When we talk about the role that introduced us to South Korean actor Lee Joon-gi, we have to talk about his role in The King and the Clown (2005).
In the movie, he plays the role of historical figure Gong-gil. It is an adaptation of a stage play, ‘Yi’ about a Joseon dynasty king named Yeonsangun and the court clown who mocks him.
Thanks for his performance in the film, Lee won a number of awards including the Best Newcomer at the Korean Film Awards. He was only 24 years old when he was cast for this role that led him to fame.
The film also led the Korean public to know him as the icon for all pretty boys.
However, Lee has proven over and over again since ‘The King and the Clown’ that he is more than just a ‘pretty boy’.
From historical to modern dramas, Lee is one of the top South Korean actors that K-drama fans always watch out for.
Here are 10 South Korean dramas to watch if you are a fan of Lee Joon-gi:
1.Time Between Dog and Wolf (2007)
This series played a significant role in Lee’s career as it was his first leading role in a drama.
He plays the role of Lee Soo-hyun, an NIS agent with a violent temper.
He infiltrates an organised crime syndicate as an undercover agent where he assumes the name Kay.
As a gangster, he goes on rampages to gain the trust of his fellow gang members.
In an interview, Lee revealed how he tried to break away from the image he received from acting in The King and the Clown (2005).
He said, “It’s an urgent matter for an actor to break away from a lingering image formed by a previous role. You don’t want to be typecast into specific roles. That’s probably the most difficult part about being an actor. After appearing in a great role in King and the Clown, I’ve been deliberately taking on different roles to reshape my image. And that has somehow been holding me back in my career and creating a mental barrier. In this miniseries, I’m just going to concentrate on playing my character like I did in the King and the Clown and try to block out all the extraneous stuff.”
This was also the drama that became Lee’s turning point in his career as viewers began to see him as an action star.
From Time Between Dog and Wolf (2007), Lee moved on to play a masked Robin Hood-esque character in this period action drama.
He plays the title role of Iljimae. The series is loosely based on the comic strip of the same name published in the newspaper the Daily Sports between 1975 and 1977.
The comic is written by Ko Woo-young who based it on a Chinese folklore from the Ming dynasty.
Lee’s character is a lazy gangster by day and a masked thief who protects the citizens at night.
Lee’s acting in the drama earned him the Top Excellence Award at the 2008 SBS Drama Awards.
3.Arang and the Magistrate (2012)
The first acting project they participate in after being discharged from mandatory military service is a huge deal for any famous South Korean actors.
Since their fans are not able to see them in any projects for at least 18 months, many anticipate their favourite actors’ first acting gig.
For Lee, his first project after being discharged was Arang and the Magistrate (2012).
In this series, he is a nobleman named Kim Eun-oh who has the special ability to hear, see and touch spirits but chooses to ignore them.
He comes across A-rang (Shin Min-ah) who lost all her memories, including how she died.
She begs for Eun-oh, the new magistrate to help her in finding the truth about her death.
The series was not only successful but it became the most expensive drama to be sold to Japan by MBC.
Moreover, Lee won the Outstanding Korean Drama Actor award at the Seoul International Drama Awards for his role in the drama.
4.Two Weeks (2013)
After he finished playing a magistrate in a historical drama, Lee moved on to a series set during the modern day.
Here, he plays the role of Jang Tae-san. He is abandoned by his father at a young age and his mother took her own life.
To survive, he becomes a small-time gangster.
Tae-san meets and falls in love with a college student Seo In-hye.
When Tae-san finds out that In-hye is pregnant with his child, Tae-san decides to leave the gangster organisation.
However, Tae-san’s gang boss threatens to kill In-hye if he does not become his fall guy for an assault charge and go to prison in his place.
In order to protect In-hye, Tae-san breaks up with her, asks her to get an abortion and then goes off to prison.
Eight years later, In-hye comes to him telling him that she had the baby after all.
But now their daughter Soo-jin has been diagnosed with leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant.
She asks Tae-san to go a test to see if he is a matching donor because she herself is not.
As it turns out, he is a match and the surgery is scheduled to take place in two weeks.
Unfortunately for Tae-san, a lot of things can happen in two weeks such as getting caught in a political conspiracy and falsely being accused of murder.
It was the first time Lee played the role of a father in dramas and the viewers were happy with his performance.
In an interview Lee revealed his response to that, “On the day when the first episode was aired, I was at the top of a mountain for outdoor filming and sometimes checked the news. When I read a review ‘Lee Joon-gi’s fatherhood acting is perfect.’ I was so happy and my heart was about to burst.”
5.Gunman in Joseon (2014)
Don’t we love watching Lee Joon-gi playing a bad boy? In this series, Lee is a highly skilled swordsman named Park Yoon-kang.
However, he has no ambition and likes to waste his life drinking and flirting at the gisaeng house.
Things change for him when his estranged father Park Jin-han is killed in a conspiracy and falsely branded a traitor.
Subsequently, all of his children, including Yoon-kang, are also punished.
With the help of the girl he loves, Soo-in, Yoon-kang manages to escape on a boat.
