Lee Min Ho’s unrivalled magnetism has made his movies and dramas global successes. His illustrious ‘rom-kom’ career continues to bring joy to viewers, making it a great time to reflect on some of his most notable works.
He has emerged as one of South Korea’s most popular actors, seamlessly transitioning between action and historical genres. His breakout performance, as Gu Jun-Pyo in 2009’s Boys Over Flowers, was an adaptation of the Japanese manga series Hana Yori Dango (1992 -2002) by Yoko Kamio. This role solidified Lee as the nation’s heartthrob and propelled him to success.
Lee’s performance in the show was highly lauded in South Korea, propelling him to stardom and proffering greater opportunities. He was conferred with the Best New Actor accolade at the 45th Baeksang Arts Awards for the same role. Presently, Lee is one of the most affluent actors in Korea. His success is further illustrated by the fact that The Heirs star is also the first Korean actor to be immortalised in wax at the Madame Tussauds Shanghai Museum, as noted by Soompi.
Exploring the finest cinematic and dramatic works of Lee Min Ho
Directed by: Kogonada and Justin Chon
Other stars: Jung Yuh-Youn, Ha Jin, Kim Minha
Synopsis: Pachinko follows the dramatic chronicle of a Korean immigrant family as the generations transition from their home country of Korea to living abroad following Japanese colonisation. Sunja’s (Jung) fight against the odds to keep her family alive serves as the lens through which the story is told.
About the show: Adapted from Min Jin Lee’s acclaimed 2017 epic historical novel, Pachinko has been featured in the New York Times 2017 list of the 10 best books.
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The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
Directed by: Baek Sang-hoon and Jung Ji-hyun
Other stars: Kim Go-Eun, Woo Do-Hwan, Lee Hong-Nae
Synopsis: Lee Min-Ho stars as Lee Gon, the third monarch of his generation and disciplined ruler of Corea, whose focus is challenged after the death of his father. To escape his duties, Gon leaves the palace and unexpectedly finds himself in a parallel world where he meets police inspector Jeong Tae-Eul, portrayed by Kim. The two form a bond as they promise to help one another; Jeong Tae-Eul assists Gon by attempting to close the door between the two worlds, while Gon helps Jeong Tae-Eul pursue criminals. As they work to fulfil their roles, the duo find themselves developing romantic feelings for each other.
The Legend of the Blue Sea (2016-2017)
Created by: Jin Hyuk and Park Ji-eun
Other stars: Jun Ji-hyun, Lee Hee-joon, Shin Won-ho
Synopsis: Shim Cheong (Jun), the mermaid, and Kim Moon (Lee Min Ho), her human lover from the Joseon Dynasty, form the basis of this story. Shim Cheong is left waiting after years spent in vain pursuit of a reunion with Moon. In present-day Seoul, Moon is reborn as con man Heo Joon Jae who sets his sights on Cheong’s USD 6 million jade bracelet. While his intentions remain unclear, will he be able to recollect the memories of his once beloved or will greed gain the upper hand?
About the show: A mermaid tale from Joseon scholar Yu Mong-in’s short-story collection, Eou yadam, serves as the inspiration for the show.
Bounty Hunters (2016)
Directed by: Tae-ra Shin
Other stars: Wallace Chung, Tiffany Tang, Karena Ng, Louis Fan
Synopsis: Interpol officers Li-San (Lee) and A-Yo (Chung) had their careers suspended after becoming falsely framed as suspects in a terrorist bombing. In order to survive, the duo had to join a group of bounty hunters and soon found themselves in pursuit of a USD $2 million reward across China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand, accompanied by Cat (Tang), Swan (Ng) and Bao-bao (Fan).
Gangnam Blues (2015)
Directed by: Yu Ha
Other stars: Kim Rae-won, Jung Jin-young, Seol Hyun
Synopsis: In the Seoul neighbourhood of Gangnam, the stories of two childhood friends, Jong-Dae Lee and Yong-Ki Kim, unfolded in the 1970s. Growing up in poverty, Jong-Dae and Yong-Ki had to resort to picking paper and empty bottles as a means of living. Their lives took a dramatic turn, however, when they both got wrapped up in the mafia world as grown-ups. Struggling to navigate and untangle themselves from the political web of Gangnam in 1970 led to a journey full of setbacks and triumphs
About the film: South Korean actor Lee Min-Ho was awarded the title of Most Popular Actor at the 2015 Baeksang Arts Awards for this film.
The Heirs (Inheritors) (2013)
Created by: Kang Shin-hyo and Kim Eun-sook
Other stars: Park Shin-hye, Kim Woo-bin, Park Hyung-sik, Kim Ji-won
Synopsis: Lee Min Ho stars as Kim Tan, the heir of the influential Empire Group. Raised in the US and attending a prestigious school in Korea, he meets Park Shin-Hye’s Go Eun-Sang, the daughter of the Tan family’s housekeeper. After a chance meeting in the US, the two cross paths again, and Tan quickly falls for Eun-Sang – so much so that he breaks off his engagement with Rachel Yoo (Kim Ji-Won). But the romance hits a bump when Kim’s nemesis Choi Young-Do (Kim Woo-Bin) also takes an interest in Eun-Sang. Will love persevere?
City Hunter (2011)
Directed by: Jin Hyeok
Other stars: Park Min-young, Lee Joon-hyuk, Kim Sang-joong, Park Sang-min (cameo)
Synopsis: Lee Yun-Seong (Lee Min Ho) is an MIT graduate, working in the Blue House’s international communications team. His main goal, however, is to seek revenge on the five politicians who were responsible for the death of his father, Park Moo-yul (Park Sang-min). He receives aid on his mission from his father’s long-time friend Lee Jin-pyo (Kim).
About the show: This South Korean drama is based on the Japanese manga series of the same name, created by Tsukasa Hojo.
Personal Taste (2010)
Directed by: Son Hyeong-seok and No Jong-chan
Other stars: Kim Ji-suk, Wang Ji-hye, Son Ye-jin
Synopsis: The plot of the story follows the journey of Jin-ho (Lee), who is curious and pretends to be gay in order to find out what it’s like to live with a woman before falling in love. However, fate has other plans when Park Gae-in (Son), a hapless romantic, becomes his roommate by coincidence.
About the show: The 2007 novel Gaeinui Chwihyang by Lee Sae-In is the inspiration for Personal Taste, one of the most popular Korean TV shows of all time.
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Created by: Jeon Ki-sang and Yoon Ji-ryun
Other stars: Ku Hye-sun, Kim Hyun-joong, Kim Beom, Kim Joon
Synopsis: Following the story of four wealthy students known as the ‘Flower Boys’ or ‘F4’, this high school drama centres around Gu Jun-Pyo, heir to the world-leading conglomerate Shinhwa. When he meets Geum Jan-Di, who comes from a humble background, their passionate romance faces strong opposition from his influential family. Despite this, Jun-Pyo is determined to be with Jan-Di for life.
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Get Up (2008)
Directed by: Lee Jae-dong
Other stars: Rhyme, Lee Ah-jin
Synopsis: Two high school students who had been rivals, Wook-Gi (Lee) and Doo-Heon (Rhyme), are severely punished after they get into a fight. However, their situation soon changes as circumstances force them to resolve their differences and embark on a journey together.
About the movie: Ko Eun-Nim, renowned for hits such as Bungee Jumping of Their Own (2001) and Heaven’s Garden (2011), has written this movie.
(Hero and featured image: Courtesy Lee Min Ho/Twitter)