by Lily Alice, April 24, 2024

Queen of Tears is the talk of the K-drama town. From its plot to visuals, OST, and star-studded cast, viewers have been raving about the K-drama ever since its premiere.

Among the many factors contributing to the drama's success is Kim Ji Won. The K-actress's fame has skyrocketed to a whole new level, for good reasons, all thanks to her spectacular performance as a chaebol heiress. But that isn't the only reason. The actress has been drawing attention for her character portrayal and fashion sense, which reminded netizens of an influential chaebol heiress. 

Though, at the K-drama's press conference, the actress mentioned she "took lessons [to learn] about chaebols' [lifestyle] and paid a lot of attention to my styling," netizens were quick to point how Hong Hae In resembled one chaebol heiress in particular —  Samsung scion and Hotel Shilla CEO Lee Boo Jin. 

When the K-drama premiered, many spotted similarities between Kim Ji Won's character, Hong Hae In, and Hotel Shilla CEO Lee Boo Jin. Comments like, "Is Hong Hae In actually Lee Boo Jin [in real life]?" to "It seems like the writer had Lee Boo Jin in mind while writing," and "Didn't Lee Boo Jin also marry an ordinary employee and then got a divorce?" poured in. Speculations arose if Queen of Tears took inspiration from the real-life story of the Samsung scion, whose life story itself is nothing less than a K-drama. 

Here are some aspects viewers find strikingly similar between the reel and real-life CEOs, with the third one being the most controversial. 

Note: This article may contain spoilers.

1. Chaebol Fashion

While Baek Hyun Woo might mistake Hae In's vintage clothes for being worn and torn out, or her tweed outfit to be something his humble grandmother would wear, fashion enthusiasts watching the K-drama realize Hae In's wardrobe comprises meticulously curated pieces from renowned fashion brands such as Bulgari, Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, Balmain, and such.

Hong Hae In's famous Eyelet-Embellished Wool Jacket, which she paired with the Oscar De La Renta Ruffled Shirt in episode 1, is from Alexander McQueen, the same brand known to be worn by Lee Boo Jin at her shareholder meetings. 

In fact, the all-white suit worn by Lee earlier this year at the Hotel Shilla shareholders meeting was also an Alexander McQueen piece. 

Year by year, the CEO has become known for wearing Alexander McQueen at these meetings, which, in South Korea, has now come to be recognized as "Lee Boo Jin's shareholders meeting fashion." As much as Lee is famous for her business acumen, she is also quite well-known as a style icon. The fashion items she is seen wearing in public appearances often sell out shortly afterwards, as the public pays close attention to what the boss is wearing. 

Her business suits, exclusive handbags, and high-end jewelry manifest her power and exude elegance, a trait similarly seen in Hong Hae In.  

Both boss ladies exude commanding charisma and have a sophisticated image and an upscale fashion sense. 

On another interesting note, Hae In's walk-in wardrobe (shown in episode 3), furnished with luxurious fashion items, was sponsored by Dint, a Korean women's luxury designer clothing and fashion brand liked and worn by Lee Boo Jin. 

2. Women with Strong Business Acumen 

Both Hong Hae In and Lee Boo Jin are blessed with beauty and brains. 

In the K-drama, CEO Hong Hae In is portrayed as a businesswoman with a sharp acumen, which leads Queens Department Store to experience tremendous growth under her leadership.

Something similar can be said about Lee Boo Jin. Ever since she took the reins of Hotel Shilla, the business has flourished into a leading global hospitality company. Lee has even earned the nickname "Little Kun Hee" after her father and former Samsung Chairman, Lee Kun Hee, due to her business acumen. Moreover, this South Korean billionaire businesswoman has secured a spot on Forbes' lists multiple times. 

In Queen of Tears, Hae In tirelessly strives to get Queens Department Store into the 1 Trillion Club (businesses that have achieved 1 trillion won in sales). To achieve that, she must get the globally renowned brand Hercyna in her department store before the Royal Department Store beats her to it. As a result, she spares no efforts to persuade the Hercyna chairman, who clearly seems hard to convince. In episode 3, Yoon Eun Seong (Park Sung Hoon) lets Hae In in on the secret of securing the deal: Hercyna wants two floors in the department store it's partnering with and a significant alteration in the building structure. Determined to secure the deal, Hae In resolves to do so at any cost. 

Lee Boo Jin faced a similar situation to getting the French luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton to her duty-free shop in 2010 while competing with Lotte Duty Free.

At that time, Louis Vuitton had constantly refused to open outlets within airports anywhere in the world, citing difficulties in offering the best shopping experience to its customers. But that changed later on. 

In 2011, Louis Vuitton opened its first-ever airport store at Incheon International Airport in partnership with Shilla Duty Free. Among the various factors that led to the successful partnership was the company promising Louis Vuitton the "best and largest location" to win the widely-publicized bid. Since then, CEO Lee is said to have close ties with the LVMH family. 

