The dramas this year have been nothing but spectacular. And one of the main reasons is how talented the actors in them are. From the perfect comic timing to heart-shattering emotional breakdowns, these actors gave us standout performances we’d always remember.
The Frown Crown
Song Joong-ki (Vincenzo)
His highly anticipated return to the small screen didn’t disappoint. Song Joong-ki’s acting is always consistent since his Yeo-rim days, but Vincenzo gave him rebirth in terms of superstardom. The wide acting range was totally highlighted. Vincenzo is an anti-hero we can rely on. He is a villain with evil methods, and a dangerous character we should not trust. But the romanticization of the serial killer persona is what made people adore him in this drama. It’s seeing a real mafia in broad daylight protect his found family, while at the same time getting what he wants. It’s a complex character and Song Joong-ki portrayed him perfectly.
Lee Do-hyun (Youth of May)
Lee Do-hyun definitely graduated from the pretty boy typecast because of this drama. Well, he is still not over with playing good boy roles up to this day, but that’s what I love about him. He makes the “good boy” character loveable, playful, and not annoying. Hwang Hee-tae is the perfect combination of brains and brawns, especially in the tumultuous timeline of the drama. Lee Do-hyun’s Hee-tae delivered an impressive picture of a young student so in love that he was willing to risk everything.
Kim Bum (Law School)
Ah, Han Joon-hwi. Everyone’s ideal crush – good looks, good grades, good manners. It’s a running joke among fans that Kim Bum’s Yi Rang from Tale of the Nine-Tailed finally reincarnated as a nice guy, and yet still didn’t get the girl! Jokes aside, I miss the cute smiles and eye rolls of our dear SolHwi. Kim Bum was able to tease us all about Joon-hwi’s real feelings towards his classmate while at the same time getting serious in probing his uncle’s murder case. One moment he’s the giddy law student at school, then he’s back to detective mode outside the classroom.
Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game)
Squid Game wouldn’t be this big of a hit without Lee Jung-jae taking the lead. He is already one of Korea’s biggest stars for decades even without the Squid Game success, but it’s amazing to witness the recognition that he got because of the show. The dialogue, characterization, and execution are all good, but it’s Lee Jung-jae who shined the brightest. Gi-hun is a father with a gambling addiction, and because of desperation, he was tricked into joining the most dangerous game of his life. And even though the game was marred with betrayal and hopelessness, his character remained the only person whose humanity remained intact.
Ok Taecyeon (Vincenzo)
If there’s a favorite villain list this year, Taecyeon will be on my top. His transition from the puppy-eyed Jang Jun-woo to the psychopath Jang Han-seok is worthy of an acting award! He posed a great threat to Song Joong-ki’s Vincenzo and his serial killing tendencies are endless. Taecyeon stripped off his quirky leading man image in this drama. He made an unusual decision for a post-military comeback project, and he chose the right path.
Kim So-yeon (Penthouse)
Penthouse would never have the success it enjoyed for three seasons if not for Kim So-yeon. The other cast members are also amazing, but Cheon Seo-jin is hands-down the face of the drama. Her scenes were always very difficult to execute! No matter how hilarious the makjang story went, Kim Seo-yeon’s acting was always brilliant!
Kim Seo-hyung (Mine)
This year is filled with alpha women who know how to play the game. Mine was a mystery melodrama about the richest of the rich, and Kim Seo-hyung’s Jung Seo-hyun is above them all. She is married to a chaebol family but managed to take the wheel and drive her in-laws’ fate. I was afraid that her character turns out to be on the bad side because I was rooting for her, but thankfully, she didn’t disappoint. Another thing I liked about Kim Seo-hyung’s portrayal in Mine was her emotional take on Seo-hyun’s sexual identity. She took on the role openly and was able to communicate the Seo-hyun’s feelings, pain and all, to the audience.
Shin Hae-sun (Mr. Queen)
My dear Queen Cheorin… the source of our laughs during the first quarter of the year! Shin Hae-sun’s acting is always on point, but this drama gave her the chance to go all out in her comedic range! This drama proves that she can nail every genre, every character, every story given to her.
Kim Go-eun (Yumi’s Cells)
We all knew Kim Go-eun will give her 200% in Yumi’s Cells, but I didn’t imagine this drama will be my favorite character of her of all time. She was able to exceed high expectations and overcome the pressure that came with it. Yumi is Kim Go-eun and Kim Go-eun is Yumi. No one can change that anymore.
