K-ent Discusses the Dearth of 20s and 30s Line of Lead Actors for 2021 Dramas, Hope Return of Lee Jong Seok, Park Hyung Sik and More as Rain in a Drought

K-ent had an article this week about the “drought” in the drama industry with lead actors in the 20s and 30s age range. All that are considered experienced with successful hit dramas under their belts are all unavailable for various reasons: already signed to an upcoming drama/movie or currently in military service. The industry is hoping the return of Lee Jong Seok in on December 31, 2020, Park Hyung Sik in January 2021, D.O. in February 2021 to add much needed casting rain. There is currently two high profile K-drama with an A-list actress cast as the female lead months ago, but the productions are unable to find the male lead to cast. I’m sure viewers will wonder why there is such concern since there are tons of top 20s and 30s actors not in the military, but again nearly all are committed either publicly or privately to upcoming projects, so casting directors are tearing their hairs out looking for bankable male leads.


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K-ent Discusses the Dearth of 20s and 30s Line of Lead Actors for 2021 Dramas, Hope Return of Lee Jong Seok, Park Hyung Sik and More as Rain in a Drought — 49 Comments

  1. I can’t wait for LJS’s return. I miss watching him on my screen. He is very talented and charismatic on screen. He was really successful in his 20s. I’m sure he will do even better in his 30s too.

  2. Please😒. They can cast an A-list actress and a lesser known but talented male lead. There are tons of them waiting for that opportunity in that age group. Havent Skycastle, Misty, Penthouse and World of the Married taught these people🙄. The trend changed long time ago. Its not about “bankable male leads”. Its about script.

    The time they are wasting “pulling their hair” because of “bankable” male lead, could be better invested in seeking out talented writers to give us fresh plots and then pair them with talented actors smh.

    • The trend hasn’t really changed though has it. Do you even see SHK or JJH acting with lesser know actors? Their fans would throw a huge tantrum if that ever happened. Even Won Bin would never settle for a lesser known actress if ever came back. All top actors just want to work with each other they rarely want to risk experimenting with lesser known leads. It’s not just the directors at fault I blame the actors themselves for creating this kind of work environment.

      • @bay actors dont really have that much power even the so called S-list power actress like the ones you have mentioned. They can only recommend actors they would like to work with but the final decision is with the investors/producers.SHK worked with SJK before he blew up as a hallyu star. He was critically acclaimed but he really blew up after DOTS. Son Ye Jin worked with Jung Hae In before he got a popularity boost. Ha Ji Won has worked with tons of male leads who are talented but less popular. Or the moderate A-list like Moon Chae Won, Park Min Young, Shin Min Ah have also worked with many lesser known actors.

        I do think some star writers have more influence than actor like No Hee Kyung she worked with Jo In Sung three times. Park Hye Run working with Lee Jong Suk three times.JJH worked with the same writer twice) and her latest drama is also because the writer wanted her so much than the leads. Kim Eun Sook handpicks her leads.

      • Fans can throw tantrums as much as they like but the truth is their influence is very small. They were making noise when SHK was casted with Park Bo Gum for Encounter, it was the same when Gong Yoo was casted with Kim Go Eun for Goblin. But in the end, the drama got high ratings. Kdrama watchers and fans are not the same. If the drama resonate with the public people will watch. If it doesnt whether they pair popular actors or not. It will flop(i.e.TKEM and BSR) So they should spend their energy writing better plots and hire good directors.

      • Good scripts alone cannot get investors to fund the project and the production studios need the big names to sell distribution licences. Most big name actors and actresses only want to work with star or experienced writers and famous directors to cushion themselves too.

    • “They can cast an A-list actress and a lesser known but talented male lead.“

      Isn’t this what they’ve been doing this whole time? Casting (older and established) A-list actresses with lesser known but talented male leads in noona dramas that usually become hits and catapult the lesser known but talented actors to instant stardom. I feel more for the actresses who’re constantly overlooked. I wonder, are there actress equivalents (in terms of stardom level) of LMH, KSH, LJS, PSJ, PBG?

      • @chopin stardom level not that many. I think its only Park Shin Hye. But that has got to do with demographics rather than a lack of actresses their age. Most kdrama watchers are women. Women are more likely to stan actors than actresses.

