You’ve probably heard of Squid Game all over social media, and even if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re for sure bound to be familiar with some of its characters' faces. Did you know that one of them is already a global sensation, despite being a newbie actress? This multi-hyphenate’s name is Jung Ho Yeon.
Ho Yeon plays the role of Kang Sae-byeok, a sly pickpocket and North Korean defector who’s not afraid to risk her life to win the game’s 45.6 billion won prize. Sae-byeok is one of the most fearless and strong-willed players among the contestants, and while there’s a lot to uncover about her, it pays to also get to know the actress that brought her to life.
So without further ado, here are 10 things you need to know about Korean model-turned-actress Jung Ho Yeon:
1. She’s a Cancer.
Ho Yeon was born on June 23, 1994 in a small district in Seoul, South Korea.
2. She started modelling at age 16.
Ho Yeon was always told she had the height and looks perfect for a modelling career, so she started to explore the industry at 16 years old. Her determination at such an early age made it possible for her to attain her first global runway debut at Louis Vuitton’s 2017 Fall/Winter show. Now, she continues to work with multiple luxury brands like Chanel, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, and more.
3. She’s proud of being 5'8.
In the world of modelling, height is a factor most casting agents look for. "I am 176 centimeters tall, which is considered average for models," Jung told Korea Times. "If I were taller, I would've been active in the high-end fashion industry and if I were shorter, I would be a popular commercial model appearing on magazines and TV shows. But I realized with my height I can do both high-end and commercial fashion and I am surprised that I have become the model I dreamed [to be]," she shares.
4. Her first solo cover was for Harper’s Bazaar.
Ho Yeon has graced the cover of multiple high-end publications throughout her 11 years of exposure in the modelling world. Her first, however, was with Harper’s Bazaar in 2018. Try not to stare as you check out how stunning she looks!
5. She’s been through great success as a model.
Given her skills and willingness to step out of her comfort zone, it’s no surprise that Ho Yeon has celebrated big feats in the industry. She became a runner-up on Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013 and was included in Models.com’s Top 50 Models in the World list in 2018. Vogue magazine themself has featured her in fashion editorials and in the exclusive Beauty Secrets series.
6. She’s good friends with BLACKPINK’s Jennie.
You could say BLACKPINK’s Jennie and Ho Yeon are besties! You can count on them to take cute pictures together, which they use to greet one another "happy birthday" with on Instagram.
If you think their friendship couldn’t get even sweeter, Jennie even sent a food truck just for her when she was filming Squid Game. Talk about friendship goals!
7. She was busy at fashion week when she auditioned for Squid Game.
Ho Yeon was in the middle of a busy schedule when she decided to audition for the character of Sae-byeok. The 27 year old shares that, “[she] was in New York to prepare for Fashion Week, but the management company asked me to send a self-taped audition video and I decided to take part.”
8. "Squid Game" marks her acting debut.
Even though Ho Yeon’s been on screen before on Korea’s Next Top Model, Squid Game is actually her first big TV series stint.
Despite being her first time working as an actress, there’s no denying that the recognition she’s getting now is well-deserved. The show’s director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, openly expressed how perfect Ho Yeon was for the role. “I knew that [she was] going to play Sae-byeok as soon as I watched her audition tape,” he said, “her tone, her glare, and her aura [made] her the Sae-byeok we were looking for.”
9. She shares a deep connection with Sae Byeok.
Ho Yeon’s dynamic character is not an easy one to embody, but that didn’t stop her from taking it on. Aside from watching documentaries on North Korean defectors and studying their dialect, she also managed to find a connection between her and Sae-byeok.
“More than anything, I think I was able to accept [the role of] Sae-byeok without any big difficulties because I am similar to her. In 2016, I left Korea to further my modelling career overseas, and I spent a lot of time alone. At the time, the emotion that I felt the most was loneliness…That feeling of loneliness while trying to persevere and live isn’t all that different,” Jung told W Korea.
10. She’s on Instagram.
This talented actress is definitely worth the follow, so check out her official Instagram account at @hoooooyeony!
Not only does she share behind-the-scenes photos with other Squid Game cast members, but she also posts chic OOTD shots and inspiring magazine covers, too. In case you’re in need of some style inspiration, the photogenic model’s feed might just be what you need to take notes from.