The Korean entertainment industry is on a glorious run, churning out amazing content to attract the masses. Korean actors have proved their mettle in every genre, be it with K-dramas like Squid Game and Crash Landing on You or blockbuster movies like Train To Busan or Parasite. They have gauged Hollywood’s attention many a time, with big production houses picking them for international projects.

Whether it’s Lee Byung-hun’s stint in the G.I. Joe franchise, Ma Dong Seok’s appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Eternals or Bae Doona’s impeccable performance in Cloud Atlas, there are many crossovers that left us amazed. Even BLACKPINK‘s Jennie is making her acting debut in the highly-anticipated HBO series The Idol alongside Lily-Rose Depp, The Weeknd and more. It’s an amazing time for South Korean artists and we couldn’t be more excited.

Here’s a list of Korean celebrities who’s forayed into Hollywood and made an exceptional mark. Keep reading!

Korean actors who’ve ventured into Hollywood

Ma Dong-seok

Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee is one of the most successful South Korean actors, whose stints in Train To Busan, DerailedThe Bros and more made him a well-known face internationally. He forayed into Hollywood with the 2019 Marvel hit Eternals, playing the role of Gilgamesh. The film’s ensemble cast included several A-list celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek as well as Kit Harington.


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A post shared by Don Lee 마동석 (@donlee)

Lee Byung-hun

Lee Byung-hun has been working in both Korean and American markets since 2009, garnering global fame with his acting chops. Some of his best Korean projects include Inside Men, I Saw the Devil, and A Bittersweet Life as well as his recent outing in Squid Game. For those who’ve watched the survival series, you’ll spot Lee as the mysterious Front Man who oversees the deathly games. 

He forayed into Hollywood with the 2009 film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, starring as the powerful villain Storm Shadow. The actor also appeared in its 2013 sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Lee’s other Hollywood ventures include Terminator Genisys, Misconduct, The Magnificent Seven as well as The Fortress and Keys to the Heart.

In addition to this, Lee became the first South Korean actor to present an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2016. He’s also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


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 Youn Yuh-jung

The veteran Korean star has had a glorious acting career, however, she garnered massive global fame with her role in the 2020 American drama film Minari. The movie, which swept the whole awards season in the US, chronicles the tale of a South Korean immigrant family who try to make ends meet in the rural United States of the 1980s.

For her impeccable role as Soon-ja, Youn became the first Korean celebrity to win an Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards. Not only this, but Youn also won a SAG as well as a BAFTA award.

If you’re looking to familiarise yourself with her craft, we suggest you watch films like The Housemaid, The Taste of Money, The Bacchus Lady as well as Canola.


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Bae Doona

South Korean actress Bae Doona continues to push boundaries with her versatile slate of films. In a career spanning more than two decades, Doona has appeared in a number of successful Korean films like Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Host as well as Air Doll. The actor’s incredible work also landed her the Golden Crown Order of Cultural Merit from the South Korean government. The state honour is given to people with a remarkable contribution towards South Korean entertainment and art.

After cementing her position domestically, Doona forayed into Hollywood with the director duo Wachowskis. They’ve worked on films like Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending as well as the Netflix series Sense8.

Some of her recent outings include the Netflix period zombie thriller Kingdom, crime thriller Stranger and The Silent Sea. 


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A post shared by Doona Bae 배두나 (@doonabae)


Having spread his charm in both music and acting fields, Rain aka Jung Ji-hoon needs no introduction. The artist first grabbed the world’s attention owing to his glorious singing career, which spans seven albums, 28 singles as well as numerous concerts and tours. Do you know he also performed at Madison Square Garden to a sold-out crowd?

Moving to his acting career, Rain made his Hollywood debut with the Wachowskis in the 2008 action comedy Speed Racer. He headlined his own film, Ninja Assassin, the following year. For his first Hollywood lead role, the actor underwent intensive training with stuntmen for over 6 months and even bagged a 2010 MTV Movie Award.

In 2014, he went on to appear in the American action thriller, The Prince, alongside Bruce Willis and Jason Patric. We can’t wait to witness his next Hollywood outing!


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Lee Joon-gi

Apart from his charming looks,  Lee has impressed audiences with his acting prowess in projects like The King and the Clown,  My Girl,  Iljimae, Flower of Evil and more. He has won numerous accolades for his performance including Korean Film Awards, Grand Bell Awards and MBC Drama Awards.

Lee made a dazzling entry in Hollywood with the sixth and final instalment of the Resident Evil series, named Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The actor had a special appearance in the film, starring as the antagonist who locks horns with the lead actress Milla Jovovich. Lee flaunted his exceptional martial arts skills in this commercially successful 2017 movie, making audiences swoon over him.

Han Hyo-joo

A household name in South Korea, Han has to her credit some incredible films like Masquerade, Cold Eyes, Love 911, The Beauty Inside and more. She has also appeared in a number of notable series including Heaven & Earth, Iljimae, Brilliant Legacy and Dong Yi. 

Han rose to global fame with the American television series Treadstone, which was connected to and based on the popular Bourne film series. Han’s incredible action scenes, intense sequences as well as amazing physical transformation made her a treat to watch alongside actors like Jeremy Irvine, Tracy Ifeachor, Omar Metwally and Brian J. Smith.


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Jun Ji-hyun

Jun Ji-hyun, who’s widely known by her English name Gianna Jun, is one of the highest-paid Korean actors whose brand value has grown manifold with her Hollywood stints. She rose to massive fame with her role in the 2001 romantic comedy film My Sassy Girl.

The popular Hallyu star’s other notable projects include films like Il Mare, Windstruck, The Berlin File as well as TV series including My Love from the Star and The Legend of the Blue Sea.

Jun kickstarted her Hollywood career as the leading lady in Blood: The Last Vampire. The 2009 vampire action film saw the actor flaunting her martial arts skills in full glory. She even garnered positive reviews from the critics despite the film’s poor box-office run.

Her second international outing was the 2011 historical drama film Blood: The Last Vampire. Directed by Wayne Wang, the film also featured Gianna Jun, Li Bingbing as well as Hugh Jackman. Set in 19th-century China, the movie chronicles a deep friendship between two women, Lily and Snow Flower, and how they’re separated and isolated by their families due to strict cultural codes.

(Hero image credit: yunghun0712/ donlee/ Instagram)

(Feature image credit: yunghun0712/ Instagram)

This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: Are there any Korean actors in Hollywood?

Answer: A number of South Korean artists like Bae Doona, Youn Yuh-jung, Ma Dong-seok and more have starred in Hollywood films.

Question: Who is the most famous celebrity in Korea?

Answer: Some of the most popular Korean actors include Park Seo Joon, Lee Min-ho, Song Hye-kyo, Kim Soo-hyun, Song Joong-ki among others.

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Korean Stars Who Are Taking Over Hollywood, One Film At A Time