(updated May 31, 2013)
Great characters are not necessarily always borne out of the best shows (just most of the time). Sometimes we fall in love with personalities even if the drama did nothing for us. Below is a list of my favorite fictional people (good or bad)...and an occasional non-human here and there.
Kim WooBin – lonely alien vampire
Lee YooBi – bubbly female idol
Toki – mysterious mall bunny
Vampire Idol (2012)
Possibly one of the most innocently risqué, boundary-free love triangles ever, and one that could only have manifested in a sitcom about alien vampire idols (which has also got to be one of the most awesome three word combos ever). Kim WooBin played an alien vamp come to Earth only to realize he’s considered a galactic hottie on our planet, while on his home planet of Vampiretus, he was considered so ugly people literally threw rocks at him. He was good-natured, naïve, loved popcorn and ramen, especially mixed together, and was constantly surprised and delighted when females offered him gifts. Lee YooBi was a fun, happy-hearted member of Girls Girls, the female sunbae idol group in his entertainment agency, and the two became besties pretty quickly. When WooBin fell head over heels for Toki (the Korean word for rabbit), the bunny costumed girl handing out pamphlets at the mall, this interspecies love triangle was born. WooBin didn’t realize that Toki and YooBi became crazy rivals for his affections…which was only made all the more hilarious by the HUGE secret his “two girls” were keeping from him.
Lee GukSoo – celestial ex-convict
Padam Padam (2012)
With a face like this, too youthful and too heart-flutteringly pretty, Kim Bum probably finds himself on the receiving end of piles of nonsensical romcom fluff. If you’ve got the face of an angel, but the desire for some rebellion, where do you go as an actor? Well, Kim found himself the perfect role to challenge his acting chops while putting to good use his cherubic good looks. He channeled his inner mania, combined it with his trademark emo-puppy, and voilà, we got an angel with a criminal past—a charming character that was somewhat lunatic and yet completely innocent.
SangGu – dog
He Who Can’t Marry (2009)
Cute Chihuahua: two words that do not normally attend to one another, as far as I’m concerned. Sorry, Chihuahua fans, I’m just not that into the little dogs. I had a neighbor once that had one that always nipped at my ankles. It was not a cute mut. Erg. SangGu, however, was more of a staring-intensely-at-everyone type of doggie, not a fighter, so his big unblinking eyes won me over.
Heuk San – assassin
Strongest Chil Woo (2008)
Long black robe, long black hair…and an even longer black soul. He was a close-mouthed assassin played by a baby-faced Yoo AhIn who in his glaring fierceness outclassed both Eric Mun and Goo HyeSun at their own game. Not too dissimilar in concept to Jang GeunSuk’s Prince Chang Whe, but done better.
Chu GaEul – best friend sidekick
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Played by Kim SoEun, a born leading lady trapped in the role of sidekick on wildly
Hyun JiHeon – restaurant owner
Henry Kim – doctor
My Lovely Samsoon (2005)
Their careers took off after their featuring here. What more can I say? Hyun JiHeon was played by Hyun Bin, who we all know is an Hallyu A-Lister and Henry Kim was played by Daniel Henney, who is apparently the paragon of all men (according to some). To say their characters were memorable is a gross understatement.
Han YooIl – international double agent
Sweet Spy (2006)
Bad drama? Sure, but is there anyone in this galaxy who can honestly deny the hotness that is Dennis O’Neil? I thought not. Unforgettable both in the horrible acting delivery but also unforgettable because he was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever encountered. Just one picture wasn’t enough for this face.
Lee KyungMin – Kdrama PD
On Air (2008)
Not a flashy character, but calm, intelligent and quietly driven. Not prone to anger, jealousy or even fits of insanity. For a kdrama, an uncharacteristic breed of class. Park YongHa did a good job portraying a kdrama director that could manage a mob.
