Case of the new Hallyu Kings: China the common denominator?

There are new Hallyu Kings in kdrama town:- Lee Min Ho, Kim Soo Hyun, Lee Jong Suk and Joo Won. Is this the dawn of the second Hallyu wave?

Since numbers don’t lie, popularity and ratings do tell the story.

Lee Min Ho seems like he has arrived a long time ago. Perhaps he was not officially crowned until recently but his star has certainly shone since the debut of Boys Over Flowers. Perhaps not the best actor, nor the best singer or dancer but undeniably the most popular. He’s got his own wax figure in Shanghai, over 25 million followers on Weibo, and made CNN top 20 hottest Korean male celebrities. Shot to superstardom over 6 years ago, his allegiance of fangirls have never wavered and many of his dramas continue to be commercial success internationally. So what is it about Lee Min Ho that makes millions of girls and women swoon over him? His looks or his talent? Or is it both? No matter how I slice it, the proof is in the pudding. He must be doing something right to earn all this love.


Kim Soo Hyun also gained immense popularity and similar cult status with fans especially after the release of You Who Came from the Stars. He got a jump start due to the popularity of Dream High and The Moon That Embraces the Sun but YWCTS definitely propelled him to stardom. Both idols have impressive China following. Needless to say, if China embraces you, you’ve essentially arrived. Good looks definitely help and what Kim also has going for him is being blessed with getting cast in critically acclaimed productions that have success both domestically and overseas; and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be paired with the A-list of equally successful female actresses the likes of Jun Ji Hyun and Gong Hyo Jin. In Kim’s case, perhaps a bit of good fortune and wisdom for picking the right project at the right time? And for sure talent counts and no doubt a lot of hard work.


The third wheel of the fantastic four is none other than Lee Jong Suk. Younger than his compatriots he is also the more flamboyant of the three. The common denominator among these three is none other than China. Lee Jong Suk also catapulted to Hallyu status ever since his drama I Hear Your Voice hit the mark with the Chinese viewers. Downloaded more than 350 million times on Youko and Toudo by the time the the last episode aired, his Weibo account exploded as soon as it opened, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. His subsequent dramas, Doctor Stranger and Pinocchio were also immensely popular with fans in China. Message to future Hallyu King wannabe? China?


But up until this week, the fourth quartet of the group has been Kim Woo Bin, the rising star of bad boy fame from the Heirs. But only this week I read on Koala’s that K-News has anointed Joo Won as the fourth member of this quartet due to his talent in pulling in the ever elusive domestic ratings. From Good Doctor to Ojakgyo Brothers to the currently airing YongPal his acting prowess has earned him this spot among the top four. The only King where China isn’t a factor, at least not yet.

Joo Won

Funny enough, none of these four happen to make my list of favourite actors but then as the numbers show, I am in the minority. Chalk it up to generation gap perhaps. I have to admit I am not that familiar with Joo Won and his body of works so I will reserve my judgement for later after I watch YongPal. But for the other three, yes, I am quite familiar with them and their shows. They are everywhere in kdrama land; the news, the mainstream shows, the forums, the fanfics etc. But hats off to them, they have certainly earned these titles as proven by their enormous fan base.

So what traits make you go nutty over your favourite actor? First impression? Character? Style? Of course, there’s always the obvious eye candy factor, talent, overall charisma and perhaps just because popularity breeds popularity?


11 thoughts on “Case of the new Hallyu Kings: China the common denominator?

  1. The only one of the four I kinda like is Kim Soo-hyun, but that was more in his early days when he was still playing the childhood portions in dramas. He was very good in The Moon That Embraces the Sun, but the story was weak. And although I like Jeon Ji-hyun very much as well, I couldn’t watch her and Kim in You Who Came From The Stars, the whole thing was too stupid. Also don’t get the appeal of Lee Min-ho and Lee Jong-seok – their acting is pretty average – and am allergic to Joo Won.

    Of Korean actors, I really only like Lee Jung-jae and Jung Woo-sung, who are both very solid and versatile actors. Ha Jung-woo is another class act.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know that there are far many talented actors than these mentioned here and that too, with a high degree. But what I can think about the reason they are popular is because of that one drama that became so popular and earned them their million of fans. For LMH, it’s definitely Boys Before Flowers — such a huge hit and I admit that I was blown over by him after watching it. And the credit for that goes to him. Then City Hunter and later, Heirs came but Heirs got the fruits of the previous two shows (with power also received from PSH because of You’re Beautiful popularity).
    Then for KSH, it was Dream High, Moon-sun that made him so popular. Again the combined power of him and JJH (popular because of super-popular movie My Sassy Girl) led to it, not to mention their previous hit film Thieves. For LJS, it was IHYV and for JW, it was Gaksital.
    I don’t think these guys are talentless. Each have their limitations but it’s also true that they have some strengths too. They have gathered so much popularity mainly because of that one project that because a HUGE success across the globe. People who enter dramaland make sure to watch their shows first before delving deeper into the world of kdramas.

    I don’t think KWB can join their rank yet because he still needs to give that one drama (not movie) as the leading man that will ensure his popularity status for his future projects in China or other foreign lands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have captured it much better than I did on the essence of their huge popularity. Yes, that one show with each of these guys was definitely the difference maker. Just like hitting that jackpot… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought I was the only one who does not get the popularity of these guys.

    Yup, they are pretty but that’s about it. None is all that great as an actor… yet, the opinions of their crazy fans notwithstanding, nor do they posses that distinct screen presens that the more accomplished thespians have. I actually liked all of these boys quite a bit at the beginning of their carreers. All showed promise but the thing is, that promise has yet to be fulfilled. They haven’t managed to truly impress me in any of their projects since the early days. I’d say that Joo Won is perhaps the one with most raw acting ability but even he hasn’t been able to tap into it and progress enough to get to the next level, imho.

    Idk, but massive popularity at the early stages of one’s carreer is not necessarily a good thing as it’s tempting to just stay basking in the glow of adoration and not really try anymore.

    Well, the only actor I’ve really gone potty about has been Uhm Tae Woong and it’s probably the first impression that got me. He’s not called UhmForce for nothing. XD He’s still one of my faves, the dork. *g* Other than UTW, I tend to like a lot of actors for various reasons, shallow ones included.^^ The latest being Takahiro (well, he’s a singer first and foremost but who’s counting), who tends to turn me into a totally silly kawaii! fangirl and I Don’t.Do.That! Generally, that is. He’s just SO cute… for a 30 yrs dude, ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Insightful and honest as expected! Personal preferences aside got to give it to them. At least they have some talent and blessed with good looks. But popularity like this is surely mind boggling. UTW? Haha…I never heard of him so had to google. And no surprise. I haven’t seen any of his show except one but can’t quite remember him. I don’t pretend not to fawn over the good looking ones too 🙂


      • Oh, I just love UTW. There’s such a gap between most of his screen personas and his true self. In real life he is a lovable doofus. XD He is a bit limited as an actor but in a right role he can be very, very good. Talk about intense. Give ‘Resurrection’ a go sometime, it’s a pretty good drama as a whole, one of my all time faves. A few episodes too long maybe but the drag is not all that noticeable and the plot is engeaging.

        Liked by 2 people

          • Haha… hardly. 😀 I just know what I like, usually.

            Here’s another one for that list: Mawang aka The Devil, which was my nbr 1 drama for years. Ah, I remember all these looong meta discussions about it @ LJ back in the day.


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