Lee Ha-nee (One The Woman)
Even if Lee Ha-nee won’t win an award for this role, she’s my runaway Daesang winner for this year. Dual roles are always challenging for anyone, but doing it in an action-comedy genre is something else! I will never get tired of watching her, even though some may stereotype her for doing the same roles over and over. Her dialogues are incredibly long and hard, but she managed to deliver them perfectly!
Jung Kyung-ho (Hospital Playlist 2)
I would never get tired of saying how consistent Jung Kyung-ho’s acting is in Hospital Playlist. He is one actor I always trust but his portrayal of Kim Jun-wan is what puts him on my favorite actor list. He is a biased wrecker because of the little details he put on his character. Not to mention the subtlety of his expressions that was needed for a seemingly coldhearted yet true warm character as Jun-wan.
Park In-hwan (Navillera)
For a veteran actor like Park In-hwan, being included in this kind of list would probably be nothing but a speck of dust in his starry career. But this is the only way I could give praise to his portrayal of Shim Deok-chul. He touched my heart and soul every week in Navillera. I would never regret the tears I shed for him in this series.
Koo Kyo-hwan (DP)
He’s my favorite discovery this year. He piqued my curiosity ever since I watched that one teaser for D.P. And my intuition about him was right. He was one heck of a good actor. There’s naturalness in him while he played Han Ho-yeol. I’m really excited to see more of him next year!
Lee Do-hyun (Youth of May)
I’ve had my eyes on Lee Do-hyun ever since I saw him in Still 17. I knew since then that this actor definitely has the potential to mainstream stardom because of his looks alone. BUT since that year, Lee Do-hyun has been taking on roles that have honed him into the actor that he is now. His performance as Hwang Hee-tae in Youth of May is a culmination of his rookie years. He really proved he’s not just some pretty face actor.
Lee Seung-gi (Mouse)
The second half of Mouse is kinda disastrous but it doesn’t take away the fact that Lee Seung-gi shined in this drama. He showed his duality as an actor and proved that this angel of a being could also play a character straight from hell.
Shin Hae-sun (Mr. Queen)
I knew my K-drama year would be a good one because my first drama of 2021 was top-billed by Shin Hae-sun. She deserves a daesang for this titular role but oh well, let me just give her the rightful applause through our humble blog. Shin Hae-sun in this series was unstoppable. She was just so good from start to finish. She didn’t just shine in emotionally exhausting scenes but she also proved how versatile she was in hilarious and lighthearted scenes. I hope no one will forget how good she is in this series.
Kim Go-eun (Yumi’s Cells)
The bathroom scene. That’s when I know Kim Go-eun convinced me again to put her on this list. It was a short flashback scene but I could still remember how heartbreakingly it was. Add the fact that she made Kim Yu-mi one of the most charming and relatable K-drama characters this year. Well, if only K-dramas start trusting women to get more titular roles like these then we could be probably getting more quality K-dramas.
Shin Hyun-been (Reflection of You)
Did you know that Shin Hyun-been shot Reflection of You and Hospital Playlist 2 at the same time? Yes, she did. She was the totally in-love HPB fellow Jang Gyeo-ul one moment then she’d transformed into the vengeful Gu Hae-won the next. She painted this character with all shades of negative emotions possible. The nuances in her movements as Hae-won is a result of how detailed she is in portraying her role. She’s one chameleon actress that deserves more love and I’m glad she’s getting that now.
Kim So-hyun (River Where the Moon Rises)
I’ve been watching Kim So-hyun grow as an actress through her various roles every year. But this year, she proved she could heavily carry a series on her own. She’s no longer the child actress who played the younger version in flashback scenes. She’s no longer the teen star in the middle of a love triangle. She proved she’s one versatile actress who will always deliver in whatever role she takes.
Park Eun-bin (The King’s Affection)
I think I’m seeing a pattern here with actresses I’ve picked this year. They’re from a series dominantly centered around female characters. Honestly, it took me some time to adjust to seeing Park Eun-bin pretending to be a man. I always adore her soft features so it was hard for me to see her in such a role. But then as I became fully immersed in the series, I couldn’t separate Hwi and Dam-i. She was good at pretending to be a man and at the same time had her eyes long to show her real self. It looked so easy for her to do that. And when the series reached its climactic peak, Eun-bin showed how experienced she is as an actress.