Bae Jongok is a female actor who enjoyed her heyday in Korean movies and dramas in the 1990s and 2000s. She made her debut as a KBS special TV actor in 1985 and acted in TV series for a while. After that, she starred as Gina, a new generation female college student loved by Chil-su (Park Joonghoon), in the masterpiece Chil-su and Man-su (1988), which captures the Korean social situation in the 1980s. In Portrait of the Days of Youth (1991), Bae played Jeomsun, a barmaid who shared feelings with immature Younghoon (Jeong Boseok), a wandering young man who tried to find his own self, and saved him from the crisis of death. Bae Jongok showed a three-dimensional character who was secular but humane. The film allowed her to gain attention for her acting and let her win the Best Supporting Actress at the Grand Bell Awards, securing her position as an excellent female actor. In Walking All The Way To Heaven (1992), she played Jisook, a pickpocket woman who dreamed of a rise in social status. She sobbed when Mulsae (Jeong Boseok) died, who resembled her, showing stable performance with her unique calm voice.
After making success in the film world, Bae Jongok starred in popular TV series at KBS, MBC, and SBS, loved by viewers for her differentiated image of a chic modern woman, unlike female characters in the existing melodramas. Rather than simply being rebellious, she played characters who flexibly captured the women’s emotions and changes of time in the 1990s, and her performance, which was good at empathizing, was more prominent by reflecting the troubles and conflicts that those women suffered at that time. Bae’s chic and mature image of making free choices in life goals and relationships continued to the films in the 2000s. In Jealousy Is My Middle Name (2003), Bae Jongok played Park Seongyeon, who changed her job as a photographer. She exuded middle-aged charms as a down-to-earth woman who enjoyed love with two men from the magazine company. In Love Talk (2005), Bae played Sunny, who runs a massage shop in downtown LA, expressing the emptiness of life and love. In the two films, Bae adds the agony of life to her image along with her free-spirited charms. She had a softness as if she could embrace everyone, but on one side, there was a loneliness that she could not hide.
After that, Bae Jongok began to stand out again in films not as someone’s lover but as a mother. In Herb (2007), she appeared as a tough mother who took care of her mentally retarded daughter. In The Most Beautiful Goodbye (2011), she played a typical Korean mother who silently sacrificed herself while doing housework for her family, wetting the eyes of the audience with the role of a mother with cancer. In In Between Seasons (2018), Bae played the mother who changed her heart after learning the hidden love of her son in a vegetative state, and in Innocence, she played the speaker of a mother with dementia who became a murder suspect. In the heartbreaking story of mother and daughter, Bae expressed the sorrow for not being able to protect her daughter. She has continued to appear in popular TV series including Graceful Family and Mr. Queen as well as active on the theatrical stage. In 2018, Bae Jongok received a rave review when she starred in The Truth, the play written by Florian Zeller, a French writer. Bae recently appeared in the play The Dressing Room, which depicts the sorrows of actors. Although she has already established herself as a seasoned actor who represents maternal love, Bae Jongok still has a lot to challenge as an actor. Jeon Jonghyuk