Lee Jin-wook is a South Korean actor and model known for his roles in the romantic series ‘Glass Castle’ and ‘The Time We Were Not in Love’. Fascinated with baseball as a kid, Lee never thought about being an actor and it was while pursuing engineering that his interest peaked and he plunged into the acting business. After making his on-screen debut in the year 2004 with a small part in ‘Resurrection’, he kept appearing in small parts in TV series’ and made his film debut with 2014’s ‘Miss Granny’ in a supporting role. Eventually, Lee started getting better and bigger roles and with his extended roles in the series’ ‘Air City’, ‘Before and After’ and ‘Smile Again’, he became one of the most desirable young actors in the industry. Everything changed after Lee made his appearance in the time travel film ‘Nine: Nine Time Travels’. The film turned his career around and laid foundation for Lee to get one of the leading parts in ‘The Target’, an action thriller film. Over the years while he has been active, he has won an SBS Drama Award and a Mnet 20’s Choice Award while receiving nominations for a few others.
Childhood & Early Life
Lee Jin-wook was born in Cheongju, South Korea on 16th September 1981 in a middle class family. Growing up in quite a conservative household, he was quite in awe of his favourite TV and film stars, but becoming an actor was never quite the way he thought his life would go. Instead, he focused hard on his studies and played baseball whenever he found time.
He was a natural actor, and as he grew up, his parents started noticing Lee’s penchant for making funny expressions and jokingly said that he could be a really good actor. What started off as a joke, became a suggestion which little Lee took to heart and started dreaming. But it vanished as soon as he entered high school and decided to focus on his academics.
Coming out of the high school, he started his college at the Cheongju University in the Environmental Engineering department, but was never able to maintain his concentration on his studies. There came a time during his college days when he decided that he wasn’t interested at all in engineering and his real calling was somewhere else.
He then dropped out of the college and started hunting for modelling assignments, which he thought was a great way to gain some exposure into the industry. He kept trying without success for months and then in 2003, he got signed on for the print advertisement of the electronics company Panasonic. After doing a few more modelling assignments, he took the leap and increased the frequency of appearing for the acting auditions.
To further hone his acting skills, he acted in a short film titled ‘My New Boyfriend’, where he played the leading role and that short film served as a perfect testimony of his talent, which he presented in front of the agents, and eventually signed his first acting role in 2005.
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Lee started his acting career with the 2005 film ‘Resurrection’, playing a minor role, which remained unnoticed. But the series ‘Alone in Love’ had him playing a slightly better role as a stalker and a rich young man, who turns his back on his father’s money. He received slight appreciation for the latter one.
In the 2006 series ‘Smile Again’, Lee played the heart warming role as a popular former high school kid as one of the three main leads in the storyline. The drama which started well eventually saw the ratings get low as the series progressed, and hence, didn’t prove to be much beneficial for the cast members as well as the makers.
Lee followed it up with another supporting role in the drama ‘Air City’, which revolved around the Korean air force and was shot almost entirely on the Incheon airport. Lee played a quick tempered security officer. The series was an average hit in South Korea, but received significant attention in Japan and Thailand and broadcasting rights for the same were sold to a few other neighbouring countries.
In 2008, Lee got a chance to play one of the lead characters in the romantic drama series ‘Glass Castle’, where he played the role of a rich and charming man who manages to woo the leading lady, played by Yoon So-yi. For his effective portrayal, Lee received nominations at the Korean Drama Awards and KBS Drama Awards, missing out on both the awards.
In 2009, Lee enlisted for the mandatory military training and bonding with other actor friends there, he also happened to gain a further new perspective on his career while doing his time for the army.
Lee made his comeback to the acting front with ‘Myung-wol the Spy’, a romantic drama where he essayed the role of a North Korean secret agent. His role was met with acclaim.
In 2012, Lee played the role of a woman’s on and off boyfriend in the romantic comedy ‘I Need Romance 2012’, which once again turned out to be a great success. But he was still waiting for the role which would establish him as a perfect material for playing the lead roles in super hit films and series, a luxury which he was denied, only until the very next year.
Lee played the leading role of a TV news anchor in ‘Nine: Nine Time Travels’, a science fiction thriller which revolved around a man trying to avenge his family by travelling back and forth in time. For his solid portrayal of a broken and vengeful man, Lee received the Best Drama Star Award at the Mnet 20’s Choice Awards and got nominated for the highly coveted Daesang Award at the Korea Drama Awards.
The success of series paved way for Lee to finally venture into films as well with 2014’s ‘Miss Granny’, a comedy film where Lee played a supporting role. The success of the film further opened ways for Lee in films and he appeared as the leading man in the film ‘The Target’, a thriller where he played the role of a retired Mercenary.
The makers of ‘Nine: Nine Time Travels’ signed Lee on once again to lead the cast of period drama ‘The Three Musketeers’, wherein Lee played the crown Prince Sohyeon. The series was a success and for Lee, it was followed by another success ‘The Time we were not in Love’, which happened to be the remake of an award winning Taiwanese drama.
Lee’s film career also flourished during this time with the comedy film ‘The Beauty Inside’ and the thriller ‘Time Renegade’.
Lee Jin-wook’s personal life has not been any less complicated than the thrillers that he has entertained his fans with. In July 2016, a woman sued Lee for raping her and told the police that the actor followed her one night to her house and then raped her. Lee denied the accusations and countersued the woman for defamation. Court found Lee to be innocent and the woman faced charges and jail-time.
Lee has been more or less open about his personal life and started dating actress Choi Ji-woo in 2007. The couple broke up in 2011. In 2014, Lee started dating Gong Hyo-jin, and a few months later, the couple parted ways. Lee is single as of present.