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K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Jo In-sung would like to get married. Soon. And yet, despite being one of the most handsome men in Korea, love seems hard to come by for this 42-year-old A-lister. He worries that his status may be too burdensome for the women he dates.

OF COURSE, we volunteer as tributes.

jo insung, jo insung actor, moving

Tall, lean, impossibly handsome, and with a smile that can knock your socks off, Jo In-sung has been one of Hallyu’s most in-demand leading men for nearly 20 years. He has starred in some of the most popular dramas and movies of the 2000s: The Classic (2003), Memories of Bali (2004), Spring Day (2005), and A Frozen Flower (2008) — a film that showcased the amount of risk he’s willing to take in his craft.

His second decade as an actor only solidified his star status further, with the dramas That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013) and It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014) becoming huge, enduring hits across Asia. His heartbreaking performance as a novelist with undiagnosed schizophrenia in the latter earned him the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the APAN Star Awards.

Jo In-sung has spent the past few years building his film portfolio. He starred alongside Korean movie star Jung Woo-sung, who inspired him to become an actor when he was in middle school, in the political crime movie The King (2017) and played a Goryeo-era general in the historical action epic The Great Battle (2018). Both were critical and box office hits. His latest film, Escape from Mogadishu, based on the true story of Korean embassy officials caught in the Somalian Civil War in 1990, was South Korea’s second highest-grossing film of 2021. He is slated to be in the 1970’s-set action movie Smuggling with Kim Hye-soo and Yum Jung-ah.

Drama fans will be happy to learn that this Premium Oppa™ will soon be returning to the small screen via the fantasy drama Moving with Han Hyo-joo on Disney+ in August 2023. We can’t wait!

All week, we’ve posted about Jo In-sung's most notable roles and dramas:

Memories of Bali (2004)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "Memories of Bali"

If you miss the uber-dramatic, super miserable, mega-angsty vibe of the 2000s, then Memories of Bali is for you. The old-skool melodrama centers around a struggling travel agent (Ha Ji-won) who becomes caught in the web of love, desire, and some very bad hairstyles. She gets torn between wealthy chaebol brat Kim Hwan (played to perfection by Jo In-sung in perpetual white pants) and the struggling but kind Choi Gwang-soo (So Ji-sub). Adding to the carnival is Kim Hwan’s fiancee Park Chan-mi (Park Ye-jin), who is also in love with Choi but now has to commit to the richer dude.

That Winter, the Wind Blows (2013)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "That Winter, the Wind Blows" (photo of Song Hye-kyo and Jo In-sung)

This melodrama (and its ballad-filled, ultra-emotional soundtrack) tells the story of Oh Soo (Jo In-sung), a charming but troubled con artist who poses as the lost “brother” of a wealthy blind heiress (Song Hye-kyo). He figures that she’s an easy target, and it’s only a matter of time before he swindles her out of her fortune.

But as Oh Soo gets to know the heiress and her shady family, he starts to feel guilty. In the grand tradition of Great Expectations and The Art of Love, the sleazy conman finds himself falling for his mark instead. Will love derail all his best-laid plans?

That Winter, the Wind Blows is a great example of the makjang (unbelievable) melodrama. Read about the makjang genre.

It's Okay, That's Love (2014)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "It's Okay, That's Love"

After two massive melos, Jo In-sung switches to something light (?). In this popular rom-com, the actor puts his good looks to great use as Jang Jae-yeol, a successful author who also moonlights as a popular radio DJ. On the surface, he struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, but later, his wounds are revealed to run deeper than anyone realizes. The cocky DJ then meets Ji Hae-soo (Gong Hyo-jin), a talented psychiatrist with issues of her own and a rather negative view of relationships. A clash is inevitable, but according to K-drama rules, all that bickering will end up as love.

Along with a few friends with more issues, the pair try to patch up each other’s scars. They later realize that love ain’t enough to heal both of them, and hard choices must be made soon before it’s too late.

The King (2017)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "The King" (photo of Jo In-sung and Jung Woo-sung)

The King is a 2017 political crime thriller about power and the price men will pay to hold on to it. Having grown up poor, Park Tae-soo (Jo In-sung) has always longed for power. To improve his life, he becomes a prosecutor, a career he thinks will put him on the easy flower road for life. However, a lousy paycheck and heavy workload remind Tae-soo that he’s still no better than an ordinary salaryman.

Enter the mysterious and powerful Han Kang-shik (Jung Woo-sung) who invites Tae-soo into the inner circle of prosecutors and politicians with dubious money and authority. Tae-soo suddenly gets a taste of the luxurious life he’s always wanted, but quickly realizes that the rich are different. Very dangerously different.

Escape from Mogadishu (2021)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "Escape from Mogadishu"

This 2021 thriller was based on actual events in 1991, when Somalia was engulfed in a civil war. The film boasts an impressive cast that includes Kim Yoon-seok (The Chaser), Jo In-sung (Moving), Heo Joon-ho (Flower of Evil), and Koo Kyo-hwan (D.P.) as diplomats from South Korea and North Korea who are trapped in their embassies in the capital city of Mogadishu. Both sides have to overcome their political differences and work together to survive and escape from the chaos.

The film is directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, who is known for his action-packed films like Veteran and The Berlin File.

Moving (2023)

GwenchaNoona | K-rush of the Week: Jo In-sung in "Moving"

Nine years after his last k-drama, Jo In-sung is back with a Disney+ sci-fi show with seven episodes that’s rumored to have cost over $50M!

Moving is a sci-fi K-drama that features a star-studded cast with Jo In-sung (It’s Okay, That’s Love), Han Hyo-joo (W: Two Worlds), Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell No. 7), and Cha Tae-hyun (My Sassy Girl). Based on a webtoon by Kang Full (who also wrote the script), the 20-episode series follows three young superhumans (Lee Jung-ha, Run On; Go Youn-jung, Alchemy of Souls; and Kim Do-hoon, Today’s Webtoon) who must keep their powers secret while using them for good.

Which one is your favorite Jo In-sung performance?

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