Not Lee Young Ae, this actress was the first choice for the iconic role in “Dae Jang Geum”

The heroine of the classic historical drama Dae Jang Geum was almost played by this actress. 

Dae Jang Geum, also known as Jewel in the Palace, is a historical Korean drama produced in 2003 directed by Lee Byung Hoon and broadcast on MBC. It is based on the real-life story of Jang Geum, the first female royal physician of the Joseon era. Dae Jang Geum portrays the image of a traditional Korean woman with perseverance and determination in creating nutritious and healthy royal dishes and traditional medicine. With a production cost of about 15 million USD, the drama achieved an average rating of 46.3% and peaked at 57.8% in Korea and earned nearly 40 million USD for broadcasting in 60 different countries around the world.

Dae Jang Geum also became the most iconic work in Lee Young Ae‘s career. The drama brought her many important awards and helped her become an A-list actress. However, Lee Young Ae was actually not the first choice for this role. In his autobiography, director Lee Byung Hoon revealed, “After reading about Jang Geum in history books, the first actress I thought of was Song Yoon Ah, but she rejected.” Not only Dae Jang Geum, Song Yoon Ah also turned down the female lead role in 2 other well-known historical dramas, Hur Jun and Jumong.

Born in 1973, Song Yoon Ah used to be the beauty queen of Hanyang University. When she was in her final year of Anthropology, she was introduced to a modeling agency by a friend.  In 1995, after winning three major prizes in KBS’s Super Talent contest, the beauty debuted as a model and actress. Song Yoon Ah was called a “muse” by many directors and was considered the standard by which to judge the natural beauty of Korean actresses in the second half of the 1990s. The actress received so many advertising contracts that, on those days, wherever you went in Seoul, you could see Song Yoon Ah on advertising posters or TVC clips.

She has participated in hit dramas such as Paper Crane, Jail Breakers, and more.  But the peak of Song Yoon Ah’s acting career was the role of Han Yeon Ji in the drama “The Boss“, co-starring Cha In Pyo. This role of Song Yoon Ah has made her a sought-after name in Korea.  During her acting career, Song Yoon Ah won the Best Supporting Actress award at the three most prestigious film awards ceremonies in Korea, namely Blue Dragon Film Awards, Golden Bell Awards and Chunsa Film Art Awards, along with countless other awards.

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