Dubbed as Korea’s ‘Queen of Romantic Comedies’, Gong Hyo-jin has proven that she is a multifaceted actress for her work in rom-coms, black comedies, mystery films, and indie productions. Brave enough to go beyond the stereotypical roles, Hyo-jin brought to life a lot of memorable characters in a lot of well-received dramas across the years.
When she first started, Gong was not interested in acting at all before she ventured into the industry. She was intent on focusing on her modeling career when she took up a supporting role in a horror film, Memento Mori (1999). She was not at all impressed with how she looked on screen thinking that she may not fit the usual K-drama beauty. However, it turns out that she exudes a captivating presence onscreen. When she decided to embrace her looks, there was no stopping her star from shining even brighter!
If you want to dive into Hyo-jin’s list of dramas, here are 7 that you need to watch.
In Pasta, Gong Hyo-jin plays Seo Yoo-kyung, a kitchen assistant who has endured the grueling job at the high-class restaurant called La Sfera for two years in hopes of being promoted to chef. Things are looking up until she meets a handsome stranger on the street who ends up being the restaurant’s new head chef, Choi Hyun-wook (Lee Sun-kyun).
On his first day on the job, he fires all the female cooks, including Yoo-kyung. Too stubborn to let go of her dream, Yoo-kyung is willing to do whatever it takes to get her job back. She struggles as she butts heads with the new chef while trying to learn everything she can from him at the same time. Eventually, sparks begin to fly between the two.
However, things get complicated by the presence of Kim San (Alex Chu), a charming customer with an eye for Yoo-kyung. It also happens that Yoo-kyung seems to have mysterious ties to the restaurant. Mysterious personalities and an aggressive aside, kitchen politics also get in the way of their budding romance.
The Greatest Love (2011)
Gu Ae-jung (Gong Hyo-jin) was once Korea’s sweetheart as the popular leader of a famous girl group. But after the group disbanded her image was ruined after a series of scandals. She struggles to maintain her career over the next decade by participating in whatever demeaning or ridiculous job she can get – from common promotional gigs to reality television.
Meanwhile, Dokko-jin (Cha Seung-won) is a popular actor at the height of his career. He finds himself inexplicably drawn to our fallen starlet and proceeds to pursue her. Ae Jung continues to meet Dokko-jin in a series of chance encounters, and their relationship turns from general dislike into a begrudging friendship.
As a drama penned by the famous Hong sisters, it is considered one of the great rom-coms of its time, but still holds good re-watch value.
Hello My Teacher/ Biscuit Teacher Star Candy (2005)
Desperately wanting to be a high school teacher, Na Bori (Gong Hyo-jin) was left despondent when she got kicked out due to some misunderstanding with her teachers.
After earning her GED, she turned down job offers from other high schools and chose to work as a teacher at her old high school so she could work alongside her high school love interest—the art teacher Ji Hyun-woo (Kim Da-hyun).
However, the only thing that enables her to get the coveted job is by signing a contract to essentially babysit Park Tae-in (Gong Yoo), a troublemaker, who attends the same high school. As a lonely young man, Tae-in quickly becomes the “jjang”, or “king” of the high school, and enjoys playing mean tricks on Bori whose easygoing personality attracts the majority of her students. Noh Jemma is jealous of the bickering between Bori and Tae In, so she goes out of her way to get Bori kicked out. It turns out that she’s not the only one against them.
If you don’t mind a noona romance, then this drama is a classic that would be entertaining to watch.
The Master’s Sun (2013)
Tae Gong-sil (Gong Hyo-jin) was once a promising student who was celebrated for her brilliant mind. But due to an accident, she wakes up with the ability to see earth-bound spirits. For years, this causes her to live a hard life with different types of ghosts coming on to her to ask for favors so their souls could be at peace.
Due to her unusual ability, Gong-sil finds herself living on the edge where waking up in a hospital, a jail, or even a tomb is considered normal—until she meets the person who will change her life forever.
Joo Joong-won (So Ji-sub) is The CEO of Kingdom, a big integrated shopping mall. He is arrogant and self-centered and he only believes what he can see with his own eyes. Gong Shil discovers that the ghosts disappear when Joong-won is beside her. The story displays the good and bad experiences of their interaction with the ghosts and also shows Joong-won and Gong-shi’s journeys when finding out the truth behind Joong Won’s childhood kidnapping.
It’s Okay That’s Love (2014)
It’s Okay, That’s Love is a 2014 SBS K-drama that revolves around the theme of mental health. It was unusual around this time for K-dramas to tackle such matters because of the underlying stigma on mental illnesses in South Korea. But the production team was brave enough to put the spotlight on the subject, and executed it right.
Jang Jae-yeol (Jo In-sung), a bestselling author and radio DJ, is full of wit and charisma, who live his life on his own terms, but there were times when flashbacks of his childhood would haunt him for days. These thoughts were brought by the trauma of witnessing how his father beat his mom to death. This triggered an obsessive-compulsive disorder which he carries into adulthood.
During one of his radio broadcasts, he meets Ji Hae Soo (Gong Hyo-jin), a composed, sometimes moody, but oftentimes endearing psychologist who bears the scars from her mother’s infidelity. She also had her own heartbreak when her ex-boyfriend cheated on her, which led to Hae Soo’s fear of commitment.
Later on, Jae Yeol and Hae Soo were both surprised knowing that they would live in the same apartment with another psychologist and another person dealing with psychiatric issues. Since it wasn’t love at first sight, they were off to a rough start. It’s interesting to watch how this relationship turns a full 360.
The Producers (2015)
This drama is filmed in a mockumentary style, which is rare in Korean dramas but common in western shows like The Office. So the environment and situations in the workplace feel surprisingly realistic and the characters are particularly relatable. All four of the lead actors wonderfully convey the subtle nuances in their characters’ personalities, which is the highlight of the drama for me. Of course, lighthearted parodies and never-ending celebrity cameos make the drama enjoyable to watch as well.
Producers drew huge attention from the media and the public thanks to its A-list cast and star-studded cameos. Besides the strong lead actors comprised of Kim So Hyun, Gong Hyo Jin, Cha Tae Hyun, and IU, there’s an incredible number of kpop idol appearances like TaeTiSeo of SNSD, Dara of 2NE1, Hani of EXID, and other hallyu stars like Kim Jong Gook, Lee Seung Gi, and Jang Hyuk.
But more than the star power, the topic of the drama itself piqued my interest. Producer talks about the lives of a group of variety show television producers (PDs) of a major broadcasting company (KBS), shedding light on how they work tirelessly to devise hit programs and handle various work-related situations. As an avid fan of Korean variety shows, I’m naturally excited to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at this profession.
When the Camellia Blooms (2019)
In the drama, Dong Baek (Gong Hyo-jin) is someone who lives an unfortunate life. She was ignored as a child because she did not have a mother, and as an adult, she has to fight prejudice for having to raise a fatherless child and owning a bar.
Then, Yong Shik (Kang Ha-neul) appears in her life, and he is the first person who never ostracized her. For Yong Shik’s part, it was love at first sight. Since he laid his eyes on her, he has always been straightforward with his feelings for Dong Baek. Despite what other people may think, he will always be on Dong Baek’s side.
While it’s inevitable for Dong Baek to have a negative perception of love, she begins to open her heart after seeing Yong Shik’s tireless efforts. However, she is unable to enjoy it due to a series of unfortunate events in her life. Believing that her personal baggage will only weigh Yong-shik down, she pushes him away.
While Dong Baek tries to find happiness, something truly sinister lurks in the background. A serial killer roams Ongsan and Dong Baek may be a target.