Then later in the year, Hwang headlined Ode to My Father, embodying the Korean everyman against the backdrop of modern history from the 1950s to the present day; the film depicted the Hungnam evacuation during the Korean War, coalmining gastarbeiters in Germany in the 1960s, and the Vietnam War. Ode to My Father became the second highest-grossing film in the history of Korean cinema, with 14.2 million tickets sold.
Hwang Jung-min began his career in musical theatre, making his acting debut in Line 1 in 1995. He then starred in various musicals and plays in Daehangno such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats.
His big break came when he was cast in Waikiki Brothers, a 2001 film that was a sleeper hit in Korea. In his role as a hopeless Drummer, Hwang left a strong impression and earned favorable reviews, with Director Yim Soon-rye calling him "an uncut gemstone". Hwang went on to have prominent roles in Road Movie, A Good Lawyer's Wife, Heaven's Soldiers and A Bittersweet Life.
Hwang married musical theatre Actress Kim Mi-hye on September 6, 2004. They have a son named Hwang Sae-hyun.
Hwang then reunited with Actress Uhm Jung-hwa (whom he previously starred with in 2005 ensemble romantic comedy All for Love) in the 2012 box office hit Dancing Queen. He returned to TV in the 2012 cable drama Korean Peninsula, but it was less successful.
He made a triumphant return to the stage in the 2008 production of Nine. The theater Producer said that it took three years to cast the leading role because in Hwang he had found the right actor to rival Antonio Banderas' Broadway performance. He has since starred in University of Laughs, The Wedding Singer and Man of La Mancha. Hwang says, "A movie is the art of a Director but the play is the art of an actor."
2009's The Accidental Couple was particularly special to Hwang, as it was his first time starring in a television drama in his 14-year acting career.
For his role as a blind swordsman in the 2010 period film Blades of Blood, Hwang went to schools for the blind to observe their movements. He then starred in The Unjust, a highly acclaimed noir about corruption in the South Korean justice system; followed by conspiracy film Moby Dick as a reporter.
In late 2012, Hwang made his debut as a theatre Director in Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins, which he also starred in.
Hwang returned his focus to films, starring in noir film New World (2013), where his performance was singled out by The New York Times. He once again worked with Uhm Jung-hwa in the queer film In My End Is My Beginning (which was expanded from a short film in 2009's Five Senses of Eros). Hwang then played a middle-aged fighter in the Sports film Fists of Legend, performing all the Stunts himself.
In 2014, Hwang starred in romance drama Man in Love. He said that he chose to star in the film to support diversity in the Korean film industry, and because he wanted to show the human side of his character, a terminally ill gangster who falls in love for the first time.
He reunited with The Unjust Director Ryoo Seung-wan in 2015 for Veteran, playing a hot-tempered police detective tracking an arrogant and heartless chaebol heir. The film was another smash hit, and is currently the 3rd all-time highest-grossing film in Korean cinema history. Hwang then starred in the budget mountaineering film The Himalayas, where he plays renowned Korean mountaineer Um Hong-gil, who became the first person to reach the 16 highest mountain peaks on Earth.
In 2016, he starred alongside Kang Dong-won in the crime comedy A Violent Prosecutor, which became the second highest-grossing film of 2016. This was followed by Na Hong-jin's critically acclaimed horror The Wailing, and noir film Asura: The City of Madness, which premiered at the 41st Toronto Film Festival. Hwang was crowned "Actor of the Year" for 2016 in the Gallup Korea poll for his acclaimed roles in divese genres.