Non-Korean drama addicted audiences got a crash course in a period of tumultuous Korean history with Apple TV’s period drama Pachinko. The show, based on Min Jin-lee’s bestselling eponymous novel, spanned generations of a Korean family and the trauma they endured from Japan’s occupation of Korea.
Aside from gaining an appreciation for Korean literature and dramas, the show introduced a wider audience to one of Korea’s most sought-after actor Lee Min-ho.
The actor has been credited for being the OG harbinger of the Hallyu wave beyond Korean shores with his breakout role in the 2009 series Boys Over Flowers. Over the years, the actor has cemented his status as one of the biggest Korean stars with diverse performances and global recognition. Lee was also the first Korean actors to get a wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s.
Lee Min-ho Dramas
If you want to get acquainted with the actor, take a look at the essential TV shows from his filmography that you need to watch right now. If you’re already a member of the Lee Min-ho fan club, then you can revisit these iconic titles to reacquaint yourself with his charms. Happy watching!
Boys Over Flowers
So this one might be hard to get into if you’re just beginning your K-drama journey because you might find it dated and problematic. But the show remains iconic because it is the original cliched high school series that set the foundation of all the K-dramas we know and cry about. Lee gained widespread popularity with his breakout role as Gu Jun-pyo, the leader of F4, a clique of the most powerful and popular boys (despite their unfortunate haircuts) at an elite high school reserved for the children of the super-rich. He unwittingly gets involved with a new scholarship student which leads to major teen angst and drama.
A spiritual successor to Boys Over Flowers, this show follows the same pattern in focussing on the super-rich and their super-rich problems, told through the eyes of an outsider. In this case, it was Cha Eun-sang (played by Park Shin-hye), the daughter of Lee’s character’s housekeeper. She gets a scholarship to one of the most prestigious schools in the country and, predictably, catches the eye of two of the most popular students who are also each other’s rivals. Gossip Girl and The O.C fans will definitely find themselves at home with this one.
The King: Eternal Monarch
The show became the most popular K-drama on Netflix in 2020 across five countries, including India and the US. The story alternates between parallel universes, one with the fabled country of Corea and one with the world we live in. The two worlds collide when emperor Lee Gon (Lee) steps through a portal by accident and meets Tae-eul (Kim Go-eun), a police detective. Things get even more complicated when the king realises that they might be connected because of an accident in the past.
The Legend of the Blue Sea
The actor has a particular affinity towards roles that have him travel across dimensions, time, or universes. This one is inspired by the 17th-century Joseon dynasty legend about a fisherman who catches and frees a mermaid. Set across two eras, the story follows a mermaid who meets and falls in love with a con artist only to find out that they both are the reincarnations of two star-crossed lovers from the past.
This action-packed love story showed another side of the actor and proved his range as a performer. In the show, he plays the role of Lee Yun-seong, who goes by the codename ‘City Hunter’. He infiltrates the Blue House as an IT expert to avenge the death of his father. He didn’t count on falling for bodyguard Kim Na Na (Park Min-young) who also has revenge plans of her own.
One of Lee’s most underrated dramas, this rom-com is definitely worth a watch. Straightlaced architect Jin-ho (Lee) wants to score a project bid for an upcoming art center that needs to be designed as a modernised hanbok (traditional Korean house). There’s only one known example of that kind of design, furniture designer Kae-in’s house, which has never been seen by the public. Jin-ho pretends to need a place to live and moves in with Kae-in as her roommate, who was only too happy to have him there to help out with her ongoing financial troubles. Only problem? Kae-in believes Jin-ho is gay when he is straight and very much harbouring a gigantic crush on her.
The Great Doctor
Much before The King: Eternal Monarch, Lee played another royal who travels through a mysterious portal and gets involved with a modern-day woman who is good at her job. In this one, he plays the role of the captain of the Royal Guard to a king of the Goryeo dynasty who travels through the aforementioned portal to look for a doctor who could save the life of the queen. Cue 21st-century plastic surgeon Eun-soo, who gets kidnapped back to 1352. Spoiler alert: She is not too happy about the whole kidnapping deal but ends up falling for the handsome guard/kidnapper.