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10 Korean Actors to Anticipate in 2021

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Many rising actors who started out in supporting roles are now gradually taking up leading characters and becoming the new stars of the K-Drama world. We've profiled ten promising Korean actors who have made a breakthrough over the past two years. Let's look into why they're worth anticipating in 2021 and beyond!


Kim Hye Yoon
1. Kim Hye Yoon
Do you remember the rude and ambitious kid Kang Ye Seo from Sky Castle? After bit roles in dramas like I Can Hear Your Voice, My Love From the Star and Goblin, Kim Hye Yoon turned from an unknown actress to one of the breakout stars of the high-rating JTBC drama, and even won Best New Actress at the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards. Shooting to fame, she got her first leading role in MBC's award-winning teen series Extraordinary You as comic character Eun Dan Oh who strives to change her destiny. Despite its young cast, Extraordinary You turned into a hit through strong word-of-mouth, and Kim attained Best New Actress and an Excellence Award at MBC's year-end ceremony. Though Kim Hye Yoon only made a few cameos here and there in 2020, get ready to see more of her this year. She's reuniting with Sky Castle's director and writer for the historical melodrama Snowdrop, along with Jung Hae In, BLACKPINK's Ji Soo and Yoo In Na.


Kim Jung Hyun
2. Kim Jung Hyun
Those who watched Crash Landing on You likely developed a soft spot for Kim Jung Hyun's slippery character of Koo Seung Jun. As the drama progressed, the glib and deceptive conman turned into an unexpectedly likeable and trustworthy presence, thanks in large part to the actor's charismatic portrayal. Kim Jung Hyun's star has been on the rise for a while. After making his debut in the 2015 indie feature Overman, he drew notice on the small screen in Jealousy Incarnate and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People, which won him Best New Actor at the MBC Drama Awards. In 2017, he quickly rose to leading status with School 2017, and then Welcome to Waikiki and Time the following year. After reaching wider audiences through last year's Crash Landing on You, the 30-year-old actor has built on his popularity as King Cheoljong in the recent fantasy period drama Mr. Queen co-starring Shin Hye Sun.


Kim Seon Ho
3. Kim Seon Ho
Start-Up's Han Ji Pyeong had everyone stricken with "Second Lead Syndrome," and also brought actor Kim Seon Ho to skyrocketing popularity last year. Prior to his breakthrough in 2020, he already had a solid background, with 11 years of experience in theater and three years on the small screen. Kim Seon Ho made his drama debut as the nerdy and lovable Sun Sang Tae in Good Manager, and continued to play main roles in Strongest Deliveryman, Two Cops and more. Unlike his clumsy, happy-go-lucky image on variety show 2 Days and 1 Night, he often portrays characters with deep personalities, like the smart Jong Jae Yoon in 100 Days My Prince, aspiring singer Cha Woo Shik in Welcome to Waikiki 2, police officer Ko Ji Seok in Catch the Ghost and investor Han Ji Pyeong in Start-Up. Now with many endorsement deals in hand, Kim Seon Ho has become a bona fide star, and we're looking forward to his upcoming project with Shin Min Ah this year.


Kim Young Dae
4. Kim Young Dae
Nicknamed the "little Kang Dong Won," Kim Young Dae has gained lots of love from viewers. He started off his career in web dramas including It's Okay to be Sensitive and What To Do With You, and made his official TV drama debut as Oh Nam Joo, the flower boy of the school, in Extraordinary You. His next work, When The Weather is Fine, cast him as the heart-fluttering Oh Young Woo who has an unrequited love for the female lead. His most notable work to date has to be the talked-about makjang series Penthouse in which he plays Joo Seok Hoon, one of the problem kids in Hera Palace. Following that, he was the second lead in Cheat on Me, If You Can, playing an NIS agent who goes undercover as a convenience store worker and a personal assistant. This year, Kim Young Dae is set to climb higher with School 2021, and hopefully, we'll get to see him in the third season of Penthouse as well.


Lee Do Hyun
5. Lee Do Hyun
Most teen actors start out either as child actors or in small web dramas, but Lee Do Hyun broke into the K-Drama scene by debuting in the 2017 megahit Prison Playbook as the young Lee Joon Ho (Jung Kyung Ho's role). Almost every character he's played has been memorable, be it the rich and dopey Dong Hae Beom in Still 17 or soft-hearted taekwondo athlete Gil Oh Dol in Clean with Passion for Now. Many began to notice him after he appeared as Man Wol's first love in Hotel Del Luna. Lee Do Hyun took his first leading role in the KBS special Scouting Report, which won him his first Best Actor (in Special Drama) trophy in 2019. Last year, he gained popularity for his impressive portrayal of an ahjussi-turned-student in JTBC's 18 Again. He also appeared in the Netflix horror Sweet Home as the calm and calculating Eun Hyuk. In 2021, we'll see him reunite with Sweet Home co-star Go Min Si in the melodrama Youth of May.


