In the acting world, Han Hyo Joo’s resume is more than impressive—especially considering how she got her start in the entertainment industry. She was discovered in 2003 through a Miss Binggeure contest (yes, the Korean food company). Two years later, she landed acting roles in the sitcom Nonstop 5 and the movie My Boss, My Teacher. Hyo Joo’s first lead role, however, was in the drama Spring Waltz: Director Yun Seok Ho was browsing the Internet and just happened to stumble upon her photo. He said she exhibited the kind of purity and innocence of youth that fit the character well.
It’s been 15 years since Spring Waltz, with many excellent roles under her belt, and Hyo Joo has grown up right before our eyes. Most recently, she’s been wowing fans in Happiness, her newest K-drama with Park Hyung Sik.
Below are just a few of the many reasons we can’t get enough of Han Hyo Joo:
1. Han Hyo Joo was born on February 22, 1987.
All her fellow Pisces, where are you at? ICYDK, this sign is known for being a really, really good friend—the kind who’s with you through all the ups and downs of life. They value friendships so much, they won’t think twice about dropping whatever they’re doing if you need help. This sounds exactly like our girl, Hyo Joo, who is well-loved by both her childhood friends and industry besties. (More on this later.)
2. She is a lot like her character in Happiness.
Hyo Joo stars in the drama as Yoon Sae Bom, a bold agent in the Seoul Police Special Operations Unit. In an interview with Elle Korea, she shared that as soon as she read the script, she gravitated to the character because they were so much alike: "I thought she was no different from me. I liked how I was able to portray myself. Just like Yoon Sae Bom, I act first, think later, and my appetite is also similar to hers."
3. She won awards for her performance in Ad-Lib Night, her first feature film.
Directed by Lee Yoon Ki, Ad-Lib Night is based on a short story by Japanese writer Azuko Taira. The movie came out in 2006, shortly after she just started acting, and was well-regarded by critics. Hyo Joo won best actress awards at the 26th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards and 20th Singapore International Film Festival.
4. It’s difficult to pick a favorite among her long list of dramas and films.
One of her unforgettable bodies of work is Brilliant Legacy, where she acted alongside Lee Seung Gi; it was a love story between Go Eun Sung (Hyo Joo), whose life changed drastically when her stepmother took all of her inheritance, and Sun Woo Hwan (Seung Gi), a spoiled successor of a Korean restaurant chain. hailed as a massive success, this is the role that catapulted Hyo Joo into stardom. A year later, she took part in MBC’s 49th anniversary project called Dong Yi, which also happens to be her first historical drama. She was so good in it that she took home the Daesang award at the MBC Drama Awards and the Best Actress award at the Baeksang Arts Awards that year.
In 2012, she played a queen in Masquerade, one of the highest-grossing Korean films of all time. The following year, she and her leading man, Go Soo, made hearts flutter in Love 911, an unlikely romance between a firefighter with a hard past and a career-driven doctor. The two reunited in Myohyangsangwan in 2014 as a South Korean painter and a North Korean waitress.
Hyo Joo captivated the audience in The Beauty Inside where she portrayed Yi Soo, a woman who falls in love with a man who wakes up as a different person every day. In 2016, she made her small-screen comeback in W, a hit K-drama also starring Lee Jong Suk. When the casting was announced, people had high expectations because she had been doing movies for around six years at the time. Hyo Joo delivered, of course, and everyone couldn’t stop screaming into their pillows because of their electric chemistry. They even won the Best Couple Award at the 2016 MBC Drama Awards.
Fun fact: Hyo Joo and Jong Suk met for the first time during production and their first shoot had a kissing scene, omo!
5. Hyo Joo was casted in Treadstone, a TV spin-off of the popular Bourne movies.
This was a dream come true for Hyo Joo who always wanted to test her acting chops in the genre of action. In fact, may have manifested her role in the spin-off, telling Harper’s Bazaar, "Once, I was asked, ‘What kind of action do you want to try?’ and I said, ‘I want to try an action project like the Bourne series.’ So it’s unbelievable to me that I’m now actually participating in that series...I was already nervous and excited before my audition. After all, you don’t always get to do something just because you’re determined to do it or really want to do it." The show premiered on the USA network in 2019.
6. She was a very active child.
Hyo Joo’s mom was an elementary school teacher before shifting careers a bit to become a public school inspector while her father was in the military. She was very good at sports when she was younger, specifically track and field. She once had a guest appearance on tvN’s Hometown Flex where her childhood friends surprised her and shared some stories, confirming that the actress excelled in running: "She was really good at physical education. She always placed first in races." No wonder she kicked ass while training for her role in Treadstone.
7. She’s always had a youthful look.
And her good looks always turned heads. In the same Hometown Flex episode, her friends said, "Rather than being pretty, she was more good-looking. Although she was in middle school, she would receive attention from college students. When we went to look at cherry blossoms, people would think you were a college student."
8. She has a lot of close celebrity friends.
Here’s something you may not know: Han Hyo Joo and Lee Seung Gi have been friends for a long time. They both made their debut on Nonstop 5. Seung Gi once said, "You can look at it as me and Hyo Joo being members of the same social circle. We see each other often with our other friends born in 1987, and we graduated from the same university."
She, together with actresses Han Ji Min and Chu Ja Hyun, showed her support for The Penthouse star Lee Ji Ah by sending food for the entire cast. The banner read: "We’re rooting for Shim Soo Ryeon’s revenge. Cast and crew of The Penthouse, please enjoy the meal!" But this wasn’t the first time they sent their love; the trio also had a mini viewing party to watch the show’s premiere.
In February 2019, Hyo Joo sent a coffee truck to Park Shin Hye during the production of her movie, Call.
9. She was once linked to Kang Dong Won.
Han Hyo Joo and Kang Dong Won acted together in the film Illang: The Wolf Brigade after they were spotted together in the U.S. The actress addressed the rumors, "But everything that came out is all there is. We ate together because our schedules worked out while we were in the United States. I’m actually more worried about this becoming too big and hindering the movie in a different direction. [Besides that] there’s not much else. [When I talk to the people around me about this] I say ‘We just ate. It was delicious.’ I say ‘There’s so much chattering going on. I’m sorry.’ Truthfully, I apologized about the chattering going on because of a different, unnecessary issue."
10. She regularly makes donations.
In 2017, she was there for children with illnesses after attending a campaign for Green Umbrella Angel Day. Earlier that same year, Hyo Joo teamed up with Green Umbrella Children Foundation in a project called "Wearing Dreams Day By Day" where they designed clothes and gifted them to over a thousand sick children.
Hyo Joo was also one of the celebrities who made donations to help the victims of the wildfire in Gangwon Province in 2019. She donated 20 million won after 125 homes were burned down because of the disaster.
After the COVID-19 hit in 2020, she donated 100 million won to the Hope Bridge Disaster Relief Association to aid with prevention efforts. Later in the year, she donated all the money she earned from her Hometown Flex guest appearance to the New Life Support Center located in Chungju; Chungju is Hyo Joo’s hometown, and parts of the place were damaged due to the heavy rainfall.
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