[Actor Spotlight] Song Hye-gyo
Our spotlight series continues, and this week we feature Song Hye-gyo, whose current drama Boyfriend is airing on tvN and performing quite well in its first few weeks. As one of the biggest celebrities in South Korea (currently #6 on the Korean Power Celebrity List, for what that’s worth), she hardly needs an introduction.
Born in 1981 in Daegu, South Korea, Song Hye-gyo got her start in the business when she won a modeling competition at the age of fourteen. She modeled, had some minor roles in TV dramas, and soon garnered a lot of attention. In 2000, she starred in Autumn Fairy Tale (part of the famed Endless Love drama series) with Song Seung-heon and Won Bin. Like many now-classic early Korean dramas, Autumn Fairy Tale’s success was not only a big driver of the Hallyu Wave, but also launched a good many careers, which happened here for the three stars.
Song Hye-gyo’s star power hasn’t diminished since her early success — in fact, quite the opposite. She’s not only starred in Korean dramas and films, but is a well-known star across Asia. She’s acted in some Chinese (and even American) productions. The success of Descendants of the Sun in 2016, and the genesis of the real-life Song-Song couple with her co-star Song Joong-ki, has only added to her popularity. She’s glamorous and sophisticated on the screen, but also has a softness to her character. Dramaland is pretty good when it comes to featuring strong female characters across the age spectrum, and it will be interesting to watch Song Hye-gyo’s career continue from here, since she’s so well-established as a classic leading lady.
Here are some Song Hye-gyo drama highlights, followed by her full filmography.
Full House (2004)
An oldie but a goodie. Full House is a classic Hallyu romantic comedy starring Song Hye-gyo and Rain. They are both really young, really green, and a lot of fun. Rain played a pop star who bought Song Hye-gyo’s house through a comedic turn of events. Song wants the house and they came to a contract agreement where she would work as his housekeeper to buy the house back (which doesn’t sound quite fair since it was illegally sold, but such is life in K-dramas). The drama was full of the tropes and plot elements that are second nature to the genre now, but their bickering and cuteness was what sold this drama. Also, Full House might be one of the first dramas about a girl who inherits a unique and/or architecturally important house from her father, and struggles to hold onto her inheritance — the same setup is seen in later dramas like Personal Taste and Your House Helper. It’s a concept that I love, for some reason.
That Winter, The Wind Blows (2013)
I sometimes feel like I’m on the only one that got a huge kick out of this melodrama. I could play it off otherwise, but what’s the use of pretending? I really did. Song Hye-gyo starred as a blind chaebol heiress, and Jo In-sung played the con man pretending to be her long lost brother. That Winter, The Wind Blows excelled at creating tension — all sorts — some really visceral and believable, some not so much. Song Hye-gyo was absolutely ravishing, and gave a great performance as a blind woman who is vulnerable and used by those around her, yet able to “see” into people better than most others. She and Jo In-sung had excellent chemistry, and the leads’ strong performances had me buying this drama’s melo hook, line, and sinker.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
I have serious mixed feelings about Descendants of the Sun. On one hand, it felt as if the entire thing was written by a 14-year-old girl. It was all about those sweeping romantic moments, and the plot seemed to exist only to create those moments, with the actual reality of the drama not mattering one bit. On the other hand, because of this, it appealed to the 14-year-old girl that still lives somewhere in my heart. And she was happy. So, I had to ignore the plot slippage and ridiculousness, and just enjoy the parts of the story that I could, like the sweeping soldier-civilian romance, and the moments of bravery and courage. Of course, Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-gyo were lovely in this, and I really liked Song Hye-gyo take on the role of a battlefield doctor.
It’s only a few weeks in, but so far Boyfriend is consistent, well-directed, and beautifully shot. For some reason I stupidly expected more than Episode 1 to be set in Cuba. As soon as she and Park Bo-gum’s characters went back to Seoul — and found out that she was the CEO of the hotel where Park Bo-gum had just gotten a job — I felt my heart sink a tiny bit. I’m hoping that the drama retains its freshness, and doesn’t sink into the realm of the banal. For instance, I never ever need to see another claw machine used in a drama love line. So far, so good though, and the cinematography and direction are helping to keep this drama feeling new and interesting. Song Hye-gyo’s portrayal of a woman who’s been stifled, controlled, and constrained all her life is quite nuanced — you can see glimpses of the inner life she can’t give voice to yet, and it’s quite moving.
