[Actor Spotlight] Kim Yoo-jung
This week our spotlight falls on Kim Yoo-jung, one of the most acclaimed and successful child actors in dramaland over the last decade. Kim Yoo-jung was born in 1999 in Seoul, South Korea, and debuted a few years later at the age of four. Her career continued at a strong pace throughout her childhood, as Kim Yoo-jung was clearly a gifted actor with a wonderful presence on screen.
Unlike other child actors whose careers faded as they aged, Kim Yoo-jung and her agency have been quite successful in transitioning her roles from child actress, to teen actress, to leading lady. It’s not an easy transition to make, since public perception often takes some time to shift. Timing is also important, as roles can transition an actor too swiftly, or not swiftly enough. For Kim Yoo-jung, teen roles like her character in Angry Mom, and then her young leading lady role Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, have played a big part in her successful evolution. Her current drama, JTBC’s Clean With Passion for Now, is in its final weeks. It’s had a good run for a cable network and has certainly been a great role for her resume.
Here are some highlights from Kim Yoo-jung’s drama career, followed by her full filmography.
The Moon That Embraces the Sun (2012)
The Moon That Embraces the Sun was a massive sageuk hit reaching a high of 35% ratings at its peak, and it raked in awards too. The story followed the romance of a fictional Joseon king and a female shaman. The show was rife with the politics, strife, and romance you would expect from a drama about palace life. The Moon That Embraces the Sun was a career-defining drama not only for leads Kim Soo-hyun and Han Ga-in, but for their younger counterparts as well: Yeo Jin-gu and Kim Yoo-jung, respectively. Kim Yoo-jung was around thirteen-years-old while shooting, and though she was already adept at portraying the younger versions of drama stars, this role was an important start in her career transition. In addition to the leading couple, Jung Il-woo, Song Jae-rim, and Kim Min-seo also deserve a shout-out here. This is one of those dramas I’m embarrassed to have missed, since it’s become such a beloved sageuk.
Angry Mom (2015)
Angry Mom was a really nice transitional role for Kim Yoo-jung. She played the daughter of Kim Hee-sun, bullied and tormented in high school to the point where her mother got back in touch with her inner gangster and enrolled in the school as her daughter’s classmate to take on the bullies. The drama was interesting with its parallel storylines and the first lead and second lead heroines being mother and daughter. Though Kim Yoo-jung was very much the younger and sweeter end of the storyline, this teen heroine kind of role — and seeing her act opposite Kim Hee-sun — was a great moment in her acting career. The drama was as dark as the high school that was filled with shady secrets, but a tale of good versus evil never grows old. And neither does Ji-soo for that matter, with his noona crush on Kim Yoo-jung’s drama mother.
Moonlight Drawn By Clouds (2016)
Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, the coming-of-age youth sageuk that stole hearts, was another hugely successful sageuk role for Kim Yoo-jung. In addition to being a one of those high-ratings + high-quality drama phenomenons, Moonlight Drawn By Clouds is considered by many to be Kim Yoo-jung’s first official leading lady role. Not to be confused with the earlier moonlight-related sageuk hit, in Moonlight Drawn By Clouds, Kim Yoo-jung starred as the girl-in-disguise who lived at court, and played opposite Park Bo-gum who played the crown prince. Their roles (and romance) in this sweet story became a national sensation.
Clean With Passion for Now (2018)
Clean With Passion for Now, adapted from a popular webtoon, is just finishing up its run on JTBC. Kim Yoo-jung stars as the grubby heroine on the hunt for a full-time job who happens to fall in love with her polar opposite. Needless to say, she’s got her hands full. I’ve only watched the beginning of this show so far, but it sets up a strong dichotomy between the slovenly heroine and germaphobe hero (played by Yoon Kyun-sang) and has lots of color and comedy (that horse head chase scene!). Clean With Passion for Now is a great project for Kim Yoo-jung as she continues to make her way as a leading lady after the success of Moonlight Drawn By Clouds. It’s young and fresh but also feels authentic, and doesn’t push her forward too fast as a mature romantic lead. One thing I find difficult about “opposites attract” rom-coms is that often the second lead is more convincing as a match for the heroine. “Likes attract likes” might be less entertaining, but it’s much more believable. Regardless, this one is on my list to finish, even with the promise of hours of future heartache with Song Jae-rim as the second lead.
Kim Yoo-jung’s full filmography:
- DMZ (2004) [Film]
Movie starring Kim Jung-hoon based on a semi-autobiographical novel about an aspiring filmmaker at the DMZ.
