'Squid Game' Star Jung Ho-yeon: Everything to Know About the SAG Award-Winning Actress

How Jung went from Korea's Next Top Model to becoming an award-winning star of the popular Netflix Korean original series Squid Game

Jung Ho-Yeon
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty

By now, you've binged or at least heard of Squid Game — the Netflix thriller starring Jung Ho-yeon the made history as the streamer's "biggest series launch ever" with 111 million viewers.

Jung's character, North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok, is introduced as a skilled pickpocket who joins the games to earn money to support her younger brother and reunite them with their mother, who is in North Korea.

As the series has become more popular, so has Jung, who is now the most-followed South Korean actress on Instagram, reported NME in Oct. 2021, with 13 million fans.

Fast forward a few months and Jung has walked runways for and collaborated with Louis Vuitton, graced Vogue's February 2022 cover, partnered with Adidas, and even received her first Screen Actor's Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series.

For more on the 2022 SAG Awards, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

Read on to learn everything about the 27-year-old breakout actress, from her Top Model beginnings to how she fell into acting, who she's dating and more.

She competed on Korea's Next Top Model in 2013.

Chung Ho-Yeon (Jung Ho-Yeon)
Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

Jung started modeling at 16 years old, and joined season 4 of Korea's Next Top Model in 2013. She was eliminated by episode two and brought back by episode five to become one of the runner-ups of the competition, according to W Magazine.

She's a runway regular.

Jung Ho-Yeon
Peter White/WireImage

After her success on Top Model, Jung became booked and busy, appearing in several top fashion magazines and hitting the runway for labels such as Opening Ceremony and Louis Vuitton. She also dyed her hair red, which became her signature.

Most recently, Louis Vuitton announced that they have chosen Jung as their new global Maison Ambassador.

She is a street style star.

Chung Ho-Yeon (Jung Ho-Yeon)
Melodie Jeng/Getty

Even off duty, Jung commands the camera with her impeccable style. She often has her photo taken before and after Fashion Week shows. Fans also flocked to watch Jung reveal her beauty secrets on Vogue, in a video that has more than 10 million views.

She's been dating actor Lee Dong Hwi since 2016.

Lee Dong-Hwi
The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty

During an interview with Herald POP (translated by Soompi), Jung said her boyfriend Lee is "very proud of the success of Squid Game."

She added, "Since he's also an actor, he's a good senior, a good friend, and a good person. He cheers me on a lot, and he worries for me as well. He's sort of like a dad."

She's best friends with BLACKPINK's Jennie.

Squid Game
HoYeon Jung/Instagram

Close friend and Kpop star Jennie not only sent a coffee truck to the set of Squid Game to support Jung, but she also paid a visit and snapped a really cute photo on set.

Landing her role on Squid Game gave her a lot of anxiety.

Squid Game
Netflix

In her interview with Herald POP, Jung shared that she was asked to send an audition tape for the role of Kang Sae-byeok less than one month after signing with her agency. She was in New York for Fashion Week when she sent the tape off and then was told to quickly fly to Korea for an in-person audition. After landing the role, she said she felt like she "had gotten herself into trouble and felt a rush of pressure and fear."

Her anxiety and nerves continued onto set, until she decided to open up to director Hwang Dong-hyuk about how she felt. She told the outlet, "I think I wanted to feel certain about why he chose me. Then the director said to me, 'I picked you because you're already perfect as Sae Byeok.' That one phrase made me think that even if I'm not that great at acting, it would be problematic if I'm not able to do what I normally can do because of my nervousness and uneasiness, and I was able to overcome it. I also spoke to my seniors a lot while filming. From a certain point on, I didn't feel uneasy, and I could focus and do my best."

She's ready to work hard on her acting career.

Squid Game
HoYeon Jung/Instagram

When asked by Herald POP of her acting goals, Jung said, "I don't have any goals as an actress. I want to improve every day and maintain a steady pace without ever losing my resolve to work hard. I may waver a lot, but I'll work really hard and keep going."

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