Dear Kfangurl, Are supporting actors too funny to ever cast as leads? I keep waiting for my favorites – Park Jin Joo, Kim Seul Gi and my all time favorite, Kim Sung Oh to be part of an OTP or at least a single lead in their own dramas. I’ve seen all of them give snippets of really moving scenes so their acting talent is not in question. What gives?
And phl1rxd writes:
I would love to see an article on your favorite supporting actors|actresses. There are so many that pop up in our drama world all the time, and while they are not the leads, their work is great none-the-less.
Dear Beez & phl,
You both ask excellent questions, and while I certainly feel confident to talk about who my favorite supporting actors and actresses are, I feel like a lot less of an authority to comment on why a supporting actor or actress may or may not cross over into lead territory.
I’m going to do my best to provide some answers and insights, but bear in mind that this is absolutely not the full picture, since I feel far from an expert on this topic. This is just.. my take, on the whole thing. I mean, just so we’re clear. 😅
To keep things more focused, I will only be talking about Korean actors and actresses. For the sake of being a little more concise, from this point onwards, I’ll just use the word “actors” to refer to “actors and actresses” coz it can be a gender-neutral word as well.
I also wanted to say, I won’t be able to mention all the actors out there, so if I missed out your favorite, or if you have insights, perspectives &/or experiences to share, please tell us all about it in the comments below! ❤
WHAT MAKES A LEAD ACTOR/ACTRESS?
I thought it would make sense to begin with what the industry tends to look for in a lead actor. I think understanding this would help us understand why certain actors might be passed over in favor of other actors.
The following are the four main factors that I think affect the casting of actors in lead roles, and although I hate to say it, these are, to my mind, in order of importance – to the networks.
(Us fans probably have a different order of ranking these factors, but.. that isn’t relevant to the decision-making process, unfortunately.)
As much as we’d like to believe that creative integrity is of foremost importance in the making of our beloved kdramas, sadly, it’s profit that drives all the executive decisions, and ratings and sales drive profit, and therefore, the popularity of the lead actors is of great importance, when casting for a drama, particularly a mainstream drama in a popular time slot, where there are high hopes that the drama will help the network make a lot of money.
This explains why idols who are fairly new to acting can often be seen leading dramas, even though they have little to no experience in the acting game, and may not actually possess much acting talent, when it comes down to it. Essentially, the network is counting on the idol’s existing fan base to support their idol’s drama. In this case, it works to the network’s advantage that the fans tend to be fiercely loyal and supportive, regardless of the actual quality of the show itself.
Visuals are a Huge Deal in the industry, and in Korean society, as a general rule. Because good looks are valued in Korea, it makes sense that k-viewers would value good looks in their dramas’ lead actors as well.
Sure, the drama itself might actually have a lot more going for it, but having a good-looking pair of leads, to be the initial hook that entices audiences to check out the show, is good economic sense. After all, we’ve also talked about how a beautiful female lead can coax a guy to check out a drama, on this very blog.
And, shallow as I can sometimes be, I’ve been known to hang on to a show for longer than said show actually deserves, because I found some redeeming cuteness in Show’s male lead.
3. Screen presence
This is a little on the intangible side, but basically, I think that if an actor can manage a nice amount of screen presence and exude a decent amount of charisma, this can count for more than actual acting chops.
I mean, if you’ve been around Dramaland for a while, you could probably name at least a few actors whose acting leans on the more wooden side of things, but because they’re good-looking and have a decent amount of screen presence, they consistently land leading roles.
No shade of either of these actors, because I have personal affection for them both, but Song Seung Hun and Taecyeon come to mind.
4. Acting ability
This is what many of us would prioritize as the most important factor, but unfortunately, I do think it’s one of the factors that can get glossed over, in casting decisions. HOWEVER, once an actor establishes their reputation as being an amazing actor, I feel that they do become known for their craft, and then their acting prowess becomes part of why they’re popular, and that helps to drive the casting decisions too. (Notice how popularity is still where the emphasis is at, though? Coz it’s pointless being a great actor if people don’t really care about watching you on their screens.)
ALSO. This means that if a supporting actor manages to really impress audiences in the roles that they’re given, their acting abilities can help to drive up their popularity as well, and that can eventually lead to them getting promoted to lead.
Of course, this can be a double-edged sword. For example, back when You From Another Star was airing, audiences were very taken with Ahn Jae Hyun’s role as Jeon Ji Hyun’s little brother, and his role was promptly amplified. He then went on to snag bigger and meatier roles in other dramas over the next several years. Unfortunately, it appears that Ahn Jae Hyun got his big break too soon, and his various leading roles have leaned more underwhelming than anything.
SUPPORTING ACTORS WHO’VE CROSSED OVER TO LEAD TERRITORY
The ones who get promoted naturally
There are a good number of actors who get promoted quite steadily to lead, after spending a couple of years playing supporting characters or second leads. Essentially, it feels like a natural progression after an actor pays their dues, mostly because they do consistently well and are well-received and popular in their supporting roles, prompting studio execs and casting directors to have more confidence in the actor’s ability to fill the shoes of a lead role – and hold audience interest.
Here are just a few actors who’ve made the successful transition to lead actor territory fairly recently.
Seo Ye Ji
Seo Ye Ji majored in journalism in Madrid, Spain, with the intention of becoming a TV news presenter, but was persuaded by the CEO of her then-management company to consider acting instead.
She made her acting debut in 2013’s Potato Star 2013QR3, and spent a few years in supporting roles, before landing her first lead role in 2016’s Moorim School (which unfortunately was a dud for me). She played lead again in 2017’s Save Me, with many praising her performance, as well as in movie Another Way, in the same year. I liked her very well in 2018’s Lawless Lawyer, and most recently, she’s captured a great deal of audience attention with her role in 2020’s It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, with many netizens very much wowed by her performance.
Overall, a very successful transition from the support ranks to lead territory, with her most recent role in It’s Okay pretty much cementing her stature as a bona bide leading lady.
Chae Soo Bin
Chae Soo Bin was scouted by a casting director on the streets, and made her acting debut in 2014 film My Dictator. I must say, that casting director knew what’s what, coz there’s just something quite special about Chae Soo Bin.
I first noticed her in her supporting role in Cheer Up / Sassy Go Go, where I was impressed with how she managed to make her bully character interesting and not quite hateful. That’s quite a feat. In 2017, she landed her first lead role in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, and since then, has gone to headline several dramas, including 2018’s I’m Not A Robot (super cute), Where Stars Land / Fox Bride Star (not bad) and 2020’s A Piece Of Your Mind (quite special).
I personally really like Chae Soo Bin’s warm screen presence, and I find her very likable in each of her roles. And it does look like her transition to lead territory will be a long-term thing.
