Updated: Mar 10, 2021
More oppas, you say? We hear you! Read on for the second half of our Valentine's feature.
The indigenous name "ha-neul" is so unique in the Korean nomenclature that it is spelled with "乻", a character so rare that it isn’t even included in the the official hanja registry for Korean names. "Ha-neul" is also an unusual case where the two syllables do not mean two separate ideas; instead, both characters are merged to produce only a single idea: "sky."
Given his heart, his range of talents, and his incredible humility, Kang Ha-neul seems to have no trouble living up to the infinite possibilities of his name.
Kang Ha-neul broke the k-drama leading man mold with his portrayal of Hwang Yong-sik, the adorkable country bumpkin cop in 2019’s When the Camellia Blooms—his first leading drama role, and his first role after serving his military duty. WtCB was both a wild critical and commercial success, for which he earned numerous acting awards, including the highly coveted Baeksang Award. Prior to this, he had already impressed, and charmed audiences with his performances in Misaeng (2014), Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016), and the highly successful comedy cop flick Midnight Runners with Park Seo-joon (2017).
His success in k-drama and in cinema, impressive they may be for someone so young (he just turned 31 last week), is only half of his accomplishments. Many are also surprised to learn that Ha-neul is also a musical actor, and a very successful one at that. With a folk singer for a father and his own degree in theater, he has starred in an impressive number of Korean musicals, and is known to play the guitar at the behest of friends.
With his relentless work ethic, quiet intelligence, and easy-going demeanor, Ha-neul is a sky full of stars and we’re enjoying the heavenly view.
Nam Joo-hyuk’s perfectly chiseled jawline could have rightly earned a modeling contract all by itself. So, for that matter, could his expressive eyes that can draw you in for hours, and his manly hands that look strong enough to build you a homestead with nothing but a Swiss Army knife and duct tape. But this 6’1’' model turned actor is truly greater than the sum of his parts as he has made audiences fall in love with the characters he plays on screen.
Master of the micro-gesture, Nam Joo-hyuk acts literally down to his fingers, as most fans of the k-drama Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (2016) and, most recently, Start-Up (2020) can attest. Add to that his boyish appeal that instantly makes him boyfriend fanfic material, and you’ve got a recipe for industry success. When he smiles, you smile. When he laughs, you laugh. When he cries, you want to have him crawl into your lap for some cuddle time.
The effect is magnified on the big-screen, where his literally larger-than-life characterizations draw you in, and make you a willing hostage for the next two hours. His efforts in the historical film The Great Battle (2018) earned him several nominations for Best New Actor, and even won him a few awards.
Need more Nam Joo-hyuk? Of course you do. Watch him on the supernatural drama The School Nurse Files (also on Netflix Philippines). He is slated to appear in an upcoming series entitled Here.
Picture this. You pay your dues as a cast member and theater actor. You hustle at the usual ensemble gig. Sometimes you get paid. Sometimes you don't. The years roll by.
Suddenly...a breakthrough role flings you to the heights of insane k-drama fame.
Welcome to the fairy tale that is Kim Seon-ho's career. Fresh-faced and seemingly oblivious to the sludge of show business, Seon-ho had long enjoyed a decent fan following as a theater actor and a resident cast member of the k-variety show 2 Days,1 Night. On TV, he quietly worked his way into earning supporting roles in 2017’s Good Manager and Strongest Deliveryman, as well as in 2018’s 100 Days My Prince and Welcome to Waikiki. Despite the exposure in these popular dramas, he still wasn't a household name...until he stole the scene (and our hearts) as the sardonic Han Ji-pyeong in Start-Up.
Sharp and brutally frank, Han Ji-pyeong wasn’t meant to be a likable character, but Seon-ho's years of theater training infused him with such unexpected vulnerability that a number of viewers often mistook him for the main lead. In no time, Seon-ho's popularity -- and Instagram followers-- grew massively, granting him (and his trademark dimples) the fame and recognition that he had long deserved.
Now, Seon-ho is the refreshing celebrity who still blushes at the mention of his burgeoning popularity, preferring instead to discuss the technicalities of a scene or the nuances of a role. Having been told repeatedly that he would never make it in theater and that his voice was not cut out for drama, he is still surprised at the fame he now enjoys, and is quick to point out that he is the farthest thing from an overnight success.
Ever the true thespian, he once told Esquire that his biggest goal is to become an actor “that people would want to work with again.” No one validated this desire more than Kim Hae-sook, the widely admired veteran actress who played his "grandmother" in Start-up. Once she asked Seon-ho how old he was. “Thirty-five,” he replied, to which Hae-sook, with all her years of wisdom, presciently replied, “This is the beginning for you.”
We believe her. Seon-ho is rumored to be considering a number of new projects, including a possible drama with Shin Min-ah.
Rowoon was once compared to the statue of David - and based on how the reveal of his face was built up in Extraordinary You (where it took them two whole episodes and a slow-mo to reveal his chiseled facial structure), the comparison truly has merit. With an intimidating build at 6’3” and a deep voice, he is able to exude a mature masculinity that few men his age can muster.
Rowoon belongs to the pantheon of young idols-turned-actors—a lead vocalist of SF9 (PLEASE look up his cover of “For Lovers Who Hesitate” and swoon with the rest of us) and an actor steadily making his way up the ranks. It would be tempting to stereotype him as someone who got drama roles simply because he’s an idol. Set aside your prejudice for even a few scenes and you’ll experience a world of emotions he can convey with a mere glance. His breakout lead role as Haru in Extraordinary You, an extra in a comic book, had to be played with very minimal lines and yet one can still feel the intensity of his turmoil and yearning. Best believe, no one pines like Rowoon’s Haru. His duality is even more impressive when you watch him behind the scenes, where he is a playful goof who loves to tease his castmates and bandmates. In the world of oppas, he is that mischievous maknae (youngest child) who gets away with anything the moment he smiles. The most junior in this list, he may not yet have the deep portfolio of the others, but his charisma and talent ensures that he’ll be on more lists pretty soon.
