30 Korean drama actors then VS now


Filipinos have consistently patronized South Korean dramas as early as the 2000s. Thanks to ABS-CBN and GMA-7, a lot of teens, young adults, and even the ajoomas (middle-aged woman) would look forward to watching dubbed versions of these Koreanovelas. Aside from its compelling story plots and enthralling characters, one significant factor of these successful Kdramas is the attractive and charming actors and actresses portraying their given roles.

After two decades, with over a thousand Kdramas featured on the Philippine television, the Korean fever continues to linger in the hearts of Filipinos—now tingling today’s generation of teens, young adults, and ajoomas. Thanks to the streaming platforms such as Netflix and Viu, fanatics can now binge-watch every show that features their beloved Oppa.

Check out the following photos below and see how far these Hallyu stars had already gone since their acting debut.

*not in a particular order


Park Shin-hye

(Left) Young Park Shin-hye starring in the television series Stairway to Heaven in 2003; (Right) 30-year-old Park Shin-hye in her latest role in the 2020 film #ALIVE.

One of the most recognizable South Korean stars, Park Shin-hye captured the hearts of many Pinoys after her television dramas You’re Beautiful (2009) and The Heirs (2013) were broadcasted in the country. She first gained popularity after starring in the melodrama Stairway to Heaven back in 2003 as the young female lead, which was also aired and even had its own Filipino adaptation in the country.

In 2015, Shin-hye ranked 33rd in the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list and placed 12th in 2017.


Shin Min-a

(Left) Shin Min-a playing a supporting role in 2001 melodrama Beautiful Days; (Left) Playing as a lawyer turned politician in the 2019 political drama Chief of Staff.

Shin Min-a was first introduced to Filipinos when she played the lead role in the television series My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho (Nine-Tailed Fox) in 2010 that was aired in the country a year after its original release.

Before she began her acting career, Min-a was a model for teen magazine KiKi in 1998, where she became one of the most in-demand and highest-paid commercial endorsers in South Korea. She then appeared in several music videos for K-pop boyband g.o.d until debuting in 2001 with a supporting role in a popular melodrama Beautiful Days. In 2020, Min-a is set to star in a drama Here, revolving around NGO volunteers.


Lee Dong-wook

(Left) 17-year-old Wookie in KBS’s School 2 in 1999-2000; (right) Lee Dong-wook in his gritty character in tvN’s Tale of the Nine-Tailed in 2020.

Lee Dong-wook first raised fame in the Philippine audience after playing a lead role in the comedy-drama series My Girl in 2005. He then made a comeback starring as the second lead in the hit-series Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (Goblin) in 2016 alongside actors Gong Yoo, Yoo In-na, and Kim Go-eun.

Dong-wook made his acting debut in 1999 in an MBC single-episode drama after winning the grand prize in the V-NESS model contest that same year. He was then cast in the teen drama School 2 (1999-2000). Apart from his acting career, Dong-wook is also known as a talk show host.


Yoo In-na

(Left) Screengrab from High Kick! Through the Roof in 2009; (Right) Yoo In-na as Oh Jin-shim in the rom-com series Touch Your Heart (2019).

After playing supporting roles in a situation comedy High Kick! Through the Roof (2009-2010) and Secret Garden (2010), Yoo In-na gained popularity as the lead actress in romantic-fantasy series Queen and I (2012). Following the series, she played a supporting role in the hit-series My Love from the Star (2013-2014).

One of her most successful projects was starring as a second lead in the fantasy series Goblin (2016-2017), where the show was claimed as one of the highest-rated cable series in South Korea.


Gong Yoo

(Left) Young Gong Yoo in his debut series School 4; (Right) Leading man role in a 2019 drama film Kim Ji-young: Born 1982 alongside actress Jung Yu-mi.

Gong Ji-cheol, popularly known as Gong Yoo, graduated from Kyung Hee University with a BA degree in theatre. He debuted his acting career in the television series School 4 in 2001. He did more supporting roles in dramas and films and even hosted a music program in 2004 before he landed his breakthrough project.

