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[Actor Spotlight] Jang Nara

Our spotlight series continues, this week with Jang Nara. Jang Nara is currently starring in the successful SBS drama An Empress’s Dignity, and has already won an SBS Best Actress award for her performance as a naive musical actress who finds herself married to the Emperor of the Korean Empire. The role showcases what Jang Nara does best: cute and innocent at first glance, but when threatened or wronged, full of spunk and fighting spirit. Jang Nara is famous for the sweet girlish quality that she brings to her roles, and it’s to her credit that she brings this flavor while also making each of her characters distinctive and three-dimensional.

Born in 1981 in Seoul, South Korea, Jang Nara debuted in 2001 as a singer. Her debut solo release did not perform as well as expected, and it wasn’t until she starred in her first acting role that her career — both as a singer and actor — took off. Since that time, Jang Nara has not only released several albums and singles (sometimes for her dramas’ OSTs), but has had a strong acting career in South Korean dramas and films. She’s also equally active in China, with an impressive number of Chinese productions on her resume.

Here are some dramaland highlights from Jang Nara, followed by her full filmography.

 
Fated to Love You (2014)

Zany rom-com at its best. Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk play a budding artist and a crazy chaebol respectively, who had an accidental one night stand (it’s complicated). While brimming with the usual rom-com stunts, Fated to Love You was both entertaining and funny. Jang Hyuk played his best loud and ridiculous hero with a raucous (and rather unforgettable) laugh, and Jang Nara was in prime form as the sweet but spunky heroine who had a lot on her plate. (Also, she looks adorable in glasses!) Second leads, crazy antics, and chaebol family problems were only the beginning. Fated to Love You is also where we got to experience Jang Nara and Choi Jin-hyuk on the screen together — they worked so well as a pair that they wound up starring in current drama An Empress’s Dignity. Sometimes the drama gods really do listen!

 
I Remember You (2015)

I Remember You (a.k.a. Hello Monster) was a well-received crime and psychological drama starring Seo In-gook and Jang Nara. Seo In-gook played a genius profiler who joined the special unit that Jang Nara’s character was a part of. Throughout much of this drama, there was a lot going on beneath the surface and in the past. This drama was the first time I had seen Jang Nara in a more serious and dark role, and I have to be honest: I like her better as bubbly and baby-faced than I do with a handgun and emotional baggage. Park Bo-gum and Choi Won-young, in equally dark and complex roles, were also great here, but of course the show belonged to Seo In-gook.

 
Go Back Spouses (2016)

Go Back Spouses is one of those rom-coms that I missed when it was airing, and I have regretted ever since. Based off of a popular Naver webtoon, this 12-episode drama starred Jang Nara and Sohn Ho-joon as a married couple who both reached a breaking point in their lives and marriage. When they woke up as the younger version of themselves, they had a chance to reassess their decisions, and to change their fate and future. I love that this story is about a married couple reconnecting — married couple stories are hard to come by in dramaland, so it’s always nice to see one that talks about marriage instead of just falling in love. Bonus: I didn’t realize till recently that Jang Ki-yong is in the second lead here. He knocked my socks off in Come Here and Hug Me, so this drama just got bumped up my watch list by a few spots.

 
An Empress’s Dignity (2018)

Where, oh where, to start when talking about this drama? It’s a prime example of how a drama can sound one way on paper — and then become something totally different in execution. The word makjang and An Empress’s Dignity have said in the same breath since the drama first aired, and its outrageous antics don’t seem to be letting up at all. Jang Nara plays a musical actress who’s a little…on the naive side, shall we say? When the (yes, fictional) Emperor of Korea (played by Shin Sung-rok) swoops in and asks for her hand in marriage, what’s an Emperor fangirl to do but say yes and pack her bags for the palace? Of course, things are not what they seem, and the palace is about ten times worse than your standard evil chaebol corporation. Murder, spies, mistresses, secret children, secret passageways, secrets pasts, and also Choi Jin-hyuk as the hero. This drama sucks you in with the power of the much-PPL’d Dyson vacuum, so once you start watching, there’s no escaping. Even if you want to. This is not exactly what I had in mind when I was looking forward to the Jang Nara/Choi Jin-hyuk re-pairing, but I can’t say I’m not enjoying it.

 
Jang Nara’s full filmography:

  • Nonstop (2001) [Drama]
    Jang Nara’s acting debut was in this long-running and multi-season sitcom.

  • Successful Story of a Bright Girl (2002) [Drama]
    Sweet country girl Jang Nara meets haughty chaebol Jang Hyuk. Hugely popular, with over 40% ratings when it aired. The excitement was palpable when the two teamed up again in 2014 for Fated to Love You.

