She made history as the first South Korean to receive an acting award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. Today, the Secret Sunshine actor is one of the most bankable and popular stars in the Korean film industry. Take a look at some of the best, most career-defining movies and TV shows of Jeon Do-yeon.
The Kill Boksoon actor started out as a model, making her first appearances in multiple ads, before moving to TV shows. Jeon made her debut with the romantic K-drama Our Heaven in 1992. Following this, the South Korean actor spent five years working in television dramas before achieving instant stardom in 1997 with her first film project opposite Han Seok-gyu in The Contact.
Her popularity and versatility of roles have steadily increased ever since — from playing a schoolgirl in Harmonium in My Memory (1999) to a maid involved in an illicit affair in The Housemaid (2007).
In 2007, Jeon won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine, which put her in the international limelight. Another feather in her cap is the neo-noir black comedy Beasts Clawing at Straws, which won the Special Jury Award at the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam. The same year, Jeon also made a cameo in the Bae Suzy-starrer disaster flick, Ashfall. The movie was a part of the 2020 line-up for the London Korean Film Festival.
Furthermore, her 2023 hit Crash Course in Romance is one of the most popular K-dramas of all time, according to the Korean viewership research agency Nielsen Korea’s May 2023 report.
11 best Jeon Do-yeon movies and TV shows to watch now:
Kill Boksoon (2023)
Directed by: Byun Sung-hyun
Other stars: Sol Kyung-gu, Esom, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Si-ah, Esom
Synopsis: Skilled contract killer Gil Bok-soon (Jeon) is a single mother, who leads a dual life as an employee at M.K Enterprises. When her enemies try to meddle with her family, she has to let go of her normal life and face a kill-or-get-killed situation.
About the movie: One of the most popular Jeon Do-yeon movies, Kill Boksoon topped Netflix’s Global Top 10 Movies (non-English) with 19.61 million views in just three days after its release on 31 March 2023 (via allkpop).
Crash Course in Romance (2023)
Directed by: Yoo Jae-won
Other stars: Jung Kyung-ho, Lee Bong-ryun
Synopsis: Retired national athlete Nam Haeng-sun (Jeon) currently runs a side dish shop. She is soon forced to navigate the private education field to help her daughter. There, she comes across Choi Chi-yeol (Jung), a popular private instructor, aka the 1 Billion Won Man. Discovering their shared passion for teaching, the two grow closer.
About the show: One of the highest-rated Jeon Do-yeon dramas, Crash Course in Romance scored a final viewership rating of 15.5 per cent nationwide, marking a new all-time high for the show (via Nielsen Korea).
Emergency Declaration (2022)
Directed by: Han Jae-rim
Other stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Kim Nam-gil
Synopsis: Soon after departing from Incheon Airport, chaos ensues aboard flight KI501 when a passenger dies of unknown causes. As American authorities refuse to let them land in Honolulu, Captain Choi Hyun-soo (Kim) and crew take unprecedented emergency measures to save the lives of all on board.
About the movie: One of the best aviation disaster movies to come out of South Korea, Jeon Do-yeon plays the role of Kim Sook-hee, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Emergency Declaration. It premiered at the 74th Cannes Film Festival on 16 July 2021.
Directed by: Hur Jin-ho
Other stars: Ryoo Joon-yeol, Park Ji-young, Park Byung-eun
Synopsis: Lee Bu-jung (Jeon) is a ghostwriter, who wants to publish an original work. Kang-jae (Ryoo) is a man withering away in self-doubt. When both their lives get entangled, the two find the courage to face the bitterness of life together.
About the show: One of the best Jeon Do-yeon dramas, Lost was released as a part of JTBC’s tenth-anniversary special project.
Beasts Clawing At Straws (2020)
Directed by: Kim Young-hoon
Other stars: Jung Woo-sung, Bae Sung-woo, Shin Hyun-bin, Jung Ga-Ram
Synopsis: Joong-man (Bae), who is struggling to make ends meet with his sick mother, finds a bag full of cash. Tae-young (Jung) is in trouble after his girlfriend (Jeon) steals the money he borrowed from a loan shark. Mi-ran (Shin), who wants to get rid of her violent husband, finds a young lover (Ga-ram) who offers to kill him. As an unidentified dead body mysteriously turns up, all three are trapped in a dog-eat-dog game.
