Namgoong Min (남궁민)
No viewer would call themselves a true k-drama fan and not know who this attractive guy is. But Namgoong Min, he of Remember: War of the Son (2015), Good Manager/Chief Kim (2017) and Doctor Prisoner (2019) fame, nearly didn’t become an actor. In fact, he finished a degree in mechanical engineering and was about to start a career in social work. But it all changed when he was cast alongside Hallyu star Lee Byung-hun in 2001, and he took it as a sign to pursue acting more seriously.
Birthday: March 12, 1981
Like many young actors, his road to fame was uncertain and lengthy. He started out in films, first in 2001’s Bungee Jumping on Their Own. Then, in a bold move, joined the cast of the controversial Kim Ki-duk film Bad Guy, which was notorious for its portrayal of prostitution and gangsters. While his profile garnered some attention after, he still had to play bit roles until he hit the jackpot with a performance in the 2004 daily drama My Lovely Family.
In films, his star rose with fellow Premium Oppa Jo In-sung when both starred in the acclaimed neo-noir gangster flick A Dirty Carnival in 2006.
It would seem those darker roles suited Namgoong Min entirely, so his career enjoyed an upward trajectory when he took on the mantle of the villain in the k-dramas A Girl Who Sees Smells (2015), Remember: War of the Son, and Falsify (2017).
But not one to be pigeonholed, he quickly pivoted into protagonist roles – but still of the morally ambiguous kind – and enjoyed huge success as the lead of 2017’s Good Manager, in 2019’s Doctor Prisoner, and the ratings and Baeksang Best Drama winner Hot Stove League (2019).
His efforts at his craft have been justly acknowledged--his performance in Hot Stove League earned him the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 2021 SBS Drama Awards, followed by his second career Daesang for the MBC spy drama The Veil the following year.
In yet another pivot, Namgoong Min has also lent his cooky sense of humor to k-variety, hosting Saturday Night Live: Korea, cozying up with Hong Jin-young in We Got Married, and even hosting the kpop boyband survival/reality show, I-Land in 2020.
In 2022, he was in top comedic form as an unorthodox attorney in the legal comedy One Dollar Lawyer, the year's highest-rated drama to air on free TV.
Controversial movies, interesting protagonist k-drama roles, and a k-variety streak. One might say that Namgoong Min’s mechanical engineering degree must have been wasted, seeing that his celebrity with nearly nothing to do with his original path. Yet all this pivoting and risk-taking as an actor seems to be a product of careful design, analysis, development. He’s tested some paths while sidestepped others entirely. Hence, if mechanical engineering is, at its core, the “management of moving parts and the analysis of systems in motion," then we say this man’s interesting career has been quite an exciting system on its own.
Namgoong Min's next project is the historical romance drama Lovers (working title) opposite Ahn Eun-jin (Hospital Playlist, The One and Only). The sageuk will be broadcast on MBC in the second half of 2023.