Ah, the wonderful world of rising K-drama actors. It’s exciting when you catch a glimpse of a rookie actor and become completely entranced by his work. You know that it’s only a matter of time before everyone else notices them and they become a huge sensation. This past year, there were more than a fair share of actors who made a huge impact and are becoming, or have already become, the industry’s most sought-after actors. Here are 12 of the hottest rising K-drama actors that 2020 had to offer.

Note: List is in no particular order!

1. Kim Seon Ho

What would this list be without the mention of our very own “good boy” Kim Seon Ho? Kim Seon Ho has taken not only South Korea by storm, but now the world has also fallen for his charms. His K-drama acting career is quite short, as he debuted only three years ago in “Good Manager.” But Kim Seon Ho was acting in plays long before he debuted in a drama. In fact, Kim Seon Ho was so popular as a theater actor that people would line up in the street to get tickets to his plays. Fortunately for us, he considered a career in acting on screen and has been a blessing ever since.

This past year, Kim Seon Ho starred in “Start-Up,” alongside Suzy and Nam Joo Hyuk, and the response to his character and role was so astounding that it’s only continuing to grow. Lucky for us fans, we’re able to see him on the regular as he’s a cast member on the variety program “2 Days and 1 Night.”

Catch Kim Seon Ho in “Good Manager”:

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2. Kim Young Dae

You’ve probably seen a K-drama featuring Kim Young Dae in recent years. And chances are, he caught your eye. Last year, Kim Young Dae was in “The Item,” “Welcome to Waikiki S2,” and most notably, “Extraordinary You.” This past year he’s also kept himself more than busy as he’s been in three dramas and is currently in the hit series “The Penthouse” as well as “Cheat On Me, If You Can.”

Kim Young Dae’s visuals have been compared to that of Hallyu star Kang Dong Won, and his eclectic roles have only proven that he’s got the acting skills to be the industry’s best. Kim Young Dae hasn’t been in a starring role yet, but it’s no doubt that he’s going to have the opportunity very soon.

Watch Kim Young Dae in “Cheat On Me, If You Can” here:

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3. Lee Do Hyun

Lee Do Hyun’s first big break was in the fantasy love series “Hotel Del Luna,” playing the love of IU‘s character, Go Chung Myung. This past year, he starred in the romantic comedy “18 Again” alongside veteran actors Yoon Sang Hyun and Kim Ha Neul. He played the younger version of Yoon Sang Hyun’s character and was impressively perfect at playing an adult who suddenly transforms physically back to his high school self. Lee Do Hyun has an ability to charm viewers into watching his dramas. He has a down-to-earth aura and sense of humor that makes him very likeable. He’s also been a sensation on various variety shows and people have taken to his outgoing personality.

Catch him in “Hotel Del Luna”:

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4. Hwang In Yeob

This past year, Hwang In Yeob was the costar of Lee Do Hyun in “18 Again.” After having debuted just last year, he’s already the talk of the town. He has been playing bad boy roles and most recently was cast in the highly-anticipated tvN series “True Beauty.” He does the brooding and bad boy character rather well, which is probably why people have been taking an interest in him. His career is already off to a strong and solid start. It’s only a matter of time before he gets a starring role!

Check him out in “True Beauty” here:

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5. Jang Dong Yoon

Jang Dong Yoon got his start in acting after being scouted while on the news. Since then, he has quickly made his way to becoming a big star. Last year, not only did he dress up in women’s clothes and wear a lot of makeup to become his character who is a spy in “The Tale of Nokdu,” but this year, he bulked up to become an elite special force sergeant in “Search.” His versatility in choosing roles has put him on the map and made him loved by many. He was also recently on a variety show and the cast members couldn’t help but gush over him – we really can’t blame them!

Watch Jang Dong Yoon in “Search” starting with the first episode here:

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6. Ahn Bo Hyun

This past year was big for Ahn Bo Hyun. Who could forget him as the heart-stopping villain Jang Geun Won in “Itaewon Class”? He not only left a rather scary impression on his viewers, but people were thoroughly impressed at his ability to play such an evil role so well. After the series was completed, he appeared on several hit variety shows and people were able to see his different charms and sense of humor. He was also most recently in the mystery thriller drama “Kairos” playing Seo Do Kyun, a difficult boss who doubts the intentions of his boss. The complexity of roles that Ahn Bo Hyun continues to choose only makes his career as an actor that much more enthralling.