About the movie: One of the best Jeon Do-yeon movies, Beasts Clawing At Straws is based on Keisuke Sone’s 2011 novel Wara nimo Sugaru Kemonotachi. The movie took home the Best Film Editing trophy at the 41st Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Directed by: Lee Jong-eon
Other stars: Sol Kyung-gu, Kim Bo-min, Yoon Chan-young
Synopsis: After losing their son Su-ho (Yoon) to the Sewol Ferry tragedy, parents Jung-il (Sol) and Soon-nam (Jeon) struggle to keep their family together. No longer able to communicate with each other, they must mend things for their young daughter Ye-sol (Kim).
About the movie: One of the highest-rated Jeon Do-yeon movies, Birthday is inspired by the true incident of the sinking of the MV Sewol ferry in Korea on 16 April 2014.
A Man and A Woman (2016)
Directed by: Lee Yoon-ki
Other stars: Gong Yoo, Lee Mi-so, Park Byung-eun
Synopsis: Sang-min (Jeon) comes to Finland to send her autistic son to a special camp but feels alienated in snow-covered Helsinki. But when she comes across architect Ki-hong (Gong), the duo instantly feel a connection. Sang-min and Ki-hong spend the night together on their way back, only to go their separate ways the next day.
The Good Wife (2016)
Directed by: Lee Jeong-hyo
Other stars: Yoo Ji-tae, Yoon Kye-sang, Kim Seo-hyung, Nana
Synopsis: Famous prosecutor Lee Tae-joon (Yoo) becomes the prime suspect in a political scandal and gets arrested. This leads his former attorney wife Kim Hye-kyung (Jeon) to resume her career after a fifteen-year hiatus. Will she be able to prove her husband’s innocence?
About the show: The Good Wife is an adaptation of the 2009 US TV series of the same name starring American actor Julianna Margulies.
Directed by: Huh Jong-ho
Other stars: Jung Jae-young, Min, Lee Kyoung-young, Oh Man-seok
Synopsis: Debt collector Tae Gun-ho (Jung) leads a miserable life after losing his son. When he is diagnosed with liver cancer, he learns his survival depends on getting a transplant within the next 10 days. While Gun-ho gives up hope, a prisoner named Cha Ha-yeon (Jeon) claims she is a donor match and offers to help. However, she has some conditions that Gun-ho must fulfil first.
About the movie: One of the most-loved titles amongst Jeon Do-yeon’s list of movies and TV shows, Countdown earned Huh the Best New Director nomination at the 2012 Baeksang Art Awards. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011.
The Housemaid (2007)
Directed by: Im Sang-soo
Other stars: Seo Woo, Lee Jung-jae, Park Ji-young
Synopsis: Hae-ra (Seo) and her husband, Hoon (Lee), hire housemaid Eun-yi (Jeon) to look after their daughter. When Hoon gets Eun-yi pregnant, Hae-ra plots with her mother (Park) to kill the child. Devastated by the incident, Eun-yi decides to seek revenge on the family.
About the movie: This Jeon Do-yeon starrer competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is a remake of the 1960 South Korean movie of the same name.
Secret Sunshine (2007)
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Other stars: Song Kang-ho, Jo Young-jin, Kim Young-jae
Synopsis: Lee Shin-ae (Jeon) and her son move to Milyang, South Korea, to start life anew after her husband’s death. One night, Shin-ae returns home late only to discover that her child has been kidnapped. With the help of the local mechanic, Jong-Xhan (Song), Shin-ae desperately tries to track the culprits.
Which of these Jeon Do-yeon movies and TV shows are you streaming next?
(Hero and featured image: Netflix)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– Is Jeon Do-yeon popular?
Yes, Jeon Do-yeon is one of the most popular actors in South Korea.
– Which Korean actress won an award at Cannes?
Veteran star Jeon Do-yeon is the first South Korean female lead to win an acting award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Helmed by Director Lee Chang-dong, her movie Secret Sunshine earned her the Best Actress award at Cannes in 2007.