Song Hye-gyo’s filmography:
- Wedding Dress (1997) [Drama]
- Six Siblings (1998) [Drama]
- Soonpoong Clinic (1998) [Drama]
- White Nights 3.98 (1998) [Drama]
- Sweet Bride (1999) [Drama]
- Autumn Fairy Tale (2000) [Drama]
- Hotelier (2001) [Drama]
- Guardian Angel (2001) [Drama]
- All In (2003) [Drama]
- Sunlight Pours Down (2004) [Drama]
- Full House (2004) [Drama]
- My Girl and I (2005) [Film]
- Hwang Jin Yi (2007) [Film]
- Make Yourself at Home (2008) [Film]
- Worlds Within (2008) [Drama]
- Camellia (2010) [Film]
- Countdown (2011) [Film/Cameo]
- Today (2011) [Film]
- The Grandmaster (2013) [Film]
- That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013) [Drama]
- My Brilliant Life (2014) [Film]
- The Crossing: Part 1 (2014) and Part 2 (2015) [Film]
- The Queens (2015) [Film]
- Descendants of the Sun (2016) [Drama]
- Boyfriend (2018) [Drama]
Small role in this drama starring Lee Seung-yeon and Kim Hee-sun as two sisters with upcoming weddings.
Supporting role in this weekend family drama.
Long-running daily sitcom about the doctor of an ob-gyn clinic and his four daughters.
Choi Min-soo and Lee Byung-hun star in this spy drama. It looks like Song Hye-gyo plays the younger version of one of the characters.
Supporting role in this family/romance drama starring Kim Sang-joong (City Hunter!) and Kim Ji-soo.
The huge Hallyu hit that defined the craze and made the careers of Song Hye-gyo, Song Seung-heun, and Won Bin (see above).
Hotels are a favorite industry for K-dramas to explore, and this one stars Bae Yong-joon and Song Yoon-ah.
Song Hye-kyo stars with Kim Min-jong and raises her friend’s baby after she passes away.
This drama stars Lee Byung-hun and Song Hye-gyo, and is set in the high-stakes world of professional gambling. Its highest episode rating was a staggering 47.7%, and it raked in the drama awards.
This drama sounds like a disaster, complete with possibly murdered father, remarried mother, mother’s untimely demise, baddie step-father who steals everything, and Song Hye-gyo as the daughter that has to deal with all this, and more! Sheesh.
Early awesome Hallyu romcom hit (see above).
Remake of a Japanese film with Song Hye-gyo and Cha Tae-hyun in the lead.
Song Hye-gyo and Yoo Ji-tae (*brain explodes*) in this Joseon-era film about the most famous gisaeng in history.
Also promoted as Fetish, Song Hye-gyo stars in this American indie film about a recent Korean emigrant and the serious creepiness that ensues with her all-American neighbors. Hard pass!
Song Hye-gyo reunites with the director of Full House and stars with Hyun Bin in this inside look at the Korean drama broadcasting industry.
Song Hye-gyo stars with Kang Dong-won in one of the segments in this omnibus film, set in a future where memories can be bought and sold.
Cameo in this Jeon Do-yeon caper film.
Song Hye-gyo stars in this film about a woman who forgives the teenager who killed her fiance. The film sounds like a deep, dark look into moral conviction, faith, forgiveness, and how far those things can be pushed.
Song Hye-gyo stars with Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi in this Chinese film by the amazing Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai.
Blind heiress is conned by good bad guy Jo In-sung (see above).
Song Hye-gyo and Kang Dong-won star as the teenage parents of a child with a rare genetic disease. Too tear-jerkery for me.
Epic Chinese two-movie saga directed by John Woo about the Chinese Revolution in 1949 and the sinking of the steamer Taiping.
Chinese ensemble/romance film that seems to lack a thing called depth.
Song Hye-gyo is a doctor in a crisis-zone country, and Song Joong-ki is the swoony soldier. ‘Nuff said (see above).
Currently airing noona romance drama with Park Bo-gum and gorgeous cinematography (see above).
Note: A few of Song Hye-gyo’s bit parts in dramas from the mid-90’s prior to Wedding Dress are not represented here.
- [Actor Spotlight] Jung So-min
- Boyfriend: Episode 1
- Song Hye-gyo, Go Hyun-jung up for occupation-era film about comfort women
- Park Bo-gum, Song Hye-gyo in first script read for Boyfriend
- Descended From the Sun: Episode 1
- Oh Snap! Kang Dong-won and Song Hye-gyo’s Parisian date
- First poster and trailer for Dugeun Dugeun My Life
- That Winter, The Wind Blows: Episode 1
- Song Hye-gyo reconfirms John Woo film