[Actor Spotlight] Seo Hyun-jin
It’s time for our spotlight to fall on the lovely Seo Hyun-jin, who starred in the recent JTBC drama The Beauty Inside. Born in 1985 in Seoul, South Korea, she actually got her start in the K-pop girl group M.I.L.K., back in 2001. So many great actors started their career as idols, but it’s a bit more accepted (and expected) now than it was back in 2003, when the group disbanded and Seo started to shift to an acting career. It’s a happy thing for us that she did.
Seo Hyun-jin brings a relatable, human quality to her characters. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think she’s amazing? She pulls off a unique combination of vulnerability and spunk, and her smash hit Oh Hae-young Again cemented her as the perfect “everywoman” actress. No matter who she’s playing you can count on Seo Hyun-jin to bring the role to life. But it’s more than just a role or a character with her — she takes her characters and crafts them into real, authentic women that are vulnerable, complex, and perfectly imperfect.
Here are some thoughts on several of Seo Hyun-jin’s dramas, followed by her full filmography.
Three Musketeers (2014)
Seo Hyun-jin. Lee Jin-wook. Jung Hae-in. The same production team that did the wonderful Nine and Queen In-hyun’s Man. The sageuk version of the classic Alexander Dumas novel. This drama was poised to be epic, complex, and perfect. Sadly, it never quite got there. It was one of the few dramas I stopped watching mid-way, even with such a magical cast as this one (not to mention it was my introduction to Jung Hae-in, the monk-sketeer). The jockeying between cheeky comedy and sweeping historical drama didn’t mesh well for me, and I kept wanting the show to do something it wasn’t doing. That being said, Seo Hyun-jin was adorable, earnest, and likable as the princess caught in a love triangle. Because Seo always owns her characters, it didn’t feel like she was playing make believe in her costume like it sometimes does in weaker sageuk productions (*cough* Faith).
Let’s Eat 2 (2015)
I was a huge fan of the first “season” of Let’s Eat, so it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that they were making a second one. I’m a big believer in letting a great story stand alone, and not trying to capitalize on it with reduxes, prequels, and the like. The collective gasp from fans when they announced none of the original cast was returning for Season 2 except for Yoon Doo-joon — well, that gasp was surely heard around the world. They’ve already gone and done this to us for a third time with Let’s Eat 3, so we’re used to the “new neighborhood, new girl” aspect of this show. That being said, a lot of viewers proceeded with extreme caution into Let’s Eat 2, and some (ahem) didn’t proceed at all. Word on the street is that Seo Hyun-jin did a great job playing opposite Yoon Doo-joon, won over the skeptics, and brought her own energy to the special world of Let’s Eat. After all, the Let’s Eat series is special. It was able to create (and maintain) a unique tone that’s warm, colorful, comedic, and sweet, and that satisfies you like a nice home-cooked meal.
Oh Hae-young Again (2016)
Many would argue, and most would agree, that this was Seo Hyun-jin at her best. Her performance in Oh Hae-young Again re-energized her career, and won her critical acclaim — including a Baeksang Arts Award for Best Actress. Seo Hyun-jin starred opposite Eric as a woman whose self-concept crumbled after her fiance (played by Lee Jae-yoon) dumped her. Watching Seo Hyun-jin depict our heroine floundering through this period of her life was as personal as reading someone’s diary. We got a first-hand look at how her self-esteem was affected when an old nemesis with the same name as her reappeared in her life. We saw her as she dealt with heartbreak and humiliation, tried to make changes in her life, struggled with adulting, and fell in love again. It was fresh, it was realistic — it was a great drama. Oh Hae-young Again also had a slightly fantastical premise (a hero with premonition-type visions) but despite that, it actually became one of the most raw and authentic dramas that’s aired in a while. It just goes to show that dramaland can pull off anything if it really wants to.
Temperature of Love (2017)
In Temperature of Love, Seo Hyun-jin starred as a spunky screenwriter opposite Yang Se-jong, who played a young up-and-coming chef. The premise of Temperature of Love was to tell the story of people at different “temperatures” in their romantic relationships, and the show expressed this well. For the bulk of the drama our leads’ relationship listed from one side to another, seeking balance while everything around them (families, rivals, careers, emotions, etc.) created waves, and sometimes storms. Though the drama caught a few typical drama snags and lost some of the magic it started with, Seo Hyun-jin and Yang Se-jong were so electric that I forgave the show of a lot. Speaking of magic, the night sequence in the opening episode has become one of my favorite K-drama scenes. Seo Hyun-jin and Yang Se-jong met for the first time at a nighttime gathering of runners — she got lost in the twists and turns of a neighborhood, and Yang Se-jong searched for her. The pacing of this sequence was perfect, the passage of time was expertly conveyed, and between the middle-of-the-night feel, the misty rain, the great dialogue, and the chemistry between our leads — it felt like pitch-perfect execution. If I wrote down how many times I watched the first few episodes of this drama I might break the internet, so just suffice it to say that it was quite a few times.
