by Bloom C, September 17, 2020

The South Korean drama industry has proved itself as the top of the world's entertainment hub that is filled with talent - so much so that this list could potentially be never-ending. However, on that never-ending list are creams of the crop that I believe in having blessed us with at least one or two breakthrough and memorable performances. Below I have listed my top 10 favorite Korean actresses who I believe in having broken the mould at the art of acting in the Korean drama industry.

1. Lee Bo Young

The one drama is enough to bring her to the top of the list alone is Mother/Call Me Mother. One thing I have noticed is that LBY tends to play the roles of women who are lacking in emotional expression and her characters tend to be cold towards others. It is her versatility in each and every one of her performances that makes her a contender. I dare you to watch all of her dramas back to back and tell me you feel like you watched the same person over and over.

LBY sells her character very well in a way that will make you forget that she has played a character with a similar personality. 

We can begin with  Seo Yeong, My Daughter, where she showcased an incredibly touching performance as a daughter who has reached her wit's end with her unreliable and irresponsible father. LBY portrays the role of a conflicted female lead who is drawn between a world she belongs to and a world she prefers to be in.

In Whisper, she switched from hero to anti-hero in a way that was quite amazing, talk about women empowerment! Again, while the characters she plays have similar personalities, I would never compare Seo Young to Shin Yeong Joo specifically because one is willing to selfishly give up her family to save herself and the other is selflessly willing to give up everything to save her family. Shin Yeong Joo is a baddie and to be honest, I cannot imagine any other actress playing her specifically because Lee Bo Young played her so well. It takes guts for an actress, especially one that is married, to play the role of someone who sacrifices her body by taking advantage of a drunk man for the purposes of blackmailing him (as totally illegal as it is).

In Mother once again, she plays a similar personality. The only difference from the other two women is that Kang Soo Jin is willing to do anything to save a child that isn't her own. Kang Soo Jin is more naive than Seo Young and Shin Yeong Joo; she is more loving and more protective all while having that same cold personality as the other two.

I've seen Lee Bo Young in Seo Yeong, My Daughter, I Hear Your VoiceWhisper, and Mother.

2. Lee Yoo Ri

The evil genius that is Yeon Min Jung made it difficult to place her as second on this list. LYR's role in Come! Jang Bo Ri was like watching King Joffrey in Game of Thrones. I have never wished for the death of two people so much until I was introduced to their two characters. This is how you know someone is a good actor. When they bring out such a strong feeling to a point where you are cheering for their death. Lee Yoo Ri embodied her role as Yeon Min Jung, and the whole nation of Korea noticed.

Then she countered that role with My Father is Strange, where her range of acting goes from the charming and ridiculously cute girlfriend, filial daughter, rebellious daughter in law, badass sister, and a wounded child watching her father suffer. She made me laugh, swoon, and cry multiple times in one episode. Even as I write this, I wonder why I didn't put her as number one on my list.  Subjective - however, I do feel as though LBY has had more dramas where she shows depth.

I've watched Lee Yoo Ri in My Father is Strange, Hide and Seek, Super Daddy Yeol, Come! Jang Bo Ri, Yellow Boots, and Twinkle Twinkle

3. Park Soo Ae



Okay, let me confuse you real quick. I personally believe Soo Ae to be the best actress in Korea. She doesn't top my list because when she does romantic comedies, I absolutely hate her roles. However, when she does a mixture of melo-romantic, she slays. Her best drama by far is Queen of Ambition, a role where I hated her character sooo much but at the same time still wanted her to succeed. She is so elegant and so dirty in the drama, which is something you will understand after watching it. She is women empowerment in all the wrong ways and such a complex character that will confuse the heck out of your emotions.

Then there is A Thousand Days' Promise where she destroys all emotion I have ever felt. She plays a beautiful woman who experiences early dementia and the rollercoaster that comes with her symptoms. I think what really makes it hard is watching her be this very independent empowered woman who dissolves down to a child who cannot be trusted to be alone. She plays every stage of her dementia impeccably.

I've seen Soo Ae in Sunny, Midnight FM, High Society, 9 End 2 Outs, Athena: Goddess of War, A Thousand Days' Promise, Queen of Ambition, Mask, and Sweet Stranger and Me.

4. Go Hyun Jung

LADY MISHIL! Now I have only watched two dramas by GHJ, the other being Dae Mul. Both I loved. However, her role in Queen Seon Duk is a level of acting that every actress in SK should aim to reach. I challenge you to name one actress who has been able to act on the same level as GHJ in a historical drama. As Mi Shil, GHJ  wielded her character into armor and she wielded her well. When you have the whole nation talking Lady Mishil now that is when you know you have acted your butt off. The only thing that works against her is that she rarely picks up a drama.

I've seen Go Hyun Jung in Queen Seon Duk and Dae Mul.

