Childhood & Early Life
Cha Seung-won was born on June 7, 1970 in Gyeonggi, South Korea, and finished his early education from his hometown only. He started modelling in his late teens and at one point, he was considered the best male model in the country. When he started getting more modelling offers, he quit his education and dropped out of higher education to make a full time career in modelling.
He did photo shoots for several magazines, appeared in commercials and featured as the face of many products during his early 20s and also managed to score a number of awards during his modelling days.
In 1995, Korea Model Association honored him with the Best Male Model award and well during his peak days, he took the next logical step, to appear in films and TV.
After initial struggle, he found a small part in the sitcom ‘New York Story’ and hence, his career took off.
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His debut project ‘New York Story’ did well enough for him, as he got into the limelight, mostly due to his looks. In order to stay away from getting typecast as just another pretty face, he deliberately chose unconventional roles.
He made his film debut in 1997 with ‘Holiday in Seoul’, which was a small budget art-house film featuring a multi star-cast with many inter-connected stories. The film didn’t pick up a pace at the box office and never resonated with critics as well.
Not getting disheartened, Cha then went on to appear in films such as ‘If the Sun Rises in the West’ and ‘Ghost in Love’. He played minor roles in those films and got sidelined by the main cast.
However, his breakthrough role came his way in 2000, with the film ‘Libera Me’, an action blockbuster film, where Cha played the second lead role as an arsonist. The film fared well at the box office and was also deemed as a mega critical success.
Cha followed that breakthrough success with another hit film ‘Kick the Moon’ in 2001. The comedy was a massive hit and Cha was honored with a Golden Cinematography Award for his performance, which was also his very first award.
After a few more light hearted roles, Cha played a serious character in the film ‘Mr. Teacher’. This emotionally strong film won many awards that year, and Cha’s performance received a lot of praise. It was a successful change in image, and now Cha started getting seen as a fairly competitive actor, who could take on any character with ease.
After that, Cha with his intelligent choice of scripts became one of the most bankable film stars in 2005.
Knowing all well that audiences desired to see him in comedy roles only, he decided not to go that way and appeared in 2005 in two emotionally heavy films such as ‘The Big Scene’ and ‘Blood Rain’.
In the 2006 film ‘Over the Border’ he appeared in an emotionally charged role, and played the character with panache and received widespread acclaim. The success was followed by ‘Eye for an Eye’ and ‘Secret’, two crispy and fast paced crime thrillers.
In another award winning performance, Cha appeared in the TV fairytale drama ‘The City Hall’, for which he received the Best Actor in a Drama Special award at that year’s SBS Drama Awards. The series was a major success and widened Cha’s fan following across the national border as well.
In 2011, Cha appeared in a comic role in the series ‘The Greatest Love’, where he played the role of an arrogant social media star. The miniseries became a surprise hit and received praise for its storyline and the performances. His character, Dokko Jin, became a pop culture icon and started a wave in South Korea, which was sarcastic in its tone.
In 2014, in a major career move, Cha signed with the YG Entertainment talent agency and signed a police procedural series ‘You’re All surrounded’, which again met with critical acclaim. However, the biggest acclaim for Cha came when he played the role of a transgender detective in the noir comedy film ‘Man on High Heels’.
His variety TV stint as a talented cook on the show ‘Three meals a Day’ also catapulted Cha to further fame and he became a national heartthrob, earning the title Chajumma among his fans. In the same year, he donned the hat of the narrator for Hollywood film ‘Minions’, where he lent his voice in the Korean dubbing.
Later in 2015, he played the leading role of a prince in the period drama ‘Splendid Politics’, for which he won an award at the MBC Drama Awards for his spectacular performance.
His success streak was furthered by his role in the film ‘The Map against the World’, which happened to be a big screen adaptation of highly successful South Korean novel ‘The Map’.
Cha Seung-won got married in 1992 after dating his girlfriend Lee Soo-jin for quite some and welcome a daughter, Cha Ye-ni, in 2003. The couple previously had one son, Noah, who was born before Cha and Lee got married.
Cha has remained in several controversies in his personal life. A man filed a case against him in 2014, claiming that Noah was his son, from his marriage with Lee prior to her marriage with Cha. Cha fought the case for sometime saying that Noah was his biological son and he married Lee in 1989, but later admitted to lying. This resulted in Cha receiving a lot of backlash from his fans, and he publicly apologized for lying.