Lee Jung-Jae is a South Korean actor, model, producer, director, and entrepreneur. He gained worldwide fame for his portrayal of “Seong Gi-Hun” in the Netflix survival drama “Squid Game” (2021). Lee is also a businessman, having launched a chain of restaurants in Seoul, as well as founding several businesses including the development company Seorim C&D. He owns several of his businesses with fellow actor and close friend Jung Woo-sung.
Lee Jung-Jae was born on Friday, December 15, 1972 (aged 50; as of 2022) in Seoul, South Korea. His zodiac sign is Sagittarius. He was educated at Sungui Elementary School in Gwangju, Cheongdam Middle School in Seoul, and Hyundai High School in Seoul.
In 1999, he enrolled for a bachelor’s degree in the Department of Theater and Film Arts at Dongguk University in Seoul, South Korea. In 2008, he received his master’s degree in Theater and Film Arts from Dongguk University. Star News He wrote his master’s thesis titled “A Study of Acting Approach to Kang Se-jong’s Role in Movie Typhoon”. Star news Korea
Family and Ethnicity
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Lee Chul-Seong. His family was not well off, and in groups, he was under pressure to get a better job because his older brother had autism. Speaking about his autistic brother in an interview, he said:
I have an older brother and he is not well. My parents struggled when our family wasn’t so well off because he was born with autism. My parents had to work and because of that, I also felt responsible to take care of him. I think that’s why my dad wanted me to get a better job. Since he is my brother, since I am his brother, I didn’t consider him a burden. Since he couldn’t find anything to eat himself, I had to eat with him, and I always had to fetch him whenever he got lost outside. It was kind of awkward.
In 2003, he started dating South Korean actress Kim Min-hee. After dating Min-hee for three years, he broke up with her in 2006.
In 2010, he was spotted by reporters as he traveled with Lim Se-Ryeong, the eldest daughter of Daesung Group chairman and ex-wife of South Korean business tycoon and Samsung chairman Lee Jae-Yong, for a trip to the Philippines. By then, she was already a mother of two children and had divorced Lee Jae-Yong. Rumors of their relationship started then, but they denied it. In January 2015, he publicly announced that he was dating Lim Se-Ryeong. As of 2021, the couple is still dating.
In a previous interview, he said he didn’t want to get married because of his dating rumors. He said,
I don’t want to get married because of things like that, though. A lot of actors my age aren’t married yet. That’s how people around me are, and so I don’t think much [about marriage] either. I am also used to living freely.
If you go through bad things when you’re young, don’t you blame someone? But as I get older, I want to say, “That’s life.” I got religion because I followed my mother. I have a sick brother. When I was young, my mother went to the hospital a lot. Then I became religious, and when I was in kindergarten, I started going to church with my older brother and my mother.
Lee Jung-Jae began her career in the entertainment industry as a model after meeting fashion designer Ha Yong-soo while working at a cafe in Apgujeong. After working as a model for years, he made his acting debut with the 1993 TV series “Dinosaur Teacher” which aired on SBS TV in the lead role of Lee Jung-Jae.
He became very famous after his appearance in “Dinosaur Teacher”, after which he only appeared in main or main roles in Kdramas. In 1995, he was cast in “Sandglass” as “Baek Jae-hee”, the silent and dedicated bodyguard in the lead role which made him a national favorite.
In 2007, he made his comeback with the South Korean drama “Air City” as “Kim Ji-sung” (first lead role). The drama, which was a flop, aired on MBC Network.
He then appeared in another Kdrama flop ‘Triple’ (2009) and took a break from Kdramas. After nearly ten years, he returned to the television drama industry with “Chief of Staff” (2019) in the lead role of “Jang Tae-Joon.”
In 2021, he appeared in the South Korean survival drama television series ‘Squid Game’, which was broadcast and distributed by Netflix. It was written and directed by South Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk. He played the lead role of “Seong Gi-hun,” a divorced driver and gambling addict who enters the game to pay his debts and prevent his daughter from moving to the United States to live with her mother and step-dad. The series was a huge hit around the world as it became Netflix’s most-watched series when it launched. The series is also the first South Korean drama to top Netflix’s ten most-watched weekly TV shows worldwide.
