South Korea is known for K-pop and its high-quality movies and dramas starring South Korean actors and actresses. Rather than relying on showing mainly Hollywood-produced TV series and movies on the television or cinema, Koreans are constantly creating films for their domestic market.
This creates a lot of opportunities for amazing Korean actors and actresses to rise to stardom. New artists are always rising to fame, but this list is for the best of the best.
Here are our picks for the best South Korean actors.
- 1 Famous South Korean Actors
- 2 South Korean Movie Stars
Famous South Korean Actors
Below are the most popular South Korean actors known for their superb performance in playing their roles in K-dramas.
이민호 Lee Min Ho
Recommended to watch in: City Hunter
Lee Min Ho shot to stardom overnight when he began starring in the popular K-drama Boys Over Flowers, a remake of Japan’s Hana Yori Dango.
Other known dramas that Min Ho had leading roles for were City Hunter, The Heirs, Legend of the Blue Sea, and his most recent Korean drama, The King: Eternal Monarch.
The actor enlisted for mandatory military service in March 2018 and was discharged in April 2019. After which, he worked on more dramas and reprised his title as one of the top South Korean Actors of all time.
김수현 Kim Soo Hyun
Recommended to watch in: My Love from the Star
While Kim Soo Hyun was already a household name in Korea by the time My Love from the Star hit the TV, it was this K-drama that made him known worldwide.
This South Korean actor is one of Korea’s most known Hallyu stars, and he is consistently ranked as one of Korea’s best and most popular and handsome Korean actors. He has also recorded some songs for the dramas he has starred in.
Some of the popular South Korean series he also starred in are Dream High, Moon Embracing the Sun, and It’s Okay Not To Be Okay. Apart from South Korean drama, he also took lead roles in some films, two of which are entitled Secretly Greatly and The Thieves.
원빈 Won Bin
Recommended to watch in: The Man from Nowhere
Won Bin has been one of Korea’s celebrity sweethearts ever since his appearance in Autumn In My Heart.
Although even in 2019, he has one of the highest name recognition of all Korean actors, he has actually only acted in a handful of movies and TV series. His last project was nearly a decade ago.
There has not been word of when we would have the pleasure of seeing him in a movie or K-drama project again.
소지섭 So Ji Sub
Recommended to watch in: Oh My Venus
Since the mid-1990s, So Ji Sub has been a familiar face on South Korean TV screens. Among his most popular work to date are the dramas Oh My Venus, Cain and Abel, Sorry I love you, and Master’s Sun.
Apart from being an actor, he has also released several hip-hop singles and albums.
주지훈 Ju Ji Hoon
Recommended to watch in: Kingdom
Ever since Joo Ji Hoon took the lead role opposite of Yoon Eun Hye on Princess Hours in 2006, South Korean fans have been crazy about him.
Although he has only appeared in about a dozen movies and less than ten dramas to date, his performances have always continued to be top-notch.
His career derailed quite early on, in 2009, due to drug charges, but his acting chops have since managed to convince South Korea to fall in love with him all over again. He most recently starred in the 2019 horror-thriller series entitled Kingdom. Fans are excited for the release of its third season in 2021.
이종석 Lee Jong Suk
박보검 Park Bo Gum
현빈 Hyun Bin
Recommended to watch in: Secret Garden
Next, there’s Hyun Bin. He has been viewed as one of the brightest Korean actors among the South Korean audience ever since his heartwarming performance in the South Korean series called My Lovely Sam Soon.
Versatility in projects and acting abilities is something that the actor is especially known and acknowledged for. His most recent drama was Crash Landing On You, which gained huge popularity worldwide.
지창욱 Ji Chang Wook
Recommended to watch in: Healer
Ji Chang Wook has played roles in different types of Souh Korean dramas, from action, romance to historical dramas. This handsome Korean actor has first grown popular when he played the leading role in Smile Again.
The mandatory military service in Korea didn’t hinder the actor in continuing his acting career. He started his service in 2017 and was discharged in 2019. In the same year, he was back to acting in the romantic-comedy series, Melting Me Softly.
김우빈 Kim Woo Bin
Recommended to watch in: Uncontrollably Fond
Kim Woo Bin is a South Korean actor who started as a model. He had his acting debut in the South Korean series White Christmas. He also starred in the popular drama The Heirs.
In April 2017, Kim Woo Bin was appointed as an honorary ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. However, he was eventually pulled out from the role as he was ongoing treatment for his cancer. This was diagnosed back in May 2017. Since then, Kim Woo Bin hasn’t appeared in any roles in television but remains well-known due to his past acting roles.
South Korean Movie Stars
In this list, we have just entailed some of Korea’s acting industry’s brightest and most critically acclaimed male Korean actors. However, there are so many capable actors working in the business, with new Korean actors breaking into the business every week.
공지철 Gong Yoo
Recommended to watch in: Coffee Prince
Gong Yoo might be a familiar name and face to the worldwide audience due to the insanely popular zombie film Train To Busan. However, he has been popular among South Korean fans for more than a decade, ever since he starred in the popular K-drama Coffee Prince.
Most recently, this South Korean actor played the leading role in Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, or better known as Goblin, is among the most famous Korean dramas in the recent history of South Korean TV. He is also well-known for his product endorsements both in Korea and in the international market.
송중기 Song Joong Ki
Recommended to watch in: Descendants of the Sun
This handsome Korean actor has risen to fame in the Korean drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal. This series made Joong Ki known and eventually starred in big South Korean series popular worldwide. This includes the dramas Werewolf boy, Descendants of the Sun, and Vincenzo. He also recently starred in the film Space Sweepers.
In 2017, Song Joong Ki was married to his co-leading star in Descendants of the Sun, actress Song Hye Kyo. However, the two got divorced in 2019.
최민식 Choi Min Sik
Recommended to watch in: Oldboy
If you have yet to see Oldboy, you might want to pause this article and watch this masterpiece. Oldboy is also the role that Choi Min Sik is the most known for, though it is far from being the only role he has acted in.
He is often thought to be among Korea’s most talented Korean actors and is also among the most critically acclaimed.
이병헌 Lee Byung Hun
Recommended to watch in: Inside Men
Lee Byung Hun might already be a familiar face to you from the Hollywood hits Terminator Genisys, The Magnificent Seven, and the G.I. Joe series.
However, he has been actively working in South Korean movies and dramas as well, all the way up until today.
Despite having also appeared in the news due to scandals, he is regarded in Korea as one of the most talented Korean actors.
안성기 Ahn Sung Ki
Recommended to watch in: Fine Windy Day
Although Ahn Sung Ki may be an unfamiliar name to our younger generation, this South Korean actor has been the darling of the older generation for decades now, ever since he debuted as a child actor in the 1960s.
He has been dubbed the “National Best Actor” and is in general seen as one of Korea’s most respected Korean actors. Although he is already well into his 60s, he’s still making appearances in movies.
If you liked this, then check out our page to know more about Korean dramas and Korean films. For other great resources related to the Korean language, check out our pages on how to learn Korean and how to speak Korean, the most commonly used Korean words that you should learn first, helpful Korean phrases you’ll need to learn, and Korean Sentence Structure.
Which South Korean actors are your favorite? Are there any that you think should be on this list that isn’t? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo Credit: BigStockPhoto, Yeonhab, Naver Movie, Soompi, Starhaus [CC BY 2.0 kr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/kr/deed.en)], LG전자 and LGE [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], ILCHIRI and SSG BLOG (Shinsegye official) [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], Kinocine at Korean Wikipedia and Petr Novák at Wikipedia and Kinocine at ko.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]