Chu Ja-hyun started her entertainment career as a model before making her acting debut in 1996. In 2002, she acted a supporting role in the hit SBS romantic comedy Successful Story of a Bright Girl. In 2004, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the KBS Drama Awards for her work in the series Oh Feel Young. In 2006, she starred in the film Bloody Tie. Her portrayal of a drug addict in the movie earned her numerous acting awards, including the Best New Actress at the 43rd Grand Bell Awards. In 2009, she scored Best Supporting Actress nominations at the 46th Grand Bell Awards and the 30th Blue Dragon Film Awards for her performance in the erotic period drama Portrait of a Beauty. In 2021, she joined the cast of the tvN drama My Unfamiliar Family, in which she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 7th APAN Star Awards.

Chu Ja-hyun also has a successful acting career in Taiwan and China. In 2003, she appeared in the top-rating Taiwanese drama Scent of Love. In 2007, she starred in the Chinese drama The Legend of the Banner Hero and also became part of The Legend of Chu Liuxiang. In 2011, she was launched into stardom in Mainland China with the revenge melodrama The Temptation to Go Home, which is a remake of the South Korean series Temptation of Wife.

Chu Ja-hyun married Chinese actor and singer Yu Xiaoguang in January 2017. The couple welcomed their son in June 2018.