Moon Ga Young
6. Moon Ga Young
Another child actress has grown up and found new fame as the romcom icon of the next generation – she is Moon Ga Young. You may have known her as Lee Shin's sister in Heartstrings, or the shy heroine of EXO Next Door, but in recent years, she's taken roles in popular dramas like Jealousy Incarnate and Live Up to Your Name. After years of experience, Moon Ga Young began to play main roles, starting with the vulnerable and vengeful schoolgirl Ji Soo in 2018's Tempted. She finally got her first leading role in Welcome to Waikiki 2 as Han Soo Yeon, who gives off a first love vibe. She's further strengthened her romcom image in two hit dramas – Find Me in Your Memory and True Beauty. Whether it's actress Yeo Ha Jin in Find Me in Your Memory or the unconfident goddess Lim Ju Kyung in True Beauty, audiences can't help but fall for Moon Ga Young's portrayal of that clumsy and adorable romantic heroine we want to root for.


Park Gyu Young
7. Park Gyu Young
Park Gyu Young made her first appearance in 2016 in the music video for Jo Kwon's "Crosswalk." From 2016 to 2019, she took supporting roles in a number of TV dramas including Solomon's Perjury, Rain or Shine, The Third Charm, Nokdu Flower and Romance is a Bonus Book, in which she played the cute spoiled newbie of the publishing team. She also appeared in several web series and the films Wretches and Love+Sling. The 27-year-old actress's break came in 2020 with her natural performance in the sensational hit It's Okay to Not be Okay as the sensible and relatable Nam Ju Ri, who has an unrequited crush on Kim Soo Hyun's character. A key role in the Netflix series Sweet Home has further raised Park Gyu Young's profile with local and international K-Drama fans. Next up, she's co-starring alongside Ji Sung, Kim Min Jung and Park Jin Young in the tvN series The Devil's Justice, which will air in the second half of 2021.


Park Ju Hyun
8. Park Ju Hyun
In April 2020, Netflix's teen crime drama Extracurricular introduced audiences to a fresh class of new-generation actors, among them Park Ju Hyun. Before that, the 26-year-old actress had caught some eyes in the just-aired tvN series A Piece of Your Mind, but didn't have any other prominent credits. As a newcomer, she left a strong impression as wealthy student Bae Gyu Ri who becomes involved in crime and blackmail. Following Extracurricular, Park Ju Hyun landed her first network leading role in the KBS drama Zombie Detective alongside Choi Jin Hyuk. This year, she returns in Lee Seung Gi's new tvN series Mouse, which premieres in March. Notably, she has also been cast in the big-budget film Silence, which is expected to be Korea's next big special effects blockbuster.


So Joo Yeon
9. So Joo Yeon
So Joo Yeon may be a less familiar name, but her strong list of dramas in 2020 has made her one of the most anticipated rising actresses. Compared to the others, she stepped into the industry pretty recently in 2018, making her debut in the horror movie The Whispering. After appearing in several TV series and web dramas, she caught attention as the cute and sweet Dr. Yoon in Dr. Romantic 2, which brought her the Best New Actress prize at the 2020 SBS Drama Awards. So Joo Yeon also took part in the KakaoTV/Netflix series Lovestruck in the City, resonating with her portrayal of a carefree part-timer struggling with a long-term relationship. At the same time, she was also the lead in the Korean remake of A Love So Beautiful, playing a lively schoolgirl encountering her first love.


Song Kang
10. Song Kang
Signed to Namoo Actors, one of Korea's top talent agencies, Song Kang studied film arts at Konkuk University, and made his acting debut in 2017 with a supporting role in the tvN youth drama The Liar and His Lover. He appeared in the weekend drama Who Sets the Table that same year, followed by a main role in the 2018 fantasy web drama Beautiful Vampire plus a hosting stint for SBS's Inkigayo. What really put Song Kang on the map as a new actor to watch was his swoony leading role as Hwang Sun Oh in the 2019 Netflix series Love Alarm opposite Kim So Hyun. While that romantic series highlighted his heartthrob potential, the 26-year-old's latest outing in Sweet Home emphasizes his acting potential. Amid a deep ensemble cast, the rising star holds his own as the troubled, reclusive protagonist who makes a transformation in the dark webtoon adaptation.








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Published February 25, 2021


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