Seo Kang Joon
Seo Kang Joon started out with a bit part in 2012’s To The Beautiful You, and gained audience attention in 2014’s Cunning Single Lady and 2016’s Cheese In The Trap for his good looks (did you know he really does play the piano, though?). At the time, I personally was not moved, and felt his acting abilities were just.. ok. His first lead role was in 2016’s Entourage, but he really broke through in 2018’s Are You Human Too?, where he blew audiences (and me) away with his portrayal of both human and robot.
Since then, he’s established himself firmly in lead territory, and has regularly headlined dramas, including 2018’s The Third Charm (I thought this was very good) and 2020’s When The Weather Is Fine (I thought this was less good).
As you might’ve guessed, I have since completely changed my mind about Seo Kang Joon as an actor, and count him as someone to keep on my radar.
Jang Ki Yong
Jang Ki Yong started his career as a model in 2012, and eventually got into acting, starting with a small part in 2014’s It’s Okay It’s Love. He then went on to play various supporting roles over the next several years.
His second lead in 2017’s Go Back Couple captured audience attention for his character’s sweet and stoic nature (melt), and he also impressed audiences with his very different turn as a troubled loanshark in 2018’s My Mister (not melt, but.. heart-grabby anyway). Jang Ki Yong scored his first lead role in 2018’s Come And Hug Me, and has since played lead in several dramas, including 2019’s Search: WWW (I thought he was quite appealing in this).
Overall, I think Jang Ki Yong’s made a successful transition to lead territory, and it looks like his career is on a solid upward trajectory. I do count him as someone to keep on my radar.
Special mention: Kim Young Kwang
I wanted to include Kim Young Kwang as an example of an actor who took a little longer to make the jump from supporting actor to lead actor, but who’s since managed to establish himself quite nicely as a lead actor.
Kim Young Kwang started out as a model in 2006. He won several modeling awards, and in 2008, was the first Asian model to walk at Dior Homme’s show. He also began acting with a small part in 2008’s Worlds Within, and continued to play supporting characters until 2014’s Plus Nine Boys, where he made up half of the main loveline in the ensemble cast. His first major lead role was in 2015’s D-Day, and he’s since gone on to headline various dramas, including 2019’s The Secret Life Of My Secretary.
I used to think that Kim Young Kwang was typecast playing the annoying wuss (I used to find him very irksome as the annoying wuss – which means he was very good at it), but he’s managed to break out of that stereotype, and I have to admit, I enjoyed him nicely in The Secret Life Of My Secretary.
The ones who made a late breakthrough
There are also actors who spend a much longer time playing supporting roles, so much so that we start to think of them as actors who will spend the entirety of their career playing supporting roles. However, some of these actors have been known to have late-career breakthroughs, where they essentially blow everyone away with their performance in a particular role, which catapults them into the lead actor leagues, in pretty much one fell swoop.
Here are the ones that come to mind, let us know in the comments, if you think of other actors who’ve managed the same breakthrough!
Nam Goong Min
Nam Goong Min started out as an actor in 2001 movie Bungee Jumping Of Their Own, and actually had a initial positive streak, where he gained audience recognition for his role in 2002 sitcom My Big Family, and critical acclaim with his appearance in 2006 neo-noir film Dirty Carnival. He also gained a lot of positive attention for his role in 2011’s Can You Hear My Heart.
However, in a bid to break into lead territory, Nam Goong Min reportedly turned down all supporting roles offered to him after Can You Hear My Heart, which led to an inadvertent break in his career (yikes.. and oops). He did make a comeback in 2013, and continued to play supporting characters for quite a few projects, before making a breakthrough playing a serial killer in 2015’s Sensory Couple / The Girl Who Sees Smells.
Suddenly, he was no longer Mr. Vanilla, and audiences started lapping up this much more interesting version of him. He went on to blow audiences away with zany roles in 2016’s Beautiful Gong Shim and 2017’s Chief Kim. Since then, Nam Goong Min’s firmly graduated from Vanilla Second Lead to lead, and has consistently headlined various dramas since.
Honestly, I used to feel quite meh about Nam Goong Min as an actor, and although I didn’t jive with his zany characters, I do think he’s much more interesting now (I would’ve never imagined!), and I recently really loved him in his latest drama Stove League.
Kim Jae Wook
Kim Jae Wook made his acting debut as a member of an indie rock band in 2002 drama Ruler Of Your Own World. He then concentrated on modeling for 5 years, before landing his role in 2007’s Coffee Prince, where he gained audience attention as the cool and edgy Waffle Guy with a heart of gold. Since then, his projects have been varied and eclectic, with audiences memorably upset at his lack of lines in 2013’s Who Are You?, playing a sad ghost.
He also played lead in a couple of movies, like 2015’s Planck Constant and 2016’s Two Rooms, Two Nights, but the movies mostly didn’t gain much traction with audiences. He co-headlined 2018’s The Guest, but his most notable breakthrough was in 2019’s Her Private Life, where he finally was cast to pay the romantic male lead – a move that fans believe was long overdue. He blew audiences away with his portrayal of sweet and wonderful boyfriend Ryan Gold, and I swooned along with everyone else, heh.
It remains to be seen whether Kim Jae Wook will continue to headline dramas after this breakthrough role, or whether he’ll go back to choosing quirkier projects.
Jung Kyung Ho
Jung Kyung Ho studied theater in Chung-Ang University, where he became roommates with Ha Jung Woo in his freshman year. According to Jung Kyung Ho, he was inspired to become an actor after seeing Ha Jung Woo perform on stage. Jung Kyung Ho’s dad, veteran TV director Jung Eul Young, was opposed to his son’s desire to pursue acting, and Jung Kyung Ho defied his father’s wishes and moved out of the family home in order to chase his acting dreams. Happily, father and son have since reconciled.
Jung Kyung Ho’s first drama was 2004’s I’m Sorry I Love You, and thereafter, he continued to play a variety of supporting roles, establishing himself as quite the quintessential beta male. His first lead role was in 2009’s Smile, You, where he played a hapless beta male to Lee Min Jung’s feisty female lead. In my head – and probably in most viewers’ minds as well – he was probably going to make a career of playing beta males, mostly as support characters, and possibly with the occasional beta male lead.
However, Jung Kyung Ho went away to do his Military Service, and came back with a bang in 2013’s Heartless City, as a cool, intense, badass crime lord with swift and lethal fight moves. Wow. That essentially sealed his ability to play a wide range of characters, and he’s since established himself firmly as a lead actor, headlining a variety of dramas, including 2015’s Falling for Innocence, 2018’s Life On Mars and 2019’s When The Devil Calls Your Name.