- Freezing Point (2004) [Drama]
Korean drama adaptation of a Japanese novel by Miura Ayako.
- Kind-Hearted Geum-ja (2005) [Film]
Kim Yoo-jung has a small role in this psychological thriller (and final film in a trilogy) starring Kim Young-ae.
- All for Love (2005) [Film]
Box office hit and romance ensemble (including Uhm Jung-hwa) wherein Kim Yoo-jung plays a terminally ill girl.
- Forbidden Floor (2006) [Film]
Horror film about a mother and daughter who move into a haunted house. (I know it’s just a movie, but I would have a hard time sending my seven-year-old to this kind of a movie set every day!)
- Lump Sugar (2006) [Film]
Im Soo-jung stars in this movie about a jockey, and Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the heroine. (This phrase is going to become quite familiar throughout her filmography, so prepare yourself!)
- Thank You, Life (2006) [Drama]
Drama led by Yoo Ho-Jeong about a mother of two with a cancer diagnosis. Supposedly heart-warming but doesn’t sound like it. Kim Yoo-jung is about six-years-old here, and totally adorable.
- A Teddy Bear’s Smile (2006) [Drama]
MBC short drama special. Kim Yoo-jung is so cute and natural on screen, you can see why she was so sought after as a child actress.
- Princess Hours (2006) [Drama]
Also known as Goong, Yoon Eun-hye and Joo Ji-hoon lead in this hugely popular early Hallyu drama. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the heroine.
- Noona (2006) [Drama]
Song Yoon-ah and Kim Sung-soo star in this weekend drama about the noona of a family facing hardships and having to take care of the family.
- Hwang Jin Yi (2007) [Film]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the gisaeng heroine played by Song Hye-gyo.
- Bank Attack (2007) [Film]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the young daughter for whom Lee Moon-shik starts robbing banks.
- Beautiful Days (2007) [Drama]
Daily drama about four siblings growing up poor but hopeful in 1970s Korea.
- Four Gold Chasers (2007) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the younger version of the heroine in this story of misfits, a fake investigation agency, and golden treasure.
- New Heart (2007) [Drama/Guest Appearance]
Ji-sung and Kim Min-jung medical drama about a group of heart surgeons. Kim Yoo-jung has a guest appearance at the hospital.
- Rainbow Eyes (2007) [Film]
Crime thriller starring Kim Kang-woo and Kim Gyu-ri as detectives. Kim Yoo-jung plays the daughter of a supporting character.
- The Chaser (2008) [Film]
Crime thriller (again) inspired by a real-life serial killer case. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young daughter of the female lead, played by Seo Young-hee. Another dark movie for such a young actress (she’s only 8 or 9 at this point!)
- Iljimae (2008) [Drama]
Lee Jun-ki leads in the title role, and Kim Yoo-jung plays the younger version of heroine Han Hyo-joo. Interestingly, Lee Jun-ki’s younger counterpart is played by Yeo Jin-gu — he and Kim Yoo-jung would share a young counterpart storyline in 2012’s The Moon That Embraces the Sun as well. Perhaps they should star together as adults in the near future, eh?
- Formidable Rivals (2008) [Drama]
Drama about Blue House bodyguards starring Chae Rim, Lee Jin-wook, and Lee Jong-hyuk.
- Painter of the Wind (2008) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of heroine Moon Geun-young in this well-performing drama about a Joseon painter.
- Do You See Seoul (2008) [Film]
A schoolteacher and her class from a remote island take their first trip to Seoul. Little Kim Yoo-jung is here, and so is little Yoo Seung-ho!
- Cain and Abel (2009) [Drama]
So Ji-sub and Shin Hyun-joo star in this story of sibling rivalry. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of Chae Jung-ah’s character.
- Queen Seondeok (2009) [Drama]
Ginormous success (by way of 47% ratings) and Shilla-era sageuk starring Go Hyun-jung and Lee Yo-won. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of Park Ye-jin’s Princess Cheonmyeong.
- Tamra, the Island (2009) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the younger sister of heroine Seo Woo in this weekend drama about European expansion into the Far East. Wow, this honestly looks terrible.
- Temptation of an Angel (2009) [Drama]
Once again Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the heroine (Lee So-yeon) in this melodrama about love and revenge. Because what else would it be about!
- Possessed (2009) [Film]
Creepy horror film starring Nam Sang-mi, Shim Eun-kyung, and Kim Bo-yeon.
- Paradise (2009) [Film]
Kim Haneul is released from prison, and goes to what’s supposed to be a paradise island, and gets involved with Ji Jin-Hee and Kim Yoo-Jung.