        But talent wise, there are plenty in that age group.. off the top of my head are Kim Tae Ri, Seo Ye Ji, Park Bo Young, Kim Go Eun, Park So Dam, Kim Ji Won, Park Eun Bin, Lee Se Young and many more. But like I said earlier, the problem is script. The younger actresses are usually given lead roles that seem to just make oppa look good. Or if its “badass” role it will be something like “Hotel De Luna”, IONTBO, MLFTS just dressing them in expensive clothes and being bratty and then change personality when they fall in love😒. The male ones are given more meatier roles and script. If the younger female actresses are given scripts where they can shine from their beauty, charisma and acting chops. You will see more become prominent stars like their male counterparts.

      • Although I know the Kdrama audience is predominantly women (who will want to drool over the male visuals), my heart breaks all the same for the talented actresses who don’t rise as fast as the actors do in the industry. I very much agree with you on the need for new and talented writers who can bring in fresh perspectives to write more interesting stories. Dramas these days feel like a chore to watch.

    • I don’t think script is enough, except you make super makjang script then yes it will got high rating.
      Record of youth is a prove, you need big actor to carry your drama even with bad script
      And Start up is a prove, good script cant get high rating without actors power.

    • So true. Several current male leads got their breakthroughs starring in dramas with those actresses. Cast a strong lesser known male lead with a strong A-List drama or movie actress and a star is born. It’s the actresses in their 20s that got the short end of the stick for years because of a media made drought.

  3. Besides, apart from Park Bo Gum, which other actor in their 20s is hallyu or guarantees consistent high drama ratings.Yoo Seung Ho, Yeo Jin Goo, Lee Hyun Woo are talented but they dont guarantee hits in domestic ratings or hallyu sales. DO has only had one drama hit. We need to watch him more to evaluate his bankable ability.The actors that do get critically acclaimed hits, or boost commercial sales overseas are the ones in mid to late 30s.

    We also need femalecentric dramas and movies anyway. There are barely any korean movies that have actresses in lead roles or ensembles. When we get women led drama its always the makjang ones. So maybe a “lack of male leads” will lead to this shift.

    • Unlike PBG, the three you mentioned YSH, YJG and LHW are all child actors before. They have their own following but their transitioned to adult actors have always been difficult. At least like you said they are all talented, they just need that one title lead project to cement their status [this applies even to popular child actress esp the Kims] and not be seen anymore as child actors like Park Shinhye.

      DO is doing well for an actor who only for now has 1 hit drama lead. He is already booked for different projects post military. I am not a fan of him, but he is a very popular idol and he is well-recognized as good actor by his peers and the acting industry.

      Especially now that PBG is in military and lots of new early and mid 20s actors are appearing as leads or supports, there will be new gen of actors that people will be looking forward to.

      About the female-centric dramas and movies, there are Search WWW, My twenties, Be melodramatic etc. Most ensemble dramas also have great female leads and even female supporting cast. But yes, even though these exist, most of the dramas and movies are still 80-90% male dominant leads.

  4. It’s always Park Hyung Sik to me. He may not has string of hits like LJS but the boy is super talented with very wide acting range. And he is versatile. I miss him so much and wishing all the success to him.

  5. I’m pretty sure that the drought is more severe for actresses. Top actresses still active on TV are the 80-82ers. Off the top of my head for 85ers you only have Han Hyo-joo; both Moons dropped off. The 90ers get mocked all the time for their acting. South Korea have it much better than the other East Asian countries. For the silver screen it has always been female>>male.

  6. I don’t really miss them. There are a lot of other actors who were pretty good this year : Kim Ji Suk in My Unfamiliar Family, Kim Seon Ho in Start-Up, Lee Do Hyun in 18 Again, Nam Joo Hyuk in The School Nurse Files, Kim Soo Hyun in It’s Okay, etc.

    The start power is good for buzz but doesn’t mean a good drama.

    • I agree, however, what good are they if entertainment companies/TV companies aren’t giving them the opportunities to do so? In order for them to create more established players, they need to start giving them chances. Unfortunately, most work goes to Idol-actors now which is just meh. Lack of star actresses as well for female actresses in their 20s, unlike the 80s liners. Also doesn’t help that K-dramas aren’t produced in huge amounts compared to the past, which means lack of roles for new stars.

  7. What a bunch of bs. There is plenty actors to choose from, just like plenty actresses to choose from. Instead of relaying on “leads power”, how about relay more on scripts and directors.

    • d.o has multiple successful movies under his belt and the only drama he acted as a lead managed to get 10+ rating… he is considered to be a solid actor by korean general public and most of them dont even know he is from exo

    • Umm Excuse Me?!!! Have you watched any of his movies/drama?! The boy is SUPER Talented and already established as a critically acclaimed actor. He leads the trio mentioned in terms of recognition and popularity.