Given Jung Kyung Ho’s decidedly unassuming start, it’s quite startling to me, that he’s gone from “pretty ok” to “pretty darn amazing” on my mental scale. I will now check out a drama just because he’s in it – and that’s saying A Lot.
Jeon Mi Do
Jeon Mi Do started her career as a stage / musical actor in 2006, and in terms of on-screen roles, only had one bit part in 2018’s Mother, before auditioning for 2020’s Hospital Playlist, where she blew both director and writer away, with her effortless reading for various characters. She’d thought she was auditioning for a small role as a patient, but was given the meatiest female character to play. This, despite her limited on-screen experience, because of her pitch perfect interpretation of the character from her first reading. Her outing in Hospital Playlist captured a great deal of audience attention – and I love her now.
I think that if Jeon Mi Do wants to do more on-screen acting, that she will absolutely be able to play among the lead actors. However, it remains to be seen how she will choose to split her time between stage and screen, especially since Hospital Playlist Season 2 already makes up a big time commitment.
I absolutely loved her in Hospital Playlist, and definitely hope to see her in other dramas.
Special mention: Oh Jung Se
Oh Jung Se started his acting career in theater in 2001, and has since appeared in numerous movies and dramas as a dependable and versatile character actor. He was cast in his first lead role in 2013 movie The Hero. He’s played more prominent roles in movies than in dramas, headlining 2015’s Sunshine Love, and playing second lead in 2014’s Man In High Heels and 2017’s Fabricated City.
On the drama front, Oh Jung Se generally spends most of his time playing supporting roles. Most recently, he’s blown audiences away with his portrayal of an autistic character in 2020’s It’s Okay To Not Be Okay, gaining him a lot more recognition and praise than before.
It will be interesting to see what kind of roles Oh Jung Se is offered in Dramaland, going forward. Perhaps this is the pivotal role that will launch him into headlining a drama?
THE ONES WHO TOGGLE BETWEEN LEAD & SUPPORTING ROLES
There are actors who seem to get offered both lead and supporting roles.
In my head, I feel like they are solid actors who do have what it takes to play lead, but may either still be in the transition phase between supporting actor and lead, or, they may have what it takes to play lead, but maybe they just possess all the above-mentioned lead actor factors in more.. modest amounts, which causes them to be offered lead roles less often.
Here are some actors who I think fall into this category.
Kim Ji Suk
Because he failed the entrance exam to get into the theater department(!), Kim Ji Suk majored in German at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He debuted as a rapper(!!) in Eurodance boyband LEO in 2001; however LEO was disbanded after a short 8 months, which spelled the end of Kim Ji Suk’s rapper dreams.
Kim Ji Suk got started in acting in 2006, with a supporting role in drama The Man Of The Vineyard. He then got cast to play half of the main loveline in 2007 daily drama Likable Or Not, where I thought he was quite endearing, as the hapless beta male lead. After that, he played multiple supporting roles, many of which tapped on his comic timing and unassuming vibe. The first time he demonstrated his potential for playing the swoony male lead was in I Need Romance 2012, his post-military comeback project, where he triggered a fair amount of Second Lead Syndrome with his sweet, melty second lead (and his very nice arms, ahem).
Since then, Kim Ji Suk has toggled supporting roles with the occasional lead role. His most notable outing as romantic leading man was in 2017’s 20th Century Boy and Girl (so sweet and melty!), with 2020’s prime time family drama My Unfamiliar Family tapping into a similar boyfriend vibe.
I would personally love to see Kim Ji Suk flex more of his leading man chops, just sayin’.
Sohn Ho Joon
Sohn Ho Joon started out as an idol, debuting in 2007 as the leader of boyband Tachyon (check out their debut single here!). Unfortunately, the group disbanded soon after that debut single, and Sohn Ho Joon chose to go into acting.
His first role was in 2006 TV series Jump 2, and he went on to do a variety of supporting roles in both dramas and movies, with one of his most notable roles being in 2013’s Answer Me 1994.
His first lead role was in 2017 family drama Blow Breeze, and since then he’s toggled lead and support roles in a variety of dramas. I first got a taste of Sohn Ho Joon’s leading man abilities in 2017’s Go Back Couple, and I must say, he has very dreamy bedroom eyes, when given the chance to play in the romantic leading man space. Melt.
It makes me curious to check out 2020’s Was It Love?, because it appears Sohn Ho Joon is playing lead, and I could use a revisit to that bedroomy gaze, heh. 😉
Lee Joon Hyuk
Lee Joon Hyuk’s onscreen debut was a 2006 music video by hiphop band Typhoon, which you can check out here, in all of its grainy glory. His first drama was 2007’s The First Wives Club, where he acted in a supporting role. After a few more supporting roles, he went on to be part of the main loveline in 2009 family drama Three Brothers, where he plays an earnest, handsome young police officer who is swooningly undaunted in the pursuit of his lady love (I loved him in this show; can you tell?).
Lee Joon Hyuk currently toggles support and lead roles, and his lead roles include 2018’s A Poem A Day, and 2020’s 365: Repeat The Year. Aside from his lead roles, I do find him memorable in his non-lead roles as well. For example, I thought he was great as the perplexed secretary in 2018’s Are You Human Too?
That said, I’d love to see him in a Big Romantic Role (A Poem A Day was pretty muted), and remind us of how good he is at being swoony. Kinda like what Her Private Life did for Kim Jae Wook. 😉
Yoo In Na
Did you know that Yoo In Na started out as an idol trainee? (I didn’t, until researching for this post!) Starting from age 16, she spent 11 years training with 5 different agencies (ouch), but had difficulty getting her big break, and also, she struggled to memorize the complicated dance choreography, despite practicing for 8 hours a day, 6 days a week (double ouch). In the end, she quit her idol dreams and set her sights on acting instead.
She got her start in 2009 daily drama High Kick 2, and then got into DJ-ing(!), as she continued to act in supporting roles on various projects. She landed her first lead role in 2012’s Queen In Hyun’s Man, where I found her simply adorable. Instead of continuing her leading lady streak, however, she proceeded to act in a number of supporting roles, and her next leading role was in 2014’s rather lackluster My Secret Hotel. Recently, she got a chance to re-establish her leading lady charm in 2019’s Touch Your Heart, and is also slated to play lead again in 2020’s The Spy Who Loved Me.
I find Yoo In Na lovely and winsome, and she’s definitely paid her dues playing the cute best friend or the jealous frenemy; she has the potential to play lead more often, and I’d love to see that happen, going forward.
THE ONES WHO’RE JUST GETTING THERE / ALMOST THERE
These are the actors that I feel are either just on the cusp of breaking through to lead territory, or have recently broken through, and are working to sink roots and establish themselves as strong lead actors. In my head, these actors haven’t spent much time in lead territory, if they’ve managed to step foot there, and therefore we don’t know yet, whether they’ll end up toggling lead and supporting roles, at least for a while.