Check him out in the first episode of “Kairos” here:

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7. Lee Jae Wook

To say that Lee Jae Wook is a great actor is an understatement. It hasn’t taken people much to realize the versatility in his roles. Every role he takes on is so different from the one before that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s the same actor. This past year was special for Lee Jae Wook. He had his first starring role in the romantic drama “Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol” as Sun Woo Joon, a high school boy who falls in love at first sight with a pianist. He then goes to great lengths to show her how much he loves her and basically devotes his life for her. It’s a role that will make your heart swell up with love and you’ll definitely become a fan of Lee Jae Wook, if you weren’t already that is!

8. Yoo Teo

If you like mysterious, sexy, brooding, and artsy, you’re probably already on the Yoo Teo bandwagon. Yoo Teo’s fame has sky-rocketed this past year with his roles in the healing drama “Chocolate,” “The School Nurse Files,” and “Money Game.” On top of these dramas he’s also been in two movies. Yes, it’s been a busy year for this rising star. The role that fans couldn’t help but gawk over was his role as the obscure but very intriguing Yoo Jin Han in “Money Game.” If you haven’t watched the series, you really need to watch it to understand the appeal of Yoo Teo.

This Germany-born Korean actor is not only skillful in acting, he’s also a singer/songwriter, a chef, a writer, and speaks several languages very fluently. He’s a multi-talented actor and you can expect to see him in a heck of a lot more roles in 2021.

9. Ahn Hyo Seop

Ahn Hyo Seop starred in the SBS hospital drama “Dr. Romantic 2” as the angsty and genius surgeon Seo Woo Jin. People were completely smitten with his romantic gaze, tall stature, and ability to act out the emotions of his character. The passion he put into his character was so evident and sincere that people couldn’t help but be captivated by him. His career is looking to skyrocket in the next year or so as he’s already landed another lead role for 2021.

Catch him in the first episode of “Dr. Romantic 2” here:

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10. Jo Byeong Gyu

Jo Byeong Gyu has been in a plethora of K-dramas despite his relatively short career as an actor. This past year, he played Han Jae Hee in “Stove League” and won the hearts of viewers with his innocent and whole-hearted acting. The series was critically-acclaimed and even won Best Drama at the 2020 Baeksang Arts Awards.

Following this success, he is currently starring in the webcomic-based drama “The Uncanny Counter” as So Mun, a high school student who has super strength. He is getting a lot of recognition for this role as the series continues to rise in ratings. This is a huge feat for Jo Byeong Gyu and we hope to see more of him in 2021!

11. Kim Min Jae

Kim Min Jae is an actor to watch out for. Ever since his debut, Kim Min Jae has been consistent with giving it his all. He’s shown that he can take on any character. This past year, he starred in the fan-favorite “Dr. Romantic 2” and starred in the music-themed romantic series “Do You Like Brahms?” In both of these roles, Kim Min Jae has shown his soft and gentle side as well as the romantic side. He also has confession scenes in these dramas that will have your heart skipping beats.

Watch Kim Min Jae in his newest role in “Do You Like Brahms?”:

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12. Byun Woo Seok

Many of us recognize Byun Woo Seok from this past year as the loyal and romantic Won Hae Hyo in tvN’s “Record of Youth.” His bromance with Park Bo Gum was heartwarming and it made viewers fall for not only his character but also him as an actor. Despite people just starting to recognize the actor, Byun Woo Seok has been in his fair share of K-dramas in some notable roles. We’re glad to see him gaining more star power this year. This heartthrob is going to rise in stardom even more from here on out!

Hey Soompiers, which of these rising actors is number one in your heart? Let me know in the comments below!

binahearts is a Soompi writer whose ultimate biases are Song Joong Ki and BIGBANG. She is also the author of “K-POP A To Z: The Definitive K-Pop Encyclopedia.” Make sure you follow binahearts on Instagram as she journeys through her latest Korean crazes!

Currently watching: “How Do You Play?” and “True Beauty”
All-time favorite dramas: “Secret Garden,” “Goblin,” “Because This Is My First Life,” “Star In My Heart
Looking forward to: Won Bin‘s return to the small screen



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