The South Korean entertainment content is the hottest new baby in the global industry. The rising popularity of Korean pop music, dramas, and movies is collectively referred to as the Hallyu wave. And trust us when we say that it has wholly engulfed us in its enormity too. Over the last decade, South Korea has dedicatedly carved a place for itself in the global entertainment industry. From winning several Academy Awards in major categories to Grammy nominations, the Korean industry seems unstoppable! Today’s article will focus on the top 25 most popular Korean Actors in the world.
South Korean actors are very different from actors in other countries because they must take a 2-year long break in their career for their mandatory military service. This usually happens at the peak of their careers as most actors choose to settle and make a name for themselves before they serve their country to have some stable popularity to come back to. An actor can delay their service only until they turn 28 years old. However, this has never caused a hindrance in any actor’s life as they have not only gained popularity in South Korea but have a massive fan following worldwide. Read on to find out more!
1. Lee Min Ho
We bet you have seen the 33-year-old actor in some of the biggest Korean movies like Gangnam Blues and Bounty Hunters. Some of his most famous K-Dramas include Boys Over Flowers, The King: Eternal Monarch, and Legend Of The Blue Seas, among many others. He was the recipient of several prestigious awards such as the Baeksang Arts Awards, Blue Dragon Film Awards, Grand Bell Awards, Weibo Movie Awards, KBS Drama Awards, SBS Drama Awards, and Seoul International Drama Awards, among many others. Lee Min Ho is one of the biggest pallbearers of the South Korean Hallyu wave. As of 2021, he is paid a whopping figure of $84,000 per episode in a television drama.
2. Park Seo Joon
Park Seo Joon is one of the biggest actors in Korean television. He played the lead role of Young-Jun in one of South Korea’s most popular television shows of all time – ‘What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?’ in 2018. You have also seen him in other popular series such as Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, Fight For My Way, and, very recently, Itaewon Class. Some of Seo Joon’s most notable movie appearances were Chronicles of Evil, Midnight Runners, and the Divine Fury. One quality that makes Park Seo Joon one of the most sought-after actors in South Korea is his versatility. He is not only the ‘King of Romance’ but also equally adept with playing roles in the comedy and horror genres. Park Seo Joon has also won several awards, such as Blue Dragon Films Awards, KBS Drama Awards, Baeksang Arts Awards, Korea Drama Awards, APAN Star Awards, and the Chunsa Film Art Awards, among many others. Seo Joon earns about $25,000 per episode for an appearance in a drama.
3. Choi Woo Shik
Choi Woo Shik has been a part of some of the biggest movies South Korea has ever made. His most notable work was in the Oscar-winning movie Parasite, where he played one of the leads. Parasite went on to become the first South Korean movie to have ever won an Academy Award for both Best Film and Best Director in 2020. The chances are that you have also seen him in the blockbuster hits – Train To Busan and Okja. Choi Woo Shik has also appeared in television dramas such as Fight For My Way, Pride And Prejudice, The Package, and You Are My Destiny, among many others. We are very excited about his new drama – That Year, We Are, which is yet to have an official release date. Though Woo Shik was born in South Korea and has his entire career there, he actually happens to be a Canadian citizen as his parents immigrated there when he was only 5 years old.
4. Park Bo Gum
Park Bo Gum is another young talented actor in South Korea. As we write this article, he is serving his mandatory time in the South Korean military. His latest television appearance was in Record of Youth in 2020. Park Bo Gum’s worldwide popularity comes from Forbes naming him as the first Korean actor as a Korea Power Celebrity. He was also the youngest artist who was named Actor of the Year by Gallup Korea. His other famous roles in Korean television were in the dramas Hello Monster, Reply 1988, and Love In The Moonlight. Some of Bo Gum’s most famous movie appearances were in A Hard Day and The Admiral: Roaring Currents. The latter was the highest-grossing Korean Movie of its time. Park Bo Gum has also released several songs and one studio album called ‘Blue Bird.’