Lee Jae Wook
Lee Jae Wook is a hot up-and-comer with good reason.
He majored in theater studies at Chung-Ang University, and then got his acting start in 2018’s Memories Of The Alhambra as wild-eyed, intense Marco, then played the sweetest, dreamiest puppy in 2019’s Search: WWW, then played a brusque and aloof high school senior in 2019’s Extraordinary You, before playing a good-natured, fast-talking dork in 2020’s When The Weather Is Fine. And, in each of these very different roles, he’s been completely believable, and quite the scene-stealer, even. Can you say, Wow?
It’s no surprise that he’s graduating to lead territory early, and is poised to star as romantic leading man in 2020’s Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol. That’s very impressive indeed, and I am definitely curious to see what else Lee Jae Wook will bring to our screens.
Seo Ji Hye
Seo Ji Hye started out in 2003’s All In, and then spent quite a few years playing supporting roles, until she gained significant audience attention for playing second lead Seo Dan in 2020’s Crash Landing On You. This appears to be the big break she needed, and she’s finally headlined her first drama, 2020’s Dinner Mate. Word on the street is that audiences enjoyed her outing opposite Song Seung Hun, despite the show’s low ratings.
I really only noticed Seo Ji Hye in Crash Landing On You, and enjoyed her performance very well. I thought she made Seo Dan regal-stiff, yet awkward-vulnerable, and overall, very likable and empathetic. I think she’s got a lovely screen presence, and I’m looking forward to seeing her establish herself more firmly in leading lady territory.
Kim Jung Hyun
Kim Jung Hyun majored in Acting at the Korea National University of Arts, and started his acting career in musical theater, before making his onscreen debut in 2015 film Overman, which premiered at the Busan International Film Festival. For his role in Overman, Kim Jung Hyun earned Best New Actor Nominations at the 25th Buil Film Awards and the 22nd Chunsa Film Art Awards. Pretty impressive, yes?
On the drama front, his first role was as Gong Hyo Jin’s little brother in 2016’s Jealousy Incarnate, which gained him a fair amount of attention. He then moved quickly into his first lead role in School 2017. He looked set to establish himself as a lead actor, going on to headline 2018’s Welcome To Waikiki, and Time. Unfortunately, he had to drop out of Time early due to an eating and sleeping disorder apparently caused by his method acting (eep, the dangers of dedication!). He then took a break from his career for a while.
He came back with a bang in 2020’s Crash Landing On You, capturing audience’s hearts as a con-man with a heart of gold. Now he’s set to headline Queen Cheorin opposite Shin Hye Sun later this year, and it looks like he’s got his career back on track, after his health-related setback.
I really grew a soft spot for Kim Jung Hyun’s character in CLOY, and I’m looking forward to seeing him flex his acting chops, while establishing himself in leading man territory.
Kwak Dong Yeon
Kwak Dong Yeon moved from Daejeon to Seoul by himself at just 13 years old, to pursue his dream of being an artist. Wow. Talk about being young and focused! He studied music and acting, and was the lead guitarist of Kokoma Band (literally, “Little Kids’ Band”), managed by FNC Entertainment. Check out this clip which features a baby Kwak Dong Yeon (far right) on electric guitar. Here’s another clip of him on acoustic guitar and vocals. Cute, yes? 😀
Kwak Dong Yeon made his acting debut in 2012 family drama My Husband Got A Family, and did a range of supporting roles for several years until gaining audience attention in 2016’s Moonlight Drawn By Clouds as Park Bo Gum‘s broody badass royal bodyguard (swoony!). Subsequently he’s continued to appear in supporting roles, but 2020 feels potentially like a pivotal year for him.
He plays main romantic lead in 2020 family drama Never Twice, and also made an impressive scene-stealing cameo in It’s Okay To Not Be Okay. Because of that, I feel like Kwak Dong Yeon is quite possibly on the cusp of breaking into prime-time leading man territory. Bring it on, I say!
Son Seok Koo
Son Seok Koo got his start with a small part in 2014 movie Scarlet Innocence, but in the relatively few projects that he’s done, he’s been making his presence felt, with his uniquely quirky-deadpan sort of screen presence.
I found him equally memorable the various roles I’ve seen him in, in 2018’s Suits, 2019’s Designated Survivor: 60 Days and Be Melodramatic, and am pleased to see that he’s poised to headline 2020 movie The Outlaws 2, alongside Ma Dong Seok. I really like him as an actor, and hope that we’ll get to see more of Son Seok Koo on our screens – perhaps headlining a drama in the not-too-distant future.
Edit: I just found out that Son Seok Koo is the CEO(!) of GOMT (LTD), a large machine tool distribution company(!!). He’d participated actively in the management of the company before his acting debut, and has only recently stepped away from active management, despite still holding the title of CEO. Woah. I.. did not see that coming. I hafta admit, my mind is somewhat blown. 😯
Lee Da Hee
Lee Da Hee started her acting career with a small part in 2003 drama Thousand Years Of Love. She went on to play multiple supporting roles over the years. She gained a fair bit of audience attention in 2013’s I Hear Your Voice, where she did a very solid job playing Lee Bo Young’s long-time frenemy, and went on to her first lead role in 2014’s Big Man.
I’d noticed Lee Da Hee in I Hear Your Voice, but it was really only in 2019’s Search: WWW where she captured my heart. As Cha Hyun, Lee Da Hee was fierce and badass, and yet, at the same time, innocent and pure, and I could not get over how fabulous she could be.
I’m stoked that she’s poised to headline 2020’s Luca, alongside Kim Rae Won. It remains to be seen whether she will continue to toggle lead and support roles, but I have confidence that Lee Da Hee has more than enough charm and chutzpah to establish herself as a bona fide leading lady.
Woo Do Hwan
Woo Do Hwan majored in Performance and Film at Dankook University, and made his screen debut with a bit part in 2011 daily drama You’re Here, You’re Here, You’re Really Here, and did a few other supporting roles before capturing audience attention in 2017’s dark thriller Save Me (which I am still too chicken to watch, heh).
He went on to a lead role in 2018’s The Great Seducer, which unfortunately wasn’t the ratings hit that MBC had hoped for. However, Woo Do Hwan’s come back strong, with a solid bromantic outing opposite Yang Se Jong in 2019’s My Country, and an impressive, scene-stealing performance in 2020’s The King: Eternal Monarch, playing two very different characters.
Woo Do Hwan’s now serving his Military Service, but I feel like he left on a very solid note, and is well-positioned to potentially make a crossover into lead territory, after his MS.
