HoYeon Jung is the striking 27-year-old Korean model and actress whose popularity exploded with her role as Kang Sae-Byeok, player No. 067, in the megasmash hit Squid Game, Netflix’s number one most popular title of all time.
There are so many reasons we (along with the rest of the world) have come to love HoYeon. Her performance in Squid Game has garnered broad critical acclaim. Though inexperienced as an actress, Jung said she was able to tap into Sae-byoek’s loneliness by channeling her own experience of loneliness when she first moved to NY to start modeling. “In 2016, I left Korea to further my modeling career overseas, and I spent a lot of time alone,” Jung explained. “At the time, the emotion that I felt the most was ‘loneliness’… That feeling of loneliness while trying to persevere and live isn’t all that different [from Sae-byeok].
As the breakout star of the most popular show on Netflix, HoYeon Jung is lonely no more and may soon long for some hard to find alone time.
Here are 10 Fun Facts about Squid Game’s HoYeon Jung:
1. She now has the highest following on Instagram of any Korean actress
Because of Squid Game, Jung became the most-followed Korean actress on Instagram, going from 400k followers in September of 2021, to 22.7 million as of this writing in October.
2. She is Louis Vuitton’s newest global ambassador
In the wake of the skyrocketing popularity of Squid Games and her instant recognition as its breakout star, HoYeon has been named the newest global brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton. The announcement should come as no surprise in light of her obvious widespread global appeal but this is not the first time she has worked with the brand. In fact, her international modeling debut in 2016 was with Louis Vuitton for Paris Fashion Week, and she has worked closely with the brand ever since.
3. She was a beautiful child
HoYeon was born June 23, 1994, in Myeonmok-dong, a region of Seoul, and attended Dongduk Women’s University, where she majored in modeling. While her professional modeling career started when she was 16 years old when she moved to New York City, it is apparent to us based on this adorable photo of young HoYeon that she was destined to be a model!
4. She has a brother and a sister
HoYeon has two siblings: a brother and a sister. In November 2018, Hoyeon posted a happy photo on Instagram of her sister’s visit to New York City.
5. She has a longtime boyfriend
Jung has been dating an actor/comedian Lee Dong-hwi, since 2015. Lee is best known for his role as Ryu Dong-ryong in the mega-hit Korean drama Reply 1988. There is a nine year age difference between the two as Lee is 36 this year, while Jung is 27.
6. She is best buddies with BlackPink’s Jennie
Jennie is an ardent lover of luxury fashion and is the brand ambassador for Chanel Korea Beauty. She first met HoYeon in Paris many years ago where she was attending Paris Fashion Week and HoYeon was a runway model for the brand.
The pair met again when HoYeon attended a Blackpink concert in NYC and have been close friends ever since.
7. She came in second place in Korea’s Next Top Model
In 2013, Jung participated in the fourth season of Korea’s Next Top Model and came in second. Korea’s Next Top Model is a spin-off of America’s Next Top Model, an American reality TV series.
Watch footage of vintage HoYeon in the video below. (Turn on auto-translate for English subtitles.)
8. Her signature fire red hair was an accident
Long before her debut as an actress, Jung was one of the most sought-after runway models for brands like Fendi, Missoni, Chanel, and many others. She was known for her signature fiery red hair which actually was the result of an accident.
“I told my colorist, ‘I think a little redder than usual,’ since there were still three weeks before Fashion Week,” she recalls, explaining that red pigment tends to fade quickly. “It turned out super red.” Luckily for Jung, it suited her really well and the fashion world loved it.
Watch Jung’s beauty routine that aired on Vogue in 2016:
9. She experienced self-doubt about her first ever acting role
It seems hard to believe, but HoYeon had never acted before landing the iconic role of Sae-byeok in Squid Games. In early 2020, HoYeon signed with Saram Entertainment agency in Korea with the hopes of starting an acting career while she continued modeling. Her management encouraged her to audition for Squid Game. After reading the script, she taped an audition video from New York during fashion week in September 2020.
In an interview with W Korea, Jung said she was very surprised that she was cast in the Netflix series. “When my CEO told me I’d been cast, the first thing I said was, ‘Why?’.” Jung said. “I was so happy when I heard the news, but it was like a greater fear had taken over me. [I was like] ‘Thank you very much, but I can do this?’”
We are so glad she went for it!
10. She learned the North Korean dialect
HoYeon’s Squid Game character, Kang Sae-byeok, is a North Korean defector whose motive for entering the games was to raise enough money to get her younger brother out of an orphanage, buy a house, and reunite with family members who were unable to escape North Korea. In preparation for the role, she studied the Hamgyŏng dialect with real North Korean defectors and watched several documentaries about North Korean defectors.
Bonus: She hopes to next work on a romance role
In an interview with Netflix Korea, HoYeon said that she would next like to try her hand as a character in love in a romance. As different as this would be from the tough and tragic character she played in Squid Game, we are confident that she has the talent and work ethic to impress us all as a fun light character in a romance and we cannot wait.
All signs point to a super bright future for HoYeon Jung and wish her the best of luck!!
Ella Shin is an intern at Best of Korea and a student in New York City, who loves composing music and everything Hallyu.