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Kim Yun-jin Biography

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Birth Name: Kim Yun-jin
Born: 11/07/1973
Birth Place: South Korea

Born in Seoul, South Korea in 1973, Kim immigrated to America with her family in the early '80's. Growing up in Staten Island, New York from the age of ten on, Kim was painfully shy. Unable to speak English at first, the future actress went through a difficult adjustment period and felt isolated throughout pre-adolescence. It was not until the seventh grade that Kim enrolled in her junior high school drama club, where, to her surprise, she found that her fears seemed to melt away when performing.

Encouraged by her teachers, Kim successfully auditioned for New York's prestigious High School for the Performing Arts. After graduation, Kim - by them a fluent English speaker - went on to attend Boston University where she earned a B.A. in acting. Following a year post-graduate studies at Oxford University, Kim returned to New York in 1996 and found work in a number of off-Broadway productions and stage musicals.

One of Kim's performances was caught by the producers of a Korean television mini-series called "Splendid Holiday" who happened to have been shooting on-location in New York that month. Impressed, the producers quickly approached Kim to read for a role of the young ingénue Mi Sook. Kim, who'd remained fluent in her native language, wowed the producers at her audition by delivering her lines in flawless Korean. Kim was cast on the spot and was bound on a plane for Korea a week later to begin shooting the last three episodes of "Splendid Holiday".

Initially thinking she'd only be gone for a few months, Kim put her plans for returning to the U.S. on indefinite hold when "Splendid Holiday" became a runaway hit--from its initial airing, the series drew half of Korea's television viewing audience and kept them glued to their sets for three months. She promptly landed roles on two more Korean television dramas called "Wedding Dress" and "Spring in My Hometown."

Her true breakthrough role, however, came two years later when she was cast in her first feature: the politically charged action-thriller "Shiri" (1999), directed by Korean auteur Kang Je-Gyu. Intense, violent and chockfull of political intrigue, "Shiri" was best described as "The Manchurian Candidate" meets "La Femme Nikita." Kim played the dual role of Hee, a recovering alcoholic turned ruthless assassin. The film, while hardly innovative by Hollywood standards, took Korea by storm and became the highest-grossing Korean-produced film of all time, due to its high-octane story and impressive production values. Kim demonstrated a surprising strength and power (unusual for Korean female characters at the time) while projecting delicate vulnerability.

Kim maintained a busy work schedule for the next five years. Her first post-"Shiri" project, "The Legend of Gingko" (2000), was a lavish fantasy romance that reunited her with Kang. Though the film performed respectably at the box office, "Legend of Gingko" faltered under the weight of impossible expectations. Audiences who flocked to the theaters expecting to see a sequel to "Shiri" were quickly disappointed to get instead a stylized, quasi-gothic fairy tale. Kim's next project was "Rush!" (2001), a mistaken-identity crime caper directed by Takahisa Zeze. The jointly financed Korean-Japanese production proved to be a big success all over Asia and boosted Yunjin Kim to the level of international superstar.

In 2002, Kim followed up with the slapstick romantic comedy "Mr. Iron Palm," a movie garnered decidedly mixed reviews, but allowed the actress to play against type and prove her comedic chops. In the futuristic techno-thriller "Yesterday" (2002) directed by Jeon Yun-su, Kim played a bounty-hunter who is assigned to eliminate renegade clones. Though an ambitious effort, the film suffered from a languid pace and an underwritten script that smacked of the far superior "Blade Runner".

In 2003, Kim was cast in the lead role of "Ardor" (2003), a film adaptation of a controversial, best-selling Korean novel of the same name. "Ardor" told the story of a woman who gains liberation after an extra-marital affair. Though the film seems tame by western standards, "Ardor" was considered risqué in Korea. Considering her previous body of work, "Ardor" was a broad departure for the actress. Nevertheless, Kim leapt at the opportunity to take on a truly meaty dramatic role. Not surprisingly, given Korea's conservative social mores, Ardor was plagued by negative publicity from the very beginning, with the more puritanical critics decried Ardor as sleazy and gratuitous due to its graphic love scenes and nudity. Kim, in particular, was taken to task for displaying full frontal nudity (all her other nude scenes were either shot tastefully from the back or in shadow)--a decision the actress refused to apologize for. Fortunately, the controversy did little to dampen "Ardor"'s ticket sales and Kim's career withstood the public scrutiny.

Despite her success, Kim had begun to grow restless with the constraints of Korean filmmaking and longed to establish herself in America. Kim got that opportunity sooner than she'd expected. In 2003, ABC was in the midst of casting "Lost" written by J.J. Abrams and featuring a group of plane crash survivors marooned on a mysterious island. Kim landed the role of Sun, one half of a Korean couple whose foreign traditions, values, language and, most importantly, secrets make them outsiders among the survivors and threaten to tear their union apart.