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Kim So-yeon (김소연)

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

It is quite jarring to see the considerate Kim So-yeon transform into a wicked Cheon Seo-jin, her on-screen persona across three seasons of The Penthouse: War in Life (2020-2021). But to her loyal fanbase, she can pull off such a feat effortlessly. After all, she has been an accomplished actor since her teens, in addition to being good-natured, self-reliant, and resilient—a stark contrast to her character in Penthouse.

GwenchaNoona | Actor Profile: Kim So-yeon

Photo from HanCinema

Birthday: November 2, 1980

Instagram: @sysysy1102


In episode 76 of the multi-awarded variety show Hangout with Yoo (2021), it was revealed she has been praised by her staff and fellow actors for having one of the kindest hearts in the entertainment industry. Some even say she’s "too kind for her own good." In fact, when dating news with her then-boyfriend and now-husband Lee Sang-woo broke 30 minutes before her appearance in The Masked Singer (2016), she offered an interview to the reporter who agreed to delay the news by one day (since a different reporter leaked the story). She did not have enough time to put on make-up, as can be seen in the clip below.


In 1994, without her parents’ approval, she entered a pageant at 14 years old and won the top prize. She later became the first teen celebrity to earn more than 100 million won as a TV commercial model. For the movie Gabi (2012), Kim So-yeon studied both Russian and brewing coffee for months in order to play the spy Tanya disguised as King Gojong’s barista. Lastly, to act out the iconic bloody piano scene in Penthouse, she studied playing the piece for two and a half months even though she cannot read sheet music. Such are testaments to her self-reliance.


Despite having several projects, her star seemed to wane in the 2000s. She went on a three-year hiatus to think about what she really wanted to do. However, once she made up her mind, success and recognition came pouring in. She played North Korean agent Kim Seon-hwa in both seasons of the hit TV k-drama IRIS (2009 and 2013), the spin-off Athena: Goddess of War (2010), and IRIS: The Movie 1 and 2 (2010 and 2013). This was followed by another successful drama, Prosecutor Princess (2010), where she played Ma Hye-ri, a fashion-forward public prosecutor. While she won acting awards for these dramas and for the movie Gabi, it was in the weekend family drama Happy Home (2016) where she won the Korean Drama Awards Daesang (Grand Prize) and the APAN and the MBC Top Excellence Acting Awards, Actress in a Serial Drama.


In 2020, she starred in the SBS makjang (over-the-top drama) Penthouse, whose first season raked in a 28.8% nationwide peak viewership rating. She won the Baeksang Best Actress award and the SBS Daesang, reprising her role as an unhinged soprano and school director in the succeeding two seasons. Her resilience indeed paid off.


In Tale of the Nine-Tailed 1938, Kim played Ryu Hong-joo, a character who is one of the ancient mountain deities, along with Lee Yeon, portrayed by Lee Dong-wook. Her role is that of an eternally beautiful woman who currently owns a luxurious restaurant in Gyeongseong called Myoyeon-gak. This season acts as a prequel to the original 2020 series Tale of the Nine-Tailed and was broadcast from May 6 to June 11, 2023.


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