5. Gong Hyo Jin

As you can see, the actresses on this list have all played women empowering roles. GHJ leans towards romantic comedies and thus the roles she plays, although versatile, sometimes tend to revolve around the male lead. That is, most of her roles, with the biggest exception being It's Okay, That's Love. This drama will make you swoon, cry and repeat. It is the one role that stands out as different from her other roles. She is fully badass in her ability to stand toe to toe with Jo In Sung without being outshined. GHJ stood her own in that drama, and although she wasn't the main protagonist, she stood out and shined the most, which is saying a lot for a drama with an incredible roster of actors. Gong Hyo Jin has a talent for picking good dramas for herself and an even bigger talent for having amazing chemistry with each and every one of her castmates.

I've seen Gong Hyo Jin in Pasta, The Greatest Love, The Master's Sun, It's Okay, That's Love, The Producers, Jealousy Incarnate, When the Camellia Blooms.

6. Ha Ji Won

HJW is an actress that I struggled with deciding whether or not if she should be on this list. Only two roles made me confident enough to put her on my list, which are, of course, Empress Ki and Hwang Jin Yi. In Hwang Jin Yi, she was basically the definition of girl power. It's a show that I recommend every teenage girl to watch and help them see that women are the most intelligent and strong species on this planet. In a time period where women should be submissive, she is feisty and plays by her own rules. HJW's ability to go from baddie to wounded in one scene to the next is commendable.

She then continued with her girl power again in Empress Ki, where we mostly see her depth in character during the interactions she has with her oldest son. 

It is interesting to me that she slays historical dramas but falls flat on modern dramas (even in Secret Garden), subjective to my own opinion.  

I've seen Ha Ji Won in Hwang Jin Yi, Secret Garden, King2Hearts, Empress Ki, and The Time We Were Not in Love.

7. Moon Chae Won

Her character in The Innocent Man was absolutely badass. All you need to watch to know that she belongs on this list is the car collision scene with Song Joong Ki. Focus only on her and look at the emotions projecting in her eyes. You do not even need to watch the whole drama because that one scene is convincing enough (though I do recommend watching the whole drama). 

Then we move on to Flower of Evil where she plays a convincing role of a married couple, something very rare in Kdrama world. Her range is shown especially when she is desperate to find her husband, desperate to save him and every scene beyond that. Ji Won is such a smart, manipulative cookie that has the ability to make viewers dislike her manipulative ways in one scene and have sympathy for her in another. Like Ha Ji Won, a good number of projects MCW has done have fallen flat but luckily not enough to make us forget her most powerful performances.

I've seen Moon Chaewon in Shining Inheritance, My Fair Lady, It's Okay, Daddy's Girl, The Princess's Man, The Innocent Man, Good Doctor, Mama Fairy, and the Woodcutter, and Flower of Evil.

8. IU

The first time I watched her on the small screen was sky high, and while she had a gorgeous voice, I had not much hope for her as an actress, and I was happy to be proven wrong. First time I noticed her charm was in The Producers where I hated every character aside from hers. Then she blessed us with the gems that were My Mister and Hotel del Luna, where she showed us her depth specifically in My Mister, and versatility in Hotel del Luna. Her performance in My Mister especially is one of the best performances I have ever watched in a Korean drama from someone as young as she is. The fact that she followed it up with the delightful Jang Man Wol in Hotel del Luna makes me very excited for her next project.

 I've seen IU in Dream High, You Are The Best!, The Producers, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, My Mister, Hotel del Luna.

9. Jun Ji Hyun

I know I am going to get flack for placing her as number 9. I love her, and she is a Queen who is incredibly charming and not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. However, she played her last role in The Legend of the Blue Sea so unimpressively that it will take a badass performance to make me forget it. She did amazing in You Who Came from the Stars where she cracked me up so hard, and she made me cry even harder. 

However, remember how I told you that LBY plays characters with similar personalities, but they won't remind you of each other? JJH has the opposite effect. She plays characters with different personalities; however, they all have the same charm, which is so distinctive that they remind you of each other. Her roles in The Thieves and MLFAS both remind me of her role in My Sassy Girl.

We are only discussing dramas, and I have only watched two of her dramas: one of which was incredibly entertaining and where she performed very well and the other which really did not do it for me.

I've seen Jun Ji Hyun in My Sassy Girl, You Who Came from the Stars, The Legend of the Blue Sea.

10. Kim So Hyun

KSH's performance in Goblin was by far the best acting I have seen in any actress of her age range. She played her role of young queen and wife to a king in such a regal and graceful way that was believable.  It is scary to think that if she is able to play the role so well at such an age, imagine when she reaches Lee Bo Young's age. My favorite moment of her performance was the scene where she dies in Goblin. Already such an intense scene which Gong Yoo was fully owning, KSH carries her own and manages to steal the scene from him.

Another great performance by KSH is Who Are You: School 2015, where she plays a dual role, and The Tale of Nokdu where she plays a young girl motivated to avenge her parents by taking down the King.

I've seen Kim So Hyun in Moon Embracing the Sun, Rooftop Prince, Missing You, I Hear Your Voice, The Suspicious Housekeeper, Triangle, Who Are You: School 2015, Bring It On, Ghost, Goblin, The Emperor: Owner of the Mask, While You Were Sleeping, and The Tale of Nokdu.

Edited by: Yuanwei (2nd editor)

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