Cha Seung-won is a well-known actor and former supermodel from South Korea. Born and raised in Gyeonggi, South Korea, he was an avid sports fan before venturing into show business. After making his acting debut on the sitcom ‘New York Story,’ he went on to star in numerous films and television series, including ‘Holiday in Seoul’. Even though his appearance was well-received, he was having difficulty finding work in the industry. Even after a dozen projects, he was unable to establish himself as a credible actor. However, Cha’s career was transformed in 2001 with the comedy ‘Change the Moon,’ for which he received widespread acclaim for his performance. His subsequent films, including ‘Blood Rain’ and ‘Ghost House,’ solidified his reputation as an actor who was more than a pretty face.
Childhood & Adolescence
Cha Seung-won was born in Gyeonggi, South Korea, on June 7, 1970, and received his early education exclusively in his hometown. He began modeling in his late teens and was once dubbed the country’s best male model. When he began receiving more modeling offers, he abandoned his studies and dropped out of college to pursue a full-time career in modeling.
He modeled for several magazines, appeared in commercials, and was the face of a variety of products during his early twenties. He also won a number of awards during his modeling career.
In 1995, the Korea Model Association awarded him the Best Male Model award, and he continued to work in films and television throughout his peak years.
Following an initial struggle, he was cast in a small role on the sitcom ‘New York Story,’ and his career took off.
Career of Cha
His debut project, ‘New York Story,’ was a success for him, as he gained prominence largely due to his appearance. To avoid being typecast as another pretty face, he purposefully chose unconventional roles.
He made his film debut in 1997 with ‘Holiday in Seoul,’ a low-budget art-house film with a star-studded cast and numerous interconnected stories. The film failed to gain traction at the box office and failed to strike a chord with critics as well.
Cha persevered, appearing in films such as ‘If the Sun Rises in the West’ and ‘Ghost in Love’. He was cast in supporting roles in those films and was overshadowed by the main cast.
However, his breakthrough role came in 2000 with the film ‘Libera Me,’ an action blockbuster in which Cha starred as an arsonist in the second lead role. The film performed admirably at the box office and was also hailed as a critical smash.
Cha followed up that breakthrough success with another box-office smash, 2001’s ‘Kick the Moon.’ The comedy was a huge success, and Cha was recognized for his performance with a Golden Cinematography Award, which was also his first award.
Following a few more lighthearted roles, Cha starred in the film ‘Mr. Teacher’ as a serious character. This emotionally charged film won numerous awards that year, and Cha’s performance was lauded. It was a successful image shift, and Cha gained a reputation as a fairly competitive actor capable of taking on any role.
Following that, Cha became one of the most bankable film stars in 2005 due to his astute script selection.
Knowing full well that audiences wanted to see him in comedic roles only, he chose not to pursue that path and instead appeared in two emotionally charged films in 2005, ‘The Big Scene’ and ‘Blood Rain’.
He starred in the 2006 film ‘Over the Border’ in an emotionally charged role, which he played with panache and garnered widespread acclaim. Following the success of ‘Eye for an Eye,’ and ‘Secret,’ two crisp and fast-paced crime thrillers were released.
Cha also won an award for his performance in the TV fairytale drama ‘The City Hall,’ for which he received the SBS Drama Awards’ Best Actor in a Drama Special award that year. The series was a critical success and helped expand Cha’s fan base beyond the country’s borders.
In 2011, Cha starred in the comedy series ‘The Greatest Love’ as an arrogant social media star. The miniseries was a surprise success, receiving critical acclaim for its storyline and performances. His character, Dokko Jin, became a pop culture icon and sparked a sarcastic wave in South Korea.
In 2014, Cha signed with the YG Entertainment talent agency and starred in the police procedural series ‘You’re All Surrounded,’ which received critical acclaim once again.
However, Cha received the most critical acclaim for his portrayal of a transgender detective in the noir comedy film ‘Man on High Heels’.
Cha’s stint on variety television as a gifted cook on the show ‘Three Meals a Day’ catapulted him to even greater fame, and he became a national heartthrob, earning him the moniker Chajumma from his fans. In the same year, he lent his voice to the Hollywood film ‘Minions’ as the narrator.
Later that year, he starred as a prince in the period drama ‘Splendid Politics,’ for which he won an MBC Drama Award for his outstanding performance.
His success was bolstered by his role in ‘The Map Against the World,’ a film adaptation of the highly successful South Korean novel ‘The Map’.
Private Life of Cha
Cha Seung-won married Lee Soo-jin in 1992 and welcomed a daughter, Cha Ye-ni, in 2003. Previously, the couple had one child, Noah, who was born prior to Cha and Lee’s marriage.
In his personal life, Cha has been embroiled in a number of controversies. In 2014, a man filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that Noah was his son from his previous marriage to Lee prior to her marriage to Cha. Cha initially argued the case, claiming Noah was his biological son and that he married Lee in 1989, but later admitted to lying. As a result of the backlash from his fans, Cha publicly apologized for lying.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Cha is about $4 million.