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[Actor Spotlight] Lee Shi-young

This week the spotlight falls on Lee Shi-young, who is currently starring in the KBS drama What’s Wrong, Poong-sang, where she plays one of the siblings in this ensemble primetime family drama.

Born in 1982, Lee Shi-young debuted in 2008 and soon after gained recognition with her supporting roles in Boys Over Flowers, Playful Kiss, among others. Even early on in her career, Lee Shi-young seemed to know the niche she hoped to fill. “I don’t see many actresses who are good at tough action roles,” she once said in an interview. “I hope I can fill that gap.” While Lee Shi-young’s choices in dramas and films have been varied, and not all of them have been action, they have always supported her idea of a strong female character.

Further fitting that concept, Lee Shi-young also became a rather successful and high-profile amateur boxer. In 2010, when preparing for a drama, Lee found she had a natural gift and was encouraged to continue boxing. The drama never got produced, but Lee Shi-young wound up winning a number of titles in the amateur boxing world. The training also served to broaden her abilities as a female action star. We’ve seen this in dramas like Lookout, but here’s hoping there are many more strong female action roles to come.

 
Here are some drama highlights from Lee Shi-young, followed by her full filmography.

 
Boys Over Flowers (2009)

Who can refuse an opportunity to talk about Boys Over Flowers? Not me. Rather than rehash the plot of what has become one of the most notorious/well-loved K-dramas of all times, I choose to instead wax poetic about how sentimental this drama makes me. I can’t even hear “almost paradiiiiiiiise” without getting verklempt! Some of the cast hit it big after this show, some disappeared, some got into hot water, and some — like Lee Shi-young — fell into the “I didn’t even remember she was in that!” category. Am I the only one that didn’t realize the little girl Goo Jun-pyo tormented for her looks was played by Lee Shi-young? In a way it’s a good thing — it means she was able to carve out her own career separate from this drama, whereas I think a sliver of the hot-headed Goo Jun-pyo will forever be a part of Lee Min-ho. Not that that’s a bad thing.

 
Valid Love (2014)

Such an underrated drama! Valid Love was not your typical feel-good K-drama. It was complex, deep, and full of characters with scars and bitterness — but also the capacity for love and forgiveness. Valid Love was written by Kim Do-woo, of My Name is Kim Sam-soon fame, but Valid Love told a very different kind of story. Lee Shi-young played a young wife who finds herself suffocated by what her life has become, from her relationship with her husband (fantastically played by Uhm Tae-woong), to her daily responsibilities and duty towards his family. Throw in Lee Soo-hyuk as the loner carpenter she crosses paths with, and her life goes into a tailspin. The drama is dark and yeah, a little depressing with its somber tone, but it was also a moving and authentic story about human nature and love. As an aside, Choi Yeo-jin as the heroine’s sister-in-law not only gave an amazing performance, but she had one of the most powerful storylines I have seen in a long time.

 
Lookout (2017)

The action-crime drama Lookout starred Lee Shi-young, Kim Young-gwang, Kim Tae-hoon, Kim Seul-gi, and Key as a group of people whose lives or loved ones met with tragedy due to criminals. What do you do when you can’t get justice for the crimes committed against you? Form a group of vigilantes and seek justice yourself. This drama is a great example of Lee Shi-young putting her action star chops to work, and I love a good story of vigilante justice. With a story and cast like this, I don’t know how Lookout escaped me for so long! (Don’t worry, I’m currently marathoning it.)

 
Lee Shi-young’s full filmography:

  • Urban Legends Deja Vu (2008) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young made her acting debut in an episode of this series while in its third season.

  • The Kingdom of the Winds (2008) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young has a side role in this historical drama that tells the story of several figures from the Three Kingdoms period, and was actually adapted from a manhwa.

  • Boys Over Flowers (2009) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young was traumatized by Lee Min-ho’s character in this drama. Like me, but in a good way (see above)!

  • Five Senses of Eros (2009) [Film]
    Omnibus art film also known as Ogamdo depicting different stories about love and desire, in different genres, starring some big names like Jang Hyuk, Uhm Jung-hwa, Kim Kang-woo, Song Joong-ki (!), and more.

  • The Descendants of Hong Gil-dong (2009) [Film]
    Lee Beom-soo plays the descendant of Korea’s Robin Hood character from the Joseon Dynasty, and he does his thing.

  • Again, My Love (2009) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young appears in this melodrama, also translated as Hateful But Once Again, about chaebol affairs and twisted fates.

  • Loving You a Thousand Times (2009) [Drama]
    Weekend drama starring Lee Soo-kyung and Jung Gyu-woon about a couple trying to conceive, a surrogate mother, a brother, and 55 episodes of romantic complications. Lee Shi-young has a smaller supporting role.

  • Becoming a Billionaire (2010) [Drama]
    Wacky-sounding rom-com with a possible cancer diagnosis starring Ji Hyun-woo as the hero who’s convinced he’s the illegitimate heir of a billionaire. The drama also stars Lee Bo-young, Namgoong Min, and
    Lee Shi-young working her way up to second lead status.

