Certain names come to mind when we think of today's best K-drama actors. More likely than not, fan favorities in their 20s or early 30s immediately register. Though, one shouldn't disregard the refined caliber of acting possessed by talents in their more mature years. Case in point: veteran actress Lee Jung Eun, who's been making a name for herself for nearly three decades now. There's a good chance that she already looks familiar to you, either as a lovable mother figure, or maybe even as a clever housekeeper. Scroll away to learn more about her!
Here are 10 things you need to know about Korean actress Lee Jung Eun
1. She's an Aquarius
Jung Eun was born on January 23, 1970 in Seoul, South Korea.
2. She shares her alma mater with a member of Seventeen
Equipped with a passion for acting ever since she was young, Jung Eun enrolled into the Theater and Film program of Hanyang University. Some notable alumni from the school include her Our Blues co-star Lee Byung Hun, My Name's Lee Hak Joo, and Lee Ji Hoon (better known as Woozi) of K-Pop boy band Seventeen.
3. She made her debut in theater
Before she stepped in front of the camera, Jung Eun started out as an assistant director for several theater productions. Her onstage debut was for a 1991 staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream. She was best known for playing grandmother and female employee roles in her gigs.
Eventually she ventured into the big screen via minor roles in the 2000's movie A Masterpiece In My Life and the 2001 title Wanee and Junah.
4. Her breakthrough role was for an internationally-acclaimed film
It was only in 2019, nearly 30 years after she entered the industry, that Jung Eun got her biggest break yet playing Moon-gwang, the housekeeper in the dark comedy thriller Parasite.
Her convincing performance garnered her global recognition, and bagged her numerous Best Actress nods at several award-giving ceremonies, the Busan Film Critics' Awards and the Screen Actors' Guild Awards only being two of them!
Lucky for us, we can now rewatch the critically-acclaimed film on Netflix!
5. She's worked with director Bong Joon Ho thrice
Parasite wasn't the first time Jung Eun collaborated with Bong Joon Ho. She previously played a small role in the director's 2009 movie, Mother. Later on, in 2017, Joon Ho tapped the actress to play the main role in Okja, a harrowing film about a genetically-modified pig who goes through human abuse.
In an interview, Jung Eun admitted that being the voice actor behind the film's namesake was a challenge, since she's "never heard a pig cry before." This led to some thorough research in order to prepare for the role.
6. She has close to 100 acting credits
At this point, Jung Eun is a fixture in many Korean dramas and movies. As of writing, she has 42 film credits, and 52 TV show credits! When a scene or story calls for an endearing eomma or a supportive wife, we can almost always count on her to pop into the frame. Some of her most memorable work include roles in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo, Hi, Bye Mama!, and Hometown Cha-cha-cha.
7. She's a multi-awarded actress
With such an extensive body of work, it comes as no surprise that accolades kept pouring down year after year for Jung Eun. Aside from Parasite, she's been recognized for her performances in dramas like Once Again and The Light In Your Eyes.
8. She also received a prestigious honor from the Prime Minister of Korea
Perhaps one of the most distinguished recognitions a person can receive in South Korea is the Prime Minister's Commendation, which is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to pop culture and art. Given her exemplary acting chops and range, Jung Eun was granted this honor just last year.
9. She enjoys making hats
When she's not embodying a character on screen, the 52-year-old unwinds by making hats. She documents the crafty endeavor on Instagram, where you can see all the cute pieces she's been handmaking. So cool!
10. She has two shows streaming on Netflix
If you're eager to see more of the veteran actress, you're in luck. She currently has two projects of hers ready for streaming on Netflix: the sentimental Our Blues, alongside real-life couple Shin Min Ah and Kim Woo Bin, and the legal drama Juvenile Justice, featuring Kim Hye Soo and Kim Mu Yeol.
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