Here are 30 Korean male actors who we think delivered outstanding performances in Korean drama series this year—who managed to translate the character from the script onto the screen pretty well, making it one of the most engaging and memorable of 2022:
Lee Sung-min in JTBC’s Reborn Rich
Perfection. Lee Sung-min is arguably the greatest performance of the year. He played a powerful businessman, father, and grandfather in JTBC’s Reborn Rich (2022) and managed to totally convince the audience that he was the character with his amazing range in acting skills. He carried nearly every scene, displaying strong conviction and authority to portray his role, an antihero you will love and adore. The way he presents Chairman Jin Yang-cheol’s presence, mannerisms, anger, and all other emotions through his sharp eyes and solid commanding voice powerfully captivates you through the screen—a performance worthy of the Grand Prize “Daesang” award.
Kim Nam-gil in SBS’ Through The Darkness
Kim Nam-gil in SBS’ Through The Darkness (2022) played one of the most challenging roles this year that braves societal views and psychosocial awareness—a criminal profiler. He performed excellence in allowing us to experience the inner struggles and complexities of a character that digs deep into the minds and behavior of a serial killer. He made us believe that he was Song Ha-young through his remarkable performance that displays in-depth psychological processing and thinking. He has this sense of moving power as a quiet analyst and profound maturity as a performer that you will be impressed for the great actor that Kim Nam-gil is.
Song Joong-ki in JTBC’s Reborn Rich
It is completely unsurprising that whatever role Song Joong-ki plays, he makes it iconic and remarkable. He has always proven through his works that he is a phenomenal actor. In JTBC’s Reborn Rich (2022), he played Yoon Hyeon-woo, a loyal employee of a big company only to be framed and murdered, but is reborn as Jin Do-jun who plans a sweet revenge in process. Song Joong-ki’s performance for this role is absolutely flawless—he is truly a top tier actor who never fails to make his character believable and interesting in every scene and display of emotions. He also holds this strong onscreen presence even in the way he stands or walks to present the drama’s character.
Namgoong Min in SBS’ One Dollar Lawyer
As always, Namgoong Min is a versatile actor who can play a man of various roles with many stories to tell and has this knack for comedy that he could blend with drama. In SBS’ One Dollar Lawyer (2022), he transforms into a cool lawyer who has the best skills in the legal field but only charges 1,000 won for his service. He delivered one of the most iconic legal heroes of the year—an attorney who has a curly hair, wears a sunglass, walks with confidence, makes you laugh, and always wins cases against the most expensive lawyers.
Ji Chang-wook in KBS2’s If You Wish Upon Me & Netflix’s The Sound Of Magic
Ji Chang-wook is definitely one of the most moving and poignant performances for this year. He portrayed a wounded magician in Netflix’s The Sound Of Magic (2022) and a wounded ex-convict in KBS2’s If You Wish Upon Me (2022). His emotional breakdowns are played out so authentically—even in silent moments, he manages to convey emotions that move you through the screen. You can’t deny to marvel at his pure performance that is worthy to be heralded as one of the best K-drama actors of the year.
Lee Minho in Apple TV+ Pachinko
Throughout the years, Lee Minho has always been the talent to leave you spellbound. In the American series, Pachinko (2022), he played Koh Hansu, a Korean merchant and fish broker who lives in Japan and regularly visits Busan, South Korea. Even though you only get to see him in a few scenes except for one episode that is fully focused on his story, he definitely displayed a remarkable performance—flawless and captivating to watch in general.
Wi Ha-joon in tvN’s Little Women
Wi Ha-joon in tvN’s Little Women (2022) portrayed his role as Choi Do-il pretty well, a mysterious man who is smart and whose loyalty is unclear but becomes the discreet protector of In-joo, saving her from various traps. He dresses, talks, and walks like a nobleman and his performance doesn’t look like he is trying—a pure talent. He is also great at action scenes, displaying versatility as an actor.
Kim Nam-hee in JTBC’s Reborn Rich
JTBC’s Reborn Rich (2022) is the year’s drama that presents a cast of incredible acting skills. One of them is Kim Nam-hee who displayed great talent in living the life of Jin Seong Jun, the eldest grandson of Chairman Jin Yang Cheol and third-generation heir of Soonyang Group. He portrayed a strong competitor of Jin Do-jun for the grandfather’s company and played it well with immense conviction, reflecting every political power and greed.
Park Hae-soo in Netflix’s Money Heist: Korea Joint Economic Area and Narco-Saints
Park Hae-soo starred in Netflix’s two different crime series this year and he impressed with his roles. In Money Heist: Korea Joint Economic Area (2023), he played as Berlin, a North Korean former prisoner who uses violence and fear to threaten the hostages, while he leads a secret operation to catch a Korean drug lord in Suriname in Narco-Saints (2022). He performed both roles with excellence.
