Updated: May 22, 2021
The new year kicked off on a glorious romantic note for Hallyu fans, with top stars Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin finally confirming their long-rumored relationship. But what happened before then?
In Part 1 of this two-part special on Hallyu's newest power couple, we take you through the timeline of how the "BinJin Couple" started—the major milestones, the kilig-inducing little details, the “receipts” fans collected over the years showing there's more to the story than what they publicly admit, and even the “crumbs” in between.
Though the top Hallyu stars debuted in the Korean entertainment industry within a few years of each other, it wasn’t until much later—when they had each established themselves as bonafide A-list drama and film actors—that their paths formally crossed. For this and many other reasons, fans believe that just like their characters in 2020's blockbuster hit Crash Landing on You (CLOY), the two superstars have always been destined to be together.
CHAPTER 1: MISSED CONNECTIONS
"How many times have we almost met?"
CLOY fans will recognize this as the line Yoon Se-ri told Captain Ri when they realized they had crossed paths several times in Switzerland, before she crash landed on him in North Korea.
As it turns out, Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin can say this to each other in real life, too. Their first formal meeting in 2014 is preceded by an almost comedic 10-year tale of being in the same place and at the same time, and yet somehow not meeting each other.
Son Eon-jin (Son Ye-jin) and Kim Tae-pyung (Hyun Bin) are born just eight months apart. (Don’t you think they look alike?)
The aspiring actors launch their careers within two years of each other: Son Ye-jin debuts in the drama Delicious Proposal in 2001, while Hyun Bin officially debuts in the drama Bodyguard in 2003.
Rookie actor Hyun Bin attends the VIP premiere of Son Ye-jin’s movie A Moment to Remember as a guest of her co-star Jung Woo-sung. The film goes on to become a huge success in Korea and across Asia, and remains one of Korean cinema’s most beloved melodramas of all time. But for some reason, the two actors do not cross paths inside that movie theater.
Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin both attend the VIP movie premiere of crime thriller Voice of a Murderer, and are photographed seated just one row away from each other—still too far for an introduction.
Somewhere in Korean waters, a South Korean actress accidentally sails into North Korean territory, narrowly escaping capture. No, it isn't Son Ye-jin, but this incident plants the seed of an idea in the mind of an up-and-coming TV writer named Park Ji-eun that will take over a decade to bear fruit.
Hyun Bin is reportedly offered to star in the rom-com drama Personal Taste, which has already cast Son Ye-jin as the female lead. However, he turns it down in favor of Secret Garden, and Lee Min-ho steps into the role instead.
Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin again find themselves in the same event, this time at the press conference for the film Mu Jeok Ja at CGV Cinema in Wangsimni. Despite their seemingly coordinated grunge looks, no one thinks to introduce them to each other.
Son Ye-jin and her eye-smile make a surprise appearance in the finale of Hyun Bin’s hit k-drama Secret Garden. Playing herself, this is her first and only cameo thus far. Still, the actors do not get to meet on set, as her scene is with his co-actor Lee Phillip.
Finally, after more than a decade of working in the same industry, they formally meet each other at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PIFAN) as fellow winners of the Producer’s Choice Award. Destiny has finally found a way.
CHAPTER 2: THE NEGOTIATION
After our future power couple become acquainted in 2014, it still takes a few more years before sparks can fly. It isn't until they start working on their first project together in 2017, the action crime thriller The Negotiation, that they begin to get to know each other better.
June to December
By the time Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin begin filming The Negotiation, they have a combined 57 dramas and films under their belts. Korean media points out how remarkable it is that it took well over a decade for the popular stars to collaborate.
Playing the Seoul Metropolitan Police's top hostage crisis negotiator and the volatile, foul-mouthed criminal she’s tasked to bargain with, the two actors are required to shoot their scenes from separate locations throughout most of the film, acting only through monitors.
But the challenging remote setup doesn't prevent them from enjoying working together. In promotional interviews for the movie, they are all praises for each other’s acting and work ethic.
