A palpable passion for the performing arts propelled Ji Chang-wook to the ranks of Korean drama royalty. And a smorgasbord of skills — motorcycle riding, singing, athletics, the works — allowed him to seamlessly tap into a range of characters, magician to mercenary soldier. Needless to say, the wildly popular actor’s filmography is exciting and eclectic. We’re watching our way through some of his best works.
After honing his singing and acting skills in musical theatre productions like Jack The Reaper, Fire And Ice, and The Days — Ji Chang-wook delved into the world of Korean dramas. His first break came with the 2010 romance title Smile Again in which he played a skater. Since then, he’s tapped into several genres — stepping into the shoes of an upright prosecutor, hermit-like night courier, vengeful bodyguard, passionate architect, and honest convenience store owner, amongst others. This versatility combined with jaw-dropping good looks and a stellar work ethic has established the actor as one of the industry’s finest.
“There are three things that I consider when I choose a TV drama or film. Whether the script is joyful, if the character has charm and whether I can play the character well,” he revealed to Korea Times. This extends to the ongoing action-packed drama The Worst of Evil, which sees him as a police officer. In an exclusive interaction with Augustman, the show’s stunt director Kwon Ji-hoon shared, “Chang-wook is someone who always over delivers. I’d create a sequence and ask for 100 percent and he’d deliver 120 percent.” With the highly-anticipated romance title Welcome to Samdal-ri on the way as well, the actor’s career seems to be on a high. Here’s a look at some of his more popular titles.
Best dramas of Ji Chang-wook for your next TV binge
Directed by: Han Hee, Lee Sung-joon
Cast: Ha Ji-won, Ji Chang-wook, Joo Jin-mo, Baek Jin-hee
Release date: 28 October, 2013
Synopsis: Ki Seung-nyang (played by Ha Ji Won) was sent to Yuan as a child along with tribute women. She escapes, growing up in disguise as a male warrior and serving at the court. Her first love and fiance king Choonghye of Goryeo (played by Joo Jin-mo) dies. Later, she discovers true love with Toghon Temür (played by Ji Chang-wook) — the last emperor of the Yuan dynasty and her later husband. Along the way she navigates class politics, death, and war.
About the show: The drama is considered Ji Chang-wook’s breakthrough series. His compelling performance of the emperor earned him critical acclaim as well as the Excellence Award, Actor in a Special Project Drama at the 2013 MBC Drama Awards.
Directed by: Lee Jung-sub, Kim Jin-woo
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Park Min-young, Yoo Ji-tae
Release date: 8 December, 2014
Synopsis: Night courier Seo Jung-hoo (played by Ji Chang-wook) — who goes by the moniker Healer — transports high-value items for well-paying clients under the radar. He works alone and dreams of one day retiring to a remote island — saving money from assignments to make it a reality. Things change when he’s handed a high-paying assignment that involves hunting down a Chae Young-shin (played by Park Min young) who’s a rookie entertainment journalist. This involves Healer getting closer to her in disguise as intern Park Bong-soo. As the two grow closer, they discover love and unravel a gritty old murder incident. The latter puts them in a series of dangerous situations.
About the show: The drama’s high-energy action scenes and passionate romance made it an instant hit. This marked Ji Chang-wook’s ascension to international fame and he won the Popularity Award (Actor) at the 2014 KBS Drama Awards for his performance. “I came out looking really cool from start to finish,” SCMP quotes him saying. In an interaction with Korea Times, he reflected on his approach to the night courier character. “I focused more on the fantasy that my character owned, who fights against the men in power.”
Directed by: Kwak Jung-hwan, Sung Yong-il
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Song Yoon-ah, Yoona, Jo Sung-ha, Kim Kap-soo
Release date: 23 September 2016
Synopsis: Mercenary soldier Kim Je-ha (played by Ji Chang-wook) becomes a fugitive when he’s framed for the murder of his civilian lover Raniya while on an assignment in Iraq. Upon his return to South Korea, he’s offered the job of a bodyguard with a security company that’s owned by presidential candidate Choi Yoo-Jin (played by Song Yoon-ah). Je-Ha’s desire to exact revenge against candidate Park Kwan-soo (played by Kim Kap-soo) — who’s believed to have ordered Raniya’s killing — has him accept the offer. His client? Go An-na (played by Yoona) – Yoo-Jin’s reclusive stepdaughter. The two discover love and trust as they navigate dangerous situations.