  • Playful Kiss (2010) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young plays the “perfect” second lead opposite Jung So-min and Kim Hyun-joong in this tale of high school love and playful kisses.

  • Poseidon (2011) [Drama]
    An action-crime drama about the Korean Coast Guard and their adventures, starring Choi Siwon, Lee Shi-young, Lee Sung-jae, and more.

  • Couples (2011) [Film]
    Kim Ju-hyuk, Lee Shi-young, Lee Yoon-ji, and more, star in this remake of the Japanese film A Stranger of Mine, a rom-com about relationship struggles.

  • Meet the In-Laws (2011) [Film]
    The story of a couple played by Song Sae-byeok and Lee Shi-young and the clash of their families and backgrounds.

  • Wild Romance (2012) [Drama]
    Lee Dong-wook and Lee Shi-young star in this rom-com as baseball player and bodyguard, respectively.

  • How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (2013) [Film]
    Lee Shi-young stars in this story of a woman who decides to add some verve back to her love life with the assistance of a self-help video.

  • Killer Toon (2013) [Film]
    Psychological horror film where Lee Shi-young plays a cartoonist/murder suspect after a series of murders mimic a popular webtoon.

  • Golden Cross (2014) [Drama]
    Revenge drama full of corruption and more corruption starring Kim Kang-woo, Lee Shi-young, and Uhm Ki-joon.

  • The Divine Move (2014) [Film]
    Jung Woo-sung action film about a baduk player and an elaborate revenge scheme in the underground world of high-stakes gambling.

  • Valid Love (2014) [Drama]
    Melancholy and realistic portrayal of marriage and affairs — not light, not fluffy (see above).

  • My Beautiful Bride (2015) [Drama]
    OCN action-crime drama starring Kim Mu-yeol, Lee Shi-young, and Go Sung-hee in a story about a man who “becomes a monster” to find his missing bride.

  • Lookout (2017) [Drama]
    Vigilante justice delivered with aplomb (see above).

  • Risky Romance (2018) [Drama]
    Lee Shi-young teams up with Ji Hyun-woo again in this medical romance about hormones, literally and figuratively.

  • Unni (2019) [Film]
    Just released in January, Lee Shi-young kicks butt once again in this action-revenge film also known as No Mercy, or Sister, and rumor has it she did all of her own stunts!

  • What’s Wrong, Poong-sang (2019) [Drama]
    Poong-sang has a lot of younger siblings to care for, and Lee Shi-young is one of them.

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Valid Love was a tough but beautiful watch. Sometimes perhaps too tough... But Choi Yeo-jin's story was so touching and beautifully done...

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I really hope you love Lookout, @missvictrix! It’s one of my favs. I became a Lee Shi-young fan girl when I realized she was a boxer. And LSY bears a striking resemblance to a pediatrician colleague of mine. So much so, that I put side- by- side pictures of them her FB page and got lots of comments about how pretty she was when she was younger! (She’s not even Korean. 😂) LSY was pregnant when she was filming those stunts in Lookout too.(Yes, she did a lot of those stunts herself.) She’s a really natural person and made breast milk soap when she was nursing too! She’s so fascinating. Thanks for this!

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I like looking at her IG posts. The character she played in Lookout was awesome.

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Valid love is my favorite drama of hers. It was so freaking good and Lee Soo Hyuk was so beautiful in this drama. Ughhh

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Thanks for the Valid Love love!

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Oh no, I had successfully forgotten Hateful but Once Again until now 🤦🏻‍♀️ ! Nobody watch it.

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I became a huge fan during Lookout. I'm waiting for another strong woman role for her.

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She's a total girl crush material!

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Her and Choi Yeo Jin's relationship was the best thing in Valid Love. Since then, I have a soft spot for them.

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Lookout was one of my fave dramas of 2017. I live-watched it til the end. Definitely a must-watch.
Not for those who like romance in an action drama, as it only hinted some sort of mutual understanding between the two leads. I still love it to bits though. The other members of the gang made me feel their stories and maybe helped me see justice as they did. It didn't quite get as much attention as it deserved which was a pity for one of the better dramas during that time.

I remember watching Valid Love feeling all sorts of weird & fuzzy about it.. It wasn't a typical drama, I would say. I think I ended up not watching the ending..

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Her guest appearances on Running Man rock too, milking a 'sheep' and punching Lee Kwang Soo 😛

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When I saw her in lookout I had my usual "I've seem her somewhere" thought, took me a lot of energy to remember that I saw her last in bof & playful kiss

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Definitely one of my fave ladies. She's just so great and really gives her all in every role. Love her.

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I first saw her in Becoming a Billionaire and Wild Romance and admired the variety of roles she took and her willingness to look different (actually took me a while to realize it was the same actress in those two and Playful Kiss) and her ability to make those characters so likable. I felt it really separated her from other actresses. And that was before I found out about the boxing.

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She was so great in Becoming a Billionaire, she easily became the best thing about that show for me. I also loved Wild Romance because of her. I'm not sure when I fell in love with her but it's probably because of one of those performances, lol. So funny you mention them!

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