South Korean dramas are riddled with a lot of beauties and it’s not known by many that some of these ladies started out as beauty queens. Here are eleven actresses who first started out in pageants before they owned the small screens!
Lee Bo Young
K-drama superstar, Lee Bo Young, first graced the public with her beauty as a pageant queen in Daejeon in 2000 and in surrounding provinces. After being crowned, she signed as exclusive advertising for Asiana Airlines. She also became a news presenter and eventually crossed over into acting with her first starring role in the family drama, “People of Water Flower Village”. However, Lee Bo Young’s claim to fame in the K-drama industry was her role in the series, “Save The Last Dance for Me” in which she starred with her husband, Ji Sung. Her collection of acting roles has proven that she is more than just a pretty face, but also a formidable actress of her generation. Her latest project was the 2021 hit, Mine where she starred alongside Kim Seo Hyung.
Honey Lee (Lee Ha Nui)
Honey Lee possesses the kind of beauty that strays from Korean standards. She was crowned Miss Korea in 2006 and even went on to become the third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant of 2007. She even earned the title of Miss Grand Slam in 2007. She later pursued a career in music before she went into acting. Unfortunately for this beauty, her decision to be an actress was met with a lukewarm response from netizens causing her to struggle at first. Casting directors find her beauty and physique to be too strong. But with persistent efforts, she finally earned a solid position in the acting industry and even achieved success in this area of her career. Some of the more recent projects where you can catch Honey Lee include “One the Woman” and “The Fiery Priest”.
Kim Yu Mi
Kim Yu Mi won over 53 other contestants as Miss Korea in 2012. She started her acting journey two years later with a supporting role in the drama Naeil’s Cantabile. Her early days in the industry were riddled with struggles and some unsuccessful dramas. Her career took a beating when she underwent cosmetic surgery at a time when the public aggressively sought out and exposed beauty pageant contestants who had surgical enhancements. After her procedure, audiences commented that her new face resembled the famous actress, Park Min Young, which harmed her career more than it helped.
Park Si Yeon
Park Si Yeon won second runner-up in the Miss Korea pageant way back in 2000. She used her newfound fame as a springboard to launch her acting career. Her first lead role was in the romance drama “My Girl” in 2005. Initially, she was finding it hard to please audiences with her brand of acting, but she never wavered and forged on. Unfortunately, her career took a beating due to some personal issues. But Si Yeon never gave up, which led to a comeback in 2013 and from there she saw new successes in her acting career. Some of her recent work includes “When My Love Blooms”, where she played the antagonist opposite Park Bo Young, and “Birthcare Center”.
Kim Sung Ryung
Kim Sung Ryung is another pageant alumnus as she won Miss Korea in 1988 and went on to represent the country in Miss Universe of that year. She went on to become a reporter on KBS’s showbiz news program before she dipped her toes in the acting industry. She had a memorable debut role in the drama “Who Saw the Dragon Claws?”. However, true K-drama may have recognized her in her minor roles in “The Heirs” and “Legend of the Blue Sea”. Recently, the veteran actress starred in dramas such as “Political Fever” and “Kill Heel”.
Oh Hyun Kyung
After Kim Sung Ryung’s reign as Miss Korea, the title was subsequently awarded to Oh Sang-Ji won in 1989, who later represented the country in the Miss Universe 1990 pageant. After her reign, she stepped into show business and took the stage name, Oh Hyun Kyung. Unfortunately, a scandal put a huge dent in her budding career, which pushed her to fly off to the United States where she stayed for three years. She made a comeback in 2017 and her projects steadily came. Her recent dramas include, “My Roommate is a Gumiho”, “You Are My Spring”, and “Young Lady and Gentleman”.
Go Hyun Jung
Next to Oh Hyun Kyung, Go Hyun Jung won as 1st Runner-up in Miss Korea 1989. She also entered the entertainment industry and starred in “Hourglass”, one of the top-rated and critically acclaimed dramas in Korean TV history. However, her personal life took center stage when she became a chaebol wife in 1995, which later on ended in a messy divorce in 2003. She returned to acting in 2005 and later regained her reputation as Korea’s top actress after playing the royal concubine, Lady Mishil in Queen Seondeok. Go Hyung Jung remained active at present. Her recent projects include “Mr. Lawyer” and “Reflection of You”.
Kim Sarang was Miss Korea in 2000 and competed in the Miss Universe pageant in 2001. She nabbed the Best National Costume after showcasing the traditional Korean “hanbok” dress during the pageant. Just like those who came before her, Kim Sarang also forayed into acting with some popular roles in television series, “Secret Garden” and “A Love to Kill”. Her popular role in the television series “Secret Garden” with Hyun Bin. Her recent acting gigs include the 2019 drama, “Abyss” and “Get Revenge” in 2020.
Son Tae Young
Son Tae Young bagged second place in the Miss Korea pageant in 2000. She represented South Korea in the 2000 Miss International pageant where she won first runner-up and Miss Photogenic. Tae Young dove into her first acting role in 2001 in the drama series, “Pure Heart”. Her more recent works include tvN drama, “The K2” in 2016, and MBC’s “You Are Too Much” in 2017. Besides her TV projects, Tae Young also has a number of movies under her belt which came one after another between 2005-2014.
Lee Da Hae
Byun Da-Hye was the 71st Miss Chunhyang 2001 pageant. People know her for her stage name Lee Da Hae. She was the first Korean actress to speak her lines in Mandarin, showing her linguistic skills in Chinese dramas. Before she rose to fame, she bagged her first role in the 2005 K-drama, My Girl. Her talent and list of acting jobs made her one of the “OG” of leading ladies with her name attached to successful projects like “Green Rose”, “Miss Ripley” and “Nice Witch”. Some of her recent and notable TV series include, “Search:WWW”, “L.U.C.A.: The Beginning”, “Island” and “Love to Die”.
Kim Seo Hyung
One of South Korea’s biggest stars was also a pageant alumnus. Kim Seo Hyung participated in the Miss Gangwon Pageant two years prior to her acting debut. This platform gave her the attention she needed to land her first acting gig. Seo Hyung’s claim to fame was her controversial role in “Temptation of Wife”. But over the years she also made many remarkable roles in the many TV series she starred in, one of which is her portrayal of the cold and calculating tutor, Kim Joo Young in “Sky Castle”. She also starred in other popular dramas such as “Come and Hug Me”, “Nobody Knows” and “Mine”.