Yong Pal continues its ratings success, becoming the first prime time drama of 2015 to hit 20% national ratings in Korea. As the drama's ratings continue to rise, much of the credit goes to series star Joo Won, who revealed his nonstop work schedule at a recent press conference.

Yong Pal premiered with the highest prime time ratings of the year at 11.6%, and since the first episode, the ratings have continued to rise. With episode 6 this week, Nielsen Korea reported 20.4% ratings nationwide, which is massive by today's ratings standards. The last prime time drama to hit 20% this quickly was My Love from Another Star back in 2013.  In comparison, Scholar Who Walks the Night received 7% and Assembly had 5.7% ratings in the same time slot. Even online ratings for Yong Pal were impressive, with viewership reaching as high as 50%.

Of course, there are many factors contributing to the success of the series, including compelling writing and female lead Kim Tae Hee's immense popularity in Korea, but there's no denying that male lead Joo Won has been carrying much of the show so far. When he recently appeared at a mid-series press conference, he was grateful to the viewers for supporting the show, but his exhaustion was evident.

Because Kim Tae Hee's character was asleep in a coma for the vast majority of the first six episodes, Joo Won's character has been the focal point of the series thus far. He explained that because his character appeared in 50 of the last 60 scenes on the show, his shooting schedule has been nonstop. Even with two production teams working on the series, the actor doesn't get many breaks because he appears in such a large percentage of the scenes. He even explained that he had to pull six consecutive all-nighters to finish the scenes for episode six on time.

The strain of the role is starting to show, as some of Joo Won's fans have posted side-by-side comparisons of the actor's face from episodes one and six to show that he appears to be losing weight, he's getting dark circles under his eyes, and that his complexion is less glowing than it was at the start of the series. Fans are voicing concerns that the rumored four-episode series extension will only strain their beloved actor more. 

Hopefully Kim Tae Hee's character will be more involved in the upcoming episodes to give Joo Won some time to rest. Somebody let that man sleep! Overworking actors is one of the major issues involved with the Korean live shoot system, and it is one reason that several high-profile dramas (Descendants of the Sun, D-Day, and Saimdang: The Herstory) are pre-producing most of their episodes before airing in the upcoming months. 

Of course, Joo Won was gracious as ever, saying that seeing the ratings each day made the hard work worthwhile. "I’m so grateful for encouraging reports and rising ratings. The production team is very much encouraged as well. It’s hard work, but we all work well together and everyone is so lively. We’ll do our best. Please continue to watch us."

Congratulations to the entire cast and production team on their success! Are you watching Yong Pal? Are you impressed with Joo Won's performance so far? Are you concerned about actors being overworked? Share your thoughts in the comments, and don't forget to check out Yong Pal below:

Sources: 123