K-drama Characters to Love and Loathe

We all watch K-dramas to see the actors we like, but if you’ve watched enough K-dramas, you may have noticed that certain actors frequently show up in strong supporting roles. As a result, some actors gain a reputation for playing good guys, and others gain a reputation for portraying punks. Here are some of my favorite K-drama actors who play characters to love and loathe!

If You See These People, Run To Them!

Lee Won Jong
Lee Won Jong

Lee Won Jong has to be my favorite supporting actor in K-dramas. He has such incredible range: melodramas, action, historical, comedy….This guy does it all! His versatility makes him a chameleon, but you can always recognize him by his mole.

Lee is a frequent supporting character in historical K-dramas, and often plays the supportive older figure who helps our heroes find their way. In Emperor of the Sea,  he plays Choi Moo Chang, who runs a labor camp. He is initially very suspicious of our heroes when they show up, but he teaches them martial arts and becomes someone they can depend when things go off the rails. He has also played characters in Iljimae, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Chuno, Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Fugitive of Joseon, Empress Ki, Blade and Petal and Secret Door.

Lee also has his share of K-dramas set in contemporary times as well. Sometimes, he provides comic relief. In Partner, he is the senior partner of a law firm that houses a variety of quirky personalities. Despite the money problems of the firm, his character remains upbeat. Lee is also brings his characteristic comic talents to the action-drama Hidden Identity, where the frequent use of disguises in undercover work makes use of his acting versatility.

Kim Mi Kyung
Kim Mi Kyung

Like Lee, Kim Mi Kyung is a veteran. They’ve shared appearances in K-dramas, such as Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Partner and Fugitive of Joseon. She often plays down-to-earth characters, characters who have the most common sense. One of my favorite roles is her portrayal of Court Lady Choi in Faith.  She was never trying to be involved in the time-traveling doctor’s shenanigans. It was Court Lady Choi’s way or the highway! She knew almost every secret there was to know, and often had wind of palace intrigue even before the main characters. I vague remember her pulling a knife on somebody too!

Kim has her share of contemporary K-dramas as well. She brings a different dimension to Heirs in her portrayal of the mute mother of the protagonist.  Her additional K-drama credits include Yong Pal, Healer, Blade Man, Master’s Sun and 7th Grade Civil Servant.

If You See These People, Run Away!

Just as some actors consistently play good characters, some revel in playing villains.

Jung Woong In

No. Just no. If you see Jung Woong In in a K-drama, there is a 99.99% chance that his character is up to no good. He’s always seems to be hatching a plan to do someone harm. And that smirk he gets on his face just makes it that much worse.

Jung has done his share playing the baddie in historical dramas. In Empress Ki, Jung plays Yeon Byung Soo, who never gives up his murderous intentions towards the Empress, not even at the bitter end. In Hwajung, he plays Lee Yi Chum, who ups the ante by having murderous intentions and ambition.


Jung Bo Suk
Jung Bo Suk

I haven’t seen everything that Jung Bo Suk has appeared in, but like the other Jung, he can provide quite the performance as the cold-hearted, scheming bad guy.

In Soldier, Jung plays an ambitious leader of a clan. Heavily involved in politics, he often finds himself having to choose between making bad and worse decisions. But his decisions are always in his own self interest, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve served him loyally for years or if you are his own daughter. If you are in the way, you gotta go! Jung is a punk for other reasons in Goddess of Fire. As King Sun Jo, he fails to recognize the talent of our protagonist, and just haplessly goes along with the schemes in the palace.

For Golden Cross, Jung’s character, Seon Dong Ha, pulls out all the stops. He has no qualms about breaking the law multiple times, which is even more of a problem because his daughter is a top prosecutor. He uses anyone he can to get his way, yet remains in denial about his actions. He really thinks he is the good guy, doing his best for the greater good. He is as corrupt as they get, and even when he’s finally arrested and jailed, he remains defiant and unrepentant.

If You See This Person, Run?

Chae Si Ra
Chae Si Ra

There are some actors so good, they can play heroes and villains. Chae Si Ra isn’t always the villain. She often plays strong female leads, like the lead in Iron Empress. As the future Empress Chun Chu, she is a fierce fighter for justice and caring leader, unlike her flunky brother, King Seong Jong.

But when she goes bad, she really goes bad! Case in point: her role as Chae Young Rang, who plays the mother of a piano protegé in Five Fingers. What doesn’t Chae do in this K-drama? She’s committed or is an accessory to a slew of felonies. She is definitely out of the running for mother of the year. The depth of her villainy is in a class by itself! Chae’s characters are not confined to contemporary K-dramas. In Emperor of the Sea, she is relentless in her pursuit of all our heroic protagonists. As a merchant, she traffics in more than just silk! She is also equal opportunity: she’ll sell out her friends as well as her enemies.

While Jung Woong In and Jung Bo Suk  often play villains and Lee and Kim often play heroic characters and Chae can play both, all are veteran K-drama personnel that are good at what they do.

Images: Click on image for citation information.

Creative Commons License
K-drama Characters to Love and Loathe by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

2 thoughts on “K-drama Characters to Love and Loathe

  1. And when you run across an actor in a series of good-guy or humorous roles – and then you see him in a bad guy role, it just breaks your heart. For me, that is Ahn Kil Kang – I fell in love with him in Surplus Princess and watched a number of dramas where he was lovable. Then, I finally watched Queen Seonduk and his betrayals floored me. The reverse can happen, too! I first saw Park Young Kyu as Chairman Cha, a lovable rogue of a dad in Protect the Boss, and every time I see him play a villain, I always think he’s going to be a good guy. I just can’t believe he’s bad – but he almost always is. What a fun article!

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