He made his acting debut under the stage name “Jang Hyuk,” in 1997, playing ‘Joon-ho’ in the ‘SBS’ TV drama ‘Model.’
The 1999 music video of the debut single of the five-member South Korean pop music group ‘g.o.d,’ titled ‘To Mother,’ featured Jang. At that time, he was a housemate of the band members.
While acting, he forayed into rapping for a brief while. He appeared in many of the music videos of his rap album, ‘TJ Project.’ The album was released through ‘LOEN Entertainment’ on August 8, 2000. His portrayal of ‘Bong-pil’ in the ‘SBS’ series ‘Wang Rung's Land’ that year earned him the ‘Best New Actor’ award at the ‘SBS Drama Awards’ ceremony.
His big break came when he played ‘Kim Kyung-soo,’ a troublemaking high-school student, in the 2001 South Korean martial arts action comedy ‘Volcano High.’ The film emerged as the 9th-highest-grossing Korean film of that year while the brilliant performance of Jang in the eccentric role earned him critical acclaim and made him a household name in South Korea.
He furthered his fame with the starring role of ‘Han Gi-tae,’ a spoiled and arrogant president of a makeup company, starring opposite actor Jang Na-ra, in the South Korean TV series ‘Successful Story of a Bright Girl.’ The series aired on ‘SBS’ from March 13, 2002, to May 2, 2002. It won him the ‘Top Excellence Award’ for the best actor at the 2002 ‘SBS Drama Awards.’
In 2002, he earned fame for his roles of ‘Ki-tae’ in the sleeper hit ‘Jungle Juice’ and ‘Kim Seon-bak’ in acclaimed Hong Kong director Fruit Chan’s movie ‘Public Toilet.’
His fame soared in Asia after he essayed the role of ‘Go Myung-woo,’ alongside ‘Jun Ji-hyun,’ in the South Korean romantic comedy ‘Windstruck.’ It was the first Korean film that premiered in Hong Kong. While the premiere took place on May 28, 2004, the film was released by ‘CJ Entertainment’ on June 3 that year. It became the 8th-bestselling Korean film of that year and grossed more than US$17 million in Japan, emerging as one of the biggest-selling Korean films of all time in Japan.
He became part of a draft-dodging scandal when in late 2004, he, along with actors Song Seung-heon and Han Jae-suk, illegally avoided the mandatory military service in their country. After being censured by the public, Jang apologized to his fans and then served his 2-year term.
Jang returned to show business in 2006, following his stint with the military. His comeback performance of a cynical doctor named ‘Min Gi-seo’ in the South Korean TV series ‘Thank You’ (2007) won him the ‘Golden Acting Award’ for the best actor in a miniseries at the 2007 ‘MBC Drama Awards.’
‘Dance of the Dragon,’ a Korean–Singaporean–American collaboration, marked Jang’s debut in Hollywood. The romantic drama featured him as ‘Kwon Tae-san,’ opposite Singaporean actor Fann Wong. The film released on May 15, 2008, and won him the ‘Best Actor’ award at the 2008 ‘West Hollywood International Film Festival.’ That year, he also starred in the TV series ‘Robber’ and ‘Tazza,’ with the latter fetching him two ‘SBS Drama Awards.’
One of the most memorable portrayals of Jang was that of ‘Lee Dae-gil’ in the South Korean historical drama series ‘The Slave Hunters,’ aired on ‘KBS2’ from January 6, 2010, to March 25 that year. He won several awards for the series, including the ‘Daesang’ for the lead actor at the 2010 ‘KBS Drama Awards,’ apart from bagging an ‘Emmy’ nomination for the ‘Best Actor’ in 2011.
In the years that followed, Yang proved his versatility and acting prowess by delivering several award-winning performances in various TV series. He portrayed a fund manager-turned-lawyer, ‘Kim Do-hyun,’ in ‘Midas’ (2011), a low-level royal guard, ‘Kang Chae-yoon,’ in ‘Deep Rooted Tree’ (2011), the successor to a large company, ‘Lee Gun,’ in ‘Fated to Love You’ (2014), a poor man, ‘Chun Bong-sam,’ in ‘The Merchant: Gaekju 2015’ (2015), a detective in ‘Voice’ (2017), and a revenge-seeking lawyer, ‘Kang Pil-joo,’ in ‘Money Flower’ (2017).
He played roles of different genres in South Korean films. These include the 2011 legal thriller ‘The Client,’ the 2013 disaster film ‘The Flu,’ the 2014 romantic thriller ‘Innocent Thing,’ the 2015 period film ‘Empire of Lust,’ and the 2017 crime-action drama ‘Ordinary Person.’ He also appeared in the 2016 Chinese action thriller ‘Inside or Outside.’ The upcoming South Korean historical action film ‘The Swordsman’ (2019) will feature him in the role of ‘Tae-yul.’
His appearance in the documentary-style South Korean variety show ‘Real Men,’ from June 2013 to February 2014, which marked the first regular appearance of the actor on a variety/reality show, won him the ‘Popularity Award’ at the 2013 ‘MBC Entertainment Awards’ ceremony. He later appeared in the variety shows ‘Ding Ge Long Dong Qiang’ (2015), ‘The Friends in Croatia’ (2015), and ‘Dragon’s Club: Overgrown Bromance’ (2017).
Meanwhile, on August 6, 2013, he published a collection of essays titled ‘Jang Hyuk, Hot-Blooded Man,’ based on his life experiences.