A Force to Reckon With

Jun Ji Hyun has earned the adoration of Asian audiences by acting tough. In 2001's blockbuster romantic comedy My Sassy Girl, she outdrank and verbally abused her meek onscreen boyfriend, all (more or less) in the name of love. In person, you don't get many of the withering glares, emasculating insults—and certainly not the Tyson-like uppercut—that Jun displayed on screen. Instead, you meet someone who politely waits for you to order lunch. In real life, it turns out, Jun isn't that sassy.

But the screen persona has made the 22-year-old poster girl of South Korean cinema's commercial renaissance...

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