Cho Jae-hyun (born June 30, 1965) is a South Korean film, stage, and TV actor. He is commonly dubbed "director Kim Ki-duk's persona" since Cho has starred as leading and supporting characters in almost all films directed by Kim.
Cho Jae-hyun was born in Seoul in 1965. He and his family lived in a poor neighborhood on the slopes of a hill until his father became successful with his restaurant business in the Jongno area, Seoul. In a 2002 interview with the film magazine, Cine 21, Cho said he was a rebellious boy wandering outside of home. He aspired to be a painter, so tried to enter an art high school but failed. When he entered another high school, Cho ran away from home to Busan. Cho worked as a waiter there, and studied on his own to pass a qualification exam equivalent to obtaining a high school diploma. However, Cho failed it, so returned to Seoul to finish his high school year.
Cho was admitted to study film and drama at Kyungsung University. Cho recollected he indulged himself in Busan's culture during his freshman and sophomore years, while he focused on theater for the rest of his university years. Cho said a question from his junior in school during his third summer break shook him to rethink about his future; "What would you do after the graduation from the school?" Cho said he felt shame at the time because he could not clearly answer the question. Therefore, Cho shaped his head and started dedicating to acting.
After the graduation, Cho was selected as a TV actor by a public recruit of Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), and officially debuted as a professional actor by starring as the youngest little brother of Yu In-chon in The Age of Ambition (야먕의 세월). Though, theater stages were his main ground. As Cho and his friends established a theatrical company named "Jongak" (종각, literally "Bell Pavilion"), the company raised several works on the stage such as Tricycles (세발자전거, 1989), Look Back in Anger (성난 얼굴로 돌아보라, 1990) and The Lovers of Woomook-baemi (우묵배미의 사랑, 1990). In the period, Cho set his first priority in play than TV or film. In 1991, Cho won New Actor in Theater at the year's PaekSang Arts Awards for his acting for Equus in which he recreated the leading role, Alan as an innocent person which is largely depicted as a cruel and rebellious character.
When Cho Jae-hyun was 24 years old in 1989, he married his university sweetheart who was an anchor for the university TV. He has one daughter and son. His son, Cho Su-hun is a short track speed skater who won a gold metal from the 500 meter competition for male university students at the 2008 Korean National Winter Sports Festival.