The man who led the supposed “introduction series of first-time K-Drama watchers”, in the form of ‘Gu Jun Pyo of Boys Over Flowers’, Lee Min Ho is still garnering respect and love from fans worldwide as he releases more hit dramas every coming year. Regarded as the first K-Drama crush of most viewers, top Hallyu star Lee Min Ho’s status in the entertainment industry seems unwaveringly sky-scraping!
However, behind this actor’s success lies hidden endless hard work, unyielding passion, and heart-wrenching misfortunes that many fail to take into account as they get blinded by the glimmering shine of his widespread fame. On his 34th birthday which falls on June 22nd, 2021, let us embark on a journey into his past and see for ourselves how a child who once dreamed of being a football star player, became the actor-model-singer, Lee Min Ho of today.
1. Secret Campus (2006)
Before Secret Campus, Lee Min Ho had appeared in a few dramas already but it was as an “extra” – one of these, Romance (2002) had actually featured him as a student who only spoke 1 line in the entire series while another one, Recipe of Love (2005) had him playing a waiter’s role. Hence, Secret Campus can be presumed to be the first step in the actor’s life as he undertook a main role in the school-centric drama and made his official debut as “Lee Min” (his former stage name).
Playing the character of a soccer player in school who is the kind to seem indifferent but actually is the one to care a lot about friends and people around him, Lee Min Ho shows off his boyish charms that seem to be timeless. The drama also marks another rookie debut – Actress Park Bo-young’s debut role, who is the lead in the ongoing K-Drama series, Doom At Your Service. Her kind and cute character in Secret Campus shows interesting chemistry with Lee Min Ho’s character, Park Du–Hyeon. So, even though they might not be the main stars of this series, these two rookies make an important start towards the road of success, together.
2. Mackerel Run (2007)
After an unfortunate car accident in 2006 where Lee Min Ho suffered major injuries and had to take a hiatus from the silver screen to recover, 2007 saw the opening up of a new level of his career! Lee Min Ho finally bagged his first leading role in a high-school situational comedy titled, Mackerel Run. Playing the role of Cha Gong Chan – a brilliant soccer player, who quits the game (very similar to his actual life) and becomes a laid-back outcast in class, Lee Min Ho portrays a teenage ‘first love’ emotions with great care and precision. The comic incidents of the drama series are also well-carried out by the actor, adding yet another “mark of an upcoming superstar” under his belt.
Even though the drama suffered from low viewership ratings that led to its cutting down from 24-episodes to 8-episodes only, the impression that Lee Min Ho left on Director Park Kwang Chun of 2008’s film Our School’s E.T., is what made Park choose Lee Min Ho for a role in the popular comedy-drama film.
3. Boys Over Flowers (2009)
KBS’ Boys Over Flowers in 2009 was a Korean adaption of the manga series “Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango)” written by Kamio Yoko that inspired various adaptions since its release – Thai, Chinese (Meteor Garden), Japanese, etc. Acting the leading role of Goo Joon Pyo in the series – a powerful and rich chaebol student who does as he pleases, Lee Min Ho had a breakthrough in his career with this series!
The series which featured him in a classic “rich, popular guy falls for a poor, rebel girl” saw an explosion of viewership which resulted in not just the streaming of the K-Drama series in Korea, but also the organization of various concerts and fan-meets all over Asia. Lee Min Ho carried the chaebol flair with finesse, along with the other F4 members, and thus also initiated a metrosexual grooming and fashion trend in the home country and among fans. Hence, with such a boom in popularity and well-deserved recognition of skills, Lee Min Ho finally made his way into the mainstream limelight.
4. Personal Taste (2010)
After breaking into the mainstream entertainment circle, Lee Min Ho snagged another leading role that carried the youthful vibrance and vitality of his previous “student” roles but displayed a more mature persona – Jeon Ji Ho, a charming young adult who dreams of being a successful architect. This adult role in the romantic comedy, Personal Taste, as opposed to his high school-centric ones, was an exploration of the vicissitudes of adult life with a good dose of humor, sexual innuendos, and teen-girl fantasy romance.
Keeping aside the drama’s great storyline and sprinkle of good cheer and humor, Lee Min Ho’s unimpeachable handling and portrayal of his jaunty and dashing character who manages to make the female lead believe that he is homosexual despite being straight as a line is what makes the drama a more interesting watch. Hence, this role yet again deepens the unerasable impression that Lee Min Ho had debossed in the K-Drama Industry so far.
