Let’s make it clear—Lee Jungjae is more than just Seong Gihun (Player 456) on Squid Game.
Since his acting debut in 1993, Jungjae has been one of the most sought-after celebrities in South Korea. The model-turned-actor has always proven himself as a chameleon where he took up the roles of a prosecutor, action star, cold-hearted prince, soldier, construction worker, and more.
And with Jungjae’s recent Screen Actors Guild acting award, there’s no way to go for this talented star but up. So, without further ado, allow us to list down eight of his most iconic roles in film and television.
Il Mare is a 2000 film that revolves around two lovers who live two years apart, but they’re able to talk through a mysterious mailbox. A heartbreaking classic, Sunghyun (Lee Jungjae) and Eunjoo (Jun Jihyun) race through time to express their love. It’s hard to get enough of Jungjae’s portrayal of someone who’s so caught up in love that he’s willing to conquer the odds.
The film has gained a cult following and was remade into the American film The Lake House in 2006 and the Indian film Minchagi Nee Baralu in 2015.
Chief of Staff
With his charming smile and impeccable fashion sense, it’s hard to imagine Jungjae as an assistant—yet he made it work in Chief of Staff. The K-drama tells the story of politicians and their assistants as they engage in a cat-and-mouse fight to reach the top of the political ladder.
The 2019 series was a domestic hit that a second season was released in the same year. Plus, it showed his chemistry with the beautiful Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha star Shin Minah.
Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds
Jungjae’s appearance in the 2017 fantasy film might be small, but it’s more than enough to make a strong impression. Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds tells the story of guardians who escort people to their deaths where they’re given 49 days to defend why they deserve to live.
And of course, Jungjae’s haunting portrayal of Yeomra—or the King of Death—gave us chills. The sequel Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days is another look into the actor’s terrifying portrayal.
Don’t get too distracted by Jungjae flashing his abs in Big Match. The 2014 film showed the actor flexing his football and mixed martial arts skills as his character Choi Ikho investigates the truth behind the disappearance of his hyung (older brother) and coach.
The nail-biting film also features K-pop superstar Boa as the mysterious woman who helps him get through the almost-impossible missions.
Since his modeling days, Jungjae has always exuded a strong masculine charm to fans and viewers. The Housemaid is a strong display of the actor’s sex appeal in all of its glory. While the erotic thriller revolves around a destructive love triangle in an upper-class family, he maintains control over assertive women (without them knowing) using his ability to manipulate others.
In a 2010 interview, Jungjae admitted that he immersed himself as someone who has the desire of “having sexual relations with anyone, even the housemaid” to show “strength.”
The Face Reader
International fans discovered Jungjae through Squid Game, but Koreans and hardcore K-fans discovered him as Grand Prince Suyang or King Sejo (and his iconic march to the palace) in The Face Reader. The film also features Parasite actor Song Kangho as one of the leads.
Set during the Joseon Dynasty, Jungjae portrayed Prince Suyang who murdered his nephew King Danjong to become king. The film showed the actor as a heartless royal becoming one of the key figures involved in a historic power struggle in the 15th century.
Set during Japan’s rule over Korea, the espionage period film Assassination features Jungjae reuniting with his Il Mare leading lady Jun Jihyun.
Jungjae starred as Yem Sekjin, a resistance fighter who was tortured by the Japanese into submission in 1911. His portrayal was so raw that viewers can’t help but sympathize with his fate and be mad at how he was forced to sacrifice his countrymen for his own life.
City of the Rising Sun
An oldie, but heart-wrenching goodie, City of the Rising Sun is a film about adults who are forced to earn money by questionable means. Jungjae, along with his real-life close friend Jung Woosung, starred as the 20-something con artist Hongki who’s struggling to get by in the 1990s.
Hongki shares a few similarities with Gihun since they’re both fond of gambling away their money on horse racing. However, Jungjae managed to show the innocence and hopelessness of a young adult who gets too obsessed with money.