Hwang Jung-eum debuted as the lead vocalist of the South Korean girl group Sugar in 2002. After two years, she left the group to pursue a solo career. In 2007, she made her official acting debut in the SBS drama The Person I Love. She was launched into mainstream stardom after she was cast in the popular MBC sitcom High Kick Through the Roof in 2009. Her relatable portrayal of an energetic and confident college student earned her various accolades including Best New Actress at the 46th Baeksang Arts Awards.  In 2010, she won Best Actress at the 23rd Grimae Awards for the drama Giant. In 2013, she was cast as lead in the KBS2 melodrama Secret, which won her a Top Excellence Award at the KBS Drama Awards. In 2015, she reunited with her Secret co-stars Ji Sung and Park Seo-joon in MBC’s Kill Me, Heal Me and She Was Pretty, respectively. Her performance in the equally successful dramas earned her a Top Excellence Award at the 2015 MBC Drama Awards. Also in 2015, Hwang Jung-eum was cast in her first film leading role in the romantic comedy My Sister, the Pig Lady, which won the Grand Prize at the 2016 Osaka Asian Film Festival.

Hwang Jung-eum dated SG Wannabe member Kim Yong-joon for nine years. In 2009, they became the first real-life couple to be featured on the reality dating show We Got Married. In December 2015, C-JeS Entertainment confirmed Hwang Jung-eum’s relationship with professional golfer and businessman Lee Young-don. They married on February 26, 2016. Hwang Jung-eum gave birth to their first son on August 15, 2017. On September 3, 2020, C-JeS Entertainment revealed that Hwang Jung-eum had submitted an application for divorce. On July 9, 2021, the talent management agency stated that the actress and her husband decided to continue their marriage.