In 2005, Yoo was cast as the main lead in SBS’s Hello My Teacher, followed by romance melodrama One Fine Day in 2006. Then, the MBC cast him as the male lead in romantic comedy Coffee Prince in 2007, where he solidified his status as a leading man and made him a Hallyu star.

He made so many accomplishments, played multiple roles, and received tons of awards throughout his career. In 2016, Yoo returned to television, starring as the titular Goblin. The romantic drama gained so much popularity that it became a massive hit in South Korea and Asia. He also won the Best Actor award for his performance.


Son Ye-jin

(Right) Young Ye-jin in the 2001 television series Delicious Proposal; (Left) Ye-jin in the 2019 massive hit-series Crash Landing On You.

Recently stirred back the Kdrama fever in the Philippines, Son Ye-jin is widely known for her lead role in the 2019 massive hit-series Crash Landing On You, the third-highest rated Korean drama in cable television history.

She first rose to fame in romance-themed shows such as The Classic and Summer Scent in 2003, A Moment Remember in 2004, and April Show in 2005. Ye-jin won several acting recognition for her versatility in playing diverse roles.


Hyun Bin (born Kim Tae-pyung)

(Left) Young Hyun bin in his debut role in 2003 Bodyguard; (Right) Hyun Bin as Captain Ri in the 2020 massive hit-series Crash Landing on You.

Beloved Captain Ri—Hyun Bin first stepped into the limelight after he debuted as an actor in the 2003 television series Bodyguard. He then starred in a sitcom Nonstop 4 and romcom drama Ireland in 2004 before landing his first film debut in the Spin Kick that same year.

But it wasn’t until his role in the 2005 romcom drama My Name is Kim Sam-soon that Hyun Bin gained wide recognition. Since then, he has been cast in leading roles in some of the most successful shows, including Secret Garden (2010), Memories of the Alhambra (2018), and Crash Landing on You (2019), which earned the third-highest rated Korean drama in cable TV history.


Lee Min-ho

(Left) Teen Lee Min-ho playing a minor role in TV series Sharp in 2003; (Right) Coming back after serving his mandatory military service, Min-ho starred as a lead role in romantic-fantasy series The King: Eternal Monarch in 2020.

One of the most recognized and adored Oppas of Filipino fans, Lee Min-ho first gained his spot in the limelight after playing the role of the spoiled, rich heir Shinwa Group Gu Jun-pyo in Boys Over Flowers (2009). The hit-series also earned him the Best New Actor award at the 45th Baeksang Arts Awards, sealing his status as a leading man.

Like any other Hallyu stars, Min-ho had his humble beginnings debuting as an actor playing minor roles in several TV dramas including Nonstop 5 and Recipe of Love. Then in 2003, he landed his official debut role in an EBS series Secret Campus.

Min-ho’s other notable lead roles in TV series include comedy-drama Personal Taste (2010), City Hunter (2011), The Heirs (2013), Legend of the Blue Sea (2016), and The King: Eternal Monarch (2020).


Bae Suzy (born Bae Su-ji)

(Left) Bae Suzy debuts her acting career in the hit-teen series Dream High in 2011; (Right) In an upcoming 2020 TV drama, Suzy will play as a tech entrepreneur in Start-up alongside Nam Joo-hyuk.

A former member of the girl group Miss A, Bae Suzy debuted as an actress starring as one of the lead roles in teen romance series Dream High (2011). A year later, she made her film debut in Architecture 101 which earned her the nickname “Nation’s love“.

Playing several more roles throughout her career, Suzy also became one of the most in-demand endorsers in South Korea. In 2013 alone, Suzy made more than 10 billion won for more than 14 endorsement deals.


Song Joong-ki

(Left) Joong-ki from the romcom TV series Get Karl! Oh Soo-jung (2007) as a reporter; (Right) Movie sneak peek from the upcoming South Korean film Space Sweepers that was initially set to be released in 2020.