Kim Kyung Nam
Kim Kyung Nam got his start in 2012’s Faith, and has played a wide range of supporting characters since. He really caught my attention in 2018’s Where Stars Land / Fox Bride Star as one half of the very adorkable security couple, and I’m currently enjoying him very well in 2020’s The King: Eternal Monarch.
There’s something about his delivery that makes his characters pop; the emotions he presents feel real and raw, even when he sometimes doesn’t have many lines to speak, and I’ve grown very fond of him as an actor. I’m hoping that with a little more time and exposure, he’ll get his big break into lead territory.
Jin Ki Joo
Did you know that Jin Ki Joo didn’t start her career as an actress? She worked at Samsung SDS and then worked as a reporter for SBS regional affiliate G1, before getting into acting.
Jin Ki Joo got her acting start with a small part in 2015’s Twenty Again, and scored a second lead role the same year, in mini series Splash Splash Love. I first noticed her in 2018’s Misty, where she played an ambitious hoobae eager to unseat Kim Nam Joo from her principal news anchor position (maybe her reporter experience came in handy to give her delivery extra credibility?). She scored her first lead role in 2018’s Come And Hug Me, and then played lead again in 2019’s The Secret Life Of My Secretary.
I find Jin Ki Joo nicely versatile, having seen her play nasty-ambitious in Misty with just as much ease as cute-quirky, in The Secret Life Of My Secretary. It seems like she’s sinking roots quite nicely in lead territory, and her next drama will be family drama Love Blooming House.
Im Soo Hyang
Im Soo Hyang studied theater and film at Chung-Ang University, and made her first onscreen appearance in a bit part appearance in 2009 film 4th Period Mystery. Thereafter, she landed a breakthrough lead role in popular 2011 drama New Tales Of Gisaeng, for which she was nominated for a number of newcomer awards.
She toggled lead and supporting roles for a while, with her lead roles including 2014’s Inspiring Generation and 2017 daily drama Lovers In Bloom. She gained a nice amount of audience attention and popularity with her lead role in 2018’s My ID Is Gangnam Beauty, where I found her charming despite her somewhat limited delivery. She also headlined 2019’s Graceful Family, and is currently starring in prime time melodrama When I Was The Most Beautiful.
I’m pretty impressed with how far Im Soo Hyang has come, given (what I feel are) her less than top-tier acting chops. She does come across as charming and sincere in the roles where I’ve seen her, and I do think that she has a good chance of establishing herself long-term, as a leading lady.
THE ONES WHO MAY / MAY NOT CROSS OVER
There are two categories of actors in this section. There are those who show potential, but are still establishing themselves as supporting actors, and so it’s too early to say that they’re on the cusp of breaking through to lead.
Additionally, there are also actors that I think are great, but who are – in my personal opinion, don’t hate me! – probably unlikely to make that crossover to lead, unless a breakthrough role presents itself. We can hope, yes?
This section (and the next one too) most directly answers phl’s question about my favorite supporting actors.
Ye Ji Won
Ye Ji Won started her acting career in 1996 movie Mulberry, and followed shortly with a lead role in drama Juliet’s Man the following year. She was also lead in 2004 daily drama Old Miss Diary, and went on to star in the movie spin-off of the same name in 2006. She headlined a couple of other projects as well, but did more and more supporting roles over the years.
I’ve come to associate Ye Ji Won with scene-stealing supporting characters, because that seems to be the niche that she’s carved for herself. I thought she was a blast playing Eric‘s older sister in 2016’s Another Oh Hae Young. More recently, I really loved her quirky yet sensitive portrayal of her housekeeper character Jennifer, in 2018’s Thirty But Seventeen.
It seems rather unlikely that Ye Ji Won will cross back into lead territory, although I think she clearly has the acting chops for it. But then again, perhaps the right role will come along to allow her to showcase her leading lady talents.
Kim Sun Young
Kim Sun Young started her acting career with a small part in 2005 movie She’s On Duty, and another small part in 2006 movie Ice Bar. Over the years she’s played a wide variety of supporting characters in both dramas and movies, and she demonstrated an impressive versatility and range.
Her quiet and shy mom character in 2015’s Answer Me, 1988, is so different from her outlandish museum owner character in 2019’s Her Private Life. Basically, any time she shows up on my screen, I have confidence that she’ll pull off an excellent performance.
I think Kim Sun Young is amazing, and even though she’s built a reputation for herself as a great supporting character actor, I hope that she’ll get her time in the leading lady spotlight, with the right role.
Kim Young Min
Kim Young Min started out in movies, in 2001’s Address Unknown, in an ensemble cast, co-headlining the film with Yang Dong Geun and Ban Min Jung (pretty wow, for a debut!). His first drama role was in 2005’s Super Rookie, in a supporting role.
Over the years, Kim Young Min has played quite a wide variety of supporting roles, but only really caught mainstream audiences’ attention with his turn as a snooty executive in 2018’s My Mister. It was only after My Mister, that I came to realize what an impressive range Kim Young Min has. I was blown away by how different Kim Young Min was in 2020’s Crash Landing On You, compared to his outing in My Mister, and then how he managed to make his character in 2020’s A Couple’s World so distinct and different from his character in My Mister, despite both characters looking somewhat similar on paper.
I feel it’s quite likely that Kim Young Min will continue to thrive as a character actor, but then again, ya never know?
Park Jin Joo
Park Jin Joo’s first acting role was in 2011 movie Sunny, playing the teen version of one of the protagonists, and since then, she’s played multiple supporting characters in both dramas and movies. I always enjoy seeing her on my screen; she tends to bring a bright spark to the cast, and is often cast as the female lead’s best friend. I really enjoyed her as Park Min Young’s bestie in 2019’s Her Private Life, for example.
It doesn’t seem very likely that she will be able to cross over to lead territory, given that her filmography is essentially made up of smaller roles. I do think she’s awesome, though.
Also, did you know that she sings very well? I didn’t realize it, until I saw her in this video. Impressive, yes? 😀
Lee Yi Kyung
Lee Yi Kyung might have become a sportsman if he didn’t suffer from a career-ending injury that resulted in him developing depression. His father, then-CEO of LG Innotek, who hadn’t been keen on his son’s career choice, allowed – suggested, even – his son to drop out of school to live the life he wanted. Lee Yi Kyung then dropped out of high school, lived in a rooftop apartment in Noryangjin, and worked part-time jobs, while pursuing his acting dreams (what a story!).
Lee Yi Kyung made his acting debut in 2011, with a small part in prime-time rom-com Heartstrings, and followed that with many other supporting roles over the years. In recent years, he’s been making headway in establishing himself, headlining 2018’s Children Of Nobody alongside Kim Sun Ah. He also starred in 2018 movie Wretches / Monsters. He also played significantly meaty parts in 2018’s Welcome to Waikiki and 2019’s Welcome to Waikiki 2.