He is currently the male lead—and noona-killer—in the JTBC drama Sunbae Don’t Put On That Lipstick / She Would Never Know.
Cha Eun-woo is so utterly, breathtakingly beautiful that people run the risk of obsessing over his looks and failing to notice that this man is also ridiculously talented. His elven features portray him as an ethereal, other-worldly being that was sent down from the heavens to shock and awe us with his beauty. All he needs to do is to look at you and smile, and I guarantee you will be living the rest of your life as a puddle of uwus. Fans, castmates, and even veteran MCs just end up gushing when he arrives.
His looks are so captivating that you may overlook that he’s actually a very talented and emotionally evocative singer, as a member of boygroup ASTRO. It’s worth watching a clip of him singing Ben&Ben’s “Kathang Isip” during his 2019 Manila Fanmeet (fun fact: he studied in the Philippines for six months back in elementary!). He also excels at playing the piano and songwriting, which he demonstrated in the YouTube Originals drama Top Management. He was also the ace player in the basketball reality show Handsome Tigers. Seriously, what did he do in his previous life to warrant such an abundance of talent?
With all these things under his belt, you’d think he’d be arrogant - but he’s a shy introvert who even admitted to never having the courage to confess to his school crush. Most people may know him from his most recent starring role as tsundere (a character who initially acts rude but later becomes kind towards his or her crush) Suho in “True Beauty,” but he’s been cutting his teeth as an actor as far back as 2014, even before his official debut with ASTRO. More seasoned fans will recognize him from My ID is Gangnam Beauty, his first starring role. Since then he’s been a regular in the k-drama circuit, gaining leading roles in shows every single year (Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung, True Beauty). He’s also a regular cast member in the variety show Master in the House/All the Butlers. There’s no reason for this young oppa’s meteoric rise not to continue its trajectory!
There can only be one explanation for the perfection that Ji Chang-wook is: He was born to be a star.
He is equally legendary for intense action scenes that make fans out of men (even when he’s kicking ass buck naked in a shower room full of equally exposed men), and for passionate kissing scenes that make millions of women swoon. He can melt us with his smoldering gaze, and just as easily disarm us with his boyish grin. He can serenade us on any stage, and entertain us even through hilarious Instagram posts.
Raised by a single mom (who occasionally appears on his Instagram), he initially pursued theater and acting partly because he wanted to give her a better life. But it’s clear he was made for the stage. Just a couple of years after debuting on the small screen, the thespian found well-deserved fame and recognition for his talents with his first lead role in the daily drama Smile Again (2010) and as the titular role in Warrior Baek Dong-soo (2011).
Displaying tremendous dedication to his craft, Ji Chang-wook brings more than just a perfectly chiseled body to action k-dramas like Healer (2014) and The K2 (2016). He is known to train for months with martial arts teams to execute complex action stunts himself. But he’s equally at home in rom-coms, surprising fans with his diversity and charm as a prosecutor-turned-lawyer in Suspicious Partner (2017).
That same year, he was cast for his debut film Fabricated City (2017), because the director said he looks “unrealistic,” like a character from a comic. Yet, he says he still feels “average” enough to still frequent public saunas when he wants to relax.
Even the military couldn’t keep him away from the stage, and he spent part of his enlistment performing in the army’s musical “Shinheung Military Academy.” In one of his interviews after completing his mandatory military service, he said his goal is simply to be able to act in good health for a long time. We certainly hope so.
Ji Chang-wook’s latest k-drama, the rom-com Lovestruck in the City, is currently streaming on Netflix.
In one of the first scenes of the fantasy k-drama The King: Eternal Monarch, Lee Min-ho, as the titular king, teleports to Seoul on a white horse. Aglow in neon lights, with everything around him slowed to a halt, Min-ho is every inch the deliriously handsome royal that romance books struggle to describe.
In fact, for many of his fans, Lee Min-ho is THE Prince Charming, the gateway to the happily-ever-after world of k-dramas. His looks are an impossible standard, however, since he has a face that can be reasonably described as having the golden ratio--the mathematical formula for determining beauty based on proportion and symmetry. His aura makes his appeal wide and unmistakable. Women of all ages, from high school students to your neighbor’s grandmother gravitate toward him and the characters he plays like bees drawn to honey. Every fiber of his almost six foot two frame oozes charisma.
His life is as exciting as the fictional world he reigns. Lee Min-ho survived a car accident that left two of his companions dead and Min-ho, himself, in a coma for a month in 2006. He eventually recovered after a long rehabilitation period. Then, in 2009, he got his big break after he beat out the stiff competition to be cast in Boys Over Flowers (2009), which became a huge hit in Korea and ushered another Korean wave in Asia.
His most famous roles in k-drama series include Personal Taste (2010), City Hunter (2011), The Heirs (2013), Legend of the Blue Sea (2016), and The King: Eternal Monarch (2020).
It’s not surprising that Lee Min-ho is treated like royalty by his loyal fandom, making him one of the most admired and followed Korean stars on social media, and one of the most internationally known Hallyu stars.
He is set to star in Apple TV’s adaptation of Min Jin Lee's best-selling novel Pachinko.