  • My Love Patzzi (2002) [Drama]
    Jang Nara stars with Kim Rae-won, Kim Jae-won, and Hong Eun-hee in this modern retelling of a Korean fairytale.

  • Hello! Balbari (2003) [Drama]
    Jang Nara has a side role in this daily rom-com.

  • Oh! Happy Day (2003) [Film]
    Jang Nara tramples injustice, and Park Jung-chul’s heart.

  • Love Is All Around (2004) [Drama]
    Love is all around… and not in a good way, because Jang Nara finds out her first love is also her mother’s boyfriend (Kim Mi-sook and Yoon Jung-hoon also star).

  • Banjun Drama (2005) [Drama]
    Jang Nara played parts in six different dramas in this long-running series of mini-dramas that famously aired two versions with reversed (or banjun) endings.

  • My Bratty Princess (2005) [Drama]
    Jang Nara stars in this Chinese historical drama about a princess who doesn’t know she’s royalty. This was the start of Jang Nara’s success acting in China.

  • Wedding (2005) [Drama]
    Love “quadrangle” drama starring Jang Nara, Ryu Shi-won, Lee Hyun-woo, and Myung Se-bin that was known as a bittersweet rom-com.

  • Good Morning Shanghai (2007) [Drama]
  • Jang Nara plays a Korean living in Shanghai who signs a “convenient contract” with Shawn Yue (and I’m pretty sure I know what that means).

  • Girl’s Revolution (2007) [Film]
    Another year, another Chinese film; this time a quirky rom-com.

  • Sky and Ocean (2009) [Film]
    Jang Nara, Yoo Ah-in, and Hyun Juni are three troubled friends that bond over music.

  • Iron Masked Singer (2010) [Drama]
    Jang Nara stars with Lu Yi in this Chinese suspense romance set in the early 1900s.

  • Diao Man Qiao Yu Yi (2011) [Drama]
    Also known as Physician, Jang Nara stars in this Chinese historical drama about a girl who disguises herself as a boy with the hope of becoming a physician.

  • Baby-Faced Beauty (2011) [Drama]
    Popular rom-com starring Jang Nara as the eponymous heroine who lands her dream job thanks to her young face. Choi Daniel plays the mature-looking, but young, hero.

  • Flying With You (2012) [Film]
    Jang Nara stars with Jimmy Lin in this Chinese rom-com.

  • Whoever (2012) [Film]
  • Another Chinese romance, this time with Jaycee Chan.

  • Race Course (2012) [Drama]
    Jang Nara supports Myolie Wu and Bosco Wong in this Chinese horse racing drama.

  • School 2013 (2013) [Drama]
    Jang Nara is reunited with Choi Daniel on screen, and plays teacher to the likes of Kim Woo-bin and Lee Jong-seok in this rendition of the famous School series.

  • Red Palanquin (2013) [Drama]
    Chinese drama set in the Qing Dynasty, where Jang Nara plays a six-fingered heroine.

  • Fated to Love You (2014) [Drama]
    Jang Nara + Jang Hyuk together again in this zany rom-com (see above).

  • Old Farewell (2014) [Drama]
    Jang Nara + Jang Hyuk (again!) in this one-episode drama special about a divorced couple, and a secret time-travel attic that helps them heal their wounds.

  • Mr. Baek (2014) [Drama]
    Strange concept of a 70-year-old who becomes 30-years-old and falls in love for the first time.

  • One-Winged Eagle (2015) [Drama]
    Uplifting Chinese drama about a hero with one arm.

  • I Remember You (2015) [Drama]
    Jang Nara in a rare detective role, opposite Seo In-gook (see above).

  • Polaroid (2015) [Film/Cameo]
    Jang Nara cameos in her father’s directorial debut.

  • One More Happy Ending (2016) [Drama]
    Jang Na-Ra, Yoo Da-in, Yoo Inna, and Seo In-young used to be girl group idols. Now they’re struggling at adulting.

  • Go Back Spouses (2016) [Drama]
    Jang Nara and Sohn Ho-joon have a chance at a life re-do. What will they re-do? (see above)

  • An Empress’s Dignity (2018) [Drama]
    Jang Nara is the empress, and the Imperial family really, really needs some dignity (see above).

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She's one of my fave actresses! I liked her in GBS and IRY! I'm not watching Empress as of the moment but happy that it's receiving great responses from Koreans based from the ratings.

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The first drama I saw of hers was Fated to Love You and liked her in it, but ever since I Remember You, I've been watching every drama she's in. I really liked her in IRY, playing against her type, dark and doing action scenes.