Chef Choi HyunWook – chef
Handsome. Genius. Mean. I loved him. This blunt chef played by Lee SunGyun was just kickass and he earned my respect ten times over throughout the course of the drama. I wished he was a real person.
Oh EunJi – actress
Song SunPung – reporter
Sons of Sol Pharmacy (2009)
In a drama overflowing with a cast of big personalities, personally, I thought only these two really stood out. Han SangJin played a hyper-sensitive tv journalist who fell for a perky actress, winningly brought to life by Yoo HaNa.
Hong TaeSung – hater of life
Bad Guy (2010)
Jung JaeMin – rich kid
Lee SooJung – Bali tour guide
Something Happened in Bali (2004)
Jo InSung and Ha JiWon have a go at tearing each other apart, ‘nuff said, I think. These two superstars practically destroyed the world with their unified star power. And the fact that they portrayed two of the most miserable people ever to have fallen in love only made them more interesting to watch.
SeolHwa – dancing troupe prostitute
A somewhat minor character in an epic historical drama, Kim HaEun played a runaway troupe girl who hooked up with the main story arc. Her scenes probably amounted to 20% of the entire drama but her presence felt like 80%. She put big star Lee DaHae to shame in the acting and charisma department.
YoungJae – actor
Han JiEun – aspiring screenwriter
Full House (2004)
Another powerhouse duo borne out of a drama, the drama. Hallyu and Hollywood star (well, Ninja Assassin does count) Bi/Rain played a fussy actor and Song HyeGyo played the owner of the house he purchases. This is the best contract marriage drama I’ve ever seen. Yes, I’m completely biased. This was my favorite drama of all time until recently bumped from the top. But YoungJae and JiEun were truly memorable characters.
Shin ChaeKyung – commoner princess
Princess Hours (2006)
Yoon EunHye was a princess upstart and her natural warmth and uncomplicated acting brought Princess ChaeKyung to life. The fashionista kpop princess that Yoon EunHye is in real life was nowhere to be found, just the character, a common girl hoping the handsome prince would finally notice her.
Seo JungIn – ex-heiress
Kang HyunSoo – industrial designer
Smile You (2010)
When the cutest actress ever (Lee MinJung) butts heads with the cutest actor ever (Jung KyungHo), this is what happens: you smile.
Kang Maru – revenge expert
Seo EunGi – badass corporate heiress
Song JoongKi and Moon ChaeWon displayed explosive chemistry when they combined their acting intensity to deliver two totally insane people willing to do anything and everything to get back at the people who hurt them. Almost by accident the two also fell in love, but that only made them angrier. Not only convincing in the crazy department, but both actors showed surprising vulnerability and depth in roles that could have been plain ridiculous instead of powerful.
Goo MiHo – human hopeful
My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox (2010)
She could chomp down her body weight in meat and although historically believed to gnaw tooth on human liver, the gumiho, aka Goo MiHo (Goo as in the number of her tails), was a supernatural fox that actually preferred the cow. Played with absolute perfection by the ethereally beautiful Shin MinAh, the actress redefined her career in this head-turning role about a mythical creature who longed to become human after falling in love with one. Her dimples were like volcanic craters of adorable. Not only did she sway male hearts across the globe, but I daresay more than a few young girls found a new hero and role model in her.
Jo Anna – amnesiac socialite
Couple or Trouble (2006)
Only a great actress like Han YeSeul could have made this bitchy, self-absorbed whip of a woman charming. And she did! Not only was Jo Anna charming, but she’s practically my hero! Apparently, it’s a fine line between a queen and a quack—and this girl played both really well.
Lee SungChan – chef/grocer
The Grand Chef (2008)
Laid back and chill, Chef Lee SungChan, perfectly embodied by Kim RaeWon, could make instant noodles cooked in the back of a truck taste like a gourmet dish. It’s no wonder all the ladies were in love with this gangly and happy-go-lucky wanderer. Chopping veggies never looked so sexy.