About the show: The thriller is hailed for its complex, jaw-dropping action scenes. Ji Chang-wook had to learn martial arts to perform his stunts. “Among all the projects I have done so far, this was by far the hardest. It was so hard it made me resolve to never do another action drama,” the actor was quoted by SCMP as saying. He further elaborated on how he prepared for it all. “I told the director, it’s considerably difficult to maintain my body. I had to exercise every day and control what I ate.” For his compelling, fiery performance, he earned the Best Bad Boy title at the 5th Annual Drama Fever Awards (2017).
Suspicious Partner/Love In Trouble
Directed by: Park Sun-ho
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Nam Ji-hyun, Choi Tae-joon, Kwon Nara
Release date: 10 May, 2017
Synopsis: Prosecutor Noh Ji-wook (played by Ji Chang-wook) and his trainee Eun Bong-hee (played by Nam Ji-hyun) often lock horns. However, when the latter is falsely charged in a mysterious murder case, the two need to work together to solve it. Along the way, they uncover the seedy side of law enforcement, navigate near-death experiences, and fall in love.
About the show: The drama slowly climbed up the rankings to become a cult classic. It also marked Ji Chang Wook’s first romantic comedy rodeo. “Since there were no action I felt very relaxed and comfortable,” he confessed to New Straits Times with a laugh before adding, “However, the drawback is the great lengthy dialogue in the script…there is pressure nonetheless.” He further elaborated on his preparation for the role, noting that the drama was not just a romance or comedy but also a thriller. “With that in mind, I made sure that Noh Ji-wook has a personality that works well with both the story and the other characters on the show.”
Directed by: Myoungwoo Lee
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Kim Yoo-jung
Release date: 19 June, 2020
Synopsis: 22-year-old Jung Saet-byul (played by Kim You-jung) is a popular girl who enjoys retro fashion and spending time with her friends and family. Although she has several suitors, she can’t get Dae-hyun (played by Ji Chang-wook) out of her mind — whom she’d approached years ago to help her buy a cigarette, only to be handed candy and a lecture in return. Dae-hyun, meanwhile, manages his family’s convenience store. Forced to pick up multiple shifts and struggling with sleep deprivation, he’s advised by his father to get a part-timer. The catch? The only applicant is Saet Byul.
About the show: The feel-good drama was an absolute hit, with Ji Chang Wook’s popularity only peaking. He was also nominated for several awards at the 7th APAN Star Awards and SBS Drama Awards (2020) for his performance. SCMP quotes him describing his character, “He is slightly indecisive, but he is a very cute and upright character.”
Lovestruck In The City
Directed by: Park Shin-woo
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Kim Ji-won, Kim Min-seok, Han Ji-eun, Ryu Kyung-soo, So Joo-yeon
Release date: 22 December, 2020
Synopsis: 32-year-old forthright and passionate architect Park Jae-won (played by Ji Chang-wook) can’t get a woman who broke his heart out of his mind. The person in question is Lee Eun-o (played by Kim Ji-won), a 29-year-old freelance marketer who has a beachside romance with him under false pretences as her free-spirited alter ego Yoon Seon-a. The former takes to Seoul to reunite with her.
About the show: Ji-Chang Wook’s romantic drama endeavours only strengthened with this series. Before hopping on board the project, he told Korea Times,”I’ve always wanted to work with writer Jung and director Park, so I’m thrilled finally to work with them,” He further added, “As this is my first series on a new platform and format, I hope many people can take interest in it.”
The Sound of Magic
Directed by: Kim Seong-yoon
Cast: Ji Chang-wook, Choi Sung-eun, Hwang In-youp
Release date: 6 May, 2022
Synopsis: After being abandoned by her parents, teenage Yoon Ah-yi (played by Choi Sung-eun) needs to support herself and her younger sister. She makes ends meet with work, juggling school along with it. Her life changes when she meets magician Lee Eul (played by Ji Chang Wook), who fills her days with wonder and joy.
About the show: The drama received acclaim from critics and viewers alike. Immersing himself in his character involved Ji Chang Wook to put in a lot of work, “I learned and practised magic for about three to four months. Magician Lee Eun-gyeol helped me a lot to design the scenes where (Lee Eul) performs magic shows,” he told Korea Times. He further revealed his motivation to work on the project, “When I read the script for ‘The Sound of Magic,’ it felt like my own story, and just reminded me of the feelings I went through when I was young.” he said, before adding, “There have always been tough times. Even when I faced choices. There were times I struggled financially, and times I was under a lot of stress.” For his stellar performance, he bagged the Global Star Award at the 2022 APAN Star Awards.
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All images: Courtesy Netflix
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– What dramas did Ji Chang-wook play in?
Ji Chang-wook is best known for Suspicious Partner, K2, Healer, Empress Ki, and Backstreet Rookie.
– How much is Ji Chang-wook paid?
According to multiple reports, Ji Chang-wook charges about USD 67,000 per episode.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India