Updated: Jan 23
A prolific and talented film, TV, musical, and stage actor, Lee Jung-eun readily transforms into memorable and convincing characters—a mysterious housekeeper in the critically acclaimed Bong Joon-ho film Parasite (2019), an endearing mom in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha (2021), or an intimidating judge in Juvenile Justice (2021).
Photo from HanCinema/VOP
Birthday: January 23, 1970
“I want to portray a normal person, someone who blends in with the crowd, instead of an impactful role. I think, except for my roles in theatrical plays, I’ve mostly depicted strong characters. But it’s [just as difficult] to act out such calm, tranquil characters—it’s not easy to retain the prudent mood for a long time," Lee Jung-eun said in an interview published by Korean JoongAng Daily on November 16, 2020.
"I don’t have to be the main character. I can be more obscure.”
But she hasn't been obscure in the past few years. In 2019, she won the Baeksang Best Supporting Actress for TV for her role as Moon Jung-eun in The Light in Your Eyes. Then she received international recognition for her crucial role as the housekeeper Gook Moon-gwang in Parasite, triggering a pivotal twist in Bong Joon-ho's critically acclaimed film. For this, she won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture in the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Award followed by six best actress and best supporting actress awards. In 2021, she received the Prime Minister’s Commendation during the 12th Popular Culture and Arts Awards Ceremony, where the South Korean government honors the pop culture artists from different fields.
People have described her face as “sullen,” “blank,” and “smiling”—one would think they were describing faces of different actors. Perhaps, that contributes to her versatility. Her goal of landing obscure roles can’t be any more difficult, however, as even her cameos (for example, as the grateful mom of Hye-jin’s Seoul neighbor in Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha) leave an emotional impact. At the same time, as paradoxical as it may sound, it is something that she has easily accomplished, having been in over 30 films and 40 TV shows.
After being in four movies and two popular Netflix series (Juvenile Justice and Our Blues) last year, she will star opposite Park Bo-young in the Netflix medical drama Daily Dose of Sunshine in 2023.