top-10-kdrama-actress-composite1The companion to Kdrama's Ten Up-and-Coming Leading Men, here are the leading ladies who made a splash in 2009 and seem destined for greater careers.
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1. Park Shin Hye

Park Shin Hye has been acting in dramas since 2003, when she had a small role in drama classic Stairway to Heaven, but You're Beautiful marked her first truly high-profile work. As a cross-dressing nun who joins a boyband and falls in love with its neurotic leader, she brought to her role a charm and screen presence highly reminiscent of Yoon Eun Hye's star-making performance in a similar role in Coffee Prince. No one else could have given her somewhat limited character such appeal, and fans of YB have gone crazy for her.
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2. Lee Yeon Hee

Previously best known for her roles in 2004 drama Sea God and with Hyun Bin in popular film A Millionaire's First Love, Yeon Hee's first truly big drama role came this year in East of Eden - and did she ever enter the drama scene with a bang! As fierce, beautiful, and scarred Grace/Young Ran, daughter of a mob boss and love interest to Dong Chul (played by Song Seung Hun), she turned in a fiery, luminous performance. Her portrayal was so compelling, in fact, and the chemistry between she and Song Seung Hun so intense, that it led to a reversal of the drama's original romance plotline. Lee Da Hae's character (played by much higher-profile Lee Da Hae) was originally meant to end up with Dong Chul, but as a result of fan outcry, the drama scriptwriters promptly reversed it and Dong Chul/Grace became the central romance.
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3. Choi Jung Won

After appearing in a number of minor supporting roles, Choi Jung Won finally got a lead role opposite megastar Song Il Gook in 2008's epic sageuk Kingdom of the Wind. Her performance as Princess Yeon won her a Mini Drama Excellence Award and the Best Couple Award with Song Il Gook. She is currently appearing in the lead role in Stars Falling from the Sky, also known as Pick the Stars.
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4. Moon Geun Young

Moon Geun Young had appeared only in supporting roles until she took on a cross-dressing leading role in critically-praised drama Painter of the Wind in 2008. The role launched her instantly into the public eye. Her stellar performance won her a Baeksang Award as well as much acclaim and praise from fans. She will next show off her acting chops and stretch her range as a villainous sister in the lead role of  the upcoming Cinderella Sister.
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5. Moon Chae Won

Moon Geun Young's co-star in Painter of the Wind (for which they, ironically, won a Best Couple award), Moon Chae Won's breakout performance came in 2009's smash hit Shining Inheritance. As the spoiled, selfish, yet ultimately not evil Seung Mi, stepsister to Han Hyo Joo's heroine, Chae Won gave a convincing portrayal of a girl caught between her own desires, a scheming, ruthless mother, and her own knowledge of right and wrong. Following it up in the same year with an equally high-profile role in Take Care of the Young Lady, Moon Chae Won seems destined for leading-lady status.
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6. Kim So Yeon

Although she's had a few leading-lady roles along the way, Kim So Yeon had mostly appeared in supporting roles in her long drama career thus far, and hadn't quite made it to big-name recognition and leading-lady status. That is until her impressive and highly successful turn as beautiful, efficient secret agent Kim Sun Hwa in blockbuster drama Iris (coming soon to DramaFever), after which things are looking up for this talented actress.
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7. Lee Min Jung

Lee Min Jung had only supporting roles in fairly minor dramas until she got the chance of a lifetime in Boys Over Flowers. It was her role in this uber-hit drama as Lee Min Ho's on-and-off fiance that brought Lee Min Jung to popular recognition. While her character in Boys Over Flowers was meant to be disliked, it brought her enough star-power to earn her the lead that same year in weekend drama Smile, You. As charming, spunky Seo Jo In in powerhouse drama Smile, You, Min Jung and her co-star Jung Kyung Ho have seen their ratings steadily climb toward 20% (considered very high for a weekend drama). Smile, You has been since extended by 16 episodes. With a large fan-base garnered from Boys Over Flowers and Smile, You, and having shown that she can play both detestable and likable characters as required, Min Jung's career is off in an excellent direction.
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8. Im Joo Eun

Rookie actress Im Joo Eun beat out over a thousand competitors to win MBC's competition for the lead role in horror drama Soul, also known as Hon. She debuted in the drama to almost universal acclaim from critics and fans alike. Handling the difficult role of a spirit-possessed girl with ease, the beautiful, talented 22-year-old was spoken of as "the next Shim Eun-ha", and will hopefully fulfill these expectations with her next role.
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9. Honey Lee

Previously known as just a pretty face (she was Miss Korea in 2006), Honey Lee made her television debut in 2009's Partner, and played her challenging role to absolute nuanced perfection. As Jung Won, a beautiful, brittle, poised lawyer helplessly caught in a love affair with a married man, she played the cliched role of the mistress with a grace and brilliance few other actresses could have brought to it. Now appearing in Pasta alongside Lee Sun Gyun and Gong Hyo Jin, she can have nothing but success in front of her.
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10. Chae Jung Ahn

A recognized face ever since her supporting role in wildly popular The First Shop of Coffee Prince in 2007, it was perhaps her role as So Ji Sub's grieving fiance in 2009's Cain and Abel which enabled Jung Ahn to truly reveal her acting talents and screen presence (in my opinion she rather stole the show away from Han Ji Min's heroine). Given her first leading role in the recently-ended Hot Blood (also known as Hot-Blooded Salesman), which pulled in acceptable if unexceptional ratings, we can only hope that future dramas will continue to showcase and test her talents.

Agree? Disagree? Who did I miss?

Watch Kdrama's up-and-coming leading ladies:

Coffee Prince http://www.dramafever.com/drama/1/1/Coffee_Prince/ Cain and Abel http://www.dramafever.com/drama/111/1/Cain_and_Abel/ Soul http://www.dramafever.com/drama/113/1/Soul/ Boys Over Flowers http://www.dramafever.com/drama/26/1/Boys_Over_Flowers/ The Kingdom of the Wind http://www.dramafever.com/drama/29/1/The_Kingdom_of_the_Wind/ Shining Inheritance http://www.dramafever.com/drama/110/1/Shining_Inheritance/