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[Actor Spotlight] Kim Ji-won

Kim Ji-won, star of the popular tvN drama Arthdal Chronicles, is in our spotlight this week. I don’t know about you, but to me, once you’re starring opposite Song Joong-ki in a pretty anticipated drama — well, you’ve made it to the big leagues.

Kim Ji-won debuted in 2010 around the age of nineteen, and was very successful in commercials at the start of her career, though she had been training as an idol for many years. Her first drama role came in 2011 in the popular High Kick sitcom. For the next few years Kim Ji-won had a string of second lead roles, some more visible than others (Heirs over Gap-dong), but of course it was 2016’s Descended From the Sun that catapulted her popularity. After the drama’s massive success, Kim Ji-won landed her first leading rom-com role in Fight My Way, and her first historical film, before joining Arthdal Chronicles.

Here are some dramaland moments from Kim Ji-won, followed by her full filmography.

 
Heirs (2013)

Just when I think I’m done talking about Heirs it comes around again — but this time it’s about the female antagonist Rachel, played by Kim Ji-won. Rachel, and her bangs, tantrums, and sour expressions, made her the antagonist that was easy to dislike (or love to hate, perhaps?). I know a lot of people got a kick out of her role, and she surely did something right because to this day I still see hints of that Rachel sneer on her face and I have to remind myself that Kim Ji-won is not Rachel, and Rachel is not Kim Ji-won. To her credit, rather than get typecast as the snotty rich girl, Kim Ji-won’s next big role was one that would set her up to be a leading lady.

 
Descended From the Sun (2016)

The fact that this drama is still getting referenced and spoofed over three years later just goes to show the impact it had on the drama landscape. Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-gyo might have already been big stars, but they only got bigger — and so did second leads Jin Gu and Kim Ji-won. I might be in the minority, but the second lead love line didn’t do that much for me. Was I too swept away by the Song-Song romance to pay much attention? I’m not sure. Either way, this role was a huge one for Kim Ji-won, and she not only got a lot of attention (and awards) for it, but put a pretty good foothold on the kind of roles she excels at.

 
Fight My Way (2017)

What a fun drama this was! Granted, I was set up to like it from the start since Park Seo-joon playing an MMA fighter has enough of a draw to get me to watch anything — but this was a masterclass in how to do a rom-com without making it boring or relying on tropes. A feisty heroine (Kim Ji-won) and her best friend (Park Seo-joon) fall in love. Simple. And yet enough of a story to watch it unfold hour after hour and enjoy the evolution of their relationship, right along with the friendships, hardships, letdowns, and dreams that propel them forward. I liked the honesty about life in this drama and how it was mixed with comedy by way of fight scenes, aegyo, and some really great banter.

 
Kim Ji-won’s full filmography:

  • Mrs. Saigon (2008) [Drama]
    Kim Ji-won had a role in this early KNN drama prior to her debut.

  • High Kick: Revenge of the Short Legged (2011) [Drama]
    Kim Ji-won got her big break with her role in the third rendition of this popular sitcom.

  • Romantic Heaven (2011) [Film]
    Along with Kim Soo-ro and Kim Dong-wook, Kim Ji-won starred in this melodrama featuring three separate storylines and characters that eventually intersect at a hospital.

  • What’s Up (2011) [Drama]
    Lim Joo-hwan, Big Bang’s Daesung, Kim Ji-won, and more, starred in this weekend drama about a group of kids with troubled pasts that come together while studying music.

  • Horror Stories and Horror Stories 2 (2012, 2013) [Film]
    Kim Ji-won starred in two segments in both installments of these omnibus horror films.

  • To the Beautiful You (2012) [Drama]
    Sulli, SHINee’s Minho, and Lee Hyun-woo starred in this manga adaptation and teen drama that wanted to be the next Boys Over Flowers (but let’s face it, there’s no such thing).

  • Heirs (2013) [Drama]
    Ah, Rachel. All these years later and I still want to smack you (see above).