Before Captain Ri, Filipino fans fell in love first with the adorable yet badass Captain Si-jin in the Kdrama series Descendants of the Sun in 2016 played by actor Song Joong-ki.

Joong-ki rose to fame in the historical coming-of-age drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010) and the variety show Running Man (2010-2011) as one of the original cast members. Subsequently, he starred in various roles in different genres, including TV series The Innocent Man (2012) and Arthdal Chronicles (2019). He also played the lead roles in films A Werewolf Boy (2012) and The Battleship Island (2017), which both made it to the highest-grossing movies in South Korea.

In 2013, Joong-ki made it in the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list, placing seventh. He then placed second in 2017 and eighth in 2018, which later established his status as one of the top Hallyu stars.


Song Hye-kyo

(Left) Song Hye-kyo in 2000 melodrama Autum in My Heart; (Right) Hye-kyo in another hit-melodrama series Encounter alongside with actor Park Bo-gum in 2019.

Even before casting for the massive hit-Kdrama series Descendants of the Sun in 2016, Song Hye-kyo has already gained international recognition through her leading roles in TV dramas Autum in My Heart (2000), All In (2003), Full House (2004), and That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013).

She stepped into the entertainment industry as a model for a school uniform company when she was 14. This led her to be cast in minor roles in various dramas and sitcoms. But it wasn’t until the KBS drama Autumn in My Heart in 2000 when she rose to fame throughout Asia. The romantic melodrama series was a huge success that made Hye-kyo a Hallyu star.


Park Bo-young

Park Bo-young in TV series Secret Campus in 2006 (Left) and Abyss (Right) in 2019.

Park Bo-young is best known for her leading roles in the hit movies Scandal Makers (2008), A Werewolf Boy (2012), and On Your Wedding Day (2018). She also starred in TV series Oh My Ghost (2015), Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017), and Abyss (2019).

She debuted her acting career alongside fellow newbie Lee Min-ho in the 2006 high school TV series Secret Campus.


Kim Soo-hyun

Kim Soo-hyun in TV series Kimchi Cheese Smile in 2007 (Left) and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (Right) in 2020.

Kim Soo-hyun is currently the highest-paid Kdrama actor in 2020. He is also one of South Korea’s most celebrated Hallyu stars.

Soo-hyun got his big break in the teen musical drama Dream High in 2011. He was then cast in another TV drama Moon Embracing The Sun in 2012, establishing his status as a rising actor. He was first included in the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list in 2013 placing fourth, and again ranking second in 2015 and fifth in 2016. Forbes Asia also listed him in its 30 under 30 in 2016. With his popularity, Soo-hyun became the face of 17 products and crowned as ‘King of Commercials‘.


Seo Yi-je

Actress Seo Ye-ji in TV series Potato Star 2013QR3 in 2013 (Left) and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (Right) in 2020.

Seo Ye-ji began her acting career in the sitcom Potato Star 2013QR3 (2013). Major roles followed, including historical drama Diary of a Night Watchman (2014) and thriller Last (2015). Her notable lead roles in television series include Moorim School: Saga of the Brave (2016), Save Me (2017), Lawless Lawyer (2018), and It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020).

With her remarkable performance in her latest series, Ye-ji is gradually gaining popularity both in Korea and overseas.


Yoo Ah-in (born Uhm Hong-sik)

Yoo Ah-in starred in the TV series Sharp in 2003 (Left) and 2020 movie #ALIVE (Right).

Aside from acting, Yoo Ah-in is also known as a creative director and gallerist. He appeared in numerous films and TV series portraying diverse leading roles, including Punch (2011), Secret Love Affair (2014), Veteran (2015), The Throne (2015), and Six Flying Dragons (2015-2016).

Ah-in starred in the mystery drama film Burning in 2018, helmed by the acclaimed South Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong. The film received universal acclaim, becoming the first Korean film to make it to the final nine-film shortlist of Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards. For his role, Ah-in received international critical recognition, including being selected for The New York Times’ The Best Actors of 2018 feature. With this acclaim, Ah-in is the only Asian to be enlisted and the first Korean actor to do so.

