Starting as the icon of the heart-pounding first love, she powers up by trying to make a drastic transformation

Lee Yeonhee

The best word that suits Lee Yeonhee is ‘heartbeat.’ When she was a teenager, the actor appeared in music videos of leading K-pop musicians, drawing attention from early on for her innocent image. She was recognized for her star quality even before becoming an actor, and she debuted with the film A Millionaire’s First Love (2006). Lee became everybody’s first love after she played the sweetheart of Hyun Bin, who played a millionaire in the film. The girl Lee Yeonhee played never gave up her love until she died.

Korean films have long enjoyed commercial success with pure melodramas based on first love. The retro-style melodramas, which emphasize longing and innocence, are also a feature of Korean films. This atmosphere continued in the mid-2000s, and Lee Yeonhee is one of the actors who contributed to the success of the romance genre.

Lee’s fresh and mischievous smile shown in The Millionaire’s First Love added to the intensity of pain in the mystery film M (2007). Like the heroine who faces a tragic death in the opera La Bohème, a girl named Mimi cannot accept her death. Mimi, who is full of mistakes due to the excitement of love, wanders around novelist Han Minwoo (Kang Dongwon) after she died in an accident and only exists as a muse in his memories. “Forget me not!” Her voice resonates poignantly.

After depicting the unsustainable pain of love, the actor’s palpitations continue in Love, First (2007) and Hello, Schoolgirl (2008). In the former, the actor appears as a college student learning to drink with a senior who she has a crush on, while in the latter, as a girl who loves a 30-year-old guy. Whether she plays an easy-going college student or a high school girl who is more considerate than an adult, the actor has constantly settled in the audience’s heart as a love-struck character.

In 2013, she became every guy’s sweetheart through the TV series Miss Korea, but the topic of love continued even after she grew some more as an actor. In Marriage Blue (2013), the character played by Lee cancels her wedding with her fiancé she has been dated for seven years, choosing a man who makes her heart beat. While Marriage Blue (2013) is the Korean version of Chick Lit which depicts women’s work and love, NEW YEAR BLUES (2021) reflects the values of young people who seek work-life balance by showing them free from work and recharging themselves in Buenos Aires,

Lee Yeonhee, who captures the sensibility of love and trend, has evolved into an actor who realistically reflects the life and love of a city-living woman through pure melodramas and romantic comedies. In other words, her filmography is all about Korean romance movies. When she played other types of characters, such as a femme fatale in the historical comedy Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island (2015), and sci-fi mystery Manxin (2020), the actor received unexpected attention. Such a transformation is also meaningful, but she still excels at the romance genre. The move Lee Yeonhee chooses in her 30s will be a barometer to measure the way of love in our time. Jeon Jonghyuk