  • Anticipate Love (2013) [Drama]
    Also known as Hope for Dating, Kim Ji-won played alongside stars Choi Daniel and BoA in this short two-episode drama. I saw this ages ago, and my most vivid memory is of BoA in a raincoat carrying a bucket of live octopuses, about to make some trouble.

  • The Reason I’m Getting Married (2014) [Drama]
    A woman met a man from her past in this one-episode drama special, and Kim Ji-won had a supporting role.

  • One Sunny Day (2014) [Web Drama]
    In this little web drama from LINE TV, Kim Ji-won is paired with So Ji-sub, which I just can’t imagine no matter how hard I try. I guess I’d have to see it to believe it!

  • Gap-dong (2014) [Drama]
    Kim Ji-won played a young webtoon artist in this crime thriller that starred Yoon Sang-hyun and Lee Joon.

  • Hidden Identity (2015) [Cameo/Drama]
    Kim Ji-won had a cameo in this tvN crime drama that starred Kim Bum and Park Sung-woong.

  • Descended From the Sun (2016) [Drama]
    This smash hit wartime romance drama needs no introduction, and after its success, neither does Kim Ji-won. I find it funny that she’s now starring opposite Song Joong-ki after playing his fellow soldier just a few years ago. Second lead no more! Instant upgrade (see above).

  • Fight My Way (2017) [Drama]
    Best friends with the perfect amount of banter and honesty fall in love (see above).

  • Mr. Sunshine (2018) [Cameo/Drama]
    Kim Ji-won cameoed in as protagonist Kim Tae-ri’s mother in this acclaimed historical drama. It’s on the To Be Watched list!

  • Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead (2018) [Film]
    This historical action comedy sequel was Kim Ji-won’s first big historical role. She starred with Kim Myung-min and Oh Dal-soo, but FYI Lee Min-ki and Kim Bum were also here. *Waves*

  • Arthdal Chronicles (2019) [Drama]
    I know folks are loving this one, but I just can’t. Even for Song Joong-ki!

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I am sure I am in minority here. But I think her chemistry with sjk is electrifying. I would love to see them in contemporary drama.

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Me too, so I guess we are both in the minority.

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I'll join you in that minority, if I may - also I love how she has totally different vibes/chemistry with Eun-seom and Saya (adorable friend/crush and lost loved one vs 🔥🔥🔥 but wrong as hell).

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@pogo1 is that you?!!! It's been ages!

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@wishfultoki yeah, it's me! It's nice to be here again, I was burned out on the whole drama-following process in 2018 but really enjoying Arthdal rn.

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I only know her from Fight My Way and I loved her character and that drama. I keep meaning to gets to DoTS.

Oh, and after a Beanie mentioned it, when I see her I then think about how she is B.I's muse.

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Yes, our Hanbin's muse. 😪

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I always see her as Kim Tae-hee look alike. But I never read anywhere she was referred as KTH's 'little sister' like Yeo Seung-ho and So Ji-sub or Won Jin-ah and Soo Ae. So maybe it just me.

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Hmm, now that you've mentioned it...

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When I first saw her in the heirs I thought she was KTH since I watched Iris before that until I googled the drama😄 but now I love her as herself 😊

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She actually does get referred as KTH’s lookalike a lot from what I seen (in comments), it’s just that her company doesn’t mediaplay about it.

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She is a very good actress. I really like her. I loved the 2nd lead couple in DOTS and Fight My Way is one of my fav rom-coms.

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I really like her in What's up! First, this drama is so good! I'm very disapointed that I never found the OST because he duo with Jo Jung Suk was great. Second she was very cute in this drama and had a great chemistry with her co-actors Im Joo Hwan but Lee Soo Hyuk too.

I really like her character of Rachel, I think she made her likable.

But at the opposite of a lot people, I was not a fan of the second couple of DOTS. I didn't find they had a good chemistry. They were cute but nothing more.

In Fight My Way, I like the couple but not really the story. She kept changing her mind...

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Another What's Up fan!
I love that drama so much.

I actually bought the OST, but unfortunately it doesn't have JJS's songs... :( I downloaded those from somewhere, but they're just cut from the show, so they have some dialogue in them :/

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Augh had to rip the music off the video just so I could have it on my iPod. It’s an awful quality but at least I get to listen to Jo Jung Suk belting in this OST?

