Sorting out a list of top celebrities is relatively easy for ardent Korean Wave fans who keep tabs on their favorite stars. For non-experts, not many lists offer a guide into who is winning the most hearts in South Korea. Here is The Korea Herald’s list of the hottest celebrities out there.
1. Bae Suzy
Bae Suzy, better known by her stage name Suzy, debuted as a member of JYP Entertainment’s girl group Miss A in the summer of 2010. The 20-year-old singer-actress is one of the most talked-about celebrities in South Korea, charming fans with her glamorous image that has won her roles in many TV commercials.
Although she debuted as a main vocal of a girl group, she nailed the country’s “first love” image with her role in the movie “Architecture 101” in which she co-starred with Lee Jae-hoon.
Other drama series such as KBS2 TV’s “Dream High” and “Big” also helped her rise to stardom.
2. Kang Min-kyung
The 23-year-old singer is a member of a K-pop girl duo Davichi, which debuted in 2008.
Even before her official debut, Kang was already going viral among Internet users with her pretty face and unique fashion sense. After extensive vocal training, she successfully made her way to professional singing. Fans say her mature and deep voice in contrast with her feminine look is one of her prominent charming points.
Aside from her vocal career, the singer also made her first small-screen appearance in 2011, playing a role on SBS’ TV series “Smile Mom.”
Davichi released a digital single “Melting” in April, an R&B-based hip-hop track featuring Verbal Jint.
3. Go Jun-hee
The career of Go Jun-hee, 28, has reached a new high this year.
After debuting in 2011 as a model for a school uniform brand, she has recently taken over the screen, doing more than 10 commercials in 2013 alone.
Go has recently taken the honor of being a poster girl for Korea’s biggest-selling liquor, “Cheoumcheorum” soju. The brand is known for recruiting the nation‘s hottest actresses.
After appearing as a supporting role in several mainstream movies such as “Architecture 101” and “Girls Scout” in 2011, she made her way to TV dramas. She performed in “Can You Hear My Heart?” in 2011 and “King of Ambition” in 2013.
Go joined the fourth season of dating reality show “We Got Married” with Jung Jin-woon, a member of the hallyu boy band 2AM.
4. Son Yeon-jae
Youngest among the enlisted celebrities, Son is a rhythmic gymnast not only winning the hearts of Korean fans, but also those around the world.
The 20-year-old gymnast is the 2010 Asian Games bronze medalist and three-time gold medalist at the Asian Championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Son’s slender figure and lovely face enchanted the country’s TV commercial industry and she has made appearances in ads for various products ranging from air conditioners to sportswear brands.
Son is often compared to Kim Yu-na as she is another sports beauty who performs strongly in international competitions.
5. Park Shin-hye
Model-actress Park Shin-hye’s first appearance on TV involved Korea’s famous rocker Lee Seung-hwan’s music video “Flower.”
She debuted in the TV drama genre with the child role of Choi Ji-woo on “Stairway to Heaven” in 2003.
Park gained fame through TV drama series, notably with “Tree of Heaven” in 2005 and “You’re Beautiful” in 2009.
Park starred in the cable drama “Flower Boys Next Door” with Yoo Si-yoon and the box-office hit “Miracle in Cell No. 7” which helped her rise to stardom.
1. Kim Soo-hyun
Debuting in 2007 through the MBC TV sitcom “Kimchi Cheese Smile,” the 26-year-old actor had not gotten much spotlight after that although he has appeared in more than five movies and TV series as supporting roles since then.
In 2012, Kim hit the jackpot with MBC historical drama “Moon Embracing the Sun,” where he left a strong impression on many female viewers in and outside of Korea with his role as a fictional king of the Joseon Dynasty.
Recently, the heartthrob starred in “Secretly Greatly,” a movie about a North Korean spy.
2. Lee Jin-wook
Actor Lee Jin-wook made his debut in 2003 as a model for Panasonic. Since then, he has built up his acting career through TV series such as KBS2 drama “Resurrection” in 2005, and cable TV OCN’s “Someday” in 2006.
Despite his model-like figure and handsome looks, the actor did not get much attention until he revealed his relationship with hallyu star Choi Ji-woo, whom he met through the MBC TV drama “Air City” in 2007. However, the couple broke up in 2011.
He then played the role of on-and-off boyfriend in tvN series “I Need Romance 2012,” one of the most successful cable dramas that year. Lee continued on to his latest role in fantasy melodrama “Nine,” on the same station. “Nine” was considered a turning point in his acting career since the drama has become a hit.
3. Lee Soo-hyuk
Lee Soo-hyuk, whose birth name is Lee Hyuk-soo, is a model-actor who debuted as a professional model in 2006 for designer Jung Wook-jun’s fashion show.
The 26-year-old model walked down the runway of the nation’s famous fashion brands including General Idea and Song Zio, and managed to do cover shoots with several renowned fashion magazines such as GQ, Bazaar and Elle.
Lee expanded his career into acting, doing several TV series and movies including “Deep Rooted Tree” in 2011 and “The Boy from Ipanema” in 2010.
Lee is certainly not the type that falls into the category of “handsome guy.”
However, his skinny figure and white skin have charmed the public.
His recent drama “Shark” is shedding light on his future career as a promising actor.
4. Lee Je-hoon
The actor started his career in 2007 at a relatively late age of 23 through a short film “They Live By Night.” Ever since, he has appeared in more than 18 short films including a gay romance film “Just Friends?” directed by Kim Zho, who has recently tied the knot with his boyfriend.
In 2011, he featured in an indie movie “Bleak Night” in a role that gave him the honor of sweeping the “Best New Actor” award at movie festivals including the Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Another box-office hit that cannot be left out is a 2012 movie “Architecture 101,” where he played a shy college boy pining for his first love. Gaining public fame through the film, he starred in a comedy-drama “My Paparotti” with Korea’s veteran actor Han Suk-kyu.
Lee has not appeared on-screen since October 2012, due to mandatory military service.
5. Song Joong-ki
Born in 1985, Song is known for his good educational background. He graduated from Sungkyunkwan University, majoring in business administration.
Song debuted as a supporting role in 2008 through “A Frozen Flower,” a movie starring Zo In-sung.
He appealed to his fans through SBS variety show “Running Man” and KBS2 TV drama series “Sungkyunkwan Scandal.”
Aside from his proven popularity, his acting skills began to shine through a fantasy romance thriller “A Werewolf Boy,” which premiered in 2012. The film sold more than 7 million tickets and is ranked as one of the most successful melodrama films in South Korea.
Song took on the leading role in a TV series “The Innocent Guy,” which was as successful as “A Werewolf Boy,” once again cementing his position among the fans favoring the melodrama genre.
Jin Eun-soo, Intern reporter