Childhood & Early Life
Yunjin Kim was born on November 7, 1973, in Seoul, South Korea. When she was 10, her family moved to New York, and according to her, it was a very hard switch for the family, as they suffered a lot due to their South Korean heritage.
Her father was in the army, and that caused him to be absent from the house most of the time. Her mother too worked. In order to engage herself, Kim joined dance classes in her early teenage years and learned several dance forms such as ballet and jazz. Over time, she also grew fond of acting, and while dancing remained her first love, she eventually joined theater to fulfil her wish of being an actor.
Kim graduated from the ‘Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts’ in New York and immediately joined a few theater groups to hone her skills as an actor. She enrolled at the ‘Boston University’ later and received her bachelor’s degree in drama.
Having grown up watching American films and drama series, she intended to start her career in the US. She paid special attention to her accent, grammar, and other aspects of being an American actor. Apart from training in dance, she also trained herself in the martial arts, in order to tone herself physically.
After completing her graduation, she concentrated on acting wholeheartedly. She started doing ‘Off-Broadway’ plays and musical theater and trained herself pretty well. She moved back to South Korea after a small stint in New York and that was where her acting career took off.
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In 1997, Yunjin starred in the short-lived South Korean drama ‘Splendid Holiday,’ which was shot in New York. After that, she started auditioning in the film industry in Seoul, and soon enough, her acting career took off.
After appearing in two small-time TV dramas, ‘Foreboding’ and ‘Wedding Dress Drama,’ she got the first breakthrough role in the 1999 film ‘Shiri.’ Her performance was lauded and Kim went on to win a ‘Grand Bell Award’ and a ‘Korean Association of Film Critics Award’ for her performance.
‘The Legend of Gingko’ followed, and she started gaining exposure in the industry. Kim ended up winning a ‘Blue Dragon Film Award’ for her magnificent performance in the film ‘Milae,’ in 2002.
She ventured into leading roles with the 2002 film ‘Yesterday,’ a science-fiction film, and it was quickly followed by another starring role in the film ‘Ardor.’ The film was based on the novel ‘A Special Day That Comes Only Once In My Life’ and was a massive critical and commercial success.
The producers of the mystery–drama series ‘Lost’ were looking for a South Korean female actor to play a crucial part in the series and their search ended with Kim. It turned out to be a career-transforming move for Kim, as the series turned out to be a major international hit.
Her appearance in the series got her nominated for several national and international awards, and she ended up winning the ‘Asian Excellence Award.’ She also won a ‘Screen Actors Guild Award’ along with the entire ensemble cast of ‘Lost.’
The gigantic success of the series, which ran for six seasons, allowed Kim the chance to become a part of several American projects, but she always preferred her South Korean roles due to lack of interesting projects in America.
Kim’s first project since appearing in ‘Lost’ was a South Korean crime thriller, ‘Diary of June.’ Her stint with ‘Lost’ had already made her a huge star back in South Korea, and the film received a gigantic opening. By the end of its box-office run, it was named one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
In the film ‘Seven Days,’ which was a crime thriller, Kim played the role of a lawyer, whose daughter gets kidnapped. Kim’s character then has to deliberately lose a case to get her back safely. The film was an international success and made way for several remakes around the world. Kim went on to win the ‘Best Actress’ award at the ‘Grand Bell Awards’ for her performance and received a few more nominations.
In 2011, Kim continued with her roaring success, with the film ‘Heartbeat.’ The emotional drama was about the human organ trade and received a grand opening at the local box office, eventually finishing as one of the most successful films of the year.
She played another smashing role in the 2012 film ‘The Neighbor,’ which was a fast-paced crime thriller. The film, which was about the residents of a small building and how their life turns out after they come to know that a serial killer lay hiding somewhere in their building, had Kim playing the lead role.
In 2013, Kim got the chance to play the lead role in the American series ‘Mistresses,’ which happened to be mystery–drama soap. The series was inspired by a British drama of the same name and starred Kim in the role of ‘Dr. Karen Kim.’ Her role was that of a psychiatrist who falls in love with one of her patients, and it received immense critical acclaim.
Kim starred in all 51 episodes of the series, and the series became widely famous in South Korea, eventually bagging the ‘Seoul International Drama Award’ for the ‘Best Foreign Drama.’ The award was received by Kim herself.
She then appeared in the South Korean films ‘Ode to My Father’ and ‘House of the Disappeared.’
Yunjin Kim was in a long-term relationship with her former manager, Jeong Hyeok Park. She tied the knot with Jeong in 2010, after completing her final shoot for the series ‘Lost.’
Owing to her scintillating looks, she is known as the “Korean Julia Roberts,” a tag which she thoroughly enjoys, as she is a big fan of Julia.
Having spent most of her childhood in New York, Kim once said that she was more of an American than a South Korean, a statement which did not go down too well with her South Korean fans.