Seo Hyun-jin’s full filmography:
- Hwang Jin-Yi (2006) [Drama]
- Love Me Not (2006) [Film]
- H.I.T. (2007) [Drama]
- Story of Wine (2008) [Film]
- Magic (2010) [Film]
- The Duo (2011) [Drama]
- Ashamed (2011) [Film]
- The Peak (2011) [Drama]
- Feast of the Gods (2012) [Drama]
- The Peach Tree (2012) [Film/Cameo]
- Horse Doctor (2012) [Drama/Cameo]
- Here Comes Oh Ja-Ryong (2012) [Drama]
- Jung-Yi, Goddess of Fire (2013) [Drama]
- Rebellious (2013) [Drama]
- King’s Daughter, Soo Baek Hyang (2013) [Drama]
- The Three Musketeers (2014) [Drama]
- Let’s Eat 2 (2015) [Drama]
- Another Oh Hae-young (2016) [Drama]
- Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim (2016) [Drama]
- Familyhood (2016) [Film]
- Bring It On, Ghost (2016) [Drama/Cameo]
- Temperature of Love (2017) [Drama]
- Because I Love You (2017) [Film]
- Let’s Eat 3 (2018) [Drama/Cameo]
- The Beauty Inside (2018) [Drama]
Small role in the Ha Ji-won sageuk about the life of Korea’s most famous gisaeng.
Small role in this Moon Geun-young romance film adapted from a Japanese drama.
Seo Hyun-jin plays a detective’s daughter in this police procedural.
Wine tells stories in this “interactive movie,” and Seo Hyun-jin has a second lead role.
Seo Hyun-jin plays a piano prodigy at a music school.
Another sageuk (it suits her) — she plays a commoner in this Joseon-era drama led by Chun Jung-myung and Lee Sang-yoon (heart!).
Taboo-breaking film (and one of Korea’s first) with a lesbian main character that made the rounds at famous film festivals.
Two-episode drama short about the Korean independence movement.
Seo Hyun-jin and Sung Yu-ri play rival chefs of royal cuisine.
Cameo in a story about siamese twins and their love triangle.
Cameo in this Cho Seung-woo drama about a Joseon veterinarian.
Daily family drama about two very different married couples.
Seo Hyun-jin supports Lee Sang-yoon, Moon Geun-young (again) and Kim Bum in this drama about the first female potter in Joseon-era Korea.
Short one-episode drama special starring Kang Ha-neul with Seo Hyun-jin as his mother (gasp!).
Seo Hyun-jin stars as the eponymous princess in this MBC daily saguek drama.
Had everything going for it to be an epic sageuk version of the classic novel, but didn’t quite get there (see above).
Another neighborhood, another girl, and a lot more food (see above).
Definitely one of the best rom-coms in years, mostly thanks to her performance (see above).
Super successful medical human drama that earned Seo Hyun-jin an SBS drama award for Best Actress, and Best Couple with Yoo Yeon-seok. Must. Marathon.
Comedy starring Kim Hye-soo as a successful and self-centered actress.
A cameo, along with the rest of the Let’s Eat cast, for their PD’s new ghost-comedy with Kim So-hyun and Taecyeon.
Started out strong and then faltered into the realm of the predictable, but her chemistry with Yang Se-jong was worth it all (see above).
Cha Tae-hyun comedy with love, ghosts, and Kim Yoo-jung.
Cameo as her character from Let’s Eat 2. Sigh.
Killing it, as she does, in this remake of the film of the same name where her character changes bodies every so often. Just to make life and love inconvenient.
- [Actor Spotlight] Choi Jin-hyuk
- Beauty Inside: Episode 1
- Lee Min-ki and Seo Hyun-jin find each other in Beauty Inside
- Temperature of Love: Episodes 1-2
- Yang Se-jong up to romance Seo Hyun-jin in Temperature of Love
- Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 1
- Seo Hyun-jin joins the Let’s Eat cameo crew in Bring It On, Ghost
- Oh Hae-young Again: Episode 1