Park Seo-joon has been one of the most popular Korean actors lately, and there are plenty of good reasons as to why that’s the case. The actor, who was born in South Korea’s capital Seoul, technically made his acting debut in a Korean rapper and idol’s music video, and briefly appeared in the movie Perfect Game in the same year. Not long after that, he landed a supporting role in the sequel to the popular series Dream High, known as Dream High 2, and ever since then it’s been a pretty quick ride to the top of stardom in the entertainment industry not only in Korea, but abroad as well.
Park appeared in some high-profile Korean dramas in the years after starting out in the acting world, but he rose to prominence specifically after appearing in a series of popular dramas over the course of three years. First was Hwarang, then Fight My Way, and finally What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? cemented his status as one of the top Hallyu actors working on the scene. But what’s remarkable about Park is that he has shown a knack for playing complicated characters not only in dramas that rely on tropes, but also more serious films. Audiences will recognize him in the Marvel movie The Marvels in 2023, which will be his first Hollywood movie. Until then, these are his best movies and TV shows so far.
12 A Witch’s Love
In A Witch’s Love, which came out in South Korea during 2014, Park Seo-joon landed one of his first roles as a leading man. The series is about two very different individuals, with a distinct age gap between them, meeting and finding out that despite all of these differences, they have some things in common. One of them is the fact they both carry some form of trauma in their everyday lives, which leads to healing down the road — especially after they fall for each other. Umh Jung-hwa stars along with Park, creating a unique dynamic between the two throughout the series’ sixteen episodes.
11 She Was Pretty
Hwang Jung-eum and Park Seo-joon were a formidable duo in 2015, as they starred in two different dramas together. She Was Pretty sees Hwang portraying a young office worker from a rich family who lost the beauty she had in her youth. On the opposite end, one of the boys she grew up with (Park) wasn’t considered handsome when he was young, but grows up to be what society considers as a stunner.
When the two end up meeting all of these years later, he does not recognize her, and when she tries to make her best friend pretend to be her in front of him, it backfires completely when she finds out he’s her new boss.
Hwarang is a historical throwback to the Silla period in Korean history, which was centuries ago. Set in a time when Queen Jiso is ruling, the series focuses on a group of young men selected for a group called the Hwarang. The Queen is afraid that her young son, who will one day rule in her place, will be usurped from his position of power, so she will do everything it takes to keep him and the throne safe. The men selected for the Hwarang and the prince, in disguise, will train to protect the royal family.
9 The Beauty Inside
Based on an American film of the same name, The Beauty Inside tells the story of a man in a very peculiar situation. Every day, when he goes to bed, he wakes up the next morning in a completely different body. Gender and age are irrelevant for him because he’ll still wake up this way despite doing everything to avoid so. With the help of his mother and friend they help protect his identity and condition, but when the man one day develops a crush on a worker at a furniture store, he will have to navigate his love life with this condition now.
A highly anticipated release in the spring of 2023, Dream came out with fanfare. Park Seo-joon stars with Lee Ji-eun, or IU, as a disgraced soccer star that, after an altercation with a reporter, is forced to coach a team of homeless men for the Homeless World Cup. Lee portrays a woman making a documentary about it, and together, despite their clashing opinions of how everything should be done, the team has to come together in time for the World Cup. Although Dream can be pretty generic at times, it has a lot of heart throughout its running time.
7 The Divine Fury
Kim Joo-hwan directed 2019’s The Divine Fury, which featured Park Seo-joon, Woo Do-hwan, and Ahn Sung-ki. Park portrays a man named Yong-hoo, who is a martial arts champion with a past that’s quite tragic. He ends up becoming an MMA fighter in the US. One day Yong-hoo is granted mystical powers to fight against an evil force, as this is a world where demons actually exist. After meeting a Korean priest, the two end up returning to South Korea to fight demons. Despite the seemingly odd mix of genres throughout the film, it actually works quite well.
6 Fight for My Way
Kim Ji-won and Park Seo-joon star in Fight For My Way as two friends who grew up together, and it seems like along the way they also never grew up in general. Ko Dong-man (Park) is an MMA fighter with a past as a famous Taekwondo player, but now struggles with his career and personal life.
Meanwhile, his friend Ae-ra (Kim) works at a department store but knows deep in her heart she actually wants to be an announcer. Together with their friends they’re going to navigate this tough time in life, while also finding love in each other along the way.
5 What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? is one of Park Seo-joon’s most iconic television roles to date. Park Min-young Kim Mi-so, the dedicated secretary of vice-chairman Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon). When she suddenly resigns one day in order to go soul-searching, he frantically realizes he cannot live without her — he is in love with and doesn’t know what do without her by his side.
At first, she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, but when she realizes he was a figure in her childhood, things are about to change very quickly for the two of them.
4 Kill Me, Heal Me
In Kill Me, Heal Me, actor Ji Sung portrays Cha Do-hyun, a chaebol with a major mental illness: dissociative identity disorder. He developed this after many traumatic events happened in his life, and with the help of a psychiatric resident (Hwang Jung-eum), he decides he wants to overcome the problems that are plaguing him.
Together, they start to sort through his mind, but when her twin brother (Park) starts meddling with his own agenda, healing looks a little less linear than it already is. The series was very popular when it first aired on television in South Korea.
3 Concrete Utopia
A 2023 release that came out in South Korea in August 2023, and was then nominated as their entry for the Academy Awards, Concrete Utopia is not to be missed. Lee Byung-hun, Park Seo-joon, and Park Bo-young lead in a movie about an earthquake happening in Seoul. A group of residents in an apartment complex find themselves survivors in a major disaster, as their building is one of the few structures left after the disaster. A sequel is in the works starring Ma Dong-seok.
It seems like everyone knows Parasite ever since its record-breaking run in the Western awards circuits, which is much-deserved love after Korean cinema has been neglected for so long. But Park Seo-joon plays a small role in the movie, but an important one: he plays Min-hyuk, Ki-woo’s friend who tells him about his tutoring job at the rich family. He is leaving to go abroad and refers Ki-woo to the position, but when he’s talking about the job, he implies a relationship with the girl — which is exactly what Ki-woo ends up doing throughout the course of the movie.
1 Itaewon Class
Itaewon Class is one of Park Seo-joon’s best dramas so far because of how it digs deep into societal injustices. After his father is accidentally killed by a chaebol (played by Ahn Bo-hyun), he is sent to prison after attacking the boy.
Years later, he opens his own restaurant in Itaewon, employing many different kinds of people who wouldn’t be accepted in mainstream society. With the help of a genius girl with a penchant for social media marketing, he begins his plan to get the ultimate revenge against the boy who got his father killed.