It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to land more lead roles, but he’s certainly become a well-recognized face among audiences, with his megawatt smile and elastic reaction faces. I do have a soft spot for Lee Yi Kyung, and hope that he’ll continue to do well while pursuing what he loves.
Lee Do Hyun
Lee Do Hyun studied theater and film at Chung-Ang University, and got his start in acting pretty recently, in 2017’s Prison Playbook, playing a young Jung Kyung Ho. I thought he was endearing in 2018’s Thirty But Seventeen, which was only his second acting project, and he was very adorable in Clean With Passion For Now (my friend Michele showed me just his scenes – and him being all ardent about his noona love is squee-worthy cuteness!). But it was in 2019’s Hotel Del Luna that he really stole my heart with his sensitive and poignant portrayal of the lovelorn Captain. It blows my mind now, to realize that that was only his fourth drama!
It’s still pretty early days for Lee Do Hyun, but I’m excited to see where this young man goes. He’s slated to star in 2020 rom-com 18 Again, and I’m definitely looking forward to him showcasing more of his acting chops.
Wi Ha Joon
Wi Ha Joon studied theater and film in Sungkyul University, and got his acting start in 2012 film Peace In Them. He’s since played a nice range of supporting roles in both dramas and movies. I first noticed him as Son Ye Jin’s disapproving younger brother in 2018’s Something In The Rain, but it was in 2019’s Romance Is A Bonus Book where he really earned himself a soft spot in my heart. His second lead was endearing and sweet, and very likable indeed.
I do think it’s early days as well, for Wi Ha Joon, but I do think he has potential to grow into some leading man shoes.
Kim Seul Gi
Kim Seul Gi apparently decided to pursue acting while in her third year of high school, as a way to cope with a broken heart. Aw. She studied at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, and in 2011, met well-known film director Jang Jin, when she worked with him on a memorial play. Jang Jin soon recruited her as a cast member for SNL Korea, and it was in SNL Korea that Kim Seul Gi enjoyed a rise in her popularity.
At around the same time, Kim Seul Gi made her acting debut with a small part on 2011’s Heartstrings, after which she’s appeared in a string of supporting roles in various movies and dramas. She first caught my attention as the sleep-deprived editor in 2013’s Flower Boy Next Door, where she stole every scene that she was in. Since then, she’s established a reputation for herself for being cute, versatile, and funny. Which means any time I see Kim Seul Gi on a cast list, it makes me happy. On the leading lady front, I thought she was excellent playing romantic lead in 2015 mini-series Splash Splash Love, and in 2017 drama special Queen Of The Ring.
I personally think Kim Seul Gi is wonderful, and I’d love to see her in more lead roles, but I think that would take a pretty special role to catapult her properly into lead territory, along with a forward-thinking writer-director team that’s able to look past her not typically pretty looks, to see and showcase her talent and charm.
Kim Sung Oh
Kim Sung Oh started out in 2002 movie Emergency Act 19, and has acted in multiple supporting roles over the years, both in dramas and movies. Looking at his filmography, he tends to be cast in cameos or other similarly small roles. The most notable exception, which I learned from Beez, is when he was cast as romantic male lead in 2016 mini series Baek Hee Has Returned / Becky’s Back.
I personally noticed him most in 2017’s Fight My Way, where he played Park Seo Joon‘s MMA coach and looked the most buff I’d ever seen him. I think he has an interesting face and from the screenshot above (from 2010 movie The Man From Nowhere), it’s clear that he’s capable of intensity. However, his drama appearances have been mostly limited to smaller supporting roles.
On the upside, he seems to be gaining more traction in movies, and starred in 2020 movie Secret Zoo (released in January), is slated to star in Night Of The Undead, due for release in September 2020. (Yay for Beez!)
Yang Kyung Won
Yang Kyung Won debuted as a musical actor in 2010, and only debuted on the small screen with a small part in 2015’s Six Flying Dragons. He went on to appear in several dramas in supporting roles, including 2017’s Fight My Way and The Liar And His Lover, as well as 2019’s Arthdal Chronicles. More recently, he captured a great deal of audience attention for his role as the wry, funny and likable Pyo Chi Soo in 2020’s Crash Landing On You.
I thought Yang Kyung Won was quite a scene stealer in CLOY, and I also think he did very well in his follow-up project, 2020’s Hi Bye, Mama!, where he plays a supporting role as an exorcist, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him on my screen, now that he’s become more of a known face.
Im Chul Soo
Im Chul Soo debuted as a stage & musical actor in 2004, and only started appearing on the small screen in 2015, in a variety of supporting roles.
I first noticed him in 2020’s Crash Landing On You, because of his very expressive face, and was subsequently delighted to see him cameo in 2020’s Hospital Playlist. His appearance was short, but full of emotional impact, and I count him as one of my favorite supporting actors at the moment.
Ji Seung Hyun
Ji Seung Hyun majored in English Language and Literature (aw! Just like me!) at Kyung Hee University (ok, not like me, lol), he got his acting start in 2008 movie A Goose’s Dream, and his first appearance in a drama was in a bit part in 2010’s OB & GY.
He captured quite a bit of audience attention in 2016 juggernaut Descendants Of The Sun, where he played an angsty, charismatic North Korean soldier. I thought he was excellent in that, and even felt ready to watch a show all about said North Korean soldier. He also gained a lot of audience attention in 2019’s Search: WWW, where he played Jeon Hye Jin’s estranged-but-lovelorn – and very smoldery! – husband. I loved him in that, and would’ve watched an entire drama featuring the story around this pairing (do we see a trend?). I also thought he was great in 2019’s My Country, where he played Yang Se Jong’s loyal mentor.
I think Ji Seung Hyun is pretty great; he’s got the charisma and acting chops that would enable him to carry a lead role – and I really hope we get to see him do that, in the not-too-distant future.
Random factoid: Did you know that he was born in Brazil? In Vila Velha, Espírito Santo, to be exact.
Lee Seung Joon
Lee Seung Joon debuted as a stage actor in 1999, and made his movie debut in a supporting role in 2001 short film Falling Season. I first noticed him in 2012’s Nine, where I thought he was really great as Lee Jin Wook’s incredulous and hapless bestie.
Since then I’ve had a soft spot for him, and he’s one of my favorite supporting actors. I think he’s got a really nice affable, warm energy about him, which shines through in all his various roles.
Kang Ki Young
Kang Ki Young studied theater and film at the University of Suwon, and got his acting start in 2014’s High School King where he played Seo In Guk’s dorky high-school friend – a pretty decent-sized role for an acting debut, I would say. I noticed him right away for his huge smile and very elastic reaction faces, as well as his knack for comedy. He’s since appeared in lots of movies and dramas, and I recently enjoyed him very much in 2018’s Terius Behind Me as an earnest-dorky stay-at-home dad, and in 2019’s At Eighteen, as a caring teacher.