In 1994, he starred in the South Korean film “The Young Man” as “Lee Han”. The film was directed by South Korean filmmaker Bae Chang-ho.
In 1998, he appeared in the South Korean film “An Affair” by E J-Yong. The film became his acting breakthrough. The film was a huge success and the seventh highest-grossing Korean film of 1998.
He remained in the shadows for two years, and he toured at the end of 2005 with “Typhoon” in the role of “Sejong”, a South Korean intelligence officer and the main enemy of Sin (a pirate and terrorist north -Korean) The film, directed by Kwak Kyung-Taek, was the highest-budgeted action blockbuster ever.
He went through a career slump between 2005 and 2010 as all of his work failed to do well commercially. In 2010, he got a fresh start after starring in the South Korean erotic thriller “The Housemaid”, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2012, he starred in the second highest-grossing South Korean film of all time “The Thieves” as “Pew Pei”.
In 2016, he appeared in his first Chinese movie “Tik Tok” as “Jiang Cheng-jun”.
Short films and theater
In 2001, he made his debut in a short film with the South Korean film “MOB 2025” under the title “Dust”.
In December 2008, Lee Jung-Jae made his theater debut with the lead role in “Hamlet in Water.”
As an entrepreneur
He owns and runs a chain of Italian restaurants in Seoul, South Korea called “Il Mare”, and his name is retained from his film. He designed the interior of his restaurant himself because he learned interior design.
He is the founder and director of the real estate development company Seorim C&D, a company he established in 2008. Lee Jung-Jae, together with his close friend Jung Woo-sung, has launched many businesses, including their label of Entertainment “Artist Company”. ‘, which was founded on May 19, 2016. South Korean actors like Go Ara, Kim Ye-won, Park So-dam, Yum Jung-ah, and Lim Ji-Yeon have signed with the label.
In 2006, he was an honorary member of the jury in the Horror Fantasy category at the Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival. In 2013, he was a special jury member at the Asiana International Short Film Festival. As an art collector, Jung-Jae narrated “Contemporary Art, Bury the Boundary”, a 2013 TV documentary highlighting local Korean artists. He is also a producer and produced the film “Namsan”, based on the national security planning of the 1980s. Another film produced by him is “Hunt” (2021), which is also his first film as a director.
In 1993, 1994, and 1995, he was the ambassador of the South Korean confectionery brand Lotte Confectionery.
In 2005, he was an ambassador for the PeaceHealth Foundations, the Korea Meteorological Administration, and the Korean Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation. In 2007, he served as an honorary ambassador for Incheon International Airport and the National Intelligence Service. In 2008, he was the ambassador of Audi Volkswagen Korea. In 2012, he was the public relations ambassador of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of South Korea. He has appeared in advertisements for brands such as LG Electronics, SK Telecom, Maeil Dairies, Burger King, Hyundai Card, Volvo, Yakult Korean, and others.
Baeksang Arts Prize
- Best New Actor (TV) for “Sandglass” in 1995
- Best New Actor (Movie) for “The Young Man” in 1995
- Most Popular Actor for “Firebird” in 1997
- Most Popular Actor (Movie) for The City of the Rising Sun in 1999
- Best Supporting Actor (Movie) for “The Face Reader” in 2014
- InStyle Fashionista Award in 2015
Blue Dragon Movie Awards
- Best New Actor for “The Young Man” in 1995
- Best Lead Actor for “City of the Rising Sun” in 1999
- Best Supporting Actor for “The Face Reader” in 2013
- Best Lead Actor for “Assassination” in 2015
Korea Film Critics Association Award
- Best New Actor for “The Young Man” in 1995
- Best Actor for “City of the Rising Sun” in 1999
- CJ CGV Star Award for “New World, The Face Reader” in 2013
Style Icon Awards
- Style Icon Actor in 2008
- Bonsang in 2016
Other awards, honors and achievements
- Mnet 20’s Choice Awards for Most Influential Star of 2010
- Buil Film Award for Best Actor for “Assassination” in 2015
- Marie Claire Asia Star Awards for Actor of the Year for “Assassination” in 2015
- In 1999, he was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) after crashing his BMW into a car in the adjacent lane. In 2002, his driver’s license was suspended after he was caught in the act of driving under the influence (DUI) by Seoul Gangnam police. Police caught him driving drunk past Cheongdam Elementary School in Seoul. Naver News
- In 2013, in an interview with Vogue Korea, he talked about a friend he called “Y”. In interview he said:
Some time ago, Y left for heaven. [Before he died,] I said to Y, ‘You should stop being gay. Haven’t you been enough like that?’ But it wasn’t easy.