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@kujaichi and @13infamyss I see we all had to do the same to listen these songs! I don't understand why they didn't release all of them. It's funny to have people speaking in the song when you're listenning it :p

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THROWBACK!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lTT95Icu8c

Rewatching gives so many feels back for this drama!!!

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I love this song!

At the end, it's so funny to see JJS falling because he realized that he had an audience :D (not in thi svideo)

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Yes, KJW is lovely in What”up - an underrated gem!

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I started noticing her in What's Up. She was so sweet and pretty, and I love her singing Stupid Cupid with JJS or IJH, I can't really remember.
When I saw her next in Beautiful You, couldn't believe it's the same girl as the characters are so different.
I don't like her in DOTS or Fight My Way. I guess my favorite memory of her is still What's Up.

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I think she was singing Stupid Cupid for IJH.

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Thanks @missvictrix

Oh do watch One Sunny Day; it surpassed my expectations for a webdrama. It's premise and plot were very simple and yet the show worked. And we get to hear Kim Ji Won speaking Chinese. And KJW and SJS looked fine together. 😄

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When I atched her opposite SJK as second female lead, I though they are look alike. Maybe it's just me. I might be not one of her fan in terms of acting, but. I do admit She is trying her best in Arthdal, and it might be one of her best performances. Still arthdal is better than any average korean drama out there despite it's not what some people expecting. The passion is there.

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Please support Kim ji won to star in a new drama with Song joong ki, i love seeing them because they look suitable being together😍😍😍

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Ah! Rachael Yoo. I don't know if I still miss her, but I'd love to see her again.
It was Choi Ae Ra made me love Kim Ji Won. And now there's Tanya

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I actually love her role in Heirs. She reminded me of Leighton Meester who played Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. If no one knows Gossip Girl...this means I'm the only oldster here! Yikes....

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I never watched Gossip Girl, but I remember when it aired. We might be the same age, lol!

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Woooopeeee! I didn't complete the series but stopped when the plot/drama got more messy. i couldn't register who's dating who anymore.

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I read years ago that she actually did model her performance after Leighton Meester, so you're right about the Blair vibes!

I did love her as Yoo Rachel though, she did well at making the character engaging and sympathetic despite being cast as what coukd easily have been yet another second female lead hate-stooge.

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no way! i personally think they look similar as well. and that left a deep impression. she's the korean Blair!

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The first time I saw her was in One Sunny Day and she was simply effervescent and glowing with sweetness against So Ji Sub's angst.
I loved the show and watched it a couple of times before DF closed. If you can find it I highly recommend it - each episode is about 15 min long and the OST is very good.

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I first saw her from that uber underrated yet so awesome drama What’s Up! And always loved her versatility.

I liked her character a lot in Descendants of the Sun and Fight My Way. I liked her loveline with Jin Goo as a high rank official who fell for her subordinate after playing fake lovers with him. And I always have a thing with childhood bestfriends turn lovers and Park Seo Joon 😍 so Fight My Way was an easy watch for me!!

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Just when I thought I'd forgotten TO THE BEAUTIFUL YOU it pops up again... ahahaha that was a crazy one. I have no idea why anyone did anything in that drama.

Come to think of it, Kim Ji Won and Kang Ha Neul are actors that I've seen in several dramas as supporting actors. He has a lot of range, and I'm glad that Kim Ji Won is trying out her wings in ARTHDAL CHRONICLES.

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I'll always remember her from What's Up. :)

And her cameo in Mr. Sunshine was awesome.

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Love her cameo too in Mr. Sunshine. So impactful when cursing Kim Ui Sung 😅

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Random question, but how good is Arthdal right now? Speaking both subjectively and objectively

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Subjective is subjective, but I'm really enjoying it - minor visual hiccups aside, it's a really interestingly built world and the characters are quite engaging, especially since so many of our leads really are antiheroes.

Objectively, I can say this much - the acting is A+++. Kim Won-seok really doesn't play when it comes to getting a cast together.

