You might have seen him flexing his cooking skills on the variety show Stars’ Top Recipe At Fun-Staurant, but Jung Il Woo’s acting prowess is his real claim to fame. A frequent star of historical dramas, his first leading role was in the saeguk The Return Of Iljimae, and he’s been growing his acting portfolio ever since. He was diagnosed with cerebral aneurysm in 2016, but that didn’t stop him from going through mandatory military service. Now, he’s back to acting in dramas, and we’re excited every time we see him on the small screen! As he celebrates his birthday on September 9, we look back at our fave Jung Il Woo dramas below.
1. 49 Days (2011)
Il Woo made his mainstream breakthrough when he starred in the melo-romance 49 Days as Scheduler, an otherworldly being tasked with sending souls to the afterlife. Viewers were drawn, not just to his handsome looks, but also his heartbreaking expressions and acting. The drama revolves around Song Yi Kyung (Lee Yo Won), a seemingly emotionless night-shift worker, who attempts to end her life, causing a traffic accident that puts pampered princess Shin Ji Hyun (Nam Gyu Ri) into a coma. With the help of Scheduler, spirit Ji Hyun possesses Yi Kyung’s body. To save her life, she needs to get three teardrops of pure love from people who aren’t her family—all in 49 days.
2. Flower Boy Ramen Shop (2011)
The first in tvN’s Oh! Boy drama series (you might remember other installments like Shut Up Flower Boy Band and Flower Boy Next Door), Flower Boy Ramen Shop tells the story of aspiring high school teacher Yang Eun Bi (Lee Chung Ah) who finds herself attracted to good-looking rich boy Cha Chi Soo (Il Woo)—only to realize that he’s a high school senior at the same school she’ll be doing her teaching internship. But as Eun Bi tries to get over her attraction to him, Chi Soo feels drawn to her. What happens when they start working at the same ramen shop?
3. Moon Embracing The Sun (2012)
When Crown Princess Yeon Woo suddenly falls ill and *dies,* Crown Prince Lee Hwon mourns the loss but never forgets her. Years later, he is king and married to a woman of the Queen Dowager’s choosing, but when Shaman Wol (Han Ga In) enters the palace, he starts thinking of Yeon Woo again. This historical drama was a ratings winner when it first aired in South Korea, turning Kim Soo Hyun, who played protagonist King Lee Hwon, into a household name. But audiences also rooted for Il Woo who was the troubled second lead. He played Prince Yangmyung, the king’s elder half-brother, whose love for Yeon Woo remained unrequited until the end of the story.
4. Diary Of A Night Watchman (2014)
If you fancy some feel-good fun in your dramas, this fantasy saeguk will be right up your alley. In it, Il Woo plays Rin, the former crown prince, who got thrown out of the palace after his father, the king, “killed” his mother. When a Taoist priest convinces the new king to open a door keeping bad spirits away from town, Rin rounds up a crew of night watchmen to defeat them. Just remember to suspend disbelief, and you’re in for an exciting ride!
5. Cinderella With Four Knights (2016)
Pre-Parasite days, award-winning actress Park So Dam was Il Woo’s leading lady in the rom-com Cinderella With Four Knights. In this series reminiscent of Boys Over Flowers, she plays Ha Won, a young woman knee-deep in part-time jobs to earn money for college. An old man invites her to stay at a big mansion, home to three cousins (and their bodyguard) who just happen to be billionaires, and she soon becomes an indispensable part of their lives. Il Woo plays the rebellious middle cousin Ji Woon, who falls in love with Ha Won as he spends more time with her.
6. Haechi (2019)
This was Il Woo’s first drama after coming back from the military, and we were definitely onboard seeing him back in saeguk costume. Haechi is a character-driven series with Il Woo at the helm, portraying King Yeongjo, known in Korea’s history as the people’s king, in his younger days. Born to a poor mother, Yi Geum grows up outside the palace. He doesn’t initially embrace his royal heritage, but after going through a journey of self-growth and building friendships, he realizes Joseon needs him. Haechi’s cast is star-studded featuring familiar faces like Go Ara, Kwon Yul, and Park Hoon.
7. Sweet Munchies (2020)
Il Woo shows off his culinary skills in this cute drama that has him cooking in every ep. He plays Park Jin Sung, a chef struggling to make ends meet and keep his restaurant open. When one of his regular customers, Kim Ah Jin (KARA’s Kang Ji Young), asks him if he knows any gay chefs she can recruit for a show she’s producing, he lies about his sexuality and ends up getting hired. While he tries to repress his growing feelings for Ah Jin, he becomes the apple of fashion designer Kang Tae Wan’s (Lee Hak Joo) eye.
8. Bossam: Steal The Fate (2021)
Il Woo returns to saeguks again, this time looking a little disheveled (and sexy) as vagabond Ba Woo who earns money by conducting bossam, an ancient practice where widows are kidnapped and secretly given to single men or widows who want to marry them for a price. Things go wrong when he kidnaps the wrong woman, and she ends up being Su Kyeong (Girls' Generation's Yuri), King Kwang Hae’s widowed daughter. They end up going on the run with Ba Woo’s son, Cha Dol, their feelings for each other blossoming along the way. Bossam was so popular it became MBN’s highest rating drama ever.
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