“Since we had to act in different places through a monitor, not face-to-face, I was worried at first. It was my first time to act in such a way, and resorting only to the monitor and to his voice was hard. But I’m glad that we developed a decent chemistry.” — Son Ye-jin
“There are times when I feel great charm and thrill from seeing the actor opposite me show unexpected acting. There’s also a thrill to my own reaction to that acting. While filming The Negotiation, I saw that in Son Ye-jin, so I thought, ‘I want to try working with her again.’ At the time, [we had filmed separately], so I wanted to try acting with her in the same space, making eye contact, and breathing the same air.”— Hyun Bin
With their brief face-to-face interactions limited to lunch breaks and a single scene filmed together, both actors expressed their hope for a future project that would allow them to act in the same space, preferably a melodrama or rom-com.
Hyun Bin's agency, VAST Entertainment, confirms reports that he and actress Kang So-ra have ended their one-year relationship. The statement says: "We have confirmed that Hyun Bin and Kang So-ra recently broke up after drifting apart due to their busy schedules. They ended the relationship on good terms and will continue to support each other as fellow actors." Kang So-ra's agency issues a similar statement.
Most of 2018 finds our would-be couple busy with individual projects: Son Ye-jin appears in the family movie Be With You opposite So Ji-sub and the romantic k-drama Something in the Rain with Jung Hae-in, while Hyun Bin appears in the the zombie period film Rampant and the fantasy adventure drama Memories of the Alhambra with Park Shin-hye.
August to September
They reunite in August to promote The Negotiation. Publicity kicks off with a press conference, followed by a series of promotional events around the country, including in her hometown of Daegu.
Their undeniable chemistry—made apparent by their constant lighthearted banter, teasing, and laughter—and Hyun Bin’s particular attentiveness towards her catch the attention of the public, fans, and media.
Fans notice that on several occasions, they even unconsciously mirror each other's movements or move in synch with each other.
Son Ye-jin posts a series of playful selfies taken with Hyun Bin on her personal Instagram account. Longtime fans of Hyun Bin as well as Korean entertainment reporters notice something different: the normally reserved, shy, and introverted actor seems to be coming out of his shell, acting differently around the bubbly Son Ye-jin compared to how he usually does with previous female co-stars.
Fans recall an interview from the earlier days of Hyun Bin's career where, in his own words, he says that because he is dull, his ideal girl is someone who loves to laugh.
Fans delightedly observe that the promotions for The Negotiation seem more like that of a rom-com than of a hostage thriller.
The Negotiation opens in theaters on September 19 and hits the million-viewer mark in just one week, a milestone proving that the pairing can successfully draw in viewers.
This chapter in the couple's love story is fondly called “The Negotiation Era” by Bin-Jin shippers (fans who root for their relationship to become real), and is the favorite of many because of the wealth of photos and videos that capture their blossoming relationship.
Son Ye-jin attends the VIP premiere of Hyun Bin’s period film Rampant. As he watches her red carpet arrival through a big screen set up for the actors inside the cinema, he breaks into a huge smile. His co-actor Kim Ui-seong seems to be saying "Yeojachingu wasseo" ("Your girlfriend is here") from the back.
An anonymous source reportedly spots Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin at a members-only golf course in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, about 75 km northeast of Seoul. According to the report, the pair had dinner with Son Ye-jin's parents afterwards, but no photos are provided to prove this.
Hyun Bin’s drama Memories of the Alhambra holds its "wrap-up party" in Seoul three weeks before its final episode is aired—unusual in k-dramaland where these parties are typically held on the actual day the finale airs, to allow the cast and staff to view it together and actually wrap up their work. A possible explanation for the unusually early party emerges the following month.
January In an online forum, an anonymous user posts grainy photos taken from a grocery story in the US, lighting fire to growing speculations around the pair and eventually spawning the hashtag #InGroceryWeTrust.