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I didn't expect this kind of success at all when I first boarded Squid Game as a project. But when I read the script, I understood that it contained elements that could resonate with everyone and work outside of Korea.
Lee Jung-jae on the success of Squid Game

Lee Jung-jae (Korean: 이정재; born December 15, 1972) is a South Korean actor and former model, who has gained widespread international attention for his role as Seong Gi-hun, the main protagonist of Netflix's hit survival drama Squid Game. Although best known worldwide for Gi-hun role, Lee has been a well-known and popular actor in South Korea for several decades, appearing in numerous movies and shows.

He had found a core fanbase predominantly consisting of young women shortly after appearing in the nationally renowned commercials for Lotte Confectionery that year, which especially included the "Crunky" and "Ghanaian" ones. Remaining popular throughout the 1990s, other staples in his filmography were when he was given a supporting role in the classic TV drama Sandglass (1995) and a main role in White Nights 3.98 (1998).

Later on however, his career would suffer major setbacks: sometime in the early-2000s, Lee became an alcoholic; he starred in box-office bombs during that decade (e.g. Interview and Il mare (2000), Over the Rainbow (2002); exceptions were the successful Oh! Brothers (2003) and Typhoon (2005)) as well as some unsuccessful TV shows like Air City (2007) and Triple (2009); and there was a lack of work he was being casted for. Consequently, he stayed out of the limelight during the period.

Beginning from the early-2010s, there was a massive resurgence after his portrayal as Hoon in the controversial 2010 Cannes-nominated erotic remake of thriller The Housemaid. His comeback would be proven greater with The Thieves (2012),[note 1] New World and The Face Reader (2013), Assassination (2015), and the Along with the Gods franchise (2017-18). In addition, he has returned to doing television work. In 2021, he began one of his most famous roles; Seong Gi-hun in Squid Game, a role which has brought him worldwide popularity. He will reprise his role as Gi-hun in the upcoming second season of Squid Game.

Notes

  1. It was initially the second highest-grossing domestic film in South Korea.

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