A star is born: Every successful actor has that first hit film or TV show that helped establish their name. In case of Lee Joon Gi, his breakout role in King and the Clown (2005) helped him gain stardom literally overnight, in addition to trending pretty boy or flower boy in Korea. Let’s take a look at the 11 K-dramas and films that have transformed previously lesser-known actors into Korea's top stars!

1.Ha Ji Won

Ha Ji Won first got her breakthrough role in Damo (2003). After Damo, she solidified her grounds as a talented actor with performances in What Happened in Bali (2004) and Secret Garden (2010). Ha Ji Won is making the much anticipated K-drama comeback this year with Hospital Ship.


2. Lee Joon Gi

New face Lee Joon Gi instantaneously rose to stardom through the historical film King and the Clown. When it premiered in 2005, it was the most popular film in Korea of all time.


3. Song Hye Gyo

The Descendants of the Sun actress first got her breakthrough role in Autumn in my Heart, an old classic K-drama and part of the director’s four seasons themed drama series.


4. Bae Yong Jun

Bae Yong Jun is another beneficiary of PD Yoon Seok Ho’s four seasons themed drama series. Winter Sonata helped Bae Yong Joon and partner Choi Ji Woo rise hallyu stars especially in Japan. Bae Yong Joon is now married to Park Soo Jin with a son and the second child on the way.


5. Kwon Sang Woo

When we think of Kwon Sang Woo, we still think of the shy, awkward but wholehearted high school student in Once Upon a Time in High School.


6. Kim Sun Ah

Kim Sun Ah rose to stardom in My Lovely Sam Soon, an adorably realistic romantic comedy K-drama, with Hyun Bin


7. Kim Soo Hyun

Though we’ve seen him earlier in other shows like The Moon that Embraces the Sun, My Love From Another Star is the drama that made Kim Soo Hyun a star.


8. Jeon Ji Hyun

My Love From Another Star’s Jeon Ji Hyun got her start almost two decades ago in the 2001 film version of My Sassy Girl, in which she starred with Producer’s Cha Tae Hyun. The K-drama version of this romantic comedy starring Joo Won and Oh Yeon Seo is available on DramaFever here. By the way, did you guys know that Kim Soo Hyun and Jeon Ji Hyun also starred together in The Thieves


9. Lee Min Ho

As all Minoz fans know, the Heirs star first got his name out to the world through Boys Over Flowers (2009).


10. Yoon Eun Hye

This adorable actress, whom we don’t see nearly as much as we’d like these days, had her breakout moment in Goong (2006) and Coffee Prince (2007).


11. Song Joong Ki

Lastly, the Descendants of the Sun heartthrob had his first breakout moment in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010).


This is not at all a comprehensive list of Korean actors and their breakout roles! Please help us complete the list by adding whoever else you can think of in the comments below!

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