5. City Hunter (2011)
Delving now into the theme of romantic thriller, Lee Min Ho who had by 2011 gained the momentum he needed to propel himself to the heart of the Korean Entertainment industry, took up the role of an avenger seeking justice on the elite corrupts of the Korean society. This drama series, titled ‘City Hunter’ showed the perfect mesh of Lee Min Ho’s young, boyish charms and his manly gallantry during the action scenes. It also explored the obscured societal paradigm and hence, featured Lee Min Ho’s character, Lee Yoon Sung, on the screen in full display of his deep, conflicting emotions, which Lee Min Ho has seemed to portray impeccably. Hence, with flavorsome chemistry between the two main leads, an interesting and fresh storyline, and an intriguing real-life story that it is based on, ‘City Hunter’ won acclaim globally and so did its stellar cast ensemble.
6. Faith (2012)
With the commercial success that City Hunter brought, Lee Min Ho’s next much-loved series, ‘Faith’ in 2012, was a step into yet another different genre, a fantastical historical-medical one. Bringing out the chivalric bravado of a historical Warrior General to King Gongmin of the 14th century, Young Choi, Lee Min Ho still managed to faithfully portray the interwoven heart-fluttering love moments, soft comic ones, and the sincere misfortunate ones, in this political-warring setting. The iconic long-haired, full-armored masculine look of Lee Min Ho in Faith, also was a cause of major heart-throbbing moments for the viewers throughout the series.
Along with elite screenplay writing, immaculate cinematography, and the solid acting by all other cast members, Lee Min Ho hence was able to bag the SBS Award for Best Actor In A Miniseries for this series and move onwards along the flower path, even though the series’ high budget had led it to be a commercial failure.
7. The Heirs (2013)
Following his already well-established national fame and his slowly increasing international fanbase, Lee Min Ho decided to go back to his “rich teen chaebol” phase which we had last seen in his breakthrough drama series, ‘Boys Over Flowers’. Molding his being to suit the persona of a rich spoiled brat who firmly rebelled against the class divide that hindered him from dating Cha Eun-sang (Park Shin Hye) by the end of the drama, Lee Min Ho maps the character development of Kim Tan smoothly and intricately.
Even though ‘The Heirs’ is a teen drama much like his earlier school-centric ones, the level of acting of Lee Min Ho seems to have elevated manifolds since those times! Hence, the comparison between ‘The Heirs’ and these previous dramas also perfectly emphasizes the growth the actor has undergone.
8. Gangnam Blues (2015)
Lee Min Ho, now with continued success and a cemented Hallyu Star status, took upon 2015’s noir action film, ‘Gangnam Blues’ which marked his first leading role in a feature-length film. This film brings the adrenaline rush the viewers had felt back from Lee Min Ho’s action scenes in ‘City Hunter,’ and even turns it up a few notches. However, it would be wrong to say that Gangnam Blues is only about bringing the action side of the actor back.
The noir action film is set during the 1970s – a dark socio-political time where many sides were fighting for control over the Gangnam region’s real-estate development boom. This backdrop and the intriguing storyline of testing-the-bonds-of-brotherhood in this turmoil is what makes Lee Min Ho’s passionate and intense acting so admirable and impressive. Hence, any viewer of this film would not be able to deny that Lee Min Ho is worthy of the towering pedestal that the global public had put him on by now.
9. The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
Following his well-received 2016’s fantasy-romance drama, ‘Legend of the Blue Sea’, and his departure from the industry to fulfill his duties to the nation in 2017, the 2020’s ‘The King: Eternal Monarch’ series marked his successful comeback to the scene. Taking on the majestic role of a handsome Prince Charming in a romantic-fantastical setting, Lee Min Ho once again showed the magnetic charms that drew the world’s viewers’ to him in the first place.
The series which featured him as Lee Gon, Emperor of the Kingdom of Corea alongside the versatile actress Kim Go Eun and upcoming actor Woo Do Hwan, had various memorable scenes ranging across all moods – moving, heartwarming, romantic, stunning, etc. The diversity of these iconic scenes that stayed in the hearts and minds of viewers even after the end of an episode/the series, gives a glimpse into the vast spectrum of emotions that the 34-year old Lee Min Ho can pull off flawlessly.
It also proves that these 2 years away from the scene and fully immersed in mandatory military service, didn’t dull the quality of his incredible performing abilities at all; on the contrary, they seem sharper than ever!
Going over the entirety of his career, right from laying of the first foundational stone to the huge empire that stands powerful and towering over us now, it becomes clearer why Top Hallyu Star Lee Min Ho deserves the respect that comes with the title. It also gives clarity to the question of why Minoz (his fans) worldwide and in India shower love and take pride in the impeccable actor that he has flourished into in these 15 years.