10 Rising Korean stars poised to take over when the current Hallyu kings leave for military service
Each year, a new wave of male Korean stars leaves for mandatory military enlistment. Most actors choose to enlist before they turn 30 (Korean age), and when you look at the actors approaching that age limit in 2016, the list is absolutely staggering. Top Hallyu stars like Lee Min Ho, Lee Seung Gi, Yoo Ah In, and more will all be leaving soon. When you consider that even more top actors like Kim Soo Hyun and Kim Woo Bin will likely leave at some point during the two years when the first wave is still gone, you have a K-drama apocalypse on your hands! While there are plenty of talented actors who already completed their military service, they tend to play different types of roles than the younger stars do (and we love them for it!). Who will be taking these roles meant for younger actors?
Fortunately for viewers, there is a rising generation of charismatic and immensely talented actors who may be able to fill these soon-to-be-empty shoes. Let's take a look at 10 of these actors who we envision breaking out into major stardom soon!
Criteria: Everyone on this list was born in or after 1990, meaning that they won't need to enter military service until after the 1987-ers return. They are also actors who have shown promise in various roles, even taking lead roles, but haven't headlined a massive hit yet.
1. Yoo Seung Ho
Yoo Seung Ho is easily the most obvious choice here. First of all, even though he's only 22, he's already an established and respected actor with a long list of projects under his belt. Second, he already completed his military service, so there's no need to say goodbye to him again!
Before military service, Yoo Seung Ho was already very popular. If you look at his drama history, though, while he did have a handful of leading roles, many of his big-name dramas (like I Miss You and Arang and the Magistrate, for example) put him in supporting roles behind other stars. Now that he's back, he's clearly ready to take the A-list by storm with the trifecta of web series Imaginary Cat, SBS thriller Remember, and the fusion historical movie Joseon Magician. With his years of experience and natural talent, he deserves to be the next big Hallyu star! Fighting, Yoo Seung Ho!
2. Ji Soo
Is it just me, or did Ji Soo just pop out of nowhere? I know he's been acting for several years in low-key roles, but 2015 was a huge year for him with his parts in Angry Mom and Cheer Up! Ji Soo has a mesmerizing on-screen presence, and, considering how wild Korean netizens went over his Angry Mom performance, I wouldn't be surprised to see him moving into bigger roles soon.
Ji Soo has the same kind of intensity that I love about Yoo Ah In. I usually favor giving rookie actors time to grow into roles, but I'm genuinely curious to see how he could handle a lead.
3. Park Bo Gum
From Tomorrow's Cantabile to I Remember You, Park Bo Gum has been slaying all of his recent roles, and he's proving that he can do a variety of characters. With the upcoming Answer Me 1988, he will probably show off a more comedic side. If he can pull it off (and I have high hopes that he can), his future as an actor is incredibly bright.
4. Kang Ha Neul
I am baffled — baffled, I tell you — by the fact that Kang Ha Neul hasn't been the main lead in a drama yet. I know that he has a pile of starring movie roles under his belt, but I want him in a drama, and I want him NOW! He can act in pretty much any role, he sings, he's very easy on the eyes — what more do you need, drama gods?
5. Yeo Jin Goo
Before some of you get carried away with noona romance daydreams, I'm just going to give you a quick reminder that he's only 18, folks. Still, Yeo Jin Goo is no acting newbie. Audiences already love him, and Orange Marmalade marked a shift from playing "the younger version of so-and-so" to leading the entire drama. I have a novel idea: why not cast some of these high school shows with someone who is still young enough to actually be in high school?
6. Lee Won Geun
When I first saw the casting for Cheer Up, my first response was "Lee Won who???" (Okay, no, my first response was sending the universe high fives for casting Eunji, but that's another story.) His character in Hyde, Jekyll, and I wasn't incredibly memorable, and I hadn't seen Wild Chives and Soybean Soup, though I hear he did an excellent job in that one.
Now, however, I'm completely on board with this guy. He has a soft, charming presence that would work equally well as a romantic lead or to give us some crazy second lead syndrome. You can see that he's a little wooden in some scenes, but if he makes smart role choices while he gains experience, he could take that eye smile all the way to the top!
I will be the first to admit that Seo Kang Joon is maaaaaaaybe not the best actor on the planet — yet. Still, he's just so very pretty to look at, and his track record for landing coveted roles (like the second lead in the upcoming Cheese in the Trap) suggests that his star will continue to rise. Besides, we all know that every generation of actors has one or two who might be skating by on looks rather than outright acting skill. I'm not going to name any names, but....
8. Go Kyung Pyo
Go Kyung Pyo is an interesting position. He has had memorable and likable roles in a number of dramas, including Flower Boy Next Door and Tomorrow's Cantabile, but they're usually side characters. Now, he's headlining Answer Me 1988, and it's an excellent chance to move up to leading man status. It's still unclear whether he or Park Bo Gum will be the main lead (though the netizens suspect that he's the lucky guy because of the teasers and posters so far), but the Answer Me series is known for taking relatively low-profile actors (Eunji, Go Ara, Seo In Guk, Baro, etc.) and showcasing their talent in the best possible way.
I'm really impressed with D.O's acting choices so far. He has the cutest, squishiest little face ever, but instead of taking the easy route and only headlining fluffy comedies, he has taken small, yet impactful, supporting roles that really push beyond his cute exterior and stretch his acting chops. After working alongside established actors like Jo In Sung, he'll be more than prepared when he decides to move on to leading dramas on his own.
10. Yook Sung Jae
Both Sungjae and his School 2015 rival Nam Joo Hyuk have been doing well for themselves ever since the series ended. Sungjae used the momentum of second lead syndrome to catapult him into a lead role in the current SBS series The Village, opposite longtime dramaland favorite Moon Geun Young. Not too shabby for a rookie actor!
Who do you see as the next Hallyu megastar like Lee Min Ho or Kim Soo Hyun? Which actors would you like to see earning big roles? Do you think my predictions are accurate, or would you add someone different to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Want to see Lee Won Geun and Ji Soo in action? Check them out in Cheer Up: