Lee Byung-hun

Last updated
Lee Byung-hun
Korea Lee Byunghun APSA Awards 01 (14335930465) (cropped).jpg
Born (1970-07-12) July 12, 1970 (age 48)
NationalitySouth Korean
Education Hanyang University (B.A. French Language and Literature)
OccupationActor, model, singer
AgentBH Entertainment
Lee Min-jung (m. 2013)
Korean name
Revised Romanization I Byeongheon
McCune–Reischauer Ri Pyŏnghŏn
Website www.leebyunghun.kr

Lee Byung-hun (Korean : 이병헌; born July 12, 1970) is a South Korean actor, singer and model. He has received critical acclaim for his work in a wide range of genres, most notably Joint Security Area (2000); A Bittersweet Life (2005); The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008); the television series Iris (2009); I Saw the Devil (2010); and Masquerade (2012). His critically acclaimed film Inside Men (2015) won him the Best Actor prize in three prestigious award ceremonies: 52nd Baeksang Art Awards, 37th Blue Dragon Awards and 53rd Grand Bell Awards — a feat that has yet to be repeated. Lee has five films—Joint Security Area, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Masquerade, Inside Men and Master —on the list of highest-grossing films in South Korea.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 77 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each country. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. It is also spoken in parts of Sakhalin, Ukraine and Central Asia.

South Korea Republic in East Asia

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and sharing a land border with North Korea. The name Korea is derived from Goguryeo which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time, ruling most of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East and Inner Mongolia under Gwanggaeto the Great. Its capital, Seoul, is a major global city and half of South Korea's over 51 million people live in the Seoul Capital Area, the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world.

<i>Joint Security Area</i> (film) 2000 South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook

Joint Security Area is a 2000 South Korean mystery thriller film starring Lee Young-ae, Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho. It was directed by Park Chan-wook and is based on the novel DMZ by Park Sang-yeon. The film, which was shot on location in South Korea, concerns an investigation into the circumstances surrounding a fatal shooting incident within the DMZ, the heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea.


In the United States, he is known for portraying Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) and its sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), and starring alongside Bruce Willis in Red 2 (2013). He portrayed T-1000 in Terminator Genisys (2015) and Billy Rocks, a knife-wielding gunslinger, in The Magnificent Seven (2016). Lee was the first South Korean actor to present an Oscar at the annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. [1] Lee and Ahn Sung-ki were the first South Korean actors to imprint their hand and foot prints on the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

Storm Shadow (G.I. Joe)

Storm Shadow is a fictional character from the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, comic books and animated series. He is best known as the Cobra Commander's ninja bodyguard, and for his history with fellow ninja Snake Eyes. Throughout their history, he has changed sides several times; conflicted in loyalties between Cobra, G.I. Joe, and his blood brother, Snake Eyes. Storm Shadow is one of the most prominent characters in the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero franchise, and has appeared in every series since its inception. He is portrayed by Lee Byung-hun in the 2009 live-action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and the 2013 sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

<i>G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra</i> 2009 film by Stephen Sommers

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a 2009 American military science fiction action film based on the toy franchise created by Hasbro, with particular inspiration from the comic book series and toy line G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. It is the first installment in the live-action G.I. Joe film series. The film was directed by Stephen Sommers. G.I. Joe features an ensemble cast based on the various characters of the franchise. The story follows two American soldiers, Duke and Ripcord, who join the G.I. Joe Team after being attacked by Military Armaments Research Syndicate (M.A.R.S.) troops.

<i>G.I. Joe: Retaliation</i> 2013 film by Jon M. Chu

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is a 2013 American military science fiction action film directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, based on Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy, comic, and media franchise. It is the second film in the G.I. Joe film series, and is a sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, while also serving as a soft reboot of the franchise. G.I. Joe: Retaliation features an ensemble cast with Byung-hun Lee, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo, and Channing Tatum reprising their roles from the first film. Luke Bracey and Robert Baker take over the role of Cobra Commander, replacing Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Dwayne Johnson, D. J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Stevenson, and Bruce Willis round out the principal cast.


Beginnings and breakthrough

Lee's career began in 1991 after a KBS talent audition and making his debut in the television drama Asphalt My Hometown. [2] Lee drew attention with the action drama Asphalt Man and romantic film The Harmonium in My Memory , [3] but it was only in 2000 that he made his big breakthrough with Park Chan-wook's Joint Security Area . The film broke the box office record and became the highest grossing Korean film at the time. [4] Lee's role as a border-guard soldier won him the Best Actor award at the Busan Film Critics Awards.

Korean Broadcasting System South Korean public service broadcaster

Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) is the national public broadcaster of South Korea. It was founded in 1927, and operates radio, television, and online services, being one of the biggest South Korean television networks.

Asphalt Man is a 1995 South Korean television series starring Lee Byung-hun, Choi Jin-sil, Jung Woo-sung, and Lee Young-ae. Based on the 1991 comic of the same title by manhwa artist Huh Young-man, it aired on SBS from May 17 to July 6, 1995 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 16 episodes.

<i>The Harmonium in My Memory</i> 1999 South Korean film directed by Lee Young-jae

The Harmonium in My Memory is a 1999 South Korean film based on the best-selling Korean semi-autobiographical novel Female Student by Ha Keum-chan.

Global stardom

In 2001, his popularity continued to climb when he starred in melodramas Beautiful Days and Bungee Jumping of Their Own . [5] In 2003, he received the Grand Prize at the SBS Drama Awards and Best Actor at the Baeksang Arts Awards for his role in the poker drama All In . [6] Due to his film and television roles, Lee experienced a rise in popularity across Asia, particularly Japan. [7] [8]

<i>Beautiful Days</i> (TV series) TV series in Korea

Beautiful Days is a 2001 South Korean television drama series starring Lee Byung-hun, Choi Ji-woo, Ryu Si-won and Lee Jung-hyun. The drama is the first entry in director Lee Jang-soo's Heaven Trilogy which includes Stairways to Heaven in 2003 and Tree of Heaven in 2006. It aired on SBS from March 14 to May 31, 2001 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 21:55 for 24 episodes.

<i>Bungee Jumping of Their Own</i> 2001 film by Kim Dae-seung

Bungee Jumping of Their Own is a 2001 South Korean film starring Lee Byung-hun and Lee Eun-ju. The film had 947,000 admissions, making it the 10th most attended film of the year.

SBS Drama Awards South Korea annual award by Seoul Broadcasting System for outstanding Korean dramas aired on its network

The SBS Drama Awards, also known as SBS Awards Festival, is an awards ceremony presented annually by Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) for outstanding achievements in Korean dramas aired on its network. It is held annually on December 31. The highest honor of the ceremony is the "Grand Prize", awarded to the best actor or actress of the year.

At the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival LeeByunghun08TIFF.jpg
At the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival

From 2005, he focused on film, earning critical acclaim for his performance in A Bittersweet Life directed by Kim Jee-woon, [9] [10] which was screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. [11] Lee was nominated for Best Actor at the Blue Dragon Film Awards and Grand Bell Awards, and won at the Chunsa Film Art Awards, Baeksang Arts Awards and the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.

<i>A Bittersweet Life</i> 2005 film by Kim Ji-woon

A Bittersweet Life is a 2005 South Korean action film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon and starring Lee Byung-hun. The film follows a hitman who refuses to kill his boss's cheating girlfriend and eventually faces the heat from him.

Kim Jee-woon South Korean film director and screenwriter

Kim Jee-woon is a South Korean film director and screenwriter.

2005 Cannes Film Festival

The 58th Cannes Film Festival started on 11 May and ran until 22 May 2005. Twenty movies from 13 countries were selected to compete. The awards were announced on 21 May. The Palme d'Or went to the Belgian film L'Enfant by Dardenne brothers.

He reunited with director Kim Jee-woon in the "kimchi western" The Good, the Bad, the Weird , taking on his first villain role. [12] The film was screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. [13] Lee's eye-catching performance in the film led to increased global recognition for him. [14] This led to Lee's debut in Hollywood, where he played Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra , also starring Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller. [15] [16]

<i>The Good, the Bad, the Weird</i> 2008 South Korean film directed by Kim Ji-woon

The Good, the Bad, the Weird is a 2008 South Korean action western film directed by Kim Jee-woon, starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, and Jung Woo-sung. It was inspired by Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

2008 Cannes Film Festival

The 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival was held from 14 to 25 May 2008. The President of the Official Jury was American actor and director Sean Penn. Twenty two films from fourteen countries were selected to compete for the Palme d'Or. The awards were announced on 24 May. The film The Class, directed by Laurent Cantet won the Palme d'Or.

Channing Tatum American actor

Channing Matthew Tatum is an American actor and singer. Tatum made his film debut in the drama film Coach Carter (2005). His breakthrough role was in the 2006 dance film Step Up, which introduced him to a wider audience. He is known for his portrayal of the character Duke in the 2009 action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its 2013 sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Although both G.I. Joe films received negative reviews from critics, they were commercially successful, grossing more than $300 million each at the box office.

Back in Korea, he appeared in I Come with the Rain opposite American actor Josh Hartnett and Japanese actor Takuya Kimura. [17]

Lee returned to television in late 2009 in the espionage action thriller Iris as a secret agent who finds himself at the center of an international conspiracy. [18] He reportedly received over 100 million won per episode for his role, the third highest in the country's drama history. [19] Iris was one of the most expensive shows ever produced, and was a smash hit across Asia. [20] [21] Lee's performance earned him the Grand Prize at the KBS Drama Awards and Best Actor at the Baeksang Arts Awards. [22] [23]

In 2010, Lee starred in I Saw the Devil with Choi Min-sik, [24] his third collaboration with Kim Jee-woon, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. [25] His portrayal of the intelligence agent won him the Grand Prize at the Baeksang Arts Awards. [26]

Acclaim and Hollywood roles

Lee received acclaim for his portrayal of dual roles in the lavish period drama Masquerade . [27] The film was a box office hit, becoming the 7th film in Korean history to surpass 10 million admissions. [28] Lee won Best Actor at the Grand Bell Awards for his performance. [29] [30] On June 23, 2012, Lee, along with Ahn Sung-ki, became the first Korean actors to leave their hand and foot prints on the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. He was recognized as an emerging star in Hollywood for his role of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra , and its sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation . [31]

At G.I. Joe Australia Premiere G.I. Joe Australian Premiere (8557345624).jpg
At G.I. Joe Australia Premiere

In 2013, he reprised his role as Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: Retaliation . [32] [33] Lee then co-starred in the American film RED 2 , the sequel to the 2010 action-comedy hit RED , alongside Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich. [34] [35]

Following his sex-chat scandal, Lee returned with the martial arts film Memories of the Sword in 2015. The film was shot in late 2013 and scheduled for release in 2014, but was postponed due to Lee's scandal. [36] He received praise for his scene-stealing role as a young and ambitious warrior with a lowly status, but the film failed to do well and was criticized for its messy plot. [37] The same year, Lee played a T-1000 in Terminator Genisys opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. [38] [39] He then starred in Woo Min-ho's political crime thriller Inside Men , [40] which became the top grossing R-rated movie of all-time at the Korean Box Office. [41] Touted as the "star" of the film, Lee received critical acclaim and swept Best Actor awards at various film awards ceremonies. [42] [43]

In 2016, Lee featured in the American crime thriller Misconduct . [44] [45] On 28 February 2016, Lee attended the 88th Academy Awards and presented the "Best Foreign Language Film" award with actress Sofia Vergara. He was the first Korean actor to present an award at the Oscars. [46] [47] The same year, Lee co-starred as knife-wielding gunslinger Billy Rocks in The Magnificent Seven with Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, and Ethan Hawke. [48] [49]

