The K-drama world has paved the way for success of Hallyu stars such as Lee Min Ho, Kim Soo Hyun, Song Joong Ki, and more actors who've become internationally known household names. These beloved and established leading men have certainly contributed their fair share to the Korean entertainment industry since their acting debut. And of course, as time progresses, we begin to usher in a new generation of South Korean actors with unquestionably promising careers ahead of them as well. These individuals have fully transitioned from starting out as rookies to being the next leading men that will make fangirls' hearts flutter. Are you ready for them? Because we certainly are!
Below, we’ve compiled a list of actors under the age of 30 that you ought to remember:
1. Cha Eun Woo
Age: 24, born in 1997
If you’ve been closely following Astro member Cha Eun Woo’s acting career, you’ll know that he’s no rookie to the industry. He initially made his debut in the 2017 rom-com Hit the Top and starred in several web series and dramas shortly after, such as My ID Is Gangnam Beauty and Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung. It’s only recently, however, that he’s finally gotten international recognition, following his role as Lee Su-ho in True Beauty, where his irresistible charms captured the hearts of many.
2. Song Kang
Age: 26, born in 1994
Dubbed as Korea’s “Son of Netflix,” Song Kang has been on a streak lately since his role as Hwang Sun-oh in the 2019 Netflix original series Love Alarm. Thanks to his successful run in the series, the actor is now seeing a steady stream of leading role offers from Sweet Home to Navillera. He also has an upcoming drama with Han So Hee, titled I Know, But, which we're definitely looking forward to!
3. Lee Do Hyun
Age: 25, born in 1995
Lee Do Hyun first stole the spotlight in the 2019 dark fantasy drama Hotel del Luna, in which he gave K-drama fans a serious case of second lead syndrome. And honestly, we’re still recovering from it ‘til this day. Since then, the 25-year-old has completely won over our hearts when he starred as Hong Dae-young in 18 Again, before landing a role in Netflix’s monster hit, Sweet Home.
4. Kim Young Dae
Age: 25, born in 1996
Kim Young Dae began his acting career in 2018 with guest stints for multiple dramas. He eventually landed what was his breakout role in 2019 as the chaebol heir, Oh Nam-joo, in Extraordinary You, which also earned him a nomination for Best New Actor in the 2019 MBC Drama Awards. Today, the actor is certainly thriving after the success of his subsequent dramas Cheat on Me, If You Can, and The Penthouse: War in Life. Additionally, he’s also made cameos in True Beauty and in the 2021 JTBC drama Under Cover.
5. Jo Byeong Gyu
Age: 24, born in 1996
Jo Byeong Gyu is best known for starring in the hit drama The Uncanny Counter as the young demon hunter So Mun. Following the show’s success, it’s now OCN’s highest rated series to date and has therefore earned a second season, where Byeong Gyu is set to reprise his role. Other K-drama fans however, may be more familiar with the actor as one of the sons of the Cha family from Sky Castle, or as one of the cast members in the sports drama Hot Stove League.
6. Kim Min Jae
Age: 24, born in 1996
Unbeknownst to many, actor Kim Min Jae actually debuted as a rapper. He even participated in a rap competition called Show Me the Money 4 in 2015. All things considered, Min Jae is now definitely more known for his acting after building an impressive portfolio. This includes starring in popular dramas like Dr. Romantic, Goblin, Tempted, Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency, and most recently, the romantic drama Do You Like Brahms?, in which he appeared as the kind and gentle male lead, Park Joon-young.
7. Lee Shin Young
Age: 23, born in 1998
If his name doesn’t ring a bell, let me refresh your memory. Remember that cute North Korean soldier in Crash Landing on You that Yoon Se-ri (Son Ye Jin) often gushed about for his model-worthy looks? Yep, that part belonged to none other than Lee Shin Young! Although he’s still quite the rookie, the overall massive success of CLOY has clearly helped put him on the map.
8. Lee Jae Wook
Age: 22, born in 1998
While his role in Search: WWW may have earned him instant recognition from the public, Lee Jae Wook is better known for giving viewers yet another case of the second-lead syndrome for his portrayal of Extraordinary You’s Baek Kyung. The role itself garnered the actor several awards such as MBC Drama Awards’ Best New Actor in 2019 and the 5th Asia Artist Awards’ Rookie of the Year. He then landed his very first lead role in the musical drama Do Do Sol Sol La Sol in 2020.
9. Kim Dong Hee
Age: 21, born in 1999
In spite of his young age, Kim Dong Hee has booked roles in extremely popular series, two of which (Sky Castle and Itaewon Class) are part of the highest rating K-dramas of all time. With that said, the Extracurricular star is set to making his film debut soon with two movies expected to drop this 2021.
10. Yeo Jin Goo
Age: 23, born in 1997
Former child star Yeo Jin Goo first entered the industry at the ripe age of eight. That said, his hard work and talent throughout the years has undoubtedly paid off since the actor has a superb filmography under his belt, as well as numerous lead roles to show for. This, of course, includes his unforgettable portrayal of the lovable Koo Chan-sung in Hotel Del Luna opposite IU. At present, he’s currently acting in the JTBC’s thriller-drama Beyond Evil.