They don’t make our hearts go pitter-patter.
They don’t have to-die-for washboard abs.
They don’t grace the drama posters or highlight reels.
And, they definitely don’t get the leading lady.
But these Ahjussis are everywhere in K-drama land. I swear, every time I begin a new K-drama, I say to myself, “Where have I seen him? Wasn’t he just in the last drama I watched?”
These actors are highly sought after that they must be among the busiest actors in Hallyu-land. These middle-aged and dare I say, over-the-hill Ahjussis are not only talented, they are multifaceted, and— they don’t need great looks to get the job done. As the unsung heroes of K-dramas, these gentlemen blend into their characters so seamlessly that we know them as their personas and not the actor.
#1 Lee Sung Min
Lee Sung Min made me a fan in Misaeng. If anyone deserves the Baeksang Best Actor Award, it’s Lee for his masterful performance as Chief Oh of Sales Team 3.
As the leader of the hard-working and principled Sales Team 3, Lee Sung Min made me a believer in mankind, in justice and in inner strength, that integrity will triumph over deceit and a corrupted mind. A late bloomer to the acting scene, Lee Sung Min is clearly leading man material. Whether it is as the bossy President in My Princess, the mopey gangster in Miss Korea, or the kindly older brother in King 2 Hearts, Lee Sung Min stole our hearts as a maestro in the art of humanizing his characters. Brilliant, brilliant actor!
The king of K-drama antagonists. This Ahjussi never sleeps. He appeared in 5 K-dramas in 2016 and is currently starring in two in 2017. For the longest time, I only knew his face but not his name. A hateful, corrupted police commissioner in Signal, a sly politician with no scruples in Assembly, a cheating husband in Goddess of Marriage, he plays badass like he owns it. But Jang Hyun Sung can also show a sensitive side as the docile Dr. Kim in Doctors and the sacrificial Director Jun Jae Wook in Ghost. And in contrast to his mostly hateful characters, he makes us smile as the lovable and caring dad to his boys in Superman Returns.
#3 Kwon Hae Hyo
From Winter Sonata, My Fair Lady, Air City to My Lovely Sam Soon, Ghost and Jealousy Incarnate, this Ahjussi pops up everywhere. Though his role may be minor, his presence is always noticeable. With an acting style that evokes empathy from viewers, Kwon Hae Hyo comes across as your friendly, teddy-bear neighbourhood Ahjussi. Even when he tries to be tough (PD Oh in Jealousy Incarnate), his affable, comfortable presence warms our hearts, making him one of the most lovable supporting cast in K-dramas.
#4 Kang Shin Il
Does it feel like Kang Shin Il is also in every K-drama you watch? Appearing in the currently airing Whisper as Young Joo’s (Lee Bo Young) dad and wrongly accused reporter, Kang Shin Il is a staple in the K-drama world as Mr. Nice Dad. Cue Descendants of the Sun and Emergency Couple.
#5 Kim Kap Su
Mr. Villain extraordinaire. From The K2 to the currently airing Whisper, Kim Kap Su has perfected the art of playing the evil, manipulative corporate scoundrel, making him a pro at making viewers cringe every time he shows up on screen. Hate him or love him, he has earned his keeps as one of the most captivating K-drama version of the devil incarnate.
At 58, the baby-faced Choi Jung Woo’s got that Jekyll and Hyde face with a versatility that can play tender, loving dad in I Have a Lover, loyal secretary to prickly Joong Won (So Ji Sub) in The Master’s Sun or as the unscrupulous Chief Shin in Ghost. We also see him play a character that evokes understanding as the redemption-seeking cheating husband in My Daughter, Seo-Yeong.
There! My top 6 outstanding Ahjussis worth our praise and admiration for no other reason than for the perfection they bring to enrich our K-drama experience. Are they also your favourites? Please chime in!
Originally published on MDL on May 10, 2017