Kim Kang-hoon in JTBC’s Reborn Rich
Kim Kang-hoon played the younger version of Song Joong-ki in JTBC’s Reborn Rich (2022). Reborn as the family’s youngest grandchild, he became the most favored one by the big boss for his wisdom about investment and significant matters in life and business. Child actor Kim Kang-hoon impressed with incredible acting skills especially during his conversational scenes with the Chairman and in displaying raw emotions.
Son Sukku in JTBC’s My Liberation Notes
Son Sukku is definitely not a new actor but his on-screen visuals and performance as Mr. Gu in JTBC’s My Liberation Notes (2022) has made him the newest bae in town. He impressed us with his portrayal of the mysterious man who lives alone, avoids people, and spends most of his free time drinking soju while staring at the night sky. He is a game-changer in this type of role.
Hwang Jung-min in Netflix’s Narco-Saints
Hwang Jung-min is a scene-stealer in Netflix’s Narco-Saints (2022). He played Jeon Yo-hwan, a Korean drug lord who lives in Suriname, moonlighting as a pastor. Besides his natural and convincing performance, he has this on-screen energy that keeps you interested with his character.
Lee Min-ki in JTBC’s My Liberation Notes
Lee Min-ki in JTBC’s My Liberation Notes (2022) impressed with his performance as Yeom Chang-hee, the second of three siblings whose family lives in a quiet, faraway countryside. He works at the headquarters of a convenience store franchise in the city of Seoul and struggles with his two other siblings from their daily exhausting long travel. He portrayed his character well, served excellence in delivery of lines, and has shown that he can do serious roles, action scenes, and comedy with equal ease.
Jung Woo in Netflix’s A Model Family & tvN’s Mental Coach Jegal
Jung Woo showed great talent and extreme versatility this year, playing two diverse roles, a desperate father in Netflix’s crime-thriller series, A Model Family (2022), and a heartwarming comic athlete in tvN’s sports drama, Mental Coach Jegal (2022). He is a genius of detailed performance, displaying real emotions, in particular facial twitching that shows agitation and anxiety. This year, he has proven that he is an actor who can take any role and make you feel that character’s story.
Park Ji-hoon in Wavve’s Weak Hero Class 1
Park Ji-hoon’s every performance in Wavve’s Weak Hero Class 1 (2022) is powered through his eyes that speak volumes of emotions to portray his role. He played Yeon Si-eun, a model student who excels at school but an easy target for bullies due to his physical weakness. Nevertheless, he fights back using his brains or intelligence. He emerges anew as a promising actor in his generation.
Lee Jong-suk in MBC’s Big Mouth
Lee Jong-suk’s performance in MBC’s Big Mouth (2022) is effortlessly a work of art. He made the name Park Chang-ho iconic, a complicated character that gives you changing emotions—warmth when he acts a husband and creepiness when he transforms into “big mouse”. He slayed his role with mastery in his craft and on-screen charms in this legal-noir series.
Ha Jung-woo in Netflix’s Narco-Saints
Ha Jung-woo in Netflix’s Narco-Saints (2022) is another impressive performance this year. He played Kang In-gu, a family man who travels to South America to earn money but unexpectedly gets involved in the drug business operation. He displayed natural acting going through all kinds of situations as a spy for National Intelligence Service.
Lee Jae-wook in tvN’s Alchemy Of Souls
Lee Jae-wook is notable in his element and performance as a young mage in tvN’s Alchemy Of Souls (2022-2023). He played a troublemaker from a noble family yet one who has been granted the power of the sky, known as the King’s star. Due to his past that is “as painful as a stab to the heart”, he becomes a ruthless hunter of soul shifters with the power of ice stone in his body. He is definitely an ace at representing Jang Uk and has this onscreen charm that makes you root for his character that is stubborn yet warm, and whose heart has grown cold but remains hopeful.
Lee Byung-hun in tvN’s Our Blues
Lee Byung-hun is absolutely a genius actor. Whatever role he plays, he can make it real and believable. In tvN’s Our Blues (2022), he plays Dong-seok, a merchant in Jeju island who has ill feelings for his mother who abandoned him and a puzzling relationship with a childhood friend who hurt him. He never fails to make you feel the meaning of every emotion, tension, and lines that he conveys in every scene.
Kang Ha-neul in JTBC’s Insider and KBS2’s Curtain Call
Kang Ha-neul starred in two different dramas this year and is great in portraying both roles. In JTBC’s Insider (2022), he played Kim Yo-han, a judicial trainee who goes to jail for an undercover investigation and ends up struggling in trying to recover his normal life. He then transforms into a struggling theater actor in KBS2’s Curtain Call (2022) who agrees to play a contractual North Korean grandson for an ill grandmother in exchange for money. As expected, Kang Ha-neul displayed solid acting skills in the two dramas.