Lee Boo Jin's efforts to persuade Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH Group, is a famous anecdote in the business world. It is reported that "In 2010, Hotel Silla CEO Lee Boo Jin went to Incheon International Airport herself to greet Arnault and successfully convinced him to open a Louis Vuitton boutique at her duty-free shop ― beating out rival Lotte Duty Free." 

Another important similar aspect is the two women's commitment to work. Through most of the first half of Queen of Tears, Hong Hae In is portrayed as a workaholic woman. When asked to say something to her future self, to keep a sweet memory of her wedding day (episode 1), she questions the necessity of such a task, stating she would be too busy with life to revisit it years later. Even if she does view the tape, she advises her future self to turn it off and get to work immediately. 

This workaholic nature is mirrored in Lee Boo Jin, who reportedly "returned to work just three days after giving birth" to her son. 

3. A "Mr. Cinderella" for a Husband

Hong Hae In and Lee Boo Jin are not the Cinderellas of their stories. Both women married men from humble backgrounds, and their marriage stories highlight several striking similarities.  

Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun) and Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won) on the left. Im Woo Jae and Lee Boo Jin on the right. 

Baek Hun Woo (Hong Hae In's Husband)
Im Woo Jae (Lee Boo Jin's Husband)
Baek Hyun Woo hails from a humble family, has a law degree from Seoul National University and worked as an ordinary employee at the Queens Department Store.Im Woo Jae is a graduate of Dongguk University's Department of Electronic Engineering and hails from an ordinary household. He was an employee of a security service affiliate of Samsung Group and worked as a bodyguard for the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun Hee and Lee Boo Jin.
In the K-drama, Queen's Group heiress Hong Hae In marries an ordinary employee, Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun), whom she grows fond of during her "undercover internship." Oblivious to Hae In's true identity, Hyun Woo confidently proposes, stating that he graduated from Seoul National University, owns a house, and can provide for her, unaware of Hong Hae In’s background.

Lee Boo Jin met Im Woo Jae at a Samsung Foundation charity event in 1995 when she was an "undercover intern" at the company. They dated for four years and married in 1999.

Initially, Im Woo Jae was unaware of Lee Boo Jin’s family background.

Later, when Hyun Woo discovers Hae In's status, he flees in embarrassment to his hometown of Yongdu-ri. However, Hae In pushes for the marriage, and they become a couple.

Despite their fairy tale beginning, they drift apart within three years of marriage.

Im Woo Jae reportedly stated that he initially refused to marry Lee Boo Jin because there was "too much of a gap between our family backgrounds."

The couple grew apart later on, and their divorce proceedings lasted from 2015 to 2020.

Everyone said it was the "Wedding of the Century". The heiress to Korea's most powerful conglomerate married a new recruit.
 — Baek Hyun Woo (Episode 1)
After marrying Lee Boo Jin, Im Woo Jae came to be known as "Mr. Cinderella" because of his humble background. People called their wedding the "Wedding of the Century" because a chaebol heiress married an employee of her family's company.

Baek Hyun Woo went from being an ordinary office employee to becoming the Legal Director of Queens Group after his marriage to Hong Hae In.
Im quickly rose through the ranks at his in-laws' company and was promoted to Executive Vice President at Samsung Electro-Mechanics after obtaining an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
In episode 1 of Queen of Tears, Baek Hun Woo's in-laws tell him to go abroad to get an MBA, a decision in which he seems to have no choice. Throughout the K-drama, Baek Hyun Woo is shown to be helpless when it comes to the demands made by his in-laws.
In 2016, when divorce proceedings between Lee Boo Jin and Im Woo Jae were making headlines in Korea, Im stated in an interview, "Going to the US to study after marriage was a living nightmare."

Im Woo Jae also reportedly said he had no choice in the matter because Chairman Lee told him to do so, since "at Samsung, the chairman's words are taken as gospel."

In the K-drama, Baek Hyun Woo is shown to be under immense pressure because of his wife and in-laws family. He confesses to his therapist that he would prefer getting stabbed with a knife rather than letting his in-laws discover his plans to get a divorce.
In 2016, Im Woo Jae confessed, "Preparing to study abroad was so hard for me that I even tried to kill myself." 
Baek Hyun Woo's boss is his wife, Hong Hae In, whose boss is her father, Hong Beom Jun (Jung Jin Young), whose boss is his father, Hong Man Dae (Kim Gab Soo).  
Im Woo Jae's boss was his wife Lee Boo Jin, whose boss was her father and the late Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun Hee.

While these speculations about Hong Hae In from Queen of Tears resembling Lee Boo Jin persist, neither writer Park Ji Eun, actress Kim Ji Won, nor tvN has confirmed or denied any of them at the time of writing.


Additional References (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)