What makes some actors so impressive is when they’re versatile enough to take on diverse roles. They’re not always the struggling poor guy who works his way up to success. They’re not always a dreamy boy next door that the lead girl strives to get to know. Instead, they might have played the protagonist in a rom-com last year and slayed as a villain in their next project.
There are plenty of such actors in the Korean entertainment industry. Below, we list K-drama actors who played both bida and kontrabida roles like a pro. Warning: Lots of possible spoilers ahead!
Versatile Korean actors who can play *any* role
1. Ok Taecyeon
He’s one of the most pleasant surprises of 2021 K-drama history. Early this year, he played the role of an intern, who turned out to be an evil genius, in the dark comedy, Vincenzo. In order to obscure his real identity, he posed as a carefree and cheerful assistant to the lead female character. He’s one of the nastiest villains this year and was such a great match for the lead of the series, Song Joong Ki.
But Taecyeon isn’t all creepy charms. Back in 2016, he actually played the lead role opposite Kim So Hyun in Bring It On, Ghost. He looked definitely more reserved then, and there was something gentle and sweet about his personality.
More recently, Taecyeon also starred in Secret Royal Inspector Joy. He brought on more of his cheerful vibe here, as he played an easygoing character who’s a bit naive but admiringly determined. He was paired with another versatile actor, Kim Hye Yoon (you might know her as the super annoying kid from SKY Castle and the super cute student in Extraordinary You).
2. Lee Dong Wook
Avid K-drama fans would know him from memorable roles like the adorable Grim Reaper from Goblin. He definitely showed his unique attractive side and his natural chemistry with the bubbly actress, Yoo In Na. He then played a cold perfectionist lawyer who gets frustrated by a clumsy and ditzy actress who becomes his secretary. The pair couldn’t be more perfect together on-screen!
After those two roles that really helped him reap hoards of fans again, he took on more serious projects. In one of them, Strangers From Hell, he played the role of dentist with a friendly exterior. Little did everyone know, he had a scary side you wouldn’t want to experience IRL. Don’t watch it if you’re easily disturbed or spooked by horror scenes–you’ve been warned!
3. Ahn Bo Hyun
He’s been appearing in various small-screen projects since the mid-2010s (did you know that he was in Descendants Of The Sun?) But what really put him on the map was when he starred as the antagonist in Itaewon Class. A lot of fans already loved Park Seo Joon, of course, and really got hooked by his acting in that series. But Bo Hyun left a lasting impression as a chaebol son with awful hair and even worse character.
Recently, he took on a role opposite Kim Go Eun in Yumi’s Cells—and his character there was totally the opposite of what he played in Itaewon Class. He was a game developer who became the lead’s love interest. He was geeky, unkempt, and far from confident. He was one of those guys with a genuinely thoughtful side to them, and he definitely brought on the kilig with his leading lady.
4. Jo Jung Suk
If you’ve only started getting hooked on K-dramas when the pandemic started, one of the series you might have come across is Hospital Playlist. If that’s your introduction to Jo Jung Suk, you’ll assume he’s the funniest, most lovable actor ever. He was just so endearing with his dad jokes, silly skits, and his amazing ability to connect with others. And that lovely voice? My gosh! You just can’t help but fall for him or want to be his BFF!
If you watch one of his movies on Netflix, though, the on-screen personality could not be farther from his Yulje sweetheart role. In the movie Hit-And-Run Squad, he plays a filthy rich and arrogant race car driver. He thinks he’s above the law and morals because of his wealth. We’re telling you, you might want to re-watch Hospital Playlist or his other rom-coms after this just so he can “redeem” himself as a nice person again.
He’s one of the actors that are always entertaining to watch, so don’t hesitate to add his dramas to your binge-watch list!
5. Park Hae Soo
The international phenomenon called Squid Game amassed new K-drama fans worldwide. Here, you’ll meet Park Hae Soo as one of the players in the brutal game so he can pay off all his debts. At first, you think he’s just someone the lead character knows and trusts but is ashamed of his failures. However, he turned out to be a true traitor who only thinks of himself—definitely not gganbu material.
Before he was a broke embezzler, though, he was a pro baseball player who got imprisoned for assault. Fictionally still, of course, in the dark comedy, Prison Playbook. In this unique story, he connects with fellow inmates and gets into all sorts of trouble. He’s quite slow-witted and far from cunning, but he’s loyal, generous, and truly caring (unlike his Squid Game persona).
6. Kang Ha Neul
You might know him as the innocent hopeless romantic in When The Camellia Blooms. If that was the first time you watched him in a drama, you’d think that he’s the perfect guy without a hint of malice or bad intentions. He was so sweet toward Gong Hyo Jin’s character and her son, and he was an impossibly nice guy that anyone would be lucky to have as a suitor or lover.
But if you look into his previous roles, he can play a guy whom you don’t want playing with your heart. For instance, in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, he wasn’t really the ultimate villain, but his paasa moves definitely made IU’s role miserable. In Misaeng, he started out as one of the most annoying office mates you might ever encounter. He was so competitive to the point that he didn’t care if others suffered in order for him to succeed. He also starred in this underrated movie called Forgotten. You really have to watch the series in order to appreciate the range of acting he can do,
7. Yoo Ah In
The Hellbound actor definitely showed that he’s a serious character actor. You’d get easily carried away by his smug look and disturbed mind in that series. You might judge him as someone horrifying and sly—someone who could budol you into committing crimes.
But Yoo Ah In has a soft side, believe it or not. He has starred in romantic series before, and when he does, he shows he can be dreamy. Case in point: Chicago Typewriter. He even showed a bit of bromance and a lot of goofiness there.
Back in 2014, he also starred in Secret Affair, where he played a pianist in his 20s who starts an illicit relationship with a woman in her 40s (Kim Hee Ae from AWorld Of Married Couple). His young, passionate character in the story is eons away from his spooky cult leader image in Hellbound.
Of course, there are also a lot of female actors who are also chameleons when it comes to acting, such as Bae Doona and Han So Hee. There are many supporting characters that capture us as good and bad guys, too, like Oh Jung Se. Who else should be on the list? Let us know in the comments section!