Lee Joon-gi in SBS’ Again My Life
Considered a top action star in South Korea for his skills in martial arts and taekwondo, Lee Joon-gi in SBS’ Again My Life (2022) impressed with his performance. He managed to carry out his role as Kim Hee Woo, an intelligent and resilient prosecutor who is not afraid to take down the monsters in politics. He engaged in a lot of physical fights, displaying great action scenes.
Seo In-guk in KBS2’s Cafe Minamdang
Seo In-guk in KBS2’s Cafe Minamdang (2022) carried an energetic charisma as a fake shaman, showing that he can play any role whether it’s comic or dramatic. In this series, he played Nam Han-joon, a former criminal profiler who becomes a fortune teller, helping people solve problems. He portrayed this comic role with a blast of amusement through his natural acting skills.
Yim Si-Wan in Wavve’s Tracer & ENA’s Summer Strike
Yim Si-wan starred in two different dramas this year, displaying commendable performance for both roles. In Wavve’s Tracer (2022), he played Hwang Dong-joo, a former accountant who becomes the head of the National Tax Service’s Central Branch Tax Bureau, tracing hidden money from the tax service with some suspense and action scenes. He then transforms into a relatable character—an introvert librarian in ENA’s Summer Strike (2022) who tries to live a peaceful life in the countryside away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Yim Si-wan translated these two characters onto the screen with his excellent skills in acting.
Ahn Bo-hyun in tvN’s Military Prosecutor Doberman
Ahn Bo-hyun as Do Be-man in tvN’s Military Prosecutor Doberman (2022) displayed a cool and badass performance. He impressed in portraying a prosecutor whose aim is for money alone but later becomes engaged in a secret operation to take down the political monsters and achieve justice. He scored at interpreting this character and executing actions pretty well.
Lee Seung-gi in KBS2’s The Law Cafe
Lee Seung-gi transforms into a prosecutor and lover in KBS2’s The Law Cafe (2022). He played Kim Jung-ho, an intelligent prosecutor who quits his job due to political issues at work and a lover who happens to meet his ex-girlfriend again after a long time. He becomes involved in her affairs helping people solve legal problems while they sort out their own personal issues of the past. You will be impressed at Lee Seung-gi’s natural ability to bring his character to life with his display of various emotions.
Jung Hae-in in Disney+ Connect
This year, Jung Hae-in ventured into a dark drama and he showed versatility as an actor in Disney+ Connect (2022). He will thrill you playing Ha Dong-soo, a man with a secret ability to recover quickly from injuries who gets kidnapped and chased by a gang of organ hunters. He then encounters a serial killer who happens to be the one who took his eye. There were less dialogues but just by watching his expressions and action scenes, you can sense chilling emotions played well in portraying his character.
Hwang Min-hyun in tvN’s Alchemy Of Souls
You will see impressive growth in Hwang Min-hyun’s acting skills as Seo Yul in tvN’s Alchemy Of Souls (2022). He played a young mage of the most distinguished family who is “as noble as the sunset in fall and lacks nothing”. He is also the childhood love of the elite warrior named “Naksu”, living a life of painful regret for losing her to a friend. Besides his handsome looks, he is astonishing to watch in general, slayed, and totally fit his role as an introvert, genius mage.
Park Solomon in Disney+ Revenge Of Others
Park Solomon is a promising performance for the year. From a student who survives the zombie apocalypse in Netflix’s All Of Us Are Dead (2022), he takes the dark role of Ji Sooheon, a student who is into boxing sports and takes revenge for bullied students by beating up bullies in Disney+ Revenge Of Others (2022). His performance in the action, haunting scenes will impress you for what he can do in a dark genre and give more in the future as an actor.
Kim Min-jae in tvN’s Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist
Kim Min-jae is another commendable performance in tvN’s Poong, The Joseon Psychiatrist (2022). He played Yoo Se-yeop, a genius physician from a noble family who gets expelled from the palace when the King died after performing acupuncture on him. He becomes a wanderer and meets villagers that become his new family and where he begins to heal from his trauma, treating people’s sickness and prescribing happiness. He has shown that he can create believability in a role and portray the character without losing the viewer’s interest.
Yook Sung-jae in MBC’s The Golden Spoon
Yook Sung-jae impressed the audience with his role in MBC’s The Golden Spoon (2022). He played Lee Seung-cheon, an intelligent student from a poor family who is a victim of bullying and therefore dreams of becoming a rich kid through a golden spoon. He then changes fate with a wealthy classmate and soon begins to realize the value of family relationships over money. He displayed a promising performance and has obviously put pure dedication to bring his character to life.
Copyright KORB Blog.