Bae Yong-joon debuted in 1994 in the KBS2 drama Salut D’Amour. In 1995, he received the Best New Actor trophy at the KBS Drama Awards for his work in Our Sunny Days of Youth. In 1996, he starred in the KBS2 romantic drama First Love, which recorded a peak viewership rating of 65.8 percent for its final broadcast. He picked up an Excellence Award at the KBS Drama Awards as well as the Most Popular Actor for TV trophy at the 33rd Baeksang Arts Awards for his performance in the series. In 2002, his popularity reached new heights with his appearance in the phenomenal hit KBS2 drama Winter Sonata. The series earned him a Top Excellence Award at the KBS Drama Awards. It also gave him another Most Popular Actor for TV trophy at the 38th Baeksang Arts Awards. In 2003, he headlined the movie Untold Scandal, in which he bagged the Best New Actor trophies at the 24th Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 40th Baeksang Arts Awards. In 2007, he made his small screen comeback in the MBC fantasy sageuk Legend, in which he received a whopping ₩250 million pay check per episode. He was awarded the Daesang at the MBC Drama Awards for the series, which was the last show he headlined before retiring.

Bae Yong-joon is the founder of the talent agency KeyEast. He married actress Park Su-jin in July 2015. The couple welcomed their first son in October 2016. Their second child, a daughter, was born in April 2018.