Jun Ji-hyun is a well-known South Korean actress who is best known for her role as ‘The Girl’ in the hit Korean romantic comedy film ‘My Sassy Girl.’ She had wanted to be a flight attendant since she was a child, and she had no intention of becoming an actress. However, she entered the world of beauty and entertainment at the age of 16 when she was introduced to a photographer by a friend. She gradually gained notoriety as a commercial model, and despite her early appearances in films and television in the late 1990s, she worked hard to establish herself as an actress. In a commercial for Samsung My Jet Printer in 1999, she became an immediate phenomenon, attracting the attention of the young generation with her position, posture, and dance routines. After a few years, she got her big break with the super smash hit rom-com ‘My Sassy Girl,’ which went on to become one of the highest-grossing Korean comedies of all time. Such success paved the way for her to appear in films such as ‘Assassination’ and ‘The Thieves,’ as well as TV shows such as ‘The Legend of the Blue Sea’ and ‘My Love from the Star,’ earning her international fame and solidifying her place as one of the top Hallyu stars.
Childhood and Adolescence
On October 30, 1981, in Seoul, South Korea, Jun Ji-hyun was born as Wang Ji-hyun. Although she aspired to be a flight attendant as a child, her tall and slim figure prompted her mother and the latter’s friends to encourage her to pursue a career in modeling and acting. One of her high school friends who was already into modeling connected her to a photographer when she was 16 years old.
She began her modeling career in 1997 with ‘Ecole Magazine,’ under the stage name Jun Ji-hyun. She rose to prominence as a commercial model over time, particularly after appearing in a commercial for the Samsung My Jet Printer in 1999. Her ad’s pose, posture, and dance moves made her an icon among the young Korean population.
Meanwhile, she made her film debut as Jung-min in the Korean romantic film ‘White Valentine,’ which was released on February 13, 1999 but did not receive a lot of attention. In the same year, she made her television debut in the South Korean series ‘Happy Together.’
She subsequently starred as Eun-joo in the time-travel romantic film ‘Il Mare,’ which, while receiving mixed reviews at its first release on September 9, 2000, has now become a minor classic among Korean film fans. Her big break came in 2001, when she was cast as ‘The Girl’ in the comedy film ‘My Sassy Girl,’ which was released on July 27 of that year. This box office smash not only became the highest-grossing Korean comedy of all time at the time, but it also held the top slot in Hong Kong for two weeks.
She worked in additional South Korean films after the popularity of ‘My Sassy Girl,’ including psychological horror ‘The Uninvited’ (2003) and romantic comedy ‘Windstruck’ (2004). By this time, she had become a well-known figure in Korea, having appeared on billboards and television commercials in the country as well as in other Asian countries. Leading filmmakers ranked her among the top ten most bankable stars in the Korean film business in a 2005 poll.
She then starred as Hye-young in Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau’s urban romantic melodrama ‘Daisy.’ An Asian cut and an international edit were made of the picture, which was shot entirely in the Netherlands. On March 9, 2006, it premiered in South Korea, and on April 13, 2006, it premiered in Hong Kong.
In the South Korean film ‘A Man Who Was Superman,’ released in 2008, she chopped her long, silky hair to play Song Soo-jung, a cynical documentary producer. As of February 17, 2008, the film in which she co-starred with well-known South Korean actor Hwang Jung-min had grossed $3,848,034 at the box office.
Her Hollywood debut was in the English-language horror-action film ‘Blood: The Last Vampire,’ which was co-produced by Hong Kong company Edko and French company Pathé and released on May 29, 2009 in Japan and other Asian countries, followed by the UK and the US. It gave her the name Gianna Jun, which she had changed to before the film’s release.
Meanwhile, in 2008, she launched her own luxury jeans line, “Gianna by True Religion.” She made her debut appearance in the American issue of ‘Vogue’ in July 2010, making her the first Korean actress to appear in the iconic fashion and lifestyle publication. Her next English-language film, a historical drama titled ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,’ was released on July 15, 2011, based on the bestselling novel by Lisa See of the same name. It did well at the box office, but received mostly unfavorable reviews from reviewers.
‘The Thieves,’ a star-studded South Korean heist film in which she played Yenicall, became a huge hit. The film, which was released on July 25, 2012, is currently the fifth highest-grossing film in Korean cinema history.
She later starred as Ryun Jung-hee, a translator, in the South Korean spy thriller film ‘The Berlin File,’ which was released on January 31, 2013, and became another blockbuster smash. The film not only garnered positive reviews from reviewers, but it also confirmed her standing as a leading Korean actress.
She returned to television after a decade-long absence with the South Korean series ‘My Love from the Star,’ which aired on SBS for 21 episodes from December 18, 2013 to February 27, 2014. In 2014, her outstanding performance earned her a Daesang, or “Grand Prize,” at the Baeksang Arts Awards and the SBS Drama Awards. At the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards, she also got the President’s Award.
Her following picture, the spy action film ‘Assassination,’ which was released in 2015, was another blockbuster triumph, becoming the highest-grossing Korean film of the year. She won Best Actress at both the ‘Max Movie Awards’ and the ‘Grand Bell Awards’ for the picture, which is now the fifth highest-grossing film in Korean cinema history. From November 16, 2016 until January 25, 2017, she starred in the fantasy romance drama TV series ‘The Legend of the Blue Sea,’ which aired on SBS.
Major Projects of Jun
The worldwide popularity of ‘My Sassy Girl’ catapulted her into the international spotlight, making her a pan-Asian celebrity. Her status as a Korean star was established by the film, which also placed her among the top Hallyu stars in the Chinese-language market. It also earned her the title of “Nation’s First Love” and a Best Actress award at the 2002 Grand Bell Awards, as well as several endorsement and film offers.
Personal History and Legacy
At Shilla Hotel in Jangchung-dong, downtown Seoul, she married banker Choi Joon-hyuk, grandson of legendary hanbok designer Lee Young-hee and son of fashion designer Lee Jung-woo, on April 13, 2012.
The couple welcomed their first child, a boy, on February 10, 2016, and her second child is due in January 2018, according to her agency, Culture Depot.
Estimated Net Worth
Jun Ji-hyun has a net worth of $6 million as a South Korean actress and model. She is well recognized for her roles in Korean films and television shows.