Kim So-yeon broke into the entertainment industry in 1994 at the age of 14 by entering the Miss Binggrae beauty pageant without her parents' approval. Then in her second year of middle school, she used a marker pen as her eyeliner and ended up winning the top prize. Not long after her acting debut in Dinosaur Teacher, the teen actress starred in popular TV shows such as Reporting for Duty (1996) and Soonpoong Clinic (1998), while hosting the music program Inkigayo and appearing in numerous commercials (Kim was the first Korean teen star to earn more than ₩100 million from commercial modeling). Because of her preternaturally mature looks and poise, she was often cast in older roles, notably as a manipulative, villainous anchorwoman in All About Eve, which drew a peak viewership rating of 45. 2% when it aired in 2000.