Popular Korean actors in 2021 who will hit it big


It’s refreshing to see new faces in Korean dramas and exciting to watch them advance in their acting careers. Recent well-known K-dramas have brought attention to several actors, but 9 popular Korean actors stood out from the rest in 2021 – these rising actors have immense potential to achieve Kim Soo-hyun levels of stardom in the future. 


1. Hwang In-yeop


popular korean actors 2021 - hwang in-yeop
Image credit: @hi_high_hiy

Hwang In-yeop started his career as a model. In 2019, he made his acting debut in a web drama called W.H.Y.: What Happened to Your Relationship, where he played the role of Gi Jae-young, one of the best friends of the male lead.

Afterwards, he made appearances in 2 Korean dramas, The Tale of Nokdu and 18 Again. He took on the role of Park Dan-ho, the right-hand man of the Crown Prince, in The Tale of Nokdu, and a high schooler named Goo Ja-sung in 18 Again.

popular korean actors 2021 - hwang in-yeop
Image credit: @hi_high_hiy

In 2020, In-yeop starred in True Beauty as the charismatic “bad boy” Han Seo-jun, and his portrayal of the character propelled him to fame.

He is currently in talks to take on one of the main roles in the upcoming Netflix drama Annarasumanara, which is based on a webtoon. Ji Chang-wook, who’s known for his lead roles in Healer and Suspicious Partner, also received an invitation to play the male lead in the drama.

You can watch Hwang In-yeop’s acting debut in W.H.Y. on Playlist Global.


2. Song Kang


popular korean actors 2021 - song kang
Image credit: @songkang_b

In 2017, Song Kang made his acting debut in a minor role in The Liar and His Lover, which also starred big names such as Lee Hyun-woo and Red Velvet’s Joy.

Afterwards, he played more minor roles in 3 other dramas: Man Who Sets The Table, Touch Your Heart, and When the Devil Calls Your Name.

Song Kang’s popularity skyrocketed after he played lead roles in Love Alarm and Sweet Home

He is now on his way to becoming a Netflix darling – Song Kang is currently starring in 2 other Netflix dramas, Love Alarm Season 2 and Navillera.

popular korean actors 2021 - song kang
Image credit: @songkang_b

In Love Alarm Season 2, Song Kang reprises his role as Hwang Sun-oh, who competes with his love rival, Jung Ga-ram, for Kim Jo-jo’s heart.

popular korean actors 2021 - navillera
Image credit: @songkang_b

He is currently starring in the drama Navillera as Lee Chae-rok. Chae-rok is a talented ballet dancer, but his financial and family issues are stopping him from pursuing his dream. He meets Deok-chul, a 70-year-old man who regrets giving up his dream to be a ballet dancer when he was younger. 

Chae-rok and Deok-chul will become each other’s inspiration when Chae-rok starts teaching Deok-chul how to dance.


3. Lee Do-hyun


popular korean actors 2021 - dohyun
Image credit: @ldh_sky

In 2017, Lee Do-hyun made his acting debut in Prison Playbook, in a minor role as Lee Joon-ho.

He was subsequently recognised for his acting talent when he worked alongside IU in Hotel Del Luna, where he played a supporting role as Go Chung-myung.

popular korean actors 2021 - do-hyun
Image credit: JTBC Drama

In 2020, Do-hyun snagged a leading role in 18 Again, where he played the 18-year-old version of Hong Dae-young.

popular korean actors 2021 - do-hyun
Image credit: Netflix

He was also Song Kang’s co-star in Sweet Home, where he took on the role of Lee Eun-hyuk, a character who leads the survivors in Green Home Apartments.

He will be starring in a new drama, Youth of May, as Hwang Hee-tae, working alongside actress Go Min-si once again – she also acted in Sweet Home.

Youth of May is set to be released in the first half of 2021, so do keep a lookout for it.


4. Yoo Jung-woo


popular korean actors 2021 - jung-woo
Image credit: @dggyang

Yoo Jung-woo made his debut in the 2017 web drama Love After School, where he played the lead role of Bang Myung-rok.

In 2018, he once again played Myung-rok in Love After School 2.

From 2018 to 2019, he made appearances in several dramas: Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter, Spring Turns to Spring and Secret Boutique.

popular korean actors 2021 - jung-woo
Image credit: @dggyang

Afterwards, he took on the lead roles for 2 more web dramas – LIKE in 2019 and The Temperature Of Language: Our Nineteen in 2020.

In The Temperature Of Language: Our Nineteen, Jung-woo played the role of Do-yoon, who is constantly pressured by his mother to achieve stellar grades.

Jung-woo also made a guest appearance in episode 9 of a popular Korean drama, Hospital Playlist.

popular korean actors 2021 - 100% Era
Image adapted from: @real.ending

Recently, Jung-woo played the male lead, Lee Shi-dae, in the web drama 100% Era. He also acted as Doo-ah’s boyfriend, Han Si-han, in Love Scene Number.

Jung-woo is a familiar face when it comes to web dramas, but we have yet to see him take on lead roles in mainstream K-dramas. Hopefully, we will see him on television soon.


5. Kim Seon-ho


popular korean actors 2021 - seon-ho
Image credit: @seonho__kim

Kim Seon-ho made his TV debut in Good Manager as Sun Sang-tae in 2017.