5. Kim Soo Hyun
This 33-year-old actor is the highest-paid actor in South Korea. You will be shocked to learn that he earns about $600,000 for each episode in a K-Drama. Most recently, he was seen playing the lead role at the mega-hit drama – It’s Okay To Not Be Okay in 2020. This was his first project after returning from his mandatory military service. You have also seen him in Dream High, Moon Embracing The Sun, The Thieves, and Greatly among other television dramas. Kim Soo Hyun is often named as Korea’s Actor of the Year and a Korea Power Celebrity. The Time Magazine’s Asia edition also named him in their 30 under 30 list. He has many Baeksang Awards, Blue Dragon Film Awards, KBS Drama Awards, and APAN music awards, among many others to his name. He has also won several international awards for his work.
6. Hyun Bin
Hyun Bin’s actual name is Kim Tae Pyung. He started his career in 2002, even though his actual debut as an actor happened in 2003. His first-ever television series, ‘Bodyguard’ and movie ‘Spin Kick,’ both released in the same year – 2003. Hyun Bin’s time in the military was also impeccable, and he performed very well in every activity he was a part of. After being discharged in 2012, he set up his own entertainment company – O& Entertainment. You have seen Hyun Bin in movies like A Millionaire’s First Love, Come Rain Come, Shine, The Fatal Encounter, Confidential Assignment, The Negotiation, and The Point Men, among many others. Some of his most popular television series which achieved very high rankings were – Crash Landing On You, Secret Garden, The Snow Queen, and Memories of Alhambra, among many others.
7. Ji Chang Wook
Ji Chang Wook is not just an actor but a singer too. A truly multifaceted artist! You have seen him in Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Empress Ki, Healer, Suspicious Partner, Melting Me Softly, and more recently in Backstreet Rookie and Lovestruck In The City. His entertainment career actually took off in the branch of music and not acting. He made his acting debut with You Stole My Heart in 2008. Ji Chang Wook completed his military service between 2017 and 2019. The actor has also appeared in several Chinese dramas, and variety shows in mandarin. Along with the South Korean accolades to his name, Ji Chang Wook also has several Chinese ones, including a China TV Drama Awards. He is paid around $67,000 per episode.
8. Kim Woo Bin
Kim Woo Bin was actually born Kim Hyun Joong. In South Korea, we see a number of singers turn into actors and vice versa. While actors also become models once they gain adequate popularity, seldom does a runway model becomes an actor. Kim Woo Bin is one of those rare people. He started his career when he was only 20 years old as a runway model for the Seoul Fashion Week. Though his career started in 2009, the turning point in his acting career came in 2013. This is he starred in two hit television shows and one blockbuster movie. Woo Bin has been in a relationship with Shin Mi Na since 2015. His diagnosis of nasopharyngeal cancer led to his exemption from military service. Some of his most famous movies and shows are Runway Cop, Twenty, Master, The Heirs, White Christmas, and Uncontrollably Fond, among many others.
9. Gong Yoo
Gong Yoo’s actual name is Gong Ji Cheol. His stage name is a wordplay with his mother’s last name Yoo and his father’s last name Gong. He is believed to a descendent of the Chinese philosopher Confucious from his father’s side. Gong Yoo started his career as a video jockey in 2000 and debuted as an actor the very next year in 2001. His first television series was called School 4. The major breakthrough and turning point of his career came in a romantic comedy – Coffee Prince. He completed his military service between early 2008 and last 2009. Some of his major cinema roles were in A Train To Busan, A Man And A Woman, Like A Dragon, and The Age Of Shadows, among many others. On the television front, he played the role of the Goblin in Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.
10. Lee Joon Gi
Though Lee Joon Gi is a South Korean actor, he is equally popular in all East Asian countries for his diverse work all across the Asian continent. He first rose to popularity for his portrayal in the lead role in King And The Clown in 2005. His role here earned him several major and grand awards in various prestigious ceremonies. He gained popularity overseas by starring in the movie Virgin Show which is one of the highest-earning Korean movies in Japan in history. Lee Jong Gi made his comeback in the industry after his military service with the drama Arang and the Magistrate. This is one of the most expensive movies to ever be sold to Japan. It earned him several accolades.
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11. Song Joong Ki
Another one of South Korea’s megastars, Song Joong Ki, has played the lead roles in some of the country’s biggest television dramas and movies. He was the lead in K-Dramas, such as The Descendants of The Sun and Vincenzo. The latter is yet to release its final episodes. His blockbuster movies include A Werewolf Boy and The Battleship Island. Both of these movies are some of the biggest movies to have ever been made in South Korea. He has been named as the Actor of the Year and as a Power Celebrity several times throughout his career to date. He earns about $68,000 per episode in a drama. This figure makes him one of the top 10 highest-paid actors in South Korea.