I think Kang Ki Young’s got quite an effervescent quality about him, and yet is able to dial it down quite nicely, when the scene calls for it. Plus, he plays dorky so very well!
Lee Yoon Ji
Lee Yoon Ji got her master’s degree in theater and film at Chung-Ang University, and started her acting career in 2003 daily drama Nonstop 4, and has appeared in many supporting roles since then. I first noticed her while watching my gateway drama 2007’s Goong / Princess Hours, and I thought she was wonderfully poised and elegant as a princess. She made her theater debut in 2010, in the Korean staging of Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof, then won her first big-screen leading role in 2011 movie Couples.
I honestly thought she’d go on to bigger, more prominent roles, but Lee Yoon Ji’s continued to appear in supporting roles (some meatier than others) over the years. I can’t say I understand why, since I think she’s a competent and beautiful actress, who is adept at both the serious and funny ends of the acting spectrum.
I recently enjoyed her very much in 2018’s The Third Charm, where her supporting character gets a poignant, uplifting arc, and I hope to see more of her on my screen – preferably in meatier roles, please.
Lee Sang Hee
Lee Sang Hee got her acting start in 2014 movie Manshin, and since then, has racked up an impressive number of entries in her filmography in a wide range of supporting roles. I first noticed her in 2017’s 20th Century Boy And Girl, where she plays one of Han Ye Seul’s best friends. I also really liked her in 2019’s One Spring Night, where she plays – can you guess? – Han Ji Min’s best friend.
What really blew me away, though, is her outing in 2020’s A Piece Of Your Mind, where I didn’t recognize her for the longest time, playing a frumpy-earnest landlord. I think Lee Sang Hee’s a very versatile actress, and I’ve gotten to the point where I perk up when I see her on my screen.
Shim Hyung Tak
Shim Hyung Tak’s first screen appearance was in 2002 drama Reservation For Love, and he’s since appeared in a lot of dramas, with some movies on the side.
I first noticed him in 2014’s Let’s Eat, where his pompous yet lovesick character ended up melting my heart. I’ve had a soft spot for him since, and I thought it was quite amusing when he played a somewhat similar character in 2019’s Touch Your Heart. I’m sure Shim Hyung Tak’s got a lot more talents than that, but he does seem to have a particular talent for hamming it up as a pompous annoying prick, only to then worm his way into your heart with his earnest, marshmallow core.
Lee Joo Young
Lee Joo Young’s first acting role was in 2011 short film Behinds. She then made a bit of an impression in 2017’s Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, as one of the endearing and fiercely loyal trio of friends.
Recently, she gained a great deal of audience attention playing a transgender character in 2020’s Itaewon Class. I personally thought she did an excellent job, and I’m definitely curious to see what she does next.
THE VETERANS WE LOVE & ADMIRE
I wouldn’t call these supporting actors per se, since they are all amazing in their own right, and play supporting roles only because the stories themselves are focused on younger characters. These are the veterans that we love and admire, and who, when the opportunity presents itself (like in Dear My Friends, which features a main cast of veteran actors), blow us away with their effortless mastery of their craft.
I can’t possibly include all of them on this list, but here’s a shout-out to just some of the veterans who make our dramas better, by being in them.
Kim Mi Kyung
Kim Mi Kyung’s been active in the industry since 1993, where she made her first screen appearance in TV series Love Is Helpless. She’s since been in a mindboggling number of projects, and recently, seems to be just about everywhere in Dramaland (a very good thing!).
One of my favorite Kim Mi Kyung outings is her role as Ahjumma in 2015’s Healer, where she was quirky AND badass as a hacker extraordinaire. I also thought her performance as Park Shin Hye’s mute mom in 2013’s Heirs was very special, even though I thought the show itself was pretty meh. And, she made me cry big ugly tears in 2017’s Go Back Couple, because she was just that amazing as Jang Na Ra’s mom.
In short, Kim Mi Kyung is turning out to be a national treasure, and any time she shows up on my screen, I know I’m in for a treat.
Ra Mi Ran
Ra Mi Ran reportedly spent years in theater before making her screen debut with 2005 movie Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. However, it was many projects later, before she gained significant audience attention with her role as Uhm Jung Hwa’s bestie in 2012 movie Dancing Queen.
Over the years, Ra Mi Ran’s established herself as an excellent supporting actress, and has appeared in numerous movies and dramas. I was first wowed by her in her scene-stealing role in 2015’s Answer Me 1988, where I just could not get over her fabulosity, combined so nicely with her warm delivery of her character, and I’ve basically enjoyed her in everything I’ve seen her in since.
In recent years, Ra Mi Ran’s enjoying more popularity (YAY!), and has starred in several projects, including 2017 drama Avengers Social Club, 2018 drama The Miracle That We Met, 2019 movie Miss And Mrs. Cops, 2020 drama Black Dog, and 2020 movie Honest Candidate. I’m so happy for her – and for us, coz more Ra Mi Ran on our screens can only be a good thing. 😉
Kim Won Hae
Kim Won Hae made his acting debut in 1998 movie Spring In My Hometown, and has appeared in a staggering number of dramas and films, in a wide variety of supporting roles. Over time, Kim Won Hae’s struck me as something of a chameleon, with his extreme versatility as well as his gung-ho attitude in taking on roles that can be considered somewhat controversial. His role in 2017’s Strong Woman Do Bong Soon comes to mind, where he played a very theatrical and effeminate character. (I thought Show’s humor was in bad taste, but that’s a completely different issue, I think.)
In recent days, it’s been reported that Kim Won Hae has tested positive for COVID-19, and is now self-isolating while waiting for admission to hospital once a ward is available. Please recover well, Ahjusshi!
Yoo Oh Sung
Yoo Oh Sung studied theater and film at Hanyang University, and his first acting role was in 1991 movie Love, Love: The Stories Of Han Hie-jak, and his biggest success was co-starring in 2001 movie Friend, which was a smash hit.
His subsequent lead roles didn’t do well, and he made a return to the small screen in 2004, headlining sageuk Jang Gil San. In recent years, he has appeared in multiple supporting roles in both movies and dramas.
He always strikes me as having an expressive face that can be full of evil intent, and he’s pretty great to have onscreen. I found him very memorable in 2014’s Joseon Gunman, where he played Jeon Hye Bin’s doting if misguided father. More recently, I also thought he was excellent in 2018’s Are You Human Too? as our resident baddie. He’s just got a great smirk.
Kim Hye Ja
Kim Hye Ja dropped out of college to pursue a career in acting (talk about running after your dreams!), made her screen debut in 1963, and went on to win the Best New Actress (TV) Award at the 2nd Baeksang Arts Awards in 1966. She’s also won the Best Actress Award over many different awards ceremonies over many different years. Wow!
