Jung Ho-yeon
Squid Game: Everything To Know About Netflix's Most-Watched Korean Drama Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/WireImage

South Korean actress Hoyeon Jung just landed on the cover of US Vogue’s February issue. The model-turned-actress of Netflix's instant hit series “Squid Game” is the first Korean to ever grace the cover of the reputed US fashion magazine in a solo photo feature.

According to Vogue, Jung became an overnight success within just weeks of the show’s airing. In three weeks, the 27-year-old actress who plays the brooding North Korean defector, Kae Sae-byeok, watched her Instagram followers grow from 400,000 to 15 million.

“Squid Game” has become Netflix’s most-viewed series and is watched by 142 million households around the world.

During her in-depth interview with Vogue writer Monica Kim, Jung gives us a closer look at the facets of her ascension in the ranks of the fashion world and her acclaimed role in “Squid Game.”

Humble beginnings

She is the second of three daughters, born and raised in Seoul’s outskirts. Her father ran their family street hawker-style diner called Ooro Nara which literally translates to “Our Country”. The diner operates 24/7 and her father would serve mounds of steaming rice accompanied with a side of bone-broth stews, spiced with green onions and Korean pepper flakes. Jung said it was from her father that she inherited her love for cooking.

Jung grew up as a “tomboy” and as a girl, she never really paid much attention to fashion, let alone dreaming up a modeling career. But being noticeably tall, standing at 5’9” many locals who have crossed paths with her would tell her to become a model. This opened up options for her to explore and from there, she started to look into castings.

She attributes her foray into the modeling industry to her ambitious self, as she enjoyed living up to a challenge. Jung signed up with Seoul’s leading modeling agency which pushed her to place second on Korea’s Next Top Model a the age of 19.

Breaking borders

Barely six months from her stint with Korea’s Next Top Model, Jung found herself signing up with The Society in New York. She had dyed her hair red earning her signature look. From there, she moved into Koreatown on 34th Street. “I paid $1,500 a month for this tiny space,” she said looking back. “The sun never came in and there was no closet, so I kept my clothes on a rack.”

While Fashion Week 2016 in Paris was well underway, she caught the eye of Louis Vuitton's artistic director Nicolas Ghesquière. She became an exclusive house model. “Hoyeon was so very special. She was super generous and friendly. We all fell in love with her,” Ghesquière said.

From runway to reel

In 2020, Jung suddenly had a change of heart and shifted gears from modeling to acting. The sudden shift had her parents worried, but seeing as how she had handled her rise in the fashion world trusted her decision. "Squid Game" writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk found his Kae Sae-byeok in Jung for his 10 years in the making project. The 50-year-old director said he saw in her the kind of actor he had never seen before.

“I was hoping for someone fresh, with a different aura,” Hwang said.

Within a week of auditioning for the part, Jung flew home to Seoul with good news and a new acting career in tow.

Hoyeon Jung's net worth

Right now, her net worth is estimated at $4milion. While basking in her success, Jung has yet another goal in mind. To dye her hair purple. She hopes to be offered another role that calls her to color her hair like in “Eternal Sunshine.”

Jung Ho-yeon
Jung Ho-yeon attends the 2021 Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 29, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

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