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Inside the fascinating life of Squid Game star HoYeon Jung

She's taken the world by storm, and we can't get enough of the breakout star!
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You’d quite literally have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the overnight global sensation that is Squid Game. 

Since hitting screens last month, not only did the nine-part horror series grow Netflix’s subscribers by a mammoth 4.4million people, it has also been viewed by 142 million member households in its first four weeks alone.

Most Aussies who aren’t versed in Korean cinema and television had never seen anything quite like the show that has grown an international cult following so large that people all around the world have created their own (non-deadly) versions of the game. 

WATCH Squid Game (Official Trailer)

It’s left most of us who’ve tuned in completely engrossed in not only the nail-biting storyline, epic sets and twists and turns, but also desperate to know more about the spectacular cast who brought the characters to life (of course, before ultimately dying during the brutal game.)

Besides Lee Jung-jae, who played protagonist Seung Gi-hun, Jung Ho-yeon has undoubtedly become the most talked-about star to come out of the Netflix sensation.

While little was known about Jung in mainstream news and culture before she landed the role-of-a-lifetime as Kang Sae-byeok on Squid Game, in South Korea, the 27-year-old model had already forged a successful modelling career.

Jung placed fourth on the 2013 season of Korea’s Next Top Model, and went on to grace the covers of Vogue eventually moved to New York City to take the next step in her modelling career. 

Despite Jung’s Instagram following exploding from a relatively modest 400,000 fans to over 20million by the time Squid Game finished airing, she had already carved out a lucrative and well-respected modelling career long before being cast on the show.

She landed a contract with Louis Vuitton and made her international runway debut in September 2016 at Opening Ceremony’s S/S 2017 show at Ne York Fashion Week. 

Since then, her modelling career has gone from strength to strength, going on to walk in shows for Fendi, Marc Jacobs and debuted as an exclusive model for Louis Vuitton at their S/S 2017 show.

But her time spent globetrotting to her next modelling gig wasn’t without turmoil and long stretches by herself. 

“I didn’t have anyone to share my good or bad news with. I was constantly bottling up my loneliness. It was only after I entered the real world that I became firmer,” she told NBC

“I turned to a lot of films and books in hopes of learning more about humanity, which brought me to acting.”

Jung credits her experience on the runway and worldwide travels for helping her prepare for her unchartered world of acting.

The time that I spent overseas working as a model, all of those experiences influenced my personality and personal taste. Even though I was based in New York, I would travel all over the world, meeting so many different types of people, and that’s really when my understanding of diversity deepened,” she told Vulture

“Without that time overseas, my acting career might not have happened at all because I lacked understanding of people and humankind. Without those years, maybe Sae-byeok wouldn’t be here.”

And it seems there’s no where to go but up for Jung. Since her breakthrough success on Squid Game, she was named Louis Vuitton’s Global House Ambassador for fashion, watches, and jewelry.

HoYeon Jung
(Credit: Netflix)

Within weeks, Adidas hoped to cash in on her global name and partnered with Jung for their Adicolor campaign. 

In preparing for her role as Sae-byeok, a North Korean defector and pickpocket who entered the game to win money to support her brother, Jung followed in the footsteps of the world’s biggest actors and went full-on method.

“I started writing a diary of the character; all of the days she had to go through, the day she arrived in South Korea, the day she lost family members to the fire. As I wrote her daily diaries, I was able to build Sae-byeok’s outlook within myself, as well as her facial expressions,” she revealed.

Jung even took martial arts training for the show’s actions scenes and learnt the North Korean dialect to make her character as authentic as possible.

HoYeon Jung
(Credit: Instagram)

And anyone who’s watched an interview with the charming, goofy and lighthearted Jung would realise her portrayal of the stoic and aloof Sae-byeok is testament to her superb acting skills. 

“For me, I put on a bright face, whereas Sae-byeok is more withdrawn and distant. While we’re different in expressing ourselves, I could understand where she was coming from,” she told NBC.

“Her approach to life is so desperate, right? So I wanted her to appear as much like herself as possible when she was alone.”

As for what’s next for Jung, the sky’s the limit. But (spoiler alert) sadly her next gig won’t be on the highly-speculated second season of Squid Game as her character was killed off in the finale episode. 

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