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Loved her in DOTS! I don't know why I dropped Fight My Way halfway through but loved her there too

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I've been a fan of Kim Ji Won ever since Heirs, and was SO happy when she finally made it out of the second lead trenches - Fight My Way is a warm little gem of a drama, and absolutely deserves its sleeper hit status. I love how versatile she is - she's played a range of roles and always nailed them, and I really appreciate how different all her characters are from each other and how differently she plays them. Even Arthdal, where her character could have been just a fantasy drama heroine cliché, but isn't one thanks to the writing and her acting.

I've been on a long kdrama drought and Arthdal is the first weekly drama I'm actually following since....late 2017? I know it got a lot of heavy expectations and a bad rap for its aesthetics but I'm actually really into it and waiting with bated breath for each week's episodes (very grateful for the arrival of Stranger Things 3 this weekend so I have another thing to watch instead of twiddling my thumbs waiting for Arthdal eps).

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she's amazing i love her. i do not like anything about the show she's in but i'm so proud of how far she's come. she's fun and has a different look too. fight my way was messy but in a fun way lmao

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I discovered her in Fight My Way, and I must admit I have appreciated her a lot since then. She's in Arthdal Chronicle and I think another less talented actress wouldn't have made her scenes as interesting as they are right now.

She gives off a very "natural" vibe, and that's what I love about her.

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i like her! she has a like a down to earth vibe. not like super duper pretty that you're intimidated, but she gets prettier the more you look at her, if that make's sense. i thought her acting in arthdal is really good! the suffering and crying scenes have felt very real and not forced at all

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yeah in the hands of a lesser actress, all those suffering/crying scenes would have got old really fast, and the 'spend time as Saya's maid' arc ditto. That they haven't, and felt like they were actually happening to the character, is thanks to her.

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I love her in Fight My Way! It deserves a re-watch, me thinks. :3

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love her! i am loving arthdal chronicles. i think i have seen most of the things she has been in but didn't realize it til this article!

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I noticed her first in What's Up and I loved her quirky character. I thought she was underrated for a while and am so glad she finally got what she's due. Loving her in Arthdal right now💕

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8 years later i'm still diligently waiting for Lee Jongsuk's and hers reunion. High Kick definitely left a bitter taste and I NEED a closure. I mean they had like 5 scenes together yet i was obsessed. GIVE ME THEM AS LEADS NOW

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Yes! Me too! I was so disappointed when her character ended up going to Africa and rejecting him. They were rumored to have chosen to star in a Netflix kdrama last year and I was so disappointed when that fell through (it was so random since they announced the cancellation a couple of days after the project was announced). They'd be perfect for a modern rom com but I'd even take them in an angsty epic drama.

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Oh god i'd take them for an angsty anyday. Their high kick story was somehow a very sad one-sided love story i don't even understand why she left him for the doctor..

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I've been watching her since her High Kick 3 and What's Up days and I'm glad that she's finally getting lead roles instead of getting stuck in one dimensional second lead semi-villain roles. I LOVE Kim Ji Won and her acting style. She just has that natural ability to create chemistry that seems so believable with all her co-stars, whether it's supposed to be a familial, platonic, or romantic relationship. I'm loving her in Arthdal right now (SJK and KJW are overflowing with chemistry!) and I can't wait to see what she picks for her next project but I'm hoping for either another rom com (where I think she really shines) or in a sweeping epic sageuk with a dark, broody lead. I'd love to see her work with Lee Min Ki again (they had a few scenes together in the Detective K film and were electrifying even though their characters weren't romantically involved) or Lee Jong Suk and I wouldn't mind seeing her with Song Joong Ki for a third time (although I think it's highly unlikely now that they've done two dramas together).

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Love her. Will always support her.

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"Arthdal Chronicles (2019) [Drama]
I know folks are loving this one, but I just can’t. Even for Song Joong-ki!"

This made me LOL... I haven't watched Arthdal though I love Song Joong-ki and Kim Jiwon.

I hope her star will shine more brightly, she has an effortless charm that I find very attractive.

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