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Kim Hee-ae (김희애)

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Many Korean actors could work non-stop their entire lives, taking role after role, without ever getting nominated or awarded for a Baeksang Arts Award, much less winning a Daesang (Grand Prize). Kim Hee-ae has won four.

Yes, four.

Birthday: April 23, 1967

Instagram: heeae_official

Welcome to Kim Hee-ae's extraordinary career. In a realm where younger faces and instant stardom often take center stage, the enduring career of Kim Hee-ae stands as a testament to talent, hard work, and an ability to transcend generational gaps. With a career spanning nearly four decades, this seasoned actress has graced the screens with her versatile roles, breaking barriers and collecting accolades along the way. Before she portrayed the stress and strength of betrayed wives all over the world as Dr. Ji Sun-woo in 2020's runaway hit, The World of the Married, she won the Grand Prize for Beyond the Mountains (MBC Drama Awards, 1991), Sons and Daughters (29th Baeksang Arts Awards, 1993), Perfect Love (40th Baeksang, 2004), and My Husband's Woman (1st Korea Drama Awards, SBS Drama Awards, 2007).

Born on April 23, 1967, in Jeju, South Korea, Kim Hee-ae's tryst with acting began at a relatively young age. She made her acting debut in 1983, at 16, with the TV drama Did We Really Love. Though a newcomer, Kim's compelling performance immediately drew attention and hinted at the greater things yet to come.

Not one to shy away from emotionally demanding and even controversial roles, she also took part in Herstory, (2018) a film based on Comfort Women, and in the older-woman/younger-man sizzler drama Secret Affair (2014) opposite Yoo Ah-in. Ironically, while she may have built a career on playing complex and often adulterous women onscreen, she is happily married in real life, and a devout Roman Catholic as well. Her portrayal of an adulterous woman in Secret Affair who falls for a younger man was hailed for its depth and emotional complexity. This role bagged her the prestigious Baeksang Arts Award for Best Actress, solidifying her status as a titan in the industry.

While her work on television received most of the limelight, Kim's roles in movies have been equally compelling. Her role in "Thread of Lies" (2014) received critical acclaim for its insightful portrayal of a mother grappling with her daughter’s suicide.

The elegant actress let her hair down and showed her lighter side in the 2013 travel variety Sisters Over Flowers, where she went backpacking around Turkey and Croatia with fellow screen veterans Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Ja-ok, and Lee Mi-yeon, as well as Lee Seung-gi.

How does this woman stay in top form? This wife and mother of two sons credits it all to her ruthless dedication to lifelong learning. "I have to work hard to improve myself, even when I am not acting," she tells Soompi. "That’s something that’s ongoing for me.”

She most recently starred opposite fellow powerhouse actress Moon So-ri (On the Verge of Insanity) in Netflix’s political drama Queenmaker which seems to be set up for a second season. Kim Hee-ae is slated to headline another Netflix political drama, Gust, with Sol Kyung-gyu.

In an industry that can be unforgiving, especially to women as they age, Kim Hee-ae has continually found ways to reinvent herself while maintaining her core essence as an actress. Today, she stands as a stalwart icon for young actresses in Korea, revered and loved by fans spanning different generations.

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