Kim Ji Won: Life, career and what the future holds for the South Korean actress

Kim Ji Won starring in Queen of Tears

South Korean actress Kim Ji Won is currently one of the biggest stars in the K-drama world due to her ongoing role in the smash-hit series Queen of Tears.

But the now-31-year-old actress has not always been one of South Korea’s most recognizable entertainers.

In fact, she has only been a star in the public eye for the last 10 years, as her big breakthrough didn’t arrive until 2013 when her performance in the K-drama The Heirs brought major attention to the actress and her career.

Here then is a short look at Kim Ji Won’s life and career, as well as what we may expect from her in terms of new roles going forward.

Kim Ji Won’s entry into the acting field

The South Korean actress was born on October 19, 1992, in Geumcheon-gu, Seoul, South Korea.

While still in junior high, she spent some time living in the United States with family members and getting an American education. Hence why she now speaks English.

While it isn’t known if Kim Ji Won ever planned on becoming an actress, she entered the entertainment world when she was discovered on the streets of Seoul in 2007 by a talent scout.

Due to that, she began training in the Korean entertainment system, including considering a singing career.

She debuted in 2010, but then began attending the prestigious Dongguk University, where she studied Theater and Film. Thus learning the skills that would hold her in good stead when her acting career finally kicked off.

Kim Ji Won’s performance in The Heirs skyrocketed her career

After earning roles in several commercials, Kim Ji Won moved into Korean dramas building her resume by performing in shows like High Kick! The Revenge of the Short Legged, and What’s Up?, before grabbing a supporting role as Rachel Yoo in the SBS drama The Heirs.

That performance earned her widespread critical and audience acclaim, as she delivered a strong performance as an ambitious and not very nice heiress who is trying to win back her fiancé after he has fallen in love with another woman.

Following her breakout role in The Heirs, Kim Ji Won continued to impress viewers with her diverse range of performances, and with her versatility as an actress.

That versatility was further cemented in the popular KBS2 drama Descendants of the Sun, as Kim Ji Won delivered a superb performance as army doctor Yoon Myeong Ju.

Descendants of the Sun

Three KBS Drama Awards

Later that year, Kim Ji Won won three KBS Drama Awards for her performance in Descendants of the Sun — Best New Actress, the Excellence Award, Actress in a Miniseries, and Best Couple alongside Jin Goo.

In the romantic comedy series Fight for My Way the following year, she also charmed audiences with her portrayal of Choi Ae Ra, a spirited aspiring television anchor.

And again won the KBS Excellence Award.

Her intense chemistry with co-star Park Seo Joon was the stuff of online gossip, and contributed to the show’s immense popularity.

In recent years, the actress has starred in all three parts of the fantasy historical drama Arthdal Chronicles as the strong-willed Tan Ya, and in the contemporary K-dramas Lovestruck in the City and My Liberation Notes.

She has also had a couple of film roles in poorly-rated movies (not Kim Ji Won’s performance, the films themselves) like Horror Stories (1 and 2) and Detective K 3: Secret of the Living Dead, which may be why she seems to be sticking to dramas for now.

Photo courtesy tvN

Kim Ji Won’s biggest role yet as Hong Hae In in Queen of Tears

Probably Kim Ji Won’s most successful role to date, however, is as chaebol heiress Hong Hae In in the ongoing tvN romance drama Queen of Tears alongside co-star Kim Soo Hyun.

That drama is now so popular, it is currently the 5th highest-rated cable TV drama of all-time on any network, and likely to climb even higher up that list by the time it ends next weekend.

With the massive success of Queen of Tears, and with the actress herself receiving accolades for her performance, it is highly unlikely we will see any signs of Kim Ji Won’s career trajectory slowing down any time soon.

In fact, she is probably turning down acting roles by the dozen.

Future roles for Kim Ji Won?

Meanwhile, neither the actress nor her agency HighZium Studio have confirmed any upcoming roles.

Earlier in the year, it was rumored Kim Ji Won would star with acting sensation Jeon Do Yeon in the drama The Price of Confession, with her agency confirming she was reviewing an offer to star in the drama.

It now appears that that role has gone to Kim Go Eun.

Whatever new projects Kim Ji Won chooses to act in going forward, however, let’s face it they are likely to be very successful, as she seems to have a knack of involving herself with some of the best and most interesting K-dramas being produced.

Check out Kim Ji Won’s latest stellar performance in the smash-hit K-drama Queen of Tears on Netflix, and look out for her in another new film or K-drama (hopefully) soon.


About Michelle Topham

Brit-American journalist based in Austria, former radio DJ at 97X WOXY, and Founder/CEO of Leo Sigh. I've covered anime, manga, K-drama and music news for over a decade.