Returning to Korea, Lee starred in the crime thriller Master , [50] [51] followed by mystery drama Single Rider . [52] [53]

In March 2017, Lee signed on with major Hollywood agency United Talent Agency. [54] He was cast in the Hollywood action film Radiance. The film is directed by Patrick Lussier, who worked with Lee in Terminator Genisys. [55]

Lee then starred in historical epic The Fortress , [56] [57] and comedy-drama film Keys to the Heart . [58] [59] In 2018, Lee made his television comeback in historical war drama Mr. Sunshine written by Kim Eun-sook. [60] The series was a commercial and critical success, and Lee won the Grand Prize at the 6th APAN Star Awards. [61]

Lee is set to star in political thriller Chiefs of Namsan, [62] and science fiction film Mount Paektu. [63]

Other work

Lee formed a management company, BH Entertainment, which manages many actors including Han Hyo-joo, Go Soo, Jin Goo, and Han Ji-min. [64] He owns a shop, BHNC, which sells hats, scarfs and wallets. [65]

Lee Byung-hun is noted in the video game industry for providing his likeness for the main character, Wayne Holden, in the 2006 game Lost Planet: Extreme Condition , for the Xbox 360, PS3 & PC.[ citation needed ]

Ambassador roles

In 2010, Lee was named California's tourism promotion ambassador to Korea. [66]

In 2013, Lee was selected as an honorary ambassador for that year’s annual meeting of the Association of Film Commissioners International, a group dedicated to helping facilitate international coproductions. [67] The same year, he was appointed honorary ambassador to promote the 50th Daejong Film Awards. [68]

Personal life

Lee was born in Seongnam, South Korea. He has a younger sister, Lee Eun-hee, who was Miss Korea in 1996. [3] He graduated from Hanyang University with a major in French Literature and the Graduate School of Chung-Ang University with a major in Theater and Cinematography. [2] [69] In his spare time, Lee Byung-hun practices taekwondo. [70] [71]


Lee married actress Lee Min-jung on August 10, 2013 at the Grand Hyatt Seoul. [72] The couple had briefly dated in 2006, then resumed their relationship in 2012. [73] Lee's wife gave birth to their first child, a son, Lee Joon-hoo, on March 31, 2015. [74]

Blackmail scandal

On August 28, 2014, Lee was blackmailed by singer Dahee  [ ko ] from K-pop girl group GLAM [75] and model Lee Ji-yeon [76] for 5 billion won in exchange for not releasing, on the internet, a compromising video of him making sexual jokes while drinking with them on July 3. [77] [78] [79] [80] Dahee and Lee Ji-yeon were arrested on September 1, [81] after Lee reported the crime to police when they handed him two suitcases to transport the money. [82] It was later revealed that the crime was fully intentional and pre-planned, as both Dahee and Lee Ji-yeon looked for plane tickets to escape to Europe [83] and purchased two suitcases to be used for transporting the money. [84] Moreover, the two women attempted to film an additional video of Lee hugging Lee Ji-yeon by secretly placing a smartphone in a kitchen sink, but they failed to do so. [85] However, Lee Ji-yeon claimed that the blackmailing was an impulsive act after Lee broke up with her, [86] [87] for which Lee Byung Hun’s agency released an official statement stating that Lee had not once met her alone and that he mentioned to the two women that he wanted to stop meeting them when he sensed ulterior motives from them after talking about their financial difficulties [84] and their demanding he buy them a house. [88] The final trial was held at the Seoul District Court on January 15, 2015, [89] where Dahee was sentenced to a year in jail and Lee Ji-yeon to a year and two months in jail. [90] [91] In February, following the sentencing, Lee requested a pardon for the women while the prosecution in charge felt that the sentence was too lenient. [92] In March, both women, who were in jail for six months, received a suspended sentence for two years following Lee's pardon request. [93] The K-pop girl group GLAM was disbanded following the sentencing of Dahee.