In the same year, he was named the “Best New Actor” at MBC Drama Awards, for the Korean drama Two Cops. He acted as Gong Soo-chang, one of the main roles. 

He also made notable appearances in other dramas, such as 100 Days My Prince and Welcome to Waikiki 2.

popular korean actors 2021 - start up
Image credit: @seonho__kim

Seon-ho shot to fame for his role in the popular drama Start-Up – he played Han Ji-pyeong, a frank and seemingly cold character who stole the hearts of many viewers. His stellar performance in Start-Up gave everyone a serious case of “Second Lead Syndrome”.

popular korean actors 2021 - seon-ho
Image adapted from: KBS WORLD TV

Seon-ho is currently part of the cast of the variety show 2 Days 1 Night Season 4

He received an offer to star in the upcoming drama Link: Eat, Love, Die as Eun Gye-hoon, a Michelin star chef. We may get to see him in a drama again soon.


6.  Ahn Bo-hyun


popular korean actors 2021 - bo-hyun
Image credit: @bohyunahn

Ahn Bo-hyun made his acting debut in 2014, where he played a minor role in Golden Cross.

popular korean actors 2021 - bo-hyun
Image adapted from: @bohyunahn

He subsequently acted in supporting roles for a few dramas, the most notable being Descendants of the Sun, where he played Sergeant Im Kwang-nam.

popular korean actors 2021 - bo-hyun
Image credit: @bohyunahn

He rose in popularity after taking on the role of Jang Geun-won in Itaewon Class. Even though it wasn’t a lead role, his portrayal of a mean bully caught the attention of viewers.

popular korean actors 2021 - bo-hyun
Image credit: MBC

After Itaewon Class, he played Seo Do-kyun in Kairos, and was awarded “Best New Actor” in the 2020 MBC Drama Awards for his role in the drama.

Do-hyun is slated to star in the upcoming Netflix drama Undercover, together with actress Han So-hee.


7. Bae Hyun-sung


popular korean actors 2021 - hyun-seung
Image credit: @bxbxbxbxb_

Bae Hyun-sung made a cameo in What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim before starring in seasons 3 and 4 of the web drama series Love Playlist.

He played the aloof Park Ha-neul, who was initially upset about his one-sided love for Pu-reum until he meets Seo Ji-min in season 4, who becomes his new love interest.

He also played a minor role in Hospital Playlist as a medical student.

popular korean actors 2021 - dear m
Image credit: @bxbxbxbxb_

Hyun-sung is currently part of the main cast in the upcoming drama Dear.M. He plays Park Ha-neul, a student at Seoyeon University.

Unfortunately, Dear.M’s premiere has been postponed due to Park Hye-soo’s bullying scandal.


8. Bae In-hyuk


popular korean actors 2021 - in-hyuk
Image credit: @inhyuk_bb

In 2019, Bae In-hyuk made his acting debut in a short web movie called Love Buzz, where he played the role of Park Seung-jun.

Afterwards, he starred in several web dramas, such as Triple Fling Season 2, Kiss Scene in Yeonnamdong, and XX.

popular korean actors 2021 - in-hyuk
Image credit: @inhyuk_bb

Fans of In-hyuk can look forward to seeing him in 2 dramas this year – he will be part of the main casts of My Roommate is a Gumiho and Seen from a Distance, Green Spring. Both dramas are based on popular webtoons.

He will be playing Gye Seon-woo in My Roommate is a Gumiho, a character who falls in love with the female lead, Lee Dam – unfortunately, this will be a one-sided love.

In Seen from a Distance, Green Spring, he will be playing one of the leads, Nam Soo-hyun. The drama is about the unexpected friendship between 2 boys, Soo-hyun and Yeo Joon.


9. Lee Jae-wook


popular korean actors 2021 - jae-wook
Image credit: @jxxvvxxk

Lee Jae-wook first appeared in Memories of the Alhambra, which starred Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye. He played the supporting role of a programmer called Marco Han, and was recognised for his acting ability. 

Subsequently, he was part of the main cast of Search: WWW and Extraordinary You

popular korean actors 2021 - jae-wook
Image credit: @jxxvvxxk

He played Sul Ji-hwan in Search: WWW, an unrecognised actor who catches the attention of his love interest, Cha Hyun. In Extraordinary You, he played the second lead, Baek Gyung, a seemingly unfriendly character who ends up helping the female lead in her quest to alter her fate.

popular korean actors 2021 - jae-wook
Image credit: KBS 한국방송

In 2020, he finally landed a lead role in the Netflix drama Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol. There, he took on the role of Sun Woo-joon, a humble man who meets the female lead, Goo Ra-ra, in an accident that lands her in the hospital

Jae-wook also made a fun cameo in True Beauty with Hye-yoon, who worked alongside him in Extraordinary You. They reprised their characters in Extraordinary You, which was a pleasant surprise for fans of the duo in the drama.

Earlier this year, Jae-wook received an offer to play the male lead in the drama Dal Li and Gamja-tang, but he turned it down. Hopefully, we get to see him in a new drama soon. 


Rising popular Korean actors in 2021 to look out for


These 9 popular Korean actors started out in small roles and eventually caught the attention of viewers with their great potential. We believe that they will continue to grow in popularity and take on more lead roles in dramas – when they strike it big, you’ll get to say that you were a fan right from the start!

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Cover image adapted from: @hi_high_hiy, @dggyang and @songkang_b 

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