Unfortunately, he is shot and falls into the water.
Everyone presumes he is dead. Little do they know Yoon-kang is rescued by a group of men heading to Japan.
Three years later, Yoon-kang returns to Joseon to avenge the death of his family under the assumed name Hasegawa Hanjo.
This time, he has traded his sword for a rifle.
Thanks for his role in Gunman in Joseon (2014), Lee won the Outstanding Korean Drama Actor for a second time at the Seoul International Drama Awards.
The series gained a lot of viewership internationally especially in China where it reached 200 million views in a month on Tencent QQ’s video streaming platform.
6.The Scholar Who Walks the Night (2015)
This series is based on the manhwa of the same name written by Jo Joo-hee and illustrated by Han Seung-hee.
It stars Lee Joon-gi, Lee Yu-bo, Shim Chang-min, Lee Soo-hyuk and Kim So-eun.
The drama is a historical-fantasy story in which Lee takes up the role of Kim Sung-yeol.
He is a loyal and courageous scholar who is close friend of Crown Prince Jonghyun.
Following the deaths of his family and friend, Sung-yeol turns into a vengeful vampire.
He has spent 120 years as a guardian vampire who is responsible for getting rid of any vampire who breaks the rule.
His special role allows him to go out in sunlight as long as he wears his special black robe.
Sung-yeol is hunting Gwi (Lee Soo-hyuk), the vampire who is responsible for killing his family and lover.
In order to do that, he needs to find the memorandum of his best friend, the late Crown Prince Jonghyun.
Inside the document, there is the secret to killing Gwi.
Through this acting project, Lee won the Top 10 Stars Award at the 34th MBC Drama Awards.
7.Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016)
How about a Korean historical drama with a dose of time-travel?
As if Lee was not popular enough before this drama, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo actually brought more fame to him as his name consistently topped the real-time and weekly portal sites search ranking.
In the drama, he plays the role of the fourth prince Wang So.
He is initially known as the black sheep of his family, constantly feared and misunderstood by the people around him.
His character begins to change when he make acquaintance with Hae Soo.
Meanwhile, Hae Soo is a 25-year-old woman named Go Ha-jin from the 21st century.
She is accidentally transported back in time during a total solar eclipse to the Goryeo Dynasty.
The drama is one of the most expensive Korean dramas ever sold pricing at $400,000 per episode.
If you feel the storyline sounds familiar, that is because it is based on the Chinese novel Bu Bu Jing Xin.
Before this K-drama adaptation, there was a Chinese TV adaptation that went on air in 2011.
However, the Chinese drama version has a sequel in which the time traveling protagonist returns to her own time.
Although the original author never wrote a sequel, the fact there is a second season in the Chinese drama adaptation let K-drama fans hope that there will be a continuation of Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016).
8.Criminal Minds (2017)
This police procedural action drama is based on the American television series Criminal Minds.
It follows a group of highly trained profilers in the National Criminal Investigation (NCI) team on their job of solving cases.
Lee is Kim Hyun-joon in this series, the equivalent of Derek Morgan portrayed by Shemar Moore.
No, we don’t get to see Lee saying ‘Baby girl’ in this drama but we do get to see him in action chasing after criminals.
In the Korean version of the drama, Hyun-joon is a second-generation police officer.
He is initially a SWAT officer specialising in EOD.
However after watching one of his subordinates die when a bomb their team was defusing, exploded, he was transferred to the Violent Crimes Unit as an investigator.
At the recommendation of Kang Ki-hyung who is the the leader of NCI team, Hyun-joon becomes a profiler.
9.Lawless Lawyer (2018)
After playing a profiler, Lee returns to the small screen as a lawyer in the Lawless Lawyer (2018).
It is Lee’s first time acting in a legal drama.
Still, it is not a role for Lee if it doesn’t involve some action and fight scenes.
In the drama, he plays the role of Bong Sang-pil. He is a former gangster turned lawyer who takes advantage of loopholes in the law and his fist to earn an excellent win rate.
The story sets in the fictional city of Kisung where corruption and crime rate is high.
Even though he is a lawyer, he is not afraid to use his old gang connection and his fighting skills to solve a case.
His goal in life is to avenge the death of his mother and to fight against the corrupt judge Cha Moon-sok and her associates.
To date, the drama is one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable television history.
10.Flower of Evil (2020)
In this series, Lee reunites with his former co-star from Criminal Minds Moon Chae-won.
The story revolves around a couple in which the husband has a dark past while the wife is the police officer who is tracking down his past identity.
Cha Ji-won (Moon) is a detective and married with a daughter with Baek Hee-sung (Lee).
On the outside, Hee-sung is the ideal husband and devoted father.
He has a metal working studio where he works as a craftsman.
After taking on one particular cruel case, Ji-won begins to hunt down a psychopath criminal.
Her hunt leads her to the man who has been building a family with her all along.
Again, Lee’s portrayal of a double-faced character in the drama impressed viewers.
Plus, his chemistry with Moon as married couple has also gathered a lot of buzz.
What is your favourite K-drama starring Lee Joon-gi? Let us know in the comment.