Moreover, Ah-in also placed second in the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list in 2016.


Kim Woo-bin (born Kim Hyun-joong)

At age 22, Kim Woo-bin starred in Kdrama series White Christmas in 2011 (Left); Prior to his cancer treatments, Woo-bin starred in a lead role in another TV drama Uncontrollably Fond in 2016 (Right).

Kim Woo-bin started his entertainment career as a runway model in 2009 at the age of 20. As his modeling career progressed, Woo-bin also started doing commercial films on the sidelines and eventually began studying acting.

In 2011, he debuted his acting career in the television drama White Christmas. He was then cast in A Gentleman’s Dignity in 2012, where he gained recognition from viewers. But it wasn’t until his roles in School 2013 and The Heirs that he had his big break.

In April 2017, Woo-bin was appointed as an honorary ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korean. He is the second actor to take on this role. Unfortunately, he needed to pull out due to his ongoing cancer treatments.


Lee Jong-suk

Lee Jong-suk in his early acting years, playing as an investigator in TV series Prosecutor Princess in 2010 (left); Portraying the lead role in series Romance Is a Bonus Book in 2019.

Like his close friend and fellow model-actor Woo-bin, Lee Jong-suk also began his entertainment career as a model at the Seoul Collection walkway in 2005. He is the youngest male to debut in the Seoul Collection program at Seoul Fashion Week.

In 2010, Jong-suk made his official acting debut in the Kdrama series Prosecutor Princess and made his big-screen debut in the horror movie Ghost.

Three years later, Jong-suk landed on his breakout role in School 2013 (2012). He is also well known for his roles in I Can Hear Your Voice (2013), Doctor Stranger (2014), Pinocchio (2014), W (2016), While You Were Sleeping (2017), The Hymn of Death (2018) and Romance Is a Bonus Book (2019).

Currently, Jong-suk is still serving his mandatory military service working as a public service officer. He is expected to be discharged on January 2, 2021.


Krystal Jung (born Chrystal Soo Jung)

Krystal in 2010 sitcom More Charming by the Day (left); As Lt. Son Ye-rim in 2020 TV drama Search (right).

Krystal Jung began her entertainment career as an idol and a girl group member of f(x) in 2009. A talent agency spotted her and her older sister Jessica Jung during their vacation trip to South Korea in early 2000. Both girls were born and raised in San Francisco, California.

In 2002, Krystal began appearing in television commercials, though only selected because her parents do not want to expose her much due to her young age. Finally, in 2006, her parents allowed her to join SM Entertainment, training her as an idol.

She trained for three years before debuting as a part of f(x) in 2009 together with four other members. A year later, the singer debuted as an actress with a minor role in the long-running sitcom More Charming by the Day. She also starred in the sitcom High Kick 3 (2011) and TV dramas The Heirs (2013), Potato Star 2013QR3 (2014), The Bride of Habaek (2017), Prison Playbook (2017), and Player (2018).

Krystal was also cast as one of the lead roles in the upcoming 2020 TV series Search.


Park Bo-gum

Bo-gum starring in a supporting role in thriller film Blind (left); Portraying the role of an aspiring model from a working-class family in TV series Record of Youth (right).

Another young renowned Korean actor, Park Bo-gum gained recognition for playing diverse roles in both film and television. He debuted his acting career in 2011 playing a supporting role in the thriller film Blind. Two years later, he landed his first notable role in the TV drama Wonderful Mama (2013). Since then, he leaps from one project to another; notably, Hello Monster (2015), Reply 1988 (2015), Love in the Moonlight (2016), Encounter (2018), and Record of Youth (2020).

Bo-gum was the youngest artist to be named Actor of the Year by Gallup Korea. He was also the first-ever actor to top the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list.


Kim Go-eun

Kim Go-eun in her first-ever acting role in 2012 (left); Coming back into television, Go-eun played as a detective in the series The King: Eternal Monarch (right).