In the interview, Vogue implied that “Y” was Woo Jong-wan, while Lee stated that Y was a creative director active in fashion and showbiz and committed suicide; Woo Jong-wan committed suicide in his Seoul home on September 15, 2012. Prior to his death, Jong-wan’s sexual orientation was never made public, although it was rumored that he was gay. After the interview, he was criticized by some bloggers for speaking out against his deceased friend. Korea JoonAng Daily After the backlash, Vogue, via a Twitter post, said they had removed the concerning snippets from the article online, considering it a misunderstanding. Yahoo News
- In 2015, he and Tongyang Group Vice President Lee Hye-Kyung were investigated for allegedly causing losses to investors after victims of the Tongyang Group’s fraudulent bond issuance filed a complaint against the two with the prosecution. Investors and members of civic group Spec Watch Korea, in their complaint, claimed that Lee Hye-Kyung provided 16 billion won to Jung-Jae Seorim’s company C&D in 2009 to develop a luxury apartment project (called La Terrace) in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, and Tongyang Inc. (a subsidiary of the Tongyang Group) was a contractor for the project. They argued that the fund they provided to Seorim was partly the reason for Tongyang’s crisis, as Tongyang Inc suffered huge losses after failing to sell the La Terrace apartments. Lee Jung-Jae’s agency has denied all allegations against the actor. The Korean Times
According to Today, an English-language digital news provider in Singapore, Lee Jung-Jae earned around 300 million won (approximately $257,098,000) per episode, making a total of around $23.02 million for the drama “Squid Game”. Today
He owns a luxury residential compound in Samseong-dong called The Terrace, which is sixteen stories above ground and three stories below ground. It is said that he designed the interior of the building himself. He lives on the fifteenth and sixteenth floors of the building, and his neighbor is Jung Woo-sung. The price of an apartment in the building ranges from 1.6 billion to 5 billion won. Woman Sense
In 2011, he bought a three-story apartment building in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam, Seoul, for 4.75 billion won, including a 271.1 square meter lot. In 2020, he sold the building for $8.2 billion, making a profit of 3.45 billion won. EDaily
- Sculptor: Fred Sandback
- Artist(s): On Kawara (Conceptual), Jenny Holzer (Neo-Conceptual), Park Jina, Lee Wan, Chosil Kil
Facts / Anecdotes
- Whenever he is free, he watches films or goes to see concerts and exhibitions. At the age of thirty-three, he began to collect works of art, which became his main hobby.
- In a scene from Squid Game, where game participants were seen having lunch, Jung-Jae was caught eating nothing but air. The scene went viral and he was called by names such as “Jung-Jae Lee, the king of self-management” and “the mukbang Airbender”. Explaining the details on a talk show, he said:
When we film the meal scene, we eat well from the first take. But when the take exceeds three, four or more than the fifth, I start cheating because I am full. I think I’ve done the trick. I thought it wouldn’t be noticed in the scene because I had my back to the camera. I ate hard from the face, but that was added in the edited version (laughs). Maybe the editors didn’t notice because I ate the air so hard.
- On the South Korean variety show Knowing Bros, Jennie (from Blackpink) revealed that his name was kept after Lee Jung-Jae because her mother was a fan of the actor. She had decided to name her son “Jae-hee”, the name of Jung-Jae’s character in “Sandglass”. However, her mother gave birth to a daughter. Determined to name her child Jung-Jae, she named her daughter Jennie, which sounded like Jae-hee. Jennie revealed that Jung-Jae was thrilled to hear this revelation. Koreaboo
- He is the best friend of South Korean actor Jung Woo-sung. They both have several businesses together. They first met while working on the South Korean film City of the Rising Sun (1999). Speaking of Jung in an interview, Lee said:
Jung is my best friend and (almost) family.
- He joined Instagram on 2nd October 2021 and his first post was a selfie of himself.