Born Cheon Song Im on August 15, 1981, in Ponghang, North Gyeongsang, Song Ji Hyo is an actress, model, and variety show host in South Korea.
Song said she has dreamed of becoming an actress when she was in high school after watching the South Korean movie Promise with Park Shin Yang.
She eventually debuted as an actress in 2003 and has consistently landed acting projects since, with Princess Hours and Jumong among her most notable works.
She also graduated from Kyungmoon University (presently known as Kookje College) with a degree in tax accounting and worked at a café for a time before she ventured into acting.
Song is most popularly known as one of the regular cast members of the hit SBS variety program, Running Man.
Song first started as a model before she became an actress. Her first modeling gig was for the front cover of Kiki Magazine in 2001. It was also the time when she chose to have “Song Ji Hyo” as her stage name because of two famous actors that she admires – Song Seung Heon and Song Hye Kyo.
Aside from modeling, Song also made appearances in music videos, particularly Lee Soo Young’s “And I Love You” and JTL’s “Just Say Goodbye”, as well as a cameo appearance on SBS’ The Age of Innocence.
In 2003, she made her film debut as the lead actress for the third installment of the Whispering Corridors film series, Wishing Stairs. She reportedly beat out 3,000 actors in the audition to bag the role. Her role in the film earned her a nomination at the 24th Blue Dragon Film Awards for the Best New Actress category. A year later, she landed another starring role in the crime thriller Some where she played the character of Seo Yu Jin, a reporter who teams up with a rookie cop in investigating drug trafficking and corruption in the police force.
In 2006, Song was part of the main cast of the widely popular MBC drama Princess Hours as the second female lead. In the same year, she also became part of another MBC drama, the historical television series Jumong, where she played Jumong (Song Il Kook)’s first wife, Lady Ye So Ya. These two dramas paved the way for Song’s rising popularity in South Korea, as well as other countries in Asia, as Princess Hours was one of the television dramas that contributed to the Hallyu wave, while Jumong was another hit, having the highest viewership ratings among all dramas that aired in 2006.
After the success of A Frozen Flower, Song became part of the variety show Running Man on SBS in 2010. At first, she was just a guest on episodes 2 to 5 of the program. It was eventually announced that Song will be part of the show as a regular cast member from episode 7 onwards. She joins original members Yoo Jae Suk, Ji Suk Jin, Lee Kwang Soo, Haha, Kim Jong Kook, and Song Joong Ki.
In between her work for Running Man, Song also took part in the dramas Detectives in Trouble (KBS2), where she reunited with former Jumong co-star Song (Il Kook), and another historical television series Gyebaek (MBC). In the same year, she was cast in the sleeper hit Late Blossom based on the manhwa (web comic) I Love You by webtoon artist Kang Full.
In 2012, Song starred in the action comedy movie Code Name: Jackal where she played the role of an assassin alongside JYJ’s Kim Jae Joong. The film was pre-sold by distributor Lotte Entertainment to six other Asian countries before it’s official release in South Korea.
Song remains to be a favorite for historical dramas with KBS2’s Heaven’s Order: The Fugitive of Joseon marking her return to the small screen in 2013 where she worked with her good friend Lee Dong Wook. In the same year, she lent her voice for the animated movie Maritime Police Marco, this time working with her Running Man co-host Lee (Kwang Soo). Song also starred in the critically acclaimed crime drama film, New World, which tallied 4.67 million admissions during its screening.
In 2014, she bagged her first project in tvN with the romantic comedy and medical drama Emergency Couple alongside Choi Jin Hyuk. The two had really good chemistry that the drama became so popular among viewers. Due to high ratings, it was given an extension of one episode and broadcasting rights were eventually sold to nine countries.
Song and her fellow Running Man cast members made a cameo appearance in the new SBS drama The Girl Who Sees Smells in 2015. A month later, her drama Ex-Girlfriend Club with Byun Yo Han started airing on tvN.
2016 continued to be a productive year for the actress landing another starring role in the JTBC drama My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week where she played the role of an adulterous wife to Lee Sun Kyun’s character. She also made a cameo appearance on Entourage, a remake of the US television series top-billed by Lee (Kwang Soo).
Song’s success and international popularity was cemented when, in the same year, she starred in two Chinese films – 708090 and Super Express. She worked with Taiwanese singer-songwriter and actor Kenji Wu in 708090 which was filmed on location in Shenzhen and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Super Express, meanwhile, is another comedy film where she worked with Chinese actor Chen He.
In 2017, Song was announced to be part of the film Wind Wind Wind and the tvN drama Chief B and the Love Letter.
