Yunjin Kim was born November 7, 1973, in Seoul, South Korea, where she lived until the age of ten when she immigrated to New York City with her parents. Although she would grow to love her adopted homeland, Yunjin struggled at first to fit in, and it wasn’t until the seventh grade that she truly came into her own. That year, in an attempt to overcome her shyness, she began taking drama classes and she made her acting debut in a school production of My Fair Lady. “I was cast as only an extra, but that day, I stood on the stage and sang loudly in my own voice,” she recalls. “I felt so at home under the lights… something about being on stage just felt right.”
Yunjin Kim was instantly hooked and she subsequently transferred to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts where she threw herself headlong into acting and performance. Yunjin’s commitment and passion helped her to set herself apart from her classmates, and she furthered her studies at the prestigious London Academy of Performing Arts and Boston University, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting.
After appearing in a number of Broadway productions, Yunjin Kim received her big break in 1996 when she was cast in a phenomenally successful Korean mini-series called Beautiful Vacation. “It took off,” she says, still marveling at the show’s critical and popular reception. “It was crazy! I became recognizable overnight.” That notoriety paved the way for a number of other lucrative offers, and Yunjin elected to remain in Korea where she starred in the television dramas Wedding Dress and With Love.
By now one of the country’s most promising young stars, Yunjin Kim made her big screen debut in 1999, in Shiri, an intense action film in which she convincingly played a deadly assassin. The high-octane flick went on to become the highest-grossing Korean-made movie of all time, and it successfully secured Yunjin’s place as a darling of the Korean cinema.
In the years that followed, Yunjin Kim showcased her impressive versatility with roles in the fantasy film The Legend of Gingko, the crime caper Rush!, the slapstick comedy Mr. Iron Palm, and the futuristic thriller Yesterday. Although audiences reacted well to the films, Yunjin began to grow tired of the limitations of the Korean film industry, and she made the decision to return to the United States in 2003.
It proved to be a savvy decision and Yunjin Kim was soon cast in Lost, a daring new drama created by television wunderkind J.J. Abrams. The show, which is now entering its fifth season, has won 38 awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Television Series and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. “I feel like Lost has sort of paved the way for a foreign character to come on American television and speak their own language for a very long time,” she says. “I’m really proud of that. I feel like we’re representing our people. Having us on these shows, [having] different ethnic types in general, is great.”
Yunjin Kim was seen next in Two Sisters, a light-hearted family comedy costarring Margaret Cho, in 2008. Then, in 2009, she made AskMen.com’s Top 99 Most Desirable Women, ranking in at No. 72.