After bagging several Best New Actress awards in South Korea during her debut film A Muse (2012), Kim Go-eun promptly gained her spot in the entertainment industry. The then-21-year-old actress had never appeared in a movie or TV drama before which made critics more amazed by her performance.

After taking a break from acting for two years, Go-eun once again showcased her versatility in the thriller films Monster (2014) and Coin Locker Girl (2015), and martial arts period drama Memories of the Sword (2015). She appeared in several more films before she made her television debut in the hit cable series Cheese in the Trap (2016) where she won Baeksang Arts Award for Best New Actress Television for her performance.

Eventually, her acting career reached its height when she co-starred in megahit fantasy drama Guardian: The Lonely and Great God (2016). The drama received critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. In 2019, Go-eun was once again cast in the fantasy drama The King: Eternal Monarch alongside Lee Min-ho that was highly anticipated due to its renowned cast ensemble.


Park So-dam

The Silenced in 2015 (left); Record of Youth in 2020 (right)

Park So-dam is internationally known for her role in the critically acclaimed Korean black comedy-thriller film Parasite in 2019. The film won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

But before that, So-dam started her acting career by auditioning for independent films in 2013. After being rejected in around seventeen auditions, she eventually broke into the mainstream in 2015 after making a strong impression with her performance in the mystery-thriller film The Silenced. So-dam took more lead roles in the A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella with Four Knights both in 2016.

Currently, she is one of the main lead in the ongoing Kdrama series Record of Youth alongside Park Bo-gum.


Jang Keun-suk

Keun-suk started acting as early as 1997 (left); one of his recent photos posted on Instagram (right)

Jang Keun-suk made his acting debut in the 1997 sitcom Selling Happiness. He continued working as a child actor before he went to New Zealand, where he attended College. He came back to South Korea when he was offered a role in a popular sitcom Nonstop 4.

Keun-suk played more roles in various projects, notably, TV dramas Beethoven Virus (2008), You’re Beautiful (2009), Mary Stayed Out All Night (2010), Love Rain (2012), Pretty Man (2013), The Royal Gambler (2016), and Switch (2018).


Kim Tae Hee

Kim Tae-hee in her first acting role in 2001 (left) vs in her recent TV series in 2020 (2020).

Dubbed as one of South Korea’s most beautiful women, Kim Tae-hee was notably known for her iconic roles in Stairway to Heaven in 2003. She started as a model and appeared in a couple of television commercials and print ads, before making her acting debut with a minor role in the 2001 melodrama Last Present.

After rising to stardom following her successful TV drama in 2003, Tae-hee took more lead roles, including Love Story in Harvard (2004), Iris (2009), My Princess (2011), Yong-pal (2015), and Hi Bye, Mama! (2020).


Rain (born Jung Ji-hoon)

2003 Rom-com drama series Sang Doo! Let’s Go to School (left); 2019 Fantasy rom-com drama series Welcome 2 Life (right).

Born as Jung Ji-hoon, Rain rose to fame following his acting debut in the 2003 Sang Doo! Let’s Go To School. But his lead role in the pan-Asia hit drama Full House (2004) established his status as a Hallyu star. He landed in several more movie and TV series projects and even had the chance to debut in Hollywood in films Speed Racer (2008) and Ninja Assassin (2009). The two films later made him the first Korean actor to win an MTV award.

Aside from acting, Rain is also active in the music industry, releasing seven albums, 28 singles, and had numerous concert tours worldwide. His albums sold a million copies in Asia, attaining his international star status.


Ju Ji-hoon

Ju Ji-hoon portraying the roles of Crown Prince Lee Shin in 2006 (left) and Crown Prince Lee Chang in 2019-present (right).

Model turned actor Ju Ji-hoon made his big break as an actor after landing his first leading role in the 2006 hit drama Princess Hours. He even won the Best New Actor award at the MBC Drama Awards along with his co-star Yoon Eun-hye.