12. Lee Jong Suk
When Lee Jeong Suk debuted as a runway model, he was the youngest ever to do so in the Seoul Fashion Week. Some of his most famous roles were in I Can Hear Your Voice, Doctor Stranger, Pinocchio, W, While You Were Sleeping, and Romance Is A Bonus Book. You can catch the last one on Netflix. Jong Suk also prepared hard for their debut as an idol trainee for a long time before he gave up that idea to become an actor. He made his debut in 2010 with Prosecutor Princess. He entered the big screen industry with a horror movie – Ghost. School 2013 was his turning point as a career. It was this role that gained him several major awards and put him on the map.
13. Lee Seung Gi
Lee Seung Gi is a very popular actor and singer. His popular South Korean dramas include Brilliant Legacy, My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho, The King 2 Hearts, Gu Family Book, You’re All Surrounded, and A Korean Odyssey. His latest drama in 2021 is Mouse. Lee Seung Gi is indeed the perfect package as an artist because of his multifaceted talents as an actor, singer, and variety show host. As of 2021, he is one of the highest-paid actors in South Korea, earning about $117,000 each episode. Lee Seung Gi’s military service was also well celebrated as he performed very well there. His rank was that of a Byeongjang.
14. Park Hyung Sik
Park Hyung Sik is a multi-talented artist. Not only is he an actor but also an idol singer. Hyung Sik is a member of the boy group ZE: A. He made his debut as an idol in 2010. His acting career began in 2012 with the drama called I Remember You. Some of his notable works include his roles in Nine, Red Men, What’s With This Family, The Heirs, High Society, Hwarang: The Poet Warrior and Strong Girl Bong Soon. The last one is one of the most popular k-dramas of all time. Park Hyung Sik played the main role of Kwon Nam Woo in Juror 8. He is also very passionate about musicals and has appeared in several of them. His notable works were in The Three Musketeers ad Elisabeth.
15. Jo In Sung
Jo In Sung has been active as a part of the industry since 1998. Some of his most notable works include his lead roles in soap operas such as What Happened in Bali, The Winter, and The Wind Blows, among many others. His most popular movies were The Classic, A Dirty Carnival, A Frozen Flower, and The King. Jo In Sung’s military service was slightly longer than that of his contemporaries by about 4 months. This is probably because he chose to serve in the Air Force. In Sung also received critical acclaim in several overseas entertainment industries by taking up several foreign projects.
16. Song Kang
A rare young actor on our list, Song Kang is one of the most famous South Korean actors worldwide. He started giving a tough competition to all his seniors in the industry by appearing in dramas such as Love Alarm and Sweet Home. Both of them are two of the most popular dramas of our times. More recently, fans and viewers saw Song Kang as a ballerina in Navillera. His role here helped him gain critical acclaim as Lee Chae Rok. He is a very hardworking actor who gives everything and dedicates himself to all the roles he plays. He learned ballet for 6 months as a part of his preparation for playing Chae Rok in Navillera.
17. Ju Ji Hoon
Ju Hi Hoon started his career in 2003 when he was about 21 years old. Some of his most famous works are The Devil, Antique, Mask, and two installments of Along With The Gods, among many others. Ju Ji Hoon entered the industry as an advertisement model. He has been associated with some of the biggest fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Levi’s, and Reebok. He also won several awards during his model career. His turning point as an actor was his role in Princess Hours. He won the Best New Actor Awards at the MBC Drama Awards for this role. His debut film Antique received an invitation to the 59th Berlin International Film Festival. As of January 2021, he signed with a new agency – H& Entertainment, and has several projects lined up.
18. Jang Dong Yoon
Jang Dong Yoon is one of the younger actors on our list at only 28 years old. Quite interestingly, unlike other actors, Dong Yoon graduated in Finance and Economics in college. The beginning of his career was also very uncanny. He received a bravery medal from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency for getting a culprit arrested who had threatened a clerk at a local convenience store. Actually, his popularity from having won the bravery medal led to the first casting offers to pour in. Jang Dong Yoon had begun his military service right after he finished high school. This was the reason why he was done with it as early as 2014. It was actually a very smart move on his part as it would imply that he would not have to take any major breaks at the peak of his career, unlike most other actors.
