Lee's most noticeable works are: Joint Security Area; A Bittersweet Life; The Good, The Bad, and The Weird; and I Saw The Devil.
Lee made his acting debut in 1991, when he auditioned in the KBS Super Talent, and got his first role in the television drama "Asphalt My Hometown". Lee's later movie, Joint Security Area, directed by Park Chan-wook, was a smash hit. He won Best Actor jointly with Song Kang-ho at the 2000 Pusan Film Critics Awards. After Lee's role in Bungee Jumping of Their Own, his acting gathered widespread recognition.
In 2001, he played the role of Lee Min-chul in the Korean drama Beautiful Days with Choi Ji-woo. He then starred in the drama All In with Song Hye-kyo, for which he won the Grand Prize (Daesang) at the 2003 SBS Drama Awards and Best Actor at the 42nd Paeksang Arts Awards. In 2004, Lee played the lead in the movie Everybody Has Secrets with Choi Ji-woo, Chu Sang-mi and Kim Hyo-jin.
A Bittersweet Life, released in 2005. His first villain role was in the 2008 Korean western film The Good, the Bad, the Weird directed by Kim Ji-woon. In December 2007, it was confirmed that Lee was cast as the villain Storm Shadow in the live-action G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film. It was directed by Stephen Sommers and also starred Sienna Miller and Channing Tatum. T
From October to December 2009, Lee starred in the Korean drama IRIS with Kim Tae-hee. It marked his return to TV drama in 6 years since All In in 2003. For his performance, Lee received the Grand Prize (Daesang) award at the 2009 KBS Drama Acting Awards and Best Actor at the 46th Paeksang Arts Awards.
In 2010, Lee starred in Kim Ji-woon's thriller film I Saw the Devil with Choi Min-sik. In 2011, he will reprise his role as Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe 2, which will be released on August 10, 2012.
Lee is fluent in English and able to speak French and Mandarin, in addition to his native Korean. His western name is "Brian". He has a major in French Literature, as well as in Theater and Cinematography.