I loved Kim Hye Ja right away when I saw her in my gateway drama, 2007’s Goong / Princess Hours, where she played the sweet and open-minded Queen Mother. I just love her warm onscreen presence and her beautiful smile. More recently, I was blown away by her amazing performance in 2019’s The Light In Your Eyes / Dazzling, for which she won the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards. Love her.
Na Moon Hee
Na Moon Hee started her acting career in 1961, and has appeared in an astounding number of films and dramas, with a bit of theater on the side as well. She’s won multiple acting awards over the years, and has proven herself to be just as adept at tickling your funny bone, as tugging on your heartstrings.
I thought she was great in 2014 movie Miss Granny (such an excellent show!), and she blew me away with her performance in 2017 movie I Can Speak, for which she won multiple Best Actress Awards. What a queen.
Yoon Yeo Jung
Yoon Yeo Jung dropped out of college in 1966 after passing open auditions held by TBC, and made her screen debut in 1967 drama Mister Gong. She became quite the trailblazer, working with Kim Ki Young (considered Korea’s first style-conscious, experimental director), and starring in a number of films where she played risqué, provocative characters. She retired in 1975 at the peak of her career to get married, but made a comeback in 1984. Wow. What a legend!
From what I’ve seen of her in variety (like Noonas Over Flowers), I think Yoon Yeo Jung comes across as a strong, independent woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Pretty darn awesome. Recently, I thought she was amazing in 2018 movie Keys To The Heart.
Kim Young Ok
Kim Young Ok made her screen debut in 1957 movie Farewell Sorrow!, and is known as the Nation’s Grandma for her multiple portrayals of grandmothers in both dramas and movies. I will always remember her best as Gong Yoo‘s grandma though, from 2007’s Coffee Prince. 😉
More recently, I’ve been enjoying her in 2020’s The King: Eternal Monarch as the court lady who fusses over Lee Min Ho. I’m just so amazed that, at the time of this posting, Kim Young Ok is still actively acting, at 82 years of age! Wow! That’s pretty incredible!
Kwon Hae Hyo
Kwon Hae Hyo studied theater and film at Hanyang University, and made his acting debut in 1990 stage play The Good Person Of Szechwan, and then made his onscreen debut in 1992 movie Myong-ja Akiko Sonia. He’s since appeared in multiple dramas and movies in a wide variety of roles.
My first impression of him was in 2002’s Winter Sonata, where he played Bae Yong Joon’s affable friend and colleague. Over the years, he’s proven himself to be very versatile. Recently, I was pretty darn impressed with his outing as the resident baddie in 2019’s The Crowned Clown, followed by his role as a sweet and laidback CEO in Search: WWW the same year. Talk about coming in strong on both ends of the spectrum.
Park Sang Myun
Park Sang Myun studied theater at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, and made his acting debut in 1993 in stage musical Guys And Dolls. He then made his screen debut in 1996 movie Boss. He enjoyed a steady rise in popularity, and headlined several movies in 2001, including My Wife Is A Gangster and Hi! Dharma!. His popularity waned in 2002, however, and he has continued to act in both movies and dramas in a variety of supporting roles.
My favorite role of his so far, is that of Park Min Young’s wonderful doting dad in 2015’s Healer. I also really liked him as Lee Jang Woo’s kind father in 2019’s Graceful Family (do we see a trend here? Ha.) I just have this soft spot of him in the doting dad kind of space, even though he’s perfectly capable and competent in his other roles as well.
Kim Chang Wan
Did you know that Kim Chang Wan is a rock singer, composer, musician, actor, TV host, radio DJ, writer, and poet? Woah. I didn’t either, until I set about writing this post. He formed rock band Sanulrim with his two younger brothers, and they released their first album in 1977, to critical and commercial success. Their psychedelic rock / hard rock sound was considered fresh, and is credited with revitalizing the Korean music scene. Wow. Sanulrim disbanded in 2008, when drummer Kim Chang Ik died in tragically in a traffic accident. That’s really sad. 🙁
As a music director and film score composer, Kim Chang Ik eventually began to also appear in movies and dramas in supporting roles, and has acted in an impressive number of projects since. My deepest memory of Kim Chang Ik is his role in 2007’s Coffee Prince, as the kind-hearted manager of the café with questionable personal hygiene standards. Quite unforgettable, I thought!
Ahn Nae Sang
Ahn Nae Sang studied Theology(!) at Yonsei University, and began his acting career on the stage, before making his screen debut in 1994 short film Baeksekin, directed by Bong Joon Ho. He’s since appeared in numerous movies and dramas in a very wide range of roles. Ahn Nae Sang is quite the chameleon, and has played good guys, bad guys, funny guys and fierce guys, all with skill and aplomb.
My first memory of Ahn Nae Sang is in 2009 family drama Three Brothers, where he acted as the eldest brother (and Lee Joon Hyuk acted as the youngest). It’s a bit of a mind-bender now, to think of Ahn Nae Sang acting as someone’s son, rather than someone’s father, no? 😉 More recently, I thought he was very excellent as resident baddie Nam Jeon, in 2019’s My Country.
Kim Gab Soo
Kim Gab Soo made his acting debut in 1977, and has acted in numerous movies and dramas, in a diverse range of roles. He’s won multiple acting awards over the years, and also runs his own master class acting studio.
In my head, he’s always been great at playing antagonists, because of the way he’s able to channel eerie calm without moving a facial muscle. In recent years, though, he’s surprised me (pleasantly) by playing more affable, non-threatening characters, like in 2019’s Designated Survivor: 60 Days and 2020’s Hospital Playlist.
Kim Hae Sook
Kim Hae Sook made her acting debut in 1974 drama Chief Inspector, and went on to appear in numerous films and dramas, in a wide variety of roles. She’s won multiple awards over the years, and definitely feels like an OG in Hallyu, because for a time, she seemed to be just about every character’s mother. In conversation, that’s how my mom and I refer to her: Everyone’s Mother. Heh.
One of my earliest impressions of Kim Hae Sook, is in 2002’s Winter Sonata, where she plays Choi Ji Woo’s mom. I also really loved her in 2010 family drama Life Is Beautiful, where she plays the family’s loving mother. Recently, I really enjoyed her in 2020’s Hospital Playlist, where she plays Yoo Yeon Seok’s slightly quirky but very lovable mom. Yes, we see a trend; there’s a reason I thought of her as everyone’s mom. 😉
I hope you guys found my effort to answer the question on supporting actors somewhat helpful. Like I said before, I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, and these are just my personal thoughts and impressions.
If I missed your favorite supporting / character actors, or if you have insights to share, please tell us about it in the comments! 🙂
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!