On Running Man
In 2010, Song appeared on episodes 2-6 of Running Man alongside Goo Hara (Kara), Lee Chun Hee, Jessica Jung (Girls’ Generation), and Nichkhun (2PM) as a guest. Perhaps proving that she meshes well with the other cast members and that she has the skills to do variety, she was then made a regular member on the 7th episode and has continued to entertain viewers with her athleticism up to present.
The actress is a force to be reckoned with on the show, being deemed as one of the strongest players even during the time when she was the lone female member of the cast.
Alliances and Relationships on Running Man
- Ji Hyo + Yoo Jae Suk – Candy Alliance, Yoo-Mong
The alliance was formed when Ji Hyo gave Jae Suk a candy, hence the name Candy Alliance. Ji Hyo, however, betrays Jae Suk in the end by ripping off his name tag and eventually ousting him from the game.
- Ji Hyo + Lee Kwang Soo – Kwang-Mong Siblings
The Kwang-Mong Siblings was a product of Ji Hyo and Kwang Soo’s relationship that is often compared to that of siblings. ‘Kwang’ comes from Kwang Soo’s name, while ‘Mong’ is the Korean translation of the word “blank” which is also Ji Hyo’s other identifier. They are often seen bickering on the show, but they also show care and concern for each other on and off cam.
- Ji Hyo + Jeon So Min – Blank-Dumb Sisters
When So Min was added to the regular cast members, she instantly developed a great relationship with Ji Hyo. The two were later on dubbed the Blank-Dumb Sisters by Jae Suk – “Blank” referring to Ji Hyo who’s nickname on the show is ‘Blank Ji’ and “Dumb” referring to So Min who is deemed dumb by other co-hosts.
- Ji Hyo + Gary – Monday Couple
Ji Hyo and Gary’s tandem is the one of the most loved and popular relationships on the show. They were once referred to as the Monday Couple because they often feign affection towards each other on Mondays. It developed as early as the first season of Running Man in 2010 and became as the major loveline on the show. At first, other cast members thought it was a one-sided relationship until Ji Hyo referred to Gary as her “man” on Mondays on a later episode.
- Ji Hyo + Gary and Haha – Love Triangle
During the earlier episodes of Running Man, the Monday Couple (Ji Hyo and Gary) formed a love triangle with Haha. Haha would often be seen competing against Gary during their missions to win over Ji Hyo.
- Ji Hyo + Gary + Ji Suk Jin – Father and the Monday Couple, Monday Couple and the Third Wheel
When the Monday Couple was first teamed up with Suk Jin, Jae Suk joked that it was as if the couple are going out on a date with a father or chaperone. On a later episode, Suk Jin admitted that he indeed felt like a third wheel whenever he was teamed up with Ji Hyo and Gary because it seemed like the two are actually dating while doing their mission.
- Ji Hyo + Song Joong Ki – Song-Song Couple, Song-Song Siblings
Ji Hyo and Joong Ki’s loveline is another favorite among viewers which first drew attention when Joong Ki kissed Ji Hyo on the cheek. Fans also shipped the two together as Joong Ki often tried to interfere with the Monday Couple and made it seem like he was competing against Gary for Ji Hyo’s affection. Later on, their relationship developed into a sibling relationship which then gave birth to the Song-Song Siblings.
Running Man Contreversy
On December 2016, news broke that Ji Hyo, along with fellow long-time cast member Kim Jong Kook, are going to be let go from Running Man after seven years of being a regular cast of the show. The news came as a shock to loyal fans as well as to Ji Hyo and Jong Kook themselves as they were reportedly not informed of the producer’s plans to take them out of Running Man prior to the announcement.
It was revealed that the long-running SBS variety program will be undergoing a format change. The new season will also be ushering in new hosts including veteran variety host Kang Ho Dong. However, after media reported about Ji Hyo and Jong Kook’s removal without prior notice, Kang refused to accept the offer to join Running Man.
Ji Hyo only reportedly found out about her removal from the show when the news made headlines. Her agency released a statement that they were blindsided by the announcement and that the actress was very hurt, decided to cut off all communications and cried her heart out.
After the immediate shock has somehow subsided, Ji Hyo and Jong Kook announced that they will be donating their appearance fees for the remaining episodes they are scheduled to film on Running Man until February 2017.
In a later development, cast members reached a consensus that they will all be leaving the show in February. But on January 2017, SBS announced that Running Man will continue airing with Ji Hyo and Jong Kook as part of the regular cast.
In 2012, Ji Hyo confirmed reports that she is dating Baek Chang Joo, the CEO of C-JeS Entertainment, which also manages her career. After a year of dating, the two reportedly parted ways and has since maintained a professional relationship as manager and actress until 2015 when the agency announced that Ji Hyo’s exclusive contract with them has ended. She subsequently signed an exclusive contract with MY (Make You) Agency the following year.