He is currently portraying another crowned prince role in Netflix’s zombie period drama Kingdom.


Yoon Eun-hye

Eun-hye portraying the roles of Shin Chae-gyung in 2006 Princess Hours (left) and Gong Sun-hwa in 2019 Go Go Song (right).

Yoon Eun-hye debuted in the entertainment industry as a member of girl group Baby V.O.X at the age of 15 (active from 1999 to 2005). Then she stepped into acting and is well-known for her roles in the television dramas Princess Hours (2006), The Vineyard Man (2006), Coffee Prince (2007), My Fair Lady (2009), Lie to Me (2011), and Missing You (2012).


Jun Ji-hyun

Ji-hyun in 1999 White Valentine (left) and a cameo in 2020 Zombie-thriller Kingdom (right).

Jun Ji-hyun has received multiple awards since stepping into the acting industry. She won two Grand Bell Awards for Best Actress and a Daesang (Grand Prize) for TV at the Baeksang Arts Awards.

Ji-hyun first rose to fame after playing her role in the 2001 rom-com film My Sassy Girl, which is one of the highest-grossing Korean comedies of all time. Apart from movies, she also starred in hit television series My Love from the Star (2013) and Legend of the Blue Sea (2016). She is one of the most celebrated stars in the South Korean industry, establishing her status as a top Hallyu star.


Goo Hye-sun/Ku Hye-sun

Hye-sun in 2006 Pure in Heart (left) and 2017 You Are Too Much (right).

Popularly known by Filipinos as the “Laundry girl Geum Jan-di“, Ku Hye-sun entered the entertainment industry following her viral discovery on the internet as an ulzzang or “good looking”. She was initially set to debut as part of the girl group 2NE1 together with Park Bom and Sandara Park, but she was advised to pursue acting rather than music.

After appearing in the 2004 MBC sitcom Nonstop 5, Hye-sun started gaining recognition for her performance. She had a couple more television drama projects including Pure In Heart (2006), The King and I (2007), and Strongest Chil Woo (2008), before landing her vivacious character in mega-hit series Boys Over Flowers (2009).

Aside from acting, Hye-sun is also a singer-songwriter and director. She married Blood (2015) co-star Ahn Jae-hyun in 2016, however, divorced in 2019. After that, Hye-sun announced her break from the limelight to resume college.


Nam Joo-hyuk

Nam Joo-hyuk in 2014 The Idle Mermaid (left) and 2020 The School Nurse Files (right).

Like most actors in the South Korean entertainment industry, Nam Joo-hyuk began his career as a model in 2013. A year later, he appeared in the music videos 200% and Give Love of fellow YG Entertainment artist before landing his acting debut as a supporting role in a rom-com drama, The Idle Mermaid.

Slowly, Joo-hyuk garnered attention from viewers especially after appearing in teen drama Who Are You: School 2015, college romance Cheese in the Trap, and historical drama Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. Soon after, Joo-hyuk made his big break after starring in his first lead role in the youth sports drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo alongside Lee Sung-hyuk.

Currently, Joo-hyuk is one of the leading roles in Netflix’s supernatural crime drama The School Nurse Files and romantic drama Startup alongside Bae Suzy.


Lee Sung-kyung

Lee Sung-kyung in 2014 It’s Okay, That’s Love (left) and 2020 Dr. Romantic 2 (right).

Lee Sung-kyung gained popularity after portraying her leading role as the titular character in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. The adorable chemistry she had with co-star Nam Joo-hyuk attracted fans for the series.

Before her acting career, Sung-kyung began as a model, competing at a local Super Model Contest in 2008. She then debuted as an actress in 2014 TV drama It’s Okay, That’s Love with a supporting role, followed by Flower of Queen in 2015 and a special drama project where she won Best New Actress Award.

In 2016, she joined the cast in tvN’s college romance series Cheese in the Trap and SBS’s medical drama The Doctors, before landing her role in the titular series late 2016.


Did we miss your favorite Oppa/Unnie? Let us know in the comments below!