Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Many idols are beautiful men who lead largely pleasant careers, but how many have had multi-faceted paths that are actually exciting and a touch risqué? To transition to acting, survive the criticisms hurled at their kind who do so, and succeed at both in the small and big screen in roles both gritty and wholesome—that tells you something about what roils beneath the unusually calm countenance of Im Si-wan. Having starred in both critically acclaimed and commercially successful dramas and films, Im Si-wan is arguably one of the biggest idol-to-actor success stories.
Photo from Marie Claire Korea
Born: Yim Woong-jae
Birthday: December 1, 1988
Im Si-wan debuted as a singer with the idol group ZE:A in 2010. Two years later, his acting career got off to a most auspicious start, with him playing the young version of Song Jae-hee in the ratings juggernaut Moon Embracing the Sun. One of the most beloved historical dramas of all time, the sageuk (historical show) would be the first of many hit projects for the budding actor.
After appearing in the sleeper hit revenge drama Man from the Equator (2012), the rookie was cast in the 2013 film The Attorney starring Song Kang-ho. The courtroom drama went on to become one of the most awarded and highest-grossing movies in Korean history. His winning streak continued in 2014 when the workplace drama Misaeng: Incomplete Life, where he played a baduk (Korean board game Go) prodigy, turned out to be another critical and ratings success, bringing him even more popularity across Asia.
Known for taking on challenging roles in darker projects, Im Si-wan has shown his range in such movies as 2017's One Line and Merciless, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and the television thriller Strangers from Hell (2019).
Incredibly busy these past few years, he played an athlete in the 2021 romantic slice-of-life drama Run On (for which he recorded an OST track!), revealed his bright personality in the healing variety show House on Wheels: 2, and was a member of the all-star ensemble cast of Emergency Declaration alongside Song Kang-ho, Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Byung-hun, and Kim Nam-gil. The big-budget disaster film also screened at Cannes. As if that weren’t enough, he picked up a Baeksang Best Actor nomination for his role as an unconventional tax collector in the hit MBC drama Tracer.
As of this writing, Im Si-wan is starring in ENA network's small-town romance Summer Strike alongside AOA's Seolhyun.