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K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo

Updated: 3 days ago

Han Hyo-joo belongs to a select circle of Korean actors who can draw in both TV and movie audiences while enjoying critical praise. Since her first lead role in the 2006 melodrama Spring Waltz, she has starred in popular works and racked up an impressive number of trophies from prestigious award-giving bodies, certifying her Hallyu star and Chungmuro elite status. Trilingual and multi-talented, she worked on Japanese films and an American action series and released a few tracks for her k-drama’s OSTs.


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo

Read more about her.

 

Every day this week, we will deep dive into her notable works:


Brilliant Legacy / Shining Inheritance (2009)

Available in Prime Video, Viki, Viu (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Brilliant Legacy" (photo of Han Hyo-joo and Lee Seung-gi)

Han Hyo-joo’s career reached a new high when she played the lead role of Go Eun-sung in Brilliant Legacy (also known as Shining Inheritance).


The series follows the story of Eun-sung, a kind and hardworking young woman whose life takes a drastic turn when her father suddenly passes away, leaving behind a substantial debt. Eun-sung's stepmother and stepsister seize her family's assets and force her to work multiple jobs to repay the debt.


In the midst of her struggles, Eun-sung encounters Sunwoo Hwan (Lee Seung-gi), a privileged and cold-hearted heir to a large food corporation. Their initial interactions are marked by misunderstandings and conflicts, but as the story unfolds, Eun-sung's genuine kindness begins to thaw Hwan's attitude.


As the series progresses, Eun-sung remains steadfast in her values and gradually earns the respect and admiration of those around her. Her strong work ethic, compassion, and determination inspire positive changes in the lives of the people she encounters, including Hwan and his family.


W: Two Worlds (2016)

Available on AppleTV, Netflix, Viki (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "W: Two Worlds" (webtoon photos of Lee Jong-suk and Han Hyo-joo)

In W: Two Worlds, Han Hyo-joo plays Oh Yeon-joo, a talented and skilled cardiothoracic surgeon. After her father, a renowned webtoon artist, goes missing, she discovers that he has inexplicably disappeared into the world of his own creation, a webtoon titled W. To her astonishment, Yeon-joo finds herself able to physically enter the webtoon's universe, where she meets the charismatic protagonist, Kang Chul (Lee Jong-suk).


Kang Chul is a wealthy former Olympic gold medalist who, within the confines of the webtoon world, has suffered a traumatic incident that leads him to become a vigilante. As Yeon-joo hops in and out between the real world and the webtoon world, she becomes increasingly involved in Kang Chul's dangerous life, as well as the mysteries surrounding his existence. Her interactions with Kang Chul lead to a deepening bond between them, ultimately evolving into an interesting (and sometimes funny) romance.


Dong Yi (2010)

Available on Kocowa, Viki (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Dong Yi"

Han Hyo-oo takes on the titular role of a young woman who rose from humble beginnings to become a prominent figure in the royal court during the Joseon Dynasty.


The story begins with Dong Yi's early life as the daughter of a low-ranking government official. After a series of unfortunate events, she becomes an orphan and faces the challenges of survival in a society divided by class and power. However, her intelligence, resourcefulness, and kind-hearted nature catch the attention of King Sukjong (Ji Jin-hee), who is impressed by her medical skills and sharp mind.


Dong Yi's life takes a significant turn when she enters the palace as a servant and later becomes a concubine of King Sukjong. As she navigates the intricate politics of the royal court, Dong Yi uses her intelligence and determination to advocate for social justice, education, and the well-being of the common people.


Always (2011, film)

Available on Apple TV, iQIYI, Netflix, Prime Video, Viki (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Always" (photo of Han Hyo-joo and So Ji-sub)

In the South Korean romantic film Always, Han Hyo-joo is Ha Jeong-hwa, a visually impaired woman who forms an unlikely and heartwarming connection with a former boxer named Chul-min, played by So Ji-sub.


The story revolves around Chul-min, a man with a troubled past who now works as a parking lot attendant. Jeong-hwa, who lost her sight in a traumatic accident, frequents the parking lot where Chul-min works. Despite Chul-min's initial gruff demeanor, the two gradually strike up an unconventional friendship. Chul-min, deeply moved by Ha-na's positive outlook on life despite her challenges, soon becomes a source of support for her.


As their bond deepens, Chul-min decides to help Ha-na fulfill her simple dreams. Along the way, their relationship evolves into a touching and tender romance. However, their pasts continue to haunt them, and they must confront personal demons and insecurities to find happiness together.


Happiness (2021)

Available on iQIYI, Netflix, Viki, Viu (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Happiness" (photo of Han Hyo-joo and Park Hyung-sik)

In the zombie k-series Happiness, Han Hyo-joo plays Yoon Sae-Bom, a member of a special police squad. Decisive and rational, she can easily take down anything and anyone that threatens her and the people she loves.


After agreeing to a friendly “contract marriage” with her friend Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik) to qualify for police housing, the pair quickly find themselves in the midst of a government quarantine, where they have to deal with zombies in their building. Of course, it’s not all blood and gore. Sae-Bom and Yi-Hyun also develop a slow-burn romance amidst the chaos, because love conquers all, including the undead.


Read our full review of the series.


Moving (2023)

Available on Disney+ (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Moving" (photo of Han Hyo-joo and Jo In-sung)

Han Hyo-joo joins the powerhouse cast of Moving alongside Jo In-sung (It’s Okay, That’s Love), Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell No. 7), and Cha Tae-hyun (My Sassy Girl) in the most anticipated sci-fi series of the year. Written by Kang Full and adapted from Kang Full’s own webtoon, the 20-episode Disney+ k-drama tells the story of three students (Lee Jung-ha, Run On; Go Youn-jung, Alchemy of Souls; and Kim Do-hoon, Today’s Webtoon) who have inherited superpowers from their parents, but must hide their abilities even while helping others.


Han Hyo-joo plays Lee Mi-hyun, a former NIS agent with super senses. As if loving a man who can fly isn’t interesting on its own, she’s also had to navigate life as a devoted single mom to Bong-seok, a teen on the verge of unleashing his own powers of flight (and maybe so much more).


In the recently concluded 60th Baeksang Arts Awards, the series took home the most awards for TV, namely, the coveted Baeksang Daesang (Grand Prize), Best Screenplay for Kang Full's first k-drama script, and Best New Actor for Lee Jung-ha's performance.


See the rest of our spoiler-free show review.


Blood Free (2024)

Available on Disney+ (territories and periods vary)


GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Han Hyo-joo in "Blood Free" (photo of Han Hyo-joo and Ju Ji-hoon)

The 10-episode Disney+ sci-fi thriller revolves around a biotechnology company that dominates the artificial meat market and delves into the ethics of biotech advancements.


Han Hyo-joo stars as Yoon Ja-yoo, the CEO of the biotech company Blood Free (BF). She is forced to hire a personal bodyguard, former Navy captain Woo Chae-woon (Ju Ji-hoon, Along with the Gods), after an incident. Although initially wary, Yoon gradually learns to trust Woo as he skillfully tracks down traitors and spies both within and outside of her company, proving himself to be a reliable and trustworthy ally. As he and Yoon work together to protect BF and all its secrets, they find themselves drawn to each other in ways they never expected. But with danger lurking around every corner, giving into their burgeoning chemistry may be the last thing on their minds. They realize there's something bigger at play, something that could change the course of humanity itself.


Check out our complete k-drama review (no spoilers!).

 

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