When Lee Nayoung first appeared in commercials in 1998, the public noticed her special ‘aura’ immediately. Lee Nayoung is definitely beautiful, but it is a type of beauty that can’t be locked up in the category of typical ‘Beauty’. She has a sense of awe that we feel when we witness the unrealistic unknown existence in reality. Usually, this kind of mysterious charm disappears over time, but surprisingly, Lee Nayoung’s aura has been shining for 22 years since her debut. In other words, it can be called presence, only given to a small number of actors as gifts.
In the 2000s, Korean movies and TV series, which had longed for ‘novelty,’ rushed to seek after Lee Nayoung. The stateless female character Lee played in the SF blockbuster Dream of a Warrior (2001) was impressive, but Lee Nayoung’s novelty shone mainly in trendy youth romance movies. The younger generation, then called X-Generation, did not want a romance between a princess trapped in a castle and a prince on a white horse. They wanted the fantasy of romance in the realistic life of the young generation, who had nothing. Lee Nayoung created unique heroines we had never seen before in the youth romance films Who Are U (2002), the TV series Ruler of Your Own World (MBC, 2002), Ireland (MBC, 2004), and Someone Special (2004). These works are still called ‘Masterpieces of Romance,’ with solid fandoms for almost 20 years. In particular, Someone Special (2004), which won Lee the Best Actress at the Blue Dragon Film Festival, is considered her representative work.
After the ‘complete conquest’ of Lee Nayoung’s romance, including sad melodrama Maundy Thursday (2006), she jumped into a new character. In the mystery melodrama Dream (2008), collaborated with Japan’s leading individual actor Odagiri Jo, Lee Nayoung’s dreamy image served as storytelling in itself. The romantic comedy Lady Daddy (2009), where Lee played the character of a transgender woman, was a very unconventional subject for commercial films at the time. However, since Lee Nayoung starred in the movie, the subject was able to approach the audience in a friendly manner. In Howling (2012), where she starred with Song Kangho, Lee Nayoung tried to broaden her character by doing all actions herself.
The marriage of Lee Nayoung and Won Bin, who made a surprising transformation in Bong Joonho’s representative film Mother (2009), was one of the “big issues” in the Korean entertainment industry. After the cinematic marriage break sweeter than in a film, she returned to the film industry in 2017 with the independent film Beautiful Days (2017). In the movie selected as the opening film of the 23rd Busan International Film Festival, Lee Nayoung took on another bold challenge. Her character is a North Korean defector with a grown son, and in the movie, Lee Nayoung played the curved life of a North Korean defector from a teenager to her 30s. The reason why she chose this movie without being paid for her appearance is so meaningful. “The character is just written ‘Mom’ in the scenario, and she doesn’t even have a name. The movie doesn’t try to give any answers, nor says something is right or wrong, good or bad. I just like the feeling that I am living as a character in the movie.”
It was the right choice for Lee Nayoung, who doesn’t want to stay in the frame defined by the world. Her next film hasn’t been decided yet. That’s why Lee Nayoung’s filmography is like a mystery novel that we can’t predict what’s in the next chapter.’ So the audience waits with more excitement for her next film, which will be unpredictable again. Jung Si woo