The Truth About Squid Game Star Jung Ho-Yeon

Since its release on Netflix on September 17, "Squid Game" is on track to be the platform's biggest show of all time (via NBC). The nine-episode Korean thriller tells the story of Seong Gi-Hun, a gambling addict who's deeply in debt and on the brink of financial ruin. Along with over 400 fellow contestants, he gets invited to compete in a series of six children's games with violent twists in order to walk away with billions in prize money. As of this week, "Squid Game" remained perched at the number one streaming show in not only the United States but across the world from South Korea to the United Kingdom.

One of the breakout stars of the show is Jung Ho-Yeon, who plays the enigmatic Kang Sae-byeok — known for most of the show as Player 067 (via Glamour). Kang Sae-byeok is a defector from North Korea who has spent much of her savings in efforts to reunite her family and enters the game to continue that mission. A hard-edged pickpocket with a soft spot for her young brother and the members of her alliance in the game, Kang Sae-byeok captivated audiences everywhere. 

Who is Jung Ho-Yeon, the woman who brought such a compelling character to life? Keep reading to find out.

She was a model in Korea before "Squid Game"

Jung Ho-Yeon was born in June of 1994 in Seoul, South Korea (via Marie Claire). She began her modeling career when she was just 16 years old, and competed on Season 4 of "Korea's Next Top Model." She placed as runner-up that season, which gave her international modeling career a jump start. She signed as an exclusive model with Louis Vuitton in 2016 and has since modeled for the likes of Chanel and Roberto Cavalli and appeared on the covers of "Vogue Korea," "Vogue Japan," and "Harper's BAZAAR Korea."

In fact, Jung Ho-Yeon was once dubbed in 2015 as "Korea's next top model" by VogueGlamour wrote, "Take Hanne Gaby Odiele's flair for street style, add the goofy selfie antics of Cara Delevingne, and you have one of Seoul's top modeling talents, a redheaded stunner who — we're calling it now — will be the next Korean girl to make a splash stateside." 

"Squid Game" is her first acting role

While Jung Ho-Yeon is no stranger to the spotlight, her turn as Kang Sae-byeok was her first time on-screen. In an interview with "W Korea" (translated by NME), Jung Ho-Yeon revealed that she was actually modeling in New York Fashion Week when she received the information for "Squid Game." She explained that she actually thought she'd be receiving more training from her current agency, but was sent the "Squid Game" script only a month after signing.

Jung Ho-Yeon told "W Korea" of the experience, "I remember how I spent all my time reading the script apart from when I ate food. I sent the video in, and the director contacted me, asking me to meet in person. So I dropped everything and flew in right away." She explained that her first reaction was a mix of excitement and anxiety, and when she found out she'd been cast, she even said to the CEO of her agency, "Thank you very much, but I can do this?"

She believes she's similar to her Squid Game character

In an interview with "W Korea," Jung Ho-Yeon spoke about her preparation for her role in "Squid Game." The Seoul native told the publication that in order to educate herself on Kang Sae-byeok's history as a North Korean defector, she "watched a lot of documentaries about North Korean defectors" and "practiced speaking in a North Korean accent with a teacher, and studied a lot" (via NME).

However, Jung Ho-Yeon was able to find a personal connection between herself and her character. "More than anything, I think I was able to accept [the character] Kang Sae-byeok without any big difficulties because I am similar to her," she said, per NME. "In 2016 I left Korea to further my modeling career overseas, and I spent a lot of time alone. At the time, the emotion that I felt the most was 'loneliness' ... That feeling of loneliness while trying to persevere and live isn't all that different." It looks like all of Jung Ho-Yeon's sacrifices and hard work have paid off, as she's officially a TV starlet.