(From Korean magazine DVD MAGAZINE Vol.3, April 2009 -- edited for length and sequence.)
Remember that first love? Let us recall the young Jo Hyun-Jae, so gentle and sweet, so shy and pure. His face looks absolutely unsullied by this world. It does not seem he has had a rebellious phase; he is always so amiable.
I first met him in the summer of 2000. The silent and deep look in his eyes made you feel you're being absorbed into them. He was among the cast of the 1999 SBS TV series KAIST which depicts friendship and love among young people. I remember being shocked when I realized this was his first acting role in a TV series. His appearance is more attractive than the lead actor, and his performance is deeply touching.
In his first ever appearance in KAIST, in the story "145 km. Love" he plays a university student in the biology department who is carrying on a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend who lives 145 km. away. The setting for KAIST* is a university in Dae Jeon. His girlfriend is in Seoul, and for love he has to commute between Dae Jeon and Seoul on a motorcycle -- I feel sorry for him. When I saw the very charming and always smiling Jo Hyun-Jae playing his role of the young man who is caught between his studies and love, I was most impressed and deeply attracted, and so was the general audience.
Since his debut in KAIST, Jo Hyun-Jae has participated in the weekend series "Father and Son" (SBS 2001) and the situation comedy "That's Good" (SBS 2001) which witnessed an improvement in his acting skills. And since his vivid portrayal of the Crown Prince in the 2002 SBS drama "Great Ambition" (Dae Mang), his pure and dazzling appearance, his serene and deep eyes, and his unique baritone voice have prepared him for his brilliant collaboration with Soo Ae and Ji Jun Hee in the 2003 MBC drama "Love Letter".
As Andrea in "Love Letter", Jo Hyun-Jae plays the novice priest torn between his love for God and his love for a woman. This touching love story affects even the actor himself. No wonder the audience all cry with him. The famous setting for the drama, the very elegant Junglin-gong Yakhyun Catholic Church, has become even better known because of "Love Letter".
Following the very moving story of Andrea, Jo Hyun-Jae portrays the agonizing experience of Young Woo in SBS' "First Love" (2003) who has to accept that the girl he loves is in love with someone else. His heartache makes our hearts ache too.
And then in 2004 Jo Hyun-Jae portrays a songwriter in the MBC/Fuji TV Korean-Japanese joint production "Star's Echo", a pastry chef in SBS' "Sunshine", a special forces agent in KBS' "Forbidden Love"; in 2005 an heir to a commercial empire in SBS' "Only You" and the King of Baekjae in "Seo Dong Yo", also by SBS; in 2008 an investment manager in KBS' "3 Dads/1 Mom"; and as a young scholar in the movie "Untold Scandal"(2003) and Lieutenant Yoo in his latest movie "G.P.506" (2008) -- over the years the very versatile Jo Hyun-Jae has been playing a variety of roles.
Jo Hyun-Jae has proved he is a many-sided actor, and through his various works, now expressing tender love, now manifesting macho toughness, he has established his popularity in these eight years. As a result, he has won a number of prestigious awards:
2003 SBS Best New Actor
2005 SBS Best Loved Actor (voted by under 20s)
2006 42nd Baeksang Arts Award- Most Popular Actor
2007 Andre Kim Best Star
(TO BE CONTINIED)
* Editor's note: KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) is a research university located in Daedeok Science Town, Daejeon, in South Korea. KAIST was established in 1971 as the nation's leading science and technology institution and is considered the MIT of South Korea.