You should definitely watch Go Back Couple, missvictrix, it's soooo good! I would love to read your write-up of it when you're finished.

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I just realized that Jang Na-ra has been reunited with her 3 different co-stars. Her fans must be one of drama God's most favorite people.

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She was very good in both "Go Back Couple" and "Fated To Love You". She's the heart of The Last Empress and helps ground the show when it gets too insane. Interesting to see how many Chinese dramas/films she's done--even one with Jackie Chan's son Jaycee. Does she speak Chinese or were her lines just dubbed? Those Chinese productions must pay better than the Korean ones (or else why do them?). I even remember her showing up in the "Beijing Welcomes You" music video promoting the 2008 Summer Olympics.

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I loved Jang Na-ra in Go Back Spouses! She was outstanding there! It was incredibly funny and heartwarming at the same time!

I just managaed to watch 34 episodes of The Last Empress yesterday (and am updated to Ep 36 now). And my gosh she and Shin Sung-rok are killing it! Choi Jin-hyuk's shy smiles were so cute to see but SSR's expressions are the best! (Now I understand why many beanies are so crazy over this show 😂)

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I am a Lee Hyuk-Sunny shipper. Could they rewrite the story and have her fall in love with Lee Hyuk again? Or have Jang Hyuk appear and whisk her off somewhere. Because she has such great chemistry with these two actors.

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SSR and JNR have great chemistry but Sunny and Lee Hyuk is a hopeless ship. They should just reunite in a romcom or a musical.

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I got really used with SSR devilish characters in most of this drama, including the earliest episode of the "Last Empress"... and I couldn't believe he could becoming so playful and funny in the few last episodes....

Agree with you... Hyuk and Sunny's ship has been sinking at the time when Sunny found out Hyuk was cheating with Min Yura...

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I would watch anything for this woman - she's one of the best actresses out there, and one of my favourites too.

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She's not one of my most fav Korean actress but her Successful Story of a Bright Girl was my first Korean drama and i had a crush over Jang Hyuk 🤣🤣🤣 unfortunately i couldnt pursue more korean dramas after that because during those days the local tv stations favoured dramas from HK and mainland China. I remember spending a lot of my pocket money on dvds just to watch Jang hyuk movies 🤣

I got back to Korean drama many many years later and watched I Remember You and Go Back Spouses. Not an inch of her changed (shes still looking young) and her perfect role is still romcom.

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I feel like I could tell where you're from, coz like you, the successful story of a bright girl was my first kdrama too. And I couldn't actively pursue kdrama after that with the same reason you had. Fortunately my sister managed to dload some kdramas for me to watch, and I bought some cds/dvds(which cost me a fortune), one of them is my all time favorite, lovers in Prague.
So I jang nara have a special place in my kdrama heart, and from the list above, it seems like I've watched most of her kdrama. Now I need to scour the internet for that special 1 episode drama with jang hyuk.

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Ahh you nailed it! Yup she's definitely have a special place in my heart and from now on i will look forward to her works.

And i need to start on Fated to Love You, for the sake of nostalgic of Successful Story of a Bright Girl ☺

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@ryunami don't let the 1st few episodes of Fated to Love You stop you from finishing the drama. I love FtLY, i watched it more than two times, but the 1st episode always left me rolling my eyes. haha.

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🤣🤣🤣 the same way i rolled my eyes when i watched the first few eps of TLE?? 😂😂

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@ryunami not for the same reason i suppose. I think FtLY induced eye roll are more mild in comparison. haha

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@thequiet1 🤣🤣🤣 you're right!
TLE's eyeroll is on a different level

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I watched her first time in the successful story of a bright girl too. I remember people were so impressed with her satoori in the show. btw I enjoyed Lovers in Prague also, especially OST song which I reminded me of my college days.

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i don't remember the satoori as those time they dub it to chinese, hence the term "chaiyok" are more familiar than the kdrama "hwaiting".
the OST in Lovers in Prague are my favorite too. LiP introduced me to the late Kim Joo-Hyuk, whom my mom fell in love with. We cried hearing the news of his accident.

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You're right, now i remember watching it in Mandarin dub so we got "jia yuk" (hwaiting was very alien to me) i suspect the show i watched was delivered to our land through one of the Chinese countries (either China, HK or Taiwan) .. it was lucky of you Fan to watch it in its original form

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@ryunami maybe we should try watching it again? just to spot the satoori, and marvel in Jang Hyuk's youthfulness. haha. Tho i'm afraid finding the videos would be challenging and the quality meh.

