commemorating 30th Anniversary of June Struggle [80]
2018 Eyewitnesses of Syria SBS Documentary [81]

Music video appearances[edit]

Year Song title Artist Ref.
2004 "Footprints" T.O [82]
2012 "Only One" BoA [83]
2016 "ㅎㅎㅎ (Heung-bu)" Peggy Gould [84]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2004 Gonews Netizen Entertainment Awards Best New Actor in Drama series Sharp 1 Nominated
2007 8th Busan Film Critics Awards Best New Actor Boys of Tomorrow Won [17]
3rd Pierson Youth Film Festival Best Newcomer, month of May Won
Best New Actor Won [85]
28th Blue Dragon Film Awards Skeletons in the Closet Nominated [19]
2008 11th Director's Cut Awards Antique Won [25]
2010 5th A-Awards
(Arena Homme + and Audi Korea)
Style Award N/A Won [86]
24th KBS Drama Awards Best New Actor Sungkyunkwan Scandal Nominated
Netizen Award, Actor Nominated
Best Couple with Song Joong-ki Won .[87]
2011 5th Mnet 20's Choice Awards Hot 20's Voice N/A Won [88]
Hot Style Icon N/A Nominated
4th Style Icon Awards Bonsang ("Main Award") N/A Won [89]
2012 3rd Korean Film Reporters Association Awards (KOFRA) Discovery Award Punch Won [90]
6th Mnet 20's Choice Awards 20's Male Movie Star Nominated [91]
20’s Style Star N/A Nominated
21st Buil Film Awards Best Actor Punch Nominated
20th SBS Drama Awards Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Fashion King Nominated
Netizen Popularity Award Nominated
Best Couple with Shin Se-kyung Nominated
2013 9th Korean Environmental & Community Awards People Who Made the World Brighter
(Broadcasting/Entertainment category)
N/A Won [92]
21st SBS Drama Awards Excellence Award, Actor in a Drama Special Jang Ok-jung, Living by Love Nominated [93]
Best Couple with Kim Tae-hee Nominated
2014 50th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (TV) Secret Love Affair Nominated [94]
7th Korea Drama Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor Nominated
3rd APAN Star Awards Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Miniseries Nominated
2015 3rd Marie Claire Asia Star Awards
(20th Busan International Film Festival)
Asia Star of the Year Veteran Won [95]
15th Korea World Youth Film Festival Favorite Actor Won [96]
35th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Nominated
The Throne Nominated
52nd Grand Bell Awards Veteran Nominated [97]
The Throne Nominated
36th Blue Dragon Film Awards Won [98]
1st Fashionista Awards Best Male Fashionista in a Movie
(First Prize)
Veteran Won [99]
Best Fashionista – Men Category N/A Nominated
10th A-Awards
(Arena Homme + and Mont Blanc Korea)
Style Award N/A Won [100]
5th SACF Artists of the Year Awards Artistic Impression in Motion Pictures Award Veteran, The Throne Won [101]
21st Cine 21 Movie Awards Best Actor Won [102]
4th CFDK Awards Fashion Icon Award N/A Won [103]
The Korea Film Actors Association Awards Top Star Award Veteran, The Throne Won [104]
23rd SBS Drama Awards Grand Prize (Daesang) Six Flying Dragons Nominated [105]
Top Excellence Award, Actor in a Serial Drama Won
Top 10 Stars Won
Netizen Popularity Award Nominated
Best Couple Award with Shin Se-kyung Won
Producer's Award Nominated
2016 InStyle Star Icon Best Actor (Film) Veteran, The Throne Nominated
7th Korean Film Reporters Association Awards (KOFRA) Best Actor The Throne Won [106]
11th Max Movie Awards Veteran Won [107]
8th Style Icon Awards Bonsang ("Main Award") N/A Won [108]
10th Asian Film Awards Next Generation Award Veteran, The Throne Won [109]
21st Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Actor The Throne Won [110]
36th Golden Cinematography Awards Veteran Won [111]
52nd Baeksang Arts Awards Best Actor (Film) The Throne Nominated [53]
Best Actor (TV) Six Flying Dragons Won
11th Seoul International Drama Awards Best Actor Nominated
7th Korean Popular Culture & Arts Awards Prime Minister Award N/A Won [112]
1st Asia Artist Awards Grand Prize (Daesang), TV Drama Six Flying Dragons Nominated
16th Korea World Youth Film Festival Favorite Actor Like for Likes Won [113]
2017 5th Annual DramaFever Awards Best Actor Six Flying Dragons Nominated
19th Korea Fashion Photographers Association Awards Photogenic of the Year N/A Won [114]
2018 71st Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Burning Nominated


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