Released in 2003, “Dae Jang Geum” became a legendary K-drama in Korea’s history, yet 5 actresses actually turned down leading roles in this series.
The historical K-drama “Dae Jang Geum” is among the most successful on the Korean small screen, with viewership ratings peaking at a whopping 57%. The 2003 series also earned over 40 million USD from selling broadcasting rights to over 60 countries – a remarkable achievement considering the time of release. As “Dae Jang Geum” only cost 15 million USD to make, it was also an extremely profitable venture, and even now, almost 20 years later, the series remains a popular mention among the public.
The massive success of “Dae Jang Geum” has turned leading actress Lee Young Ae into one of the most powerful actresses in Korea, with extremely high appearance fees. In addition, her performance as female lead Dae Jang Geum was so iconic, everyone thought Young Ae to be the first choice for the role. But this turns out to be false.
In particular, the script of Dae Jang Geum actually went through a lot of different actresses before finally reaching Lee Young Ae. While the full number remains unknown, there are 5 names revealed by the Korean media, including Song Hye Kyo, Song Yoon Ah, Kim Ha Neul, Myung Se Bin, and Jang Jin Young.
Regarding Song Hye Kyo, the reason for her rejection was unclear. The only widely discussed information was that at the time, Song Hye Kyo was busy filming for “All In”, where she co-starred alongside famous actors Lee Byung Hun and Ji Sung. While “All In” did achieve noticeable popularity, it totally lost out to “Dae Jang Geum” in all aspects, making netizens quite regretful for the actress. Still, “All In” did kickstart Song Hye Kyo’ romance with Hyun Bin, making for quite the iconic love story until they separated in 2011.
Similar to Song Hye Kyo, Kim Ha Neul, Myung Seo Bin, and Jang Jin Young’s side never revealed the reason for turning down the work. Regardless, it was a huge pity for all of the actresses.
Finally, the first choice of “Dae Jang Geum” was actually actress Song Yoon Ah. This was actually discussed by Lee Byung Hoon, the director of the series who wrote in his autobiography that: “After reading about Dae Jang Geum in history books, I was immediately reminded of Song Yoon Ah, but wasn’t able to recruit her.”
Fortunately, Song Yoon Ah still led a madly successful career despite missing out on such a big project.