Lee Bo-young is a film and television actress from South Korea. Originally aspiring to be a news presenter, she was picked among the 15 finalists in MBC’s annual recruitment drive in 2002. However, she did not get the job and veered towards a career in modelling. Soon after, she became the exclusive advertising model for Asiana Airlines, which served as her gateway to acting. Lee debuted on television with the drama, ‘Escape from Unemployment’ in 2003. In 2004, she made her film debut in the family drama ‘My Brother’. While in the initial years her work failed to garner either critical appreciation or public adoration, it all changed with ‘My Daughter Seo-young’ (2012), where she played the titular role. The show was a massive hit and it secured Lee’s position in the industry. In the ensuing years, she has continued the momentum with several hit shows and winning multiple awards. As a diligent member of the society, she is conscious of her social duties and especially active in the charities concerning environmental issues. In 2011, she appeared in the music video for Zia & 4Men’s song ‘Crying, Calling’.
Childhood & Early Life
Lee Bo-young was born on January 12, 1979, in Seoul, South Korea. When she was about 21 years old, she was crowned Miss Korea in Daejeon and the surrounding South Chungcheong Province. She graduated from the Seoul Women’s University with a major in Korean Literature.
Hoping to become a news presenter, she auditioned for and was selected by MBC in their 2002 recruitment drive as one of the 15 finalists. But ultimately she did not land the job and decided to try modelling instead. Her tenure in the fashion world turned out to be very productive as she not only accumulated experience, but also her appointment as Asiana Airlines’ exclusive advertising model paved her road towards stardom.
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After making her acting debut in 2003 in the television series ‘Escape from Unemployment’, Lee Bo-young starred in another SBS drama ‘Long Live Love’. In 2004, she played the antagonist in ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ and a year later, she landed her first leading role in ‘My Sweetheart, My Darling’.
She followed it up with the period drama ‘Ballad of Seodong’. Based on Seodong-yo, one of Korea’s oldest folk songs and its first hyangga, the series depicts a commoner falling in love with Princess Seonhwa (Lee) of the rival kingdom.
The 2004 film ‘My Brother’ served as her debut vehicle in films. She portrayed Jo Mi-ryeong, a high school student who is the love interest of both the male protagonists. Her second film was the neo-noir action thriller ‘A Dirty Carnival’, released in 2006.
In 2008 she starred alongside Park Yong-woo in the major heist comedy film ‘Once Upon a Time’. She and Park portrayed a pair of swindlers in 1940s Korea looking to steal a priceless diamond from the Japanese authorities. The movie received a Grand Bell nomination for Best Costume Design. She acted in two back-to-back melodrama films in 2009, ‘More Than Blue’ and ‘I am Happy’.
Lee returned to the small screen in 2010 with ‘Harvest Villa’, where she played a seductress opposite Shin Ha-kyun and ‘Becoming a Billionaire’, a romantic comedy series with her as the female lead. She then joined the cast of ‘Athena: The Goddess of War’ as a guest star. Later, she was seen in the post-divorce romance series ‘Hooray for Love’ (2011).
For her next project, she chose Kim In-young’s brilliant revenge drama, ‘Man from the Equator’ (2012), where she is the object of attraction of two men caught in a whirlwind of betrayal and retribution.
Her performance as Lee Seo-young, a career woman who harbours profound anger towards her father (Chun Ho-jin) and blames him for her mother’s death, in ‘My Daughter Seo-young’ was highly praised by the critics. The show registered a peak viewership rating of 47.6% on its series finale, the highest of any Korean drama in 2013.
Her next television outing, ‘I Can Hear Your Voice’ (2013), was popular in its own right. The supernatural legal-drama narrates the story of a materialistic and pragmatic public defender whose life drastically changes after she meets Park Soo-ha (Lee Jong-suk), a boy with supernatural abilities. The critics applauded her for stepping out of her comfort zone and taking on a brash, argumentative character.
In ‘God’s Gift-14 Days’ she played a mother who goes back in time to save her murdered young daughter. An American remake, ABC’s ‘Somewhere Between’, premiered on July 24, 2017, with Paula Patton in the lead.
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In 2017, Lee was cast opposite Lee Sang-yoon in the legal thriller ‘Whisper’. A series consisting of 17 episodes, it aired on SBS from March 27 to May 23, 2017. She is set to appear in ‘Mother’, the Korean adaptation of a Japanese show of the same name.
In 2015, Lee published her collection of essays on 23 books with varying themes of love, consolation, and growth that, over the years, have influenced her life in a book titled ‘Time of Love’. Essentially an anthology of reviews, these books include José Mauro de Vasconcelos' ‘My Sweet Orange Tree’, ‘The Little Prince’, and Alain de Botton's ‘Essays in Love’. She had worked on this book during her hiatus from acting due to pregnancy.
Awards & Achievements
Lee Bo-young won her first award in 2005, a New Star SBS Drama Award for her role in ‘Ballad of Seodong’. In the same year, she was also conferred with the KBS Drama Award for the best new actress for ‘My Sweetheart, My Darling’.
In 2008, she received the Best New Actress Award for ‘Once Upon a Time’ at the 44th Baeksang Arts Awards.
For ‘Hooray for Love’, she was granted the Excellence Award, Actress in a Miniseries at the 2011 MBC Drama Awards.
At the 6th Korea Drama Awards in 2013, Lee won the Grand Prize (Daesang) for her roles in ‘My Daughter Seo-young’ and ‘I Can Hear Your Voice’. She received another Grand Prize in the same year at the SBS Drama Awards for ‘I Can Hear Your Voice’.
Lee Bo-young met actor Ji Sung in 2004 on the set of the romantic drama ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’, in which they both starred though she did not play his main love interest. A relationship soon bloomed but it took them three more years to come out and publicly speak about it.
On August 2, 2013, their engagement was announced. They married on 27 September, in a ceremony held at Aston House, W Seoul Walkerhill Hotel. Lee gave birth to their first child, a daughter who they named Kwak Ji-yoo, on June 12, 2015.
Aware of the severe environmental issues of today, Lee has served as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for years, participating in various charity events, doing volunteer work in Mongolia, and taking part in promotional campaigns for a clean environment.
In June 2011, she was named as the goodwill ambassador for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. The event took place on 10 October. Both she and her husband make regular donations to several charities and fundraisers.
Lee is currently signed with the Fly Up Entertainment agency.