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@thequiet1 😱😱😱 can we really find it? Lets try

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@ryunami I found it on those illegal streaming sites, but the subs for eps 1+2 were off by 1-2 minutes. There's 1 in utube, but the subs are in Spanish. phew.
I'm no expert in satoori, but Jang Nara's sounds pretty thick. And Jang Hyuk's Ki Tae was a royal jackass. And i remember thinking second male lead(Ryu Soo-young) look just like those handsome comic characters I used to loved so much.

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The original Korean version is the one with the satoori... Very interesting but FTLY also has her with satoori... JNR says she paced the speech like singing.

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I really liked Jang Nara in I Remember You and I think a lot of that had something to do with how she was dressed and filmed.

She seems tiny, but I absolutely believed in that drama that she could take down criminals. There's one scene where she's running, chasing a car, and - unlike in some other kdramas - she actually looked as if she was a great runner, not a girl stumbling on unsuitable shoes at a speed of a snail.

She made me believe that she was a police detective with a core of steel and, compared with some of the other roles I've seen her in, that was great acting. I like it when actors (m/f) take a wide range of roles and Jang Na-ra has definitely done that!

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Yes Cloggie, she's definitely was believable as a cop in IRY. The scene when she chased a criminal and took him down, gosh such a girl crush, and the fact that the criminal got a weapon didn't faze her at all.😎

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She was kickass. I loved her.

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Omg, I super loooove her in IRY. like you said, her take on female detective was badass, and more importantly, believable. The way she walk, and talk and act, seems natural. I like her in all of her roles in her other dramas, but her role in IRY is my most favorite.

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I first saw her in My Love Pattzi (cue contagious and happy OST "💖✨🎼Its gonna be another day with the sunshine🎼✨💖") followed by Successful Story of A Bright Girl. I did like MLP but the latter not so much, because duh, Jang Hyuk was an asshole in it💩. I fell for her again (completely) in IRY, her character imo is one of the best FLs ever, so bad-ass, so emotional, so human. *swooning again

I heard great things about GBS but sigh, I've read the recaps and I don't think I can handle the parents arc, especially the mom.
*moves GBS to priority list

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GBS is great. You'll cry buckets. It's all worth it.

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I trust you, Cloggie 😘

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Oh and I should just add that I had total SLS - but then was okay in the end.

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*whispers* *Jang Kiyong, Jang Kiyong, Jang Kiyong* 😂

I wasn't a huge fan of him YET when I watched GBS, but the mother-daughter relationship was the focus for me. <3

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The way they wrapped up the second leads was excellently done. It's another reason I loved Go Back Couple

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oddly enough @llljr, my SLS was only partially caused by Jang Kiyong but more by the fact that I really didn't like how Ban-do treated Jin-joo in the beginning and I didn't want them to get back together. He could just be with his flipping ballerina and leave Jin-Joo to be with A Better Guy.

And then it was all fine.

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HAHAHA, i get you. tbh, i was in for the mother. OTP & second leads who? nah. the mother who moonwalks is the best!

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Oh, I love GBS to pieces. I blamed that drama for my craziness over Jang Nara...I just got bored and stumbled on that drama while browsing as it had good reviews...Though i’m not new to Korean dramas. I truly don’t know her other than her name “ sounds familiar” :) . It was my first drama of her that I finished .I tried FTLY when it aired and dropped it after 1 episode...don’t know what i’m thinking but i’m pretty sure I was a bit surprised to see a Korean lead actress looking “plain”...did I say that? Yes...and I am so so so wrong because the karma is intense that everything Jang Nara is in, I have to read or watch ( now I have a better guide, thank you writer) ....I even called my very busy husband to translate things for me...I would even fly to Korea in a heartbeat if there’s a chance a could meet her...anyway, I hope she is truly “immortal”! Long live Jang Nara! Be happy!

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I think the top photo is song yeti, not Jang Na-Ra .

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Definitely one of my favorite actresses. She’s really good with emotional scenes. Her eyes alone can convey a lot of emotions and I especially like her crying. The Last Empress really showcased her depth. I would love to see her do more movies though.

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few things: love is all around..the one she is linked to, is the son of her mother new boyfriend:-)
Girl’s Revolution is I am pretty sure simply a remix of Good Morning Shanghai cut together to make a film out of.
Race Course she did it for the reason that her father was in the series as the bad guy and she got to play his daughter so it was hard for her to turn down.
She can speak Chinese, in fact she acted in Chinese for both Race Course and the film Flying With You though you only hear her real voice in the film as almost every one gets voice dubbed in Chinese tv drama as a matter of course the [film also had her father in it being her father] from memory any accent was put down to her going to school in Korea. But on the main she just acted in Korean in her Chinese dramas, as I mentioned she is always going to get voiced anyway.
Her work in china these days, after she scandal fallout with the Korean show Strong heart, and the Chinese ban on Koreans recently [finishing off pretty much all of her endorsements there] has pretty much killed her off as a 'big name' in china, though she still has a certain standing there still ie her name pretty much the most well known Korean one in China, for one reason or the other.