F4 – young aristo-hotties
Boys Over Flowers (2009)
They were rich, pretty and full of themselves. The foursome that was F4—Lee MinHo, Kim Bum, Kim Joon and Kim HyunJoong—taught us all a lesson, that no one is immune to the charms of a well-sculpted male form dressed in designer wear and hair. They will forever be the standard that all pretty men will be compared against.
Moon JaeShin – brainy Robin Hood
Goo YongHa – brainy Vanity Smurf
Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
Moon JaeShin (left): Yoo is featured on this list more than once, with good reason, he is a habitual show stealer. He should be sent to jail for being a repeat offender, but the kind of jail where fans can line up and get his autograph and picture. It’s called a fan-signing, I think. All grown up now, Yoo AhIn still has his boyish appeal, but he sported some scruff and tough in SKK, where he portrayed a young scholar who longed to clear a wrong done to his family in the past. The pen is mightier than the sword, but this scholar liked to use both, and quite well. His charisma was complimented well by his long-time friend and partner in crime,
Goo YongHa: not really a Smurf, of course, but just as lovable. He was a pretty thing and he knew it. Always dressed fabulously and preened perfectly, he was mistakenly perceived as a flaky, philandering playboy. Well, he was a philandering playboy, but none of that held a candle to his loyalty and devotion for Moon JaeShin, his friend of ten years. Song JoongKi brought delightful fun but substantive heft to a character full of pretty colors on the surface but filled with complicated detail within the finer folds.
Hwang TaeKyung – idol singer
Go MiNam/Go MiNyeo – nun
You’re Beautiful (2009)
What could be more odd than the merging of an obsessive compulsive pop star and an aspiring nun? Very few things, I’m sure. Jang GeunSuk strutted, sneered and guy-liner-ed his way into creating the most unique leading man in a long while. His oddball-ness was only matched by his other half, a doe-eyed cross-dressing nun that had the dubious moniker ‘pig-rabbit’ for a nickname.
DaeGil – slave hunter
The words ‘rabid dog’ is fitting for this man. Jang Hyuk played an obsessed psycho that was always one small step away from the nut farm…and therefore totally exciting to watch. He was better than his show and carried it as far as he could, despite the efforts of others to sabotage everything decent about it. The drama will be remembered but only because DaeGil was so frickin’
Lee JiHoon - doctor
High Kick Through the Roof 2 (2009)
With his nose always hidden behind a book, this always-busy, offhandedly rude doctor ambled through life in his own world, often without notice to the things he’d left behind, including people—and rarely did he care, that is, not until two young women entered his life and forced him to pay attention. Played perfectly by Daniel Choi, truly, never has the contradictory mix of self-involved indifference yet selfless sincerity found such an enigmatic (and dorky and gorgeous) package.
Hwang JungEum - college student/tutor
High Kick Through the Roof 2 (2009)
A bit klutzy, completely overdramatic and partially nonsensical...but always fabulously dressed, kind-hearted, well-intentioned and utterly sincere, this perky and completely nuttercake student is one of the most lovable female characters you’ll ever meet in a drama. She found herself matching wits against the Lee men, specifically with her difficult pupil and his absent-minded uncle (see above). Her capacity for the inane and ridiculous was unparalleled on this show; so utterly funny and addictive, she stole the show, which was an impressive feat when considering that the rest of the cast was also so very fantastic as well. Meet Hwang JungEum, the Korean Rachel McAdams.
Kim SamSoon – patisserie chef
My Lovely SamSoon (2005)
Kim SunAh will never be able to escape the shadow of her iconic character Kim SamSoon, that’s how damn good she was as the loud-mouthed and insecure pastry chef who fell in love with her boss.
Jumong - rebel prince
Lady Seo SuhNo - merchant
Long live Prince Jumong (Song IlGook) and Lady Seo SuhNo (Han HyeJin), two of the most badass and heroic characters ever portrayed in a Korean drama. Their love story was epic and so were their lives.