Inspiration Behind “Queen of Tears”

Starring Kim Ji-Won as heiress Hong Hae-in and Kim Soo-Hyun as Baek Hyun-woo, Queen of Tears has been garnering positive reception for turning patriarchy on its head with refreshing portrayals. The Netflix drama was actually inspired by the real-life story of Korean billionaire heiress Lee Boo-Jin, the eldest daughter of late Samsung chairman, who was nicknamed “Little Kun-Hee” for her business acumen.

Failed Assimilation into Chaebol Family

Lee met Im Woo-jae who was working as a bodyguard, during a Samsung company-organized volunteer work program in 1995. Despite their distinctly different backgrounds, they fell passionately in love and decided to marry, though Lee Boo-jin’s dad Lee Kun-Hee unsurprisingly vehemently opposed the decision – eventually giving in only when his beloved daughter protested via a hunger strike.

However, the differences between Lee Boo-Jin and onscreen Hong Hae-in ended there, and a fairy-tale ending was not to be for Lee Boo-Jin.

Attempting to close the huge gap between his daughter and son-in-law, Lee Kun-Hee sent Im Woo-jae to US for further studies, but the latter felt so pressurized that he attempted suicide several times as he did not know even a word of English. Thrown into the position of vice-president of Samsung Electro-mechanics on his return, Im Woo-jae failed to live up to expectations and instead picked up bad habits of the wealthy. Allegedly a heavy drinker, he cheated on Lee Boo-Jin and even hit her when she was pregnant. The last straw in their marriage was his alleged involvement in the Jang Ja-yeon scandal – the actress had called Im Woo-jae up to 35 times within a month during the nine months prior to her suicide, proving their unusual relationship.

Fictional Differences

While Baek Hyun-woo in Queen of Tears also came from a modest rural background like Im Woo-jae before marrying into the chaebol family, he was the son of respected head of Yongdu-ri village, and a top law graduate before interning at Queens Group.

Lee Boo-jin finally decided to end their marriage in 2014, but Im Woo-jae refused to sign the divorce papers as he had been too used to his opulent lifestyle, causing the divorce case to drag on for 5 years. Lee Boo-jin was ordered by the court to pay 8.6 billion won in alimony to Im Woo-jae, but the latter was unsatisfied and made the highest divorce settlement claim in Korean history of 1.2 trillion won.

Im Woo-jae eventually receives 14.1 billion won or 20% of Lee Boo-jin’s assets, while she was awarded parental rights and custody of their son. Putting her focus back on her career post-divorce, Lee Boo-jin retains a constant ranking on Forbes list of richest women in Korea and was named by Forbes as “100 Most Powerful Women” in 2023. Besides spending time with her son, she enjoys a fulfilling life by engaging in volunteer work.

Source: [1]

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