Jang Hyuk is one of my favorite Korean actors, largely for his incredible performance as a brilliant, grieving doctor in one of my favorite dramas of all time, Thank You. He’s considered one of Korea’s top actors in the entire industry, and is one of the few who combines popular appeal and can headline mainstream romantic dramas as well as critically acclaimed films.
He first became famous for his early roles in romantic film Windstruck (co-starring Jeon Ji-Hyun who would go on to become a superstar) and drama Successful Story of a Bright Girl, both of which are considered romantic classics of their respective genres. He mostly sticks to historical dramas, better known as sageuks, these days, but over time he’s played everything from a freewheeling gambler (Tazza) to a quirky, kind-hearted CEO(Fated to Love You) to a ruthless Joseon-era slave hunter (The Slave Hunters).
His output is stunning for its consistency and variety: over the course of his 15-year-career he’s done over a dozen films, dramas, variety shows and music videos (nearly one of each per year). Besides Thank You, my favorite role from him is from 2009’s Maybe, a slow but delicately beautiful film somewhat akin to Lost in Translation (and co-starring Sung Yu Ri in an unusually nuanced performance). Jang Hyuk has a range of acting and a depth of screen presence and charisma that is rare and found only in genuinely ‘great’ stars. His mobile, expressive face can shift from calculating to tender to lit with unholy glee in a second, and he’s beloved in both action and auteur roles.
Frequently paired with: Lee Da-Hee (Robbers, Chuno, IRIS 2), Jang Nara (Successful Story of a Bright Girl, Fated to Love You)
To watch: Thank You