The South Korean entertainment industry consists of so many great actors that it's hard for fans to pick favorites.
From warriors of the past to modern-day soldiers, from white-collar doctors and lawyers to international spies, actors in Korean TV series (called "K-dramas") have played all kinds of roles.
More than that, these stunning male leads never fail to build chemistry with their female co-stars, resulting in all kinds of nominations for the "Couple of the Year" awards by various award-giving bodies.
All of this has contributed to the worldwide popularity of K-dramas. Here are my picks for the best K-drama actors of all time, along with the best performances of their careers.
15. Park Seo-Joon
Known for being a master of romantic comedy, Park Seo-joon lived up to that reputation when he played Deputy Chief Editor at The Most magazine's publishing office in She Was Pretty.
Meanwhile, in Kill Me Heal Me, he played a person with seven different personalities and knocked them all out of the park. He also played one of the male leads in the series Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth.
Some also know him for his action-comedy movies, like Midnight Runners where he portrayed a not-so-smart student of Korean National Police University who's nonetheless sincere in his studies.
And then in The Divine Fury, his comedic personality—often a staple in every role of his—was replaced with a badass attitude fueled by hatred and resentment that turned him into something else.
14. Lee Joon-Gi
In the iconic fantasy Korean drama series Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Lee Joon-gi played the role of the disowned 4th Prince Wang So. He also made a special appearance in Hotel Del Luna as the priest/exorcist who was a candidate for employment at the titular hotel.
He also appeared in the sci-fi action Hollywood film Resident Evil: The Final Chapter as a lieutenant of Umbrella Corporation. He performed well alongside Hollywood actors in the final film of the Resident Evil franchise, where he fought one-on-one against the main character, Alice.
13. Jo Jung-Suk
Jo Jung-suk played the role of a prince charming in chief's clothes, in the romantic comedy series Oh My Ghost. But before this, he captured the hearts of audiences in You Are The Best, Lee Soon Shin as a workaholic and overconfident but dedicated CEO.
In the 2016 fantasy drama Legend of the Blue Sea, he made an appearance as a 911 rescue operative who also happened to be a merman, and he even showed his musical talents in Hospital Playlist with the OST "Aloha," which rose to No. 1 in South Korea.
12. Yoo Seung-Ho
Yoo Seung-ho received the Top Excellence Award at MBC Drama Awards for playing Crown Prince Yi Sun in the historical drama series Ruler: Master of the Mask, where he was forced to wear a mask to hide his identity from a shadow organization.
He also excelled in performance as the leading man in other Korean drama series, such as My Strange Hero and I'm Not a Robot.
11. So Ji-Sub
So Ji-sub started his career as a model before entering the world of the entertainment industry and becoming the star of television series like Terius Behind Me, Oh My Venus, One Sunny Day, The Master's Sun, I'm Sorry I Love You, and Ghost.
He won Best Actor at the 2009 Grimae Awards for his role as Lee Cho-in/Oh Kang-ho in the melodrama action series Cain and Abel (based on the biblical story), where he played the character of the younger son.
10. Gong Yoo
He's most well-known for his "goblin" character in the 2016 fantasy-drama series Guardian: The Lonely and Great God. He also played the role of Choi Han-gyul in the romantic comedy series Coffee Prince, for which he won an Excellence Award at the 2007 MBC Drama Awards.
He then rose to greater frame with his world-class performance as Seok Woo in the horror-action zombie apocalypse movie Train to Busan, which became an international blockbuster. And most recently, he had a short but impactful role in Netflix's Squid Game series.
9. Hyun Bin
Hyun Bin starred in several Korean drama series that won awards from several award-giving bodies.
His role in Ireland led to him winning Best New Actor at the MBC Drama Awards, while his performances in Confidential Assignment and The Swindlers earned him the Top Star Award at the 6th Korea Film Actors Association Awards.
One of his best and most well-known performances is his role as Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok, the serious military man who led Netflix's Crash Landing on You alongside lead actress Son Ye-jin. In it, he showcased his ability to be both badass and hilarious depending on the scene.
8. Lee Min-Ho
Lee Min-ho gave life to some of the most iconic characters in Korean drama history, like Gu Jun-pyo in Boys Over Flowers, for which he received the Best New Actor award at the 2009 Baek Sang Art Awards.