Suspicious gambling charge

Lee Byung-hun was sued by his girlfriend with whom broke up in 2009. His girlfriend claimed Lee hurt her mentally and physically because he only used her for entertainment, and sued him for compensation and chronic gambling charges worth 100 million won. Lee, on the other hand, claimed that her claims were all false, and that the men behind her claim demanded money from her to reveal the truth about her relationship with her girlfriend, and then responded with the threat. [94] [95] [96]

In the process of the increasingly heated debate between the two, TV show host Kang Byung-kyu appeared at the shooting scene of the TV drama Iris , adding Kang to the violent incident. On the other hand, when suspicions arose that Kang was the one who threatened Lee, Lee also sued him. [97] [98]

Lee Byung-hun was cleared of charges in 2010, [99] and her claim for damages was dropped because she also refused to participate. [100] On the other hand, Kang was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation in 2013 on charges of assault and intimidation against Iris. [101]



1995 Who Drives Me Crazy Lee Jong-du
Runaway Lee Dong-ho
1996 Kill the Love Love
1997Elegy of the EarthPark Jong-man
1999 The Harmonium in My Memory Kang Soo-ha [102]
2000 Joint Security Area Lee Soo-hyeok [103]
2001 Bungee Jumping of Their Own Seo In-woo [104]
2002 My Beautiful Girl, Mari Adult Nam-wooVoice [105]
Addicted Dae-jun [106]
2004 Everybody Has Secrets Choi Su-hyeon [107]
Three Extremes - segment "Cut"Ryu Ji-hoShort film [108]
2005 A Bittersweet Life Kim Sun-woo
2006 Once in a Summer Yun Suk-young [109]
2007 Hero Kang Min-wooCameo [110]
2008 The Good, the Bad, the Weird Park Chang-yi, the Bad
2009 I Come with the Rain Su Dongpo
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Thomas "Tommy" Arashikage /
Storm Shadow
2010 The Influence WInternet film [111]
Iris: The Movie Kim Hyun-jun [112]
I Saw the Devil Kim Soo-hyeon
2012 Masquerade King Gwanghae / Beggar Ha-sun
2013 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Thomas "Tommy" Arashikage /
Storm Shadow
RED 2 Han Cho-bai
2015 Terminator Genisys Cop / T-1000
Memories of the Sword Deok-gi / Song Yoo-baek
Inside Men Ahn Sang-goo
2016 Misconduct The Accountant
The Age of Shadows Jeong Chae-sancameo [113]
The Magnificent Seven Billy Rocks
Master President Jin
2017 A Single Rider Kang Jae-hoon
The Fortress Choi Myung-kil
2018 Keys to the Heart Jo-ha
2019Mount Paektu

Television series

1991Asphalt My HometownJinwoo
Flower That Never Wilt
1992Days of SunshineChoi Hyung-man
Tomorrow LoveShin Bum-soo
1993The Sorrow of the SurvivorYi Ja-myung
PoliceOh Hae-sung
1994The Fragrance of LoveKim Jun-ho
1995 Asphalt Man Kang Dong-joon
Son of WindChang Hong-pyo [114]
1997Beautiful My LadyHwang Jun-ho [115]
I Do
1998 White Nights 3.98 Min Gyeong-bin [116]
1999 Happy Together Suh Tae-poong [117]
Love Story - Story 1: SunflowerTae-sung [118]
Sally is Back
2001RoadWoo-sik [119]
Beautiful Days Lee Min-chul [120]
2003 All In Kim In-ha
2009 Iris Kim Hyun-jun
2011 Diplomat Kosaku Kuroda John (cameo) [121]
2018 Mr. Sunshine Eugene Choi


2006 Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Wayne Holden
2012The Final EmpireNarrator [122]
2013 CGV 4DX trailerHimself [123]
2013Lee Byung Hun DocumentaryHimself [124]
2017I Luv It” music video by Psy Himself [125]



YearAlbum Name
1999Lee Byung Hun - To Me


YearSingle Name
2008"Itsuka (Someday)"


2010"Stay" Iris OST
"Endless Road"

Awards and nominations

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