Updated: Sep 4
From jeans model to acclaimed actor and hip-hop artist, It's hard to believe So Ji Sub was once a professional swimmer with no interest in the celebrity life. But there was easy money to be made by posing in jeans, and soon after he began accepting small acting gigs, he suddenly shot to fame by becoming the unexpected favorite in the hit melodrama Memories of Bali (2004).
With savvy and skill, So continued his winning streak by working with some of the top female leads in the business. He followed his melodramas with the popular fantasy horror Master's Sun (2013), and then with various romcoms like Oh My Venus (2015–16) and My Secret Terrius (2020). But he's not just a k-drama star; So has also received critical acclaim for his cinematic performances, especially for the low-budget hit "Rough Cut" (2008). His popularity even allowed him to do a movie with Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi called "Sophie's Revenge."
So is one of the rare actors who cross genres easily as he changes pants -- he can go from action flicks to social commentary, and then back to melodrama. From playing sensitive men in love with their partners in the blockbuster hits "Always" and "Be With You" to being a ragtag assassin in "The Company Man," to switching it all up in k-dramas, So has certainly earned his place as an actor and artist.
In this post, we'll trace the career of this "doctor/lawyer" as he goes from genre to genre, and strength to strength.
"Memories of Bali" (2004)
In his first major dramatic role, So Ji Sub worked with superstars Ha Ji-won and Jo In-sung to make the melodramatic Hallyu hit "Memories of Bali." As Kang In-wook, So Ji Sub plays the poor ex-boyfriend that an engaged heiress still pines for. The trouble begins when the heiress is revealed to be the fiancée of the wealthy Jung Jae-min (Jo In-sung), who catches on and realizes that the poor Kang is working for one of his factories in Indonesia. Lives are entwined and loves are complicated in this tragic tale that spans 20 episodes.
"The Master's Sun" (2013)
A horror-romcom written by the Hong sisters finds So Ji Sub in the usual "tsundere" CEO role who meets a woman who can see ghosts (Gong Hyo-jin). Interestingly enough, ghosts don't plague her when she touches the CEO; so after establishing a strange set-up where she's allowed to be by the CEO's side, she later helps him recover his lost fortune. A strange and funny love story then begins to blossom between the two very different people and the supernatural circumstances they keep finding themselves in.
"Be With You" (movie, 2018)
Cast with fellow Hallyu superstar Son Ye-jin, "Be With You" is the Korean remake of the melodramatic Japanese movie of the same name. In this bucolic take of love and promises, Son plays a wife who dies unexpectedly. But prior to her death, she made a strange promise to return to her family as soon as the rainy season comes.
Later on, Woo-jin (So Ji Sub) and her son discover a woman who looks and acts exactly like his dead wife, but has no memory of who she is. Is she his returned wife, or just a figment of his imagination? And if she is real, how long would she stay with them?
"Oh My Venus" (2015-2016)
So Ji Sub plays John Kim, a celebrity trainer, who finds himself helping an overweight lawyer Kang Joo-eun (Shin Min-ah) lose weight and get her life back. The flammable chemistry between the two leads helped the drama reach high ratings for its time slot, and won them both a number of acting awards the year it was released.
"My Secret Terrius" (2018)
So Ji Sub is Kim Bon, codenamed Terrius, in this family-friendly spy drama that flexes both his physical dexterity and his comedic chops. As a spy who has left the NIS, Terrius has resigned himself to a quiet life in a suburban condo complex. But when a woman in his neighborhood (Jung In-sun) loses her husband under suspicious circumstances, Terrius finds himself back in his old spy games to track down his killer. He also realizes he has it in him to be a babysitter, and it's not long before he finds himself falling for a widow and her adorable kids.
"Doctor Lawyer" (2022)
So Ji Sub is Han Yi-han, a gifted surgeon who moonlights as a "ghost" doctor (a doctor who performs an operation but is not recognized as the official surgeon on the paperwork). After being set up in a high-profile surgery, Han is convicted of malpractice and thrown into jail. But like any good version of "The Count of Monte Cristo," Han comes digs deep and comes back as a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice. Case by case, he wins against the hospital who once betrayed him, and exacts his revenge on all those who deserve it.
Which one is your favorite So Ji Sub role or drama?