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Jeon Do-yeon (전도연)

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

The only Korean actress ever to win Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival, Jeon Do-yeon is the superlative muse to many notable Korean directors.

She is known for her wide yet uncompromising range of film roles and performances, which span a list so long and impressive that in 2014, she was made a panel member of the 67th Cannes Film Festival, once again making her the only Korean actress to do so. She is widely regarded as one of the best actresses in Korean cinema and has been awarded several accolades for her outstanding performances.

Born in 1973 in Seoul, South Korea, Jeon Do-yeon made her acting debut in the late 1980s, appearing in various TV dramas and films. Despite her early success, it wasn't until the late 1990s that Jeon Do-yeon rose to national and international fame.

She met huge box-office success with commercial features such as “Untold Scandal” (a Korean adaptation of the French novel “Dangerous Liaisons”), but it was with her incredible performance as a widowed mother in “Secret Sunshine” (2007) that she truly shot to international fame. She won the Best Actress award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival for her stunning performance in the said film and remains the only Korean actress to do so. This marked a major turning point in her career and solidified her status as one of the leading actresses in Korea.

Since then, Jeon has continued to captivate audiences with her performances in a wide range of films, from heartwarming dramas to intense thrillers. She has also proven her versatility by taking on a range of different characters, showcasing her ability to fully immerse herself in each role and bring it to life on the big screen.

Her stellar career has not shown any signs of slowing down. Beyond the Cannes trophy, she has continued to win all the major acting awards given by illustrious bodies such as the Blue Dragon, Grand Bell, Baeksang, and Chunsa Awards. She is also a recipient of the Korean Order of Cultural Merit and a French grantee of the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres for all her contributions to the arts.

In 2010, Jeon helped remake a classic in Korean films. In "The Housemaid" (2010), Jeon stars as Eun-yi, a naive housemaid who gets entangled in a complicated, dangerous affair with her employer (played by another Hallyu legend, Lee Jung-jae). The film is a modern remake of the 1960 South Korean classic, and Jeon's nuanced portrayal added depth to this erotic thriller, drawing both local and international attention.

In the 2020 South Korean crime thriller "Beasts Clawing at Straws," Jeon Do-yeon plays Yeon-hee, a brothel madam struggling with a problematic relationship. She finds herself involved in a chain of events initiated by a bag full of cash, intertwining her fate with various characters each grappling with their own ethical dilemmas and desperate situations.

Despite her busy acting schedule, Jeon Do-yeon is also actively involved in various philanthropic endeavors. She is a strong advocate for children's rights and is a passionate supporter of various charitable organizations that help children in need. With her stunning performances, natural beauty, and passionate spirit, she will continue to be a beloved figure in the Korean entertainment industry for many years to come.

On the small screen, Jeon is best remembered as the lead of “Lovers in Prague,” which won her the coveted Grand Prize (Daesang). She played Yoon Jae-hee, the daughter of the South Korean president who works as a diplomat in Prague. Her character falls in love with Choi Sang-hyun, a detective portrayed by Kim Joo-hyuk, adding a romantic dimension to the political and familial drama that unfolds.

Jeon also played the lead in the Korean remake of "The Good Wife" (2016). In this series, she plays Kim Hye-kyung, who is a reimagined version of Alicia Florrick from the original American series of the same name. In this legal and political drama, Kim Hye-kyung is a stay-at-home mother who returns to her legal career after her husband, a high-profile prosecutor, is embroiled in a public scandal involving corruption and infidelity.

In 2023's "Crash Course in Romance," the veteran actress makes a rare comeback to the small screen as Nam Haeng-seon. A doting aunt who currently manages a side dish eatery, Nam is as compassionate as they come who's resigned herself to a single life devoted to looking after her sibling and niece. She runs into the arrogant math teacher Choi Chi-yeol, who is her niece's math teacher (Jung Kyung-ho). However, the chances of their love blossoming are slim, as she's pretending to be in a marital relationship.

In the same year, "Kill Boksoon," an action flick, was released on Netflix. In this movie, Jeon enters her action-hero era as a contract killer working for a mercenary company. However, Boksoon is also a single mother, and when her daughter is threatened by the ghosts of her bloody past, she must step up and use all her deadly skills to protect the only family she has.

She is set to star in "Revolver," a film with "The Glory" alum Lim Ji-yeon and K-drama leading man Ji Chang-wook.

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