Childhood & Early Life
Lee Young-ae was born on January 31, 1971, in Seoul, South Korea, to Lee Chung Seok and Yoon Taehwi. She grew up along with her two older brothers. After graduating from high school, she went to ‘Hanyang University’ from where she graduated with a ‘Bachelor of Arts’ degree in German Language and Literature.
She then went to ‘Chung Ang University’ from where she graduated with a ‘Master of Arts’ degree in Theater and Film. In 1991, Lee Young-ae started her career as a model. She also appeared in television commercials, before landing an opportunity to play the role of Do Do-hee in a TV series titled ‘How's Your Husband?’ in 1993.
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After making her acting debut in ‘How's Your Husband?,’ for which she won the ‘Best New Actress’ award at the 1994 ‘SBS Drama Awards,’ Lee Young-ae appeared in a TV series titled ‘Dash.’ In 1995, she played prominent roles in three TV series, namely ‘Love and Marriage,’ ‘West Palace,’ and ‘Asphalt Man.’ Her performance in ‘West Palace’ won her the ‘Popularity Award’ at ‘KBS Drama Awards.’
In 1996, she played Han Sae-young in a TV mini-series titled ‘Papa.’ In the same year, she also appeared in a couple of other TV series, such as ‘Their Embrace’ and ‘Sibling Relations.’ She won ‘Excellence Award’ at ‘MBC Drama Awards’ for her work in ‘Their Embrace’ and ‘Sibling Relations.’
Lee made her feature film debut in 1997, when she was cast to play the lead role opposite Min-su Choi in Min-Yong Lee-directed romantic-drama film ‘Inshalla.’ In the same year, she was also seen in television series, such as ‘The Medical Brothers,’ ‘The Reason I Live,’ and ‘Because I Love You.’ She was honored with the ‘Excellence Award’ at the ‘MBC Drama Awards’ for her work in ‘The Reason I Live.’
From 1998 to 1999, she appeared in five television series, namely ‘Romance,’ ‘Advocate,’ ‘Enbireyong,’ ‘Invitation,’ and ‘Wave.’ While she won the ‘Top Excellence Award’ at the 1998 ‘SBS Drama Awards’ for ‘Romance,’ she won ‘Excellence Award’ and the ‘Popularity Award’ at the 1999 ‘KBS Drama Awards’ for ‘Invitation.’
Lee was cast to play Major Sophie E. Jean in the 2000 Park Chan-wook-directed mystery thriller film ‘Joint Security Area.’ Lee's popularity increased after appearing in the film as it became the highest-grossing film at the time in Korea. In the same year, she also played the lead role of Kim Ji-hyun in a TV series titled ‘Fireworks,’ which made her popular among Taiwan audiences.
In 2001, she received critical acclaim for portraying Park Jung-yeon, a young woman awaiting premature death, in the romantic-drama film ‘Last Present.’ In the same year, she received ‘Best Actress’ award at the 2nd ‘Busan Film Critics Awards’ for playing Eun-su in Hur Jin-ho-directed film ‘One Fine Spring Day.’
Lee Young-ae received her breakthrough role in 2003 when she was cast to play Seo Jang-geum in ‘Dae Jang Geum.’ The series became the tenth highest rated drama of all time in Korea, making Lee one of the most famous actresses in South Korea. Also, the series became popular all over Asia and Lee was subsequently invited to places like Mainland China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. In 2004, she won ‘Female Star Award’ at 2nd ‘Andre Kim Best Star Awards’ for her performance in ‘Dae Jang Geum.’
In 2005, she played Lee Geum-ja in Park Chan-wook-directed psychological thriller film ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.’ For her performance in the film, Lee went on to win several awards, including ‘Best Actress’ award at the 26th ‘Blue Dragon Film Awards’ and 42nd ‘Baeksang Arts Awards.’
Lee Young-ae stopped signing new projects after appearing in ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.’ In 2006, she became the first Korean actress to be chosen as a jury member of the ‘International Berlin Film Festival.’ In 2011, she voiced a character named Swillery Jung-han Kim in 52 episodes of an animated TV series titled ‘YooHoo and Friends.’
Lee made a comeback in 2017 when she played a dual role in the historical drama series ‘Saimdang, Memoir of Colors.’ In 2018, she was cast to play Jung-yeon in ‘Find Me,’ which marked her feature film comeback after 13 years.
Other Major Works
Lee Young-ae has been involved in charity work right from the beginning of her career. In 1999, she visited the Thar Desert in India to make a TV show about India's lowest social caste. In 2001, she penned down her experiences in India in her autobiography ‘A Most Special Love.’ She then donated the money earned from selling the book to charity.
In 2012, she became the celebrity spokesperson for a project called ‘Love Donation’ which was initiated by ‘Woman Chosun’ magazine. She also donated a large sum of money to help build a school in Myanmar.
In 2014, she donated US$100,000 to ‘Sujatha Diyani Scholarship Fund’ in Sri Lanka. The project aims at helping female students from low-income families. She is also part of ‘Chime for Change’ campaign which aims at improving the lives of girls and women around the world.
Family & Personal Life
Lee Young-ae dated Korean-American businessman Jeong Ho-young who is 17 years her senior. After dating him for ten years, she got married to him on August 24, 2009. On February 20, 2011, Lee and Jeong were blessed with twins (a son and a daughter).
Lee is a close friend of South Korean singer-songwriter Jung Ji-Hoon (Rain). Apart from Korean (Hangul), she can also speak English and German fluently. She currently lives in Gapyung, Gyung-gi Province, South Korea.