- Haeundae (2009) [Film]
Popular tsunami disaster film starring Ha Ji-won.
- Dong Yi (2010) [Drama]
Highly successful Joseon-era sageuk about King Sukjong (played by Ji Jin-hee) and Choi Suk-bin (played by Han Hyo-joo). The young version of the heroine takes the form of Kim Yoo-jung.
- Pure Pumpkin Flower(2010) [Drama]
Daily drama with Lee Chung-ah in the lead as the pure-hearted heroine. Her younger version? Kim Yoo-jung.
- Road No. 1 (2010) [Drama]
Drama about the Korean War and the two soldiers (So Ji-sub and Yoon Kye-sang) who are both in love with Kim Haneul. This cast! And yes, Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of Kim Haneul’s character.
- Gumiho: Tale of the Fox’s Child (2010) [Drama]
Joseon fantasy drama about a betrayed gumiho (played by Han Eun-jung) and her young daughter, played by Kim Yoo-jung. Hooray for not being the younger version of the heroine for a change.
- Flames of Ambition (2010) [Drama]
Weekend drama telling the story of a chaebol family and starring Shin Eun-kyung, Seo Woo, and Yoo Seung-ho. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the heroine.
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun (2012) [Drama]
Moon-related sageuk #1 where Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of Ha Ga-in’s heroine (see above).
- May Queen (2012) [Drama]
Popular melodrama set in the Ulsan shipping industry starring Han Ji-hye and Kim Jae-won. Kim Yoo-jung plays the young version of the heroine who discovers some family secrets after her father dies.
- The Nutcracker in 3D (2012) [Film]
Kim Yoo-jung lends her voice to the Korean dubbing of this film adapted from the classic ballet.
- Commitment (2013) [Film]
Kim Yoo-jung stars as the younger sister of Choi Seung-hyun (a.k.a. TOP) in this movie about a North Korean spy, and is the envy of Big Bang fans from the Milky Way and beyond.
- Golden Rainbow (2013) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the younger version of UEE’s heroine in this story of seven orphans, also starring the likes of Jung Il-woo, Kim Sang-joong, and Lee Jae-yoon.
- The Dirge Singer (2014) [Drama]
One-episode KBS drama special about a girl (Kim Yoo-jung) who’s raised to be a dirge singer, but leaves home to become a gisaeng instead.
- Secret Door (2014) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung plays the younger version (for a dozen episodes!) of heroine Yoon So-hee’s character in this sageuk about King Yeongjo (played by Han Suk-gyu) and Crown Prince Sado (played by Lee Je-hoon).
- Thread of Lies (2014) [Film]
Kim Hee-ae stars as the mother who loses one of her teenage daughters to suicide. The story is told non-linearly and features flashbacks of high school bullying courtesy of Kim Yoo-jung. No, don’t be the bad girl!
- Room 731 (2014) [Film]
Short (as in 15-minute) Hollywood horror/mystery film about WWII-era biological experimentation camps also starring Tim Kang. Outside of this sounding totally disturbing, Kim Yoo-jung plays a Chinese character, which also nags at me a bit.
- Angry Mom (2015) [Drama]
Kim Yoo-jung and her drama mother, Kim Hee-sun, take on high school corruption and high school boys (see above).
- Secret (2015) [Film]
Also known as Circle of Atonement, this mystery thriller stars Sung Dong-il, Sohn Ho-joon, and Kim Yoo-jung in the story of a cold case that strikes close to home for the detective played by Sung Dong-il.
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds (2016) [Drama]
Moon-related Kim Yoo-jung sageuk #2 that stole hearts when it aired (see above).
- Because I Love You (2017) [Film]
Omnibus film about a ghost (Cha Tae-hyun) and the high school student (Kim Yoo-jung) that guides him.
- Golden Slumber (2018) [Film/Special Appearance]
Kim Yoo-jung has a special appearance in this action thriller as the friend of star Kang Dong-won.
- Clean with Passion for Now (2018) [Drama]
Quirky and cute, Kim Yoo-jung plays a grubby heroine you can’t help but root for (see above).
- Kim Yoo-jung’s 2017 Fanmeet opening video
- Clean With Passion for Now: Episode 1
- First look at First, Clean Passionately’s Kim Yoo-jung
- JTBC rom-com courts Kim Yoo-jung to headline webtoon adaptation
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 1
- Moony eyes on the set of Moonlight Drawn By Clouds
- Kim Yoo-jung considers fantasy romance film starring Cha Tae-hyun
- Angry Mom: Episode 1