19. Jung Woo Sung
Jung Woo Sung is not just a talented actor but also a well-known philanthropist and humanitarian. He is the first-ever Korean Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR. He started his career as a runway model and then gained popularity as a teen actor in cult movies. The movie which catapulted him to stardom was Beat in 1997. He won the Best New Actor Award for his role here at the 17th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards. His popularity is not just limited to South Korea. He is popular in most East Asian countries, but he is most well recognized in Japan. Some of his highest-grossing movies are Steel Rain, The King, Asura: The City of Madness, and Reign of Assasins. Jung Woo Sung’s beginnings in life were very humble where he grew up in one of South Korea’s poorest towns back then – Sadang Dong. We are very happy for him for all the achievements he has had so far!
20. Cho Jung Suk
Cho Jung Suk’s career began in 2004 as a 24-year-old rookie. He actually began as an actor in theatre plays before proceeding to movies and television dramas. Some of his most famous musicals are Spring Awakening, Hedwig And The Angry Inch, and The Harmonium in My Memory, among a host of another theatre plays. His first movie was Architecture 101, where he had a supporting role. Before debuting, he already had a good 10 years of experience working as a theatre actor backing him up. His well-known films include Exit, The Face Reader, and My Love My Bride. Some of his famous television shows are Hospital Playlist and Dare To Dream.
21. Song Seung Heon
Song Seung Heon is both an actor and a model. He was born in Seoul, South Korea. Song Seung Hoon started his career in 1995 when he was only 19 years old. He is one of the pioneers of the Hallyu wave. Seung Heon is also one of the first people to globalize the country’s entertainment industry. The first major breakthrough of his career came with Autumn in My Heart. His popular television series and movies include Make It Big, So Close, Summer Scent, and Winter Sonata. His comeback drama after his military enlistment won him several accolades. It was East of Eden. He was the center of a scandal when it was found out that his urine samples submitted as a part of his military service approval were tampered with.
22. Kang Ha Neul
Kang Ha Neul is one of the most popular actors in South Korea currently. Last year, Forbes ranked him 23rd in their list of Korea Power Celebrity. Kang Ha Neul has a long list of achievements in his career within a very short period of time. He has appeared in several hit dramas such as The Heirs, Angel Eyes When the Camelia Blooms, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, and Misaeng: Incomplete Life, among many others. Some of his most notable works on the big screen include films such as Mourning Grave, Twenty, Dongju: The Portrait Of A Poet, New Trial, and Midnight Runners, among many others.
23. Cha Seung Won
Cha Seung Won is another actor on our list who started his career as a very popular model in the fashion industry. He was very much in-demand in South Korea’s fashion scene back in the 90s decade. You have seen him in hit shows such as Ghost House, My Teacher Mr. Kim, and Kick The Moon – all in the comedy genres. He is a very versatile actor and has proven this by play diverse roles equally well; not only his comedy-dramas become famous but also his thriller Blood Rain and melancholy drama My Son. He made his debut in 1997 with the movie Holiday In Seoul.
24. Cha Eun Woo
Cha Eun Woo is one of the youngest actors on our list. More often than not, it is k-pop stars who are young. The South Korean audience usually prefers seasoned men as their favorite. However, Eun Woo has successfully broken this stereotype by becoming one of the youngest actors in the industry to receive widespread popularity. He is also a member of the famous idol boy group – Astro. You have seen him in Master In The House and True Beauty. He has also received much acclaim for his ravishing visuals. He was also there in Gangnam Beauty. We are excited to see what still lies in Eun Woo’s future career as an actor!
25. Park Hae Jin
One of Park Hae Jin’s most famous dramas was Cheese In The Trap. It was a webtoon adapted into a K-Drama. You must have also seen him in Man To Man, Kkondae Intern, and Forest in the leading roles. He played supporting roles in the dramas like Doctor Stranger and My Love From The Star. However, his role as Yoo Jung in both the television series and the movie – Cheese In The Trap was his breakthrough role in the cutthroat competition of South Korean entertainment. It was this role that earned him some of the biggest awards and accolades of his career.