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Lee Ji-ah (이지아)

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Lee Ji-ah was ranked 19th in last year’s Forbes Power Celebrity list. But having this much star power has previously been a burden to her and the man she loved, who turned out to be one of the pillars of Hallyu.

GwenchaNoona | Actor's Profile: Lee Ji-ah

Photo from HanCinema

Birthday: August 6, 1978

Instagram: @e.jiah

Born in South Korea as Kim Sang-eun, she and her family left and stayed in the US for a decade. She visited her hometown in 2004 and appeared in an LG Telecom television ad with industry giant Bae Yong-joon. In the following year, she returned to South Korea for good, changed her name to “Kim Ji-ah”, and used the stage name “Lee Ji-ah.” With her ad partner Bae Yong-joon, she debuted on the small screen in the 2007 MBC sageuk (historical show) smash hit The Legend, earning her multiple awards including Baeksang Best New Actress for TV. In 2009, she starred opposite Kang Ji-hwan in her first film as an “ugly duckling” in the Korean-Japanese rom-com movie The Relation of Face, Mind and Love.


In the 2010 SBS big-budget spy action-thriller Athena: Goddess of War, an Iris spin-off, she portrayed a special counter-terrorism agent, starring alongside Hallyu greats Jung Woo-sung and Cha Seung-won. Though Jung Woo-sung's character is supposed to be her character’s old flame, their Paris photos circulating on the web in March 2011 showed they were dating in real life. A month after, the news spun out of control: Lee Ji-ah was revealed to have been married, at 19, to another legend, k-pop/rock artist Seo Taiji in 1997, separated from him in 2006, and, at the time the news broke, filed a lawsuit seeking alimony. Although the case was settled in July 2011, she and Jung Woo-sung eventually broke up.


Back from her hiatus, she portrayed in 2018 the cheating wife of Lee Sun-kyun's character in the Baeksang Best Drama from tvN, My Mister. From 2020 to 2021, she co-starred in the highly rated three-season SBS makjang (over-the-top k-drama) Penthouse: War in Life as Shim Soo-ryun, an elegant wealthy woman married to Uhm Ki-joon's character. Soo-ryun and her family live at the penthouse of Hera Palace, but hidden behind the luxury are the wealthy residents’ darkest secrets. She also plays Na Ae-gyo, a woman who looks identical to Shim Su-ryeon and has a hidden connection to her.

She starred in the ensemble revenge melodrama Pandora: Beneath the Paradise this year. She gets to play another dual role, as expected from The Penthouse writer Kim Soon-ok. In Pandora, she plays Hong Tae-ra, a woman who has a perfect life with her husband Pyo Jae-hyun, a presidential candidate, and their daughter, but has no memory of her past. She also plays Mun Ha-gyeong, a woman who looks identical to Hong Tae-ra and has a hidden connection to her.

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