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It’s funny that someone here actually mention Race Course. It’s my first Jang Nara drama — ironically I didn’t meet her in a Kdrama 😂. She stood out cuz her facial features are so cute. This was a mediocre production but I watched it for the male lead.

Next drama I watched of her was I Remember You — also for the male lead. However since this drama, I’ve been tuning in for her sake. Watched every drama for this cutesy ass-kicking heroine 👍🏻

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Fated to love you was my first ever Kdrama!!! So I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for her and Jung Hyuk :)

Also I wonder what her secret is to her youthful beauty? I loved the theory from A Korean Odessey that Jang Nara was actually a devine being. She doesn’t age because she is immortal 😂

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I found her interview sa when she said she was watching the Producer kdrama and the character of Cindy reminded her. She overworked a lot when she was young.

I really loved School 2013 and I Remember You :)

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Bright Girl was my my first kdrama- and that's why I will love Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk forever.

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I Love u ma jin joo

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I Love u ma jin joo

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Her character in IRY seemed to be getting a lot of hate in some part of the internet, but I loved her.
I'm gonna wait til Empress' Dignity finish airing before consider watching

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Really? I wonder why... I super love her there.

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the frequently used word I saw was "annoying"

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She was unfortunately in the way of rabid fangirls who supported the bromance line wholeheartedly and think she should be cast aside to make way for their oppas.

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Yea, I don’t get it. I loved her with SIG and felt a lot of chemistry between them. Especially behind the scene.

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Some people - some people I could use certain inappropriate insults for - saw the film as being an epic bromance that a female character was butting into. I make not further comment about any of that except to say that Jang Nara's was great in that and I really liked her character, even if I thought the romance plot line was half-hearted and not well done.

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She was a strong, intelligent woman (and the source of great comic relief) who did not deserve the petty hate.

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I wonder why she's linked to Bogummy 🤔 is there any truth to it?

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wasn't there some sort of bad rumor going round once?

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Yes, yes, yes!!!! Love her.

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Probably more of a drama thing than an actress thing but Jang Nara and Choi Daniel in School 13!!!!💕

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Yes!!

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Jang Nara is probably my second favorite actress after Jung So Min. She was a wonderful fit in the re-make of Fated To Love You- most people feel that the Korean version is actually better than the Taiwanese original - faithful to the basic story but with the rough edges removed.

Baby Faced Beauty and Happy once again a fun to watch.

Sadly, there are rumors that she is thinking of retiring.

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Retiring? Oh, no! Please no....unless she will get married to Choi Jin Hyuk....or as hot as him :)

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I just cross posting this here, a recent interview she did for Dramabeans. Hopefully, the retirement rumors are just that, because it sounds like she still loves acting and would like to work with more people. http://www.dramabeans.com/videos-posts/2019/01/ask-an-actor-jang-nara-answers-beanie-questions/

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Thank you. She looks so lovely in that Hanbok. I noticed that he first answer was about her looks. I understand that she is one of the few Korean actresses who has not had plastic surgery, which is why she does not look like a typical k-drama actress. And I loved her comment that she is 'diligently aging'. I may have to borrow that line from now on. So the rumour is not true. I look forward to seeing her in more things.

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She is so pretty!!!!😊

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One of the best criers in dramaland!

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First of all, she never ages. I mean I first saw her in Baby faced Beauty and she still looks the same in her lastest drama The Last Empress. Nothing has changed in her looks.

She is one of the best actress out there.

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She is one of my favourite actresses and one I’ve had a pleasure of following for a long time... like My Love Patzzi/SSFOABG day’s... to her Chinese drama days and then her foray back into Kdramas like School 2013 (she’s underrated here because LJS and KWB but I loved her and Choi Daniel in this so much - they added so much heart), IRY and GBS (even OMHE). I’ve liked her in all roles and she has this likeability and warmth that really grounds her dramas. Even with mediocre characters I find she manages to make you care for them somehow and there’s always a spunkiness that screams girl crush. I’ve rarely been disappointed by her dramas.

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one of my favorite actresses~ she just brings this great energy to her roles, and while I Remember You was a role definitely out of her usual, I thought she did a fantastic job with her character, Ji An, and that drama continues to be one of my favorite korean dramas!

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