He accumulated many more awards in 2016 with the series Legend of the Blue Sea, including the SBS Drama Award for Best Couple, together with leading actress Jun Ji-hyun.
He also starred in several must-watch Korean drama series like The Heirs, Faith, City Hunter, Personal Taste, and The King: Eternal Monarch. He also played roles in the films Gangnam 1970 and Bounty Hunters, where he worked with Chinese actors and actresses.
7. Lee Jong-Suk
Lee Jong-suk played a big role in the series While You Were Sleeping as a rookie prosecutor who has the ability to see future events through his dreams. He also appeared in the series Pinocchio as a reporter thirsty for revenge after his father is framed and his mother commits suicide.
But as for his best performance of all time? We'd peg it at his role as the genius cardiothoracic surgeon in the series Doctor Stranger, which perfectly blended comedy, romance, and medical thrills.
6. Ji Chang-Wook
Ji Chang-wook started his journey in the entertainment industry as a musical theater performer, then later rose in popularity after starring in the lead roles of several K-drama series, including Smile Again, Empress Ki, and Backstreet Rookie.
He's also the main lead of the series Healer, partnered with Park Min-young (and the two of them won Best Couple Award by KBS Awards). He also stars as the main character of the film Fabricated City, in which he becomes the "victim" of a fabricated crime scene.
5. Kim Soo-Hyun
Kim Soo-hyun is best known for his role in My Love From the Star as Do Min-joon, the alien from outer space who falls in love with Cheon Song-yi (played by Jun Ji-hyun).
His performance in My Love From the Star won him numerous awards, including the Hallyu Star Award by APAN Star Awards and the Most Popular Actor for TV by Baeksang Arts Awards.
He also played the role of King Lee Hwon in the series Moon Embracing the Sun (for which he again bagged numerous awards) and he also made a special appearance in the finale of Hotel Del Luna.
4. Song Joong-Ki
Song Joong-ki is widely known for his role as "Big Boss" (or Captain Yoo Si-jin) in the Descendants of the Sun series, in which he co-starred alongside Song Hye-kyo and won the Best Couple Award.
His other notable lead roles include A Werewolf Boy, Space Sweepers, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and Innocent Man.
Most recently, he starred in Vincenzo (for which he won Outstanding Korean Actor by Seoul International Drama Awards) and Reborn Rich.
3. Lee Dong-Wook
Lee Dong-wook is famously known for his supporting role as the badass Grim Reaper friend of the main characters in Guardian: The Lonely and Great God. He also starred as the titular legendary nine-tailed fox in the series Tale of the Nine-Tailed.
In the series Hell Is Other People, his role as the mysteriously creepy neighbor earned him the apt-named Dangerously Attractive Character award by OCN Awards.
Indeed, he's portrayed several other "dangerously attractive characters" throughout his career, including mythical characters like the Grim Reaper and the Gumiho, but also the man in Blade Man who develops the ability to manifest his mental pain as knives from his body.
2. Jung Hae-In
Like many, Jung Hae-in started his career with various supporting roles, but his performance in While You Were Sleeping gave viewers something colloquially known as "second lead syndrome."
What's that, you ask? Second lead syndrome is a phenomenon where audiences root for the main character to end up with the second lead instead of their intended main lead co-star!
Jung Hae-in later landed several lead roles himself, including Snowdrop (co-starring with Blackpink's Jisoo) and Something in the Rain (co-starring with Son Ye-jin). For the latter, he ended up winning the K-Star Actor Award by APAN Star Awards.
1. Kwon Sang-Woo
Kwon Sang-woo is best known for his role as Cha Song-joo in the hit 2003 K-drama series Stairway to Heaven. But his popularity didn't end there! He had plenty more in store for us.
He went on to star in many award-winning South Korean films and TV series, including My Tutor Friend, The Big Thing, Once Upon a Time in High School, and We Are Dating Now.
Kwon Sang-woo also played the lead role in the series Temptation, co-starring alongside Choi Ji-woo. In this series, he plays a man who's torn between the woman he loves and the opportunity to escape poverty.