  8. Yeah, there are plenty of actors. The PDs and production companies just want to try for a sure thing. Find someone with talent and come up with a solid script and roll the dice. I haven’t even watched Start Up, but even I know that an actor just got put into lead status based on his 2nd lead role in this drama. It’s like he’s an overnight success that took 10 plus years. I think he might have even had 2nd lead status to D.O. in 100 Years My Prince (going by my sometimes faulty memory) so k-drama world will pick an untried Idol over an established actor any day of the week and now complain they can’t find anyone established. Pfft.

    • Like how Kang Ha Na is still playing second lead to idol actresses when she has the acting chops, experience and charisma to be a lead😒 or Kwak Dong Yeon and Lee Tae Ri are still playing supporting roles and Cha Eun Woo is given lead roles and they are saying there are no actors🙄

      • Kang Ha Na is beautiful and talented. But she lacks that star quality imo. She doesn’t have that IT factor. That’s why she’s been getting 2nd leads roles for almost a decade now.

    • I’m very curious about KSH honestly. He has the chops, charisma, looks, and charm that can become a star in the future. He definitely has star quality. But thing is, will he get a project that’ll launch him into superstardom? I think so much of it is luck, timing, and opportunity. He stole the show in Start Up, his next work and such is going to determine his fate in the industry. After all, it is a competition and Korea is littered with so many people vying to be actors. 100 Days my prince, he was the 2nd ML there too. He debuted 3 yrs ago, and considering he began later than others, this isn’t bad compared to others who’re still working for over a decade, and getting nada.

    • d.o already had a successful movie career before he was signed as the lead in 100 days… he is famous among korean general public as an actor and not as an idol…

    • D.O. has already established himself as an actor in multiple hit movies and as directors’ favourite pick. He is regarded as an actor and his idol background is completely overshadowed by his talent in acting. He has been described as an acting prodigy by many field experts. Your words in describing him as untried idol are very inaccurate, the evidence being that he brought in both the ratings, popularity and the critical acclaim in his first drama.

  9. How about Choi Jin Hyuk or Sung Hoon? They are pretty solid actors and their looks also eye catching and dreamy[for me at least :)]

  10. Oh please. There are plenty of talented actors but SK drama investors/producers/sponsors who hold the purse strings have difficulties with the notoriously fickle taste of local SK drama watchers. International fans have zero influence. Only certain “good boy” image of actors gain the local favour like PBG, PSJ, HB, GY, etc. The rest are cast out like lepers even if they are super talented. Case in point, SIG. Him being exempted from military will forever haunt his career as he still gets hate from SK netizens after 4 years. As if all the hate is going to make the military accept him back. Let bygones be bygones. So much so his agency and TVN dare not announce confirmation even though filming has commenced & other leads been cast like Dawon of SF9 and Lee Soo Hyuk. It’s a joke as photo of the shooting already leaked out showing Park Bo Young in a location set. Jang Geun Suk, Lee Joon Gi, Lee Seung Gi, Lee Soo Hyuk, Kim Seon Ho, Ji Chang Wook are all talented but there is a lot of favouritism, internal politics, nepotism and personal connections going on in offering the best roles to actors. That is why idol actors get favoured over trained actors who slogged for years to get recognition because their limited fandoms don’t attract sponsors and advertisers. No money, no drama even if you have super writers, directors, actors or actresses.

  11. This is a joke right? There’s still many actors who still doesnt get drama offers yet: yoo Seungho, Lee hyunwoo, Yeo Jingo in their 20s and in their 30s there’s still Park seojon, jichangwook jingoo, Kim bum.
    Park bogum is the only A list actor who going to army to be honest.

  12. Why not just make female centric drama? That’s much more stories that writers can dig from female perspective like single mother, friendship, company politics between female co workers, etc and since most drama viewers are female, I bet they can connect to it more. The lesser known (with eye candy face) or lesser bankable actors can be the second lead or take supporting role.

    I mean, if thriller movie like “call” in netflix can have only psh and jjs as lead with ksr n Lee el as second, why not do it in drama? That’s soo many actress that I hope psh can work with in her age bracket, and perhaps with award winners actress like Lee bo young, lee young ae, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Nam joo. If I have the talents, I honestly think that I’ll fly to SK n give psh scripts myself

    • You read my mind dear😊😊.
      I also hope to see more female centric dramas.even theme with thriller call can do better in Netflix with only females,i bet it drama can also do better.PSH also said in a interview that she want to play a single mother,friendship stories etc.so i hope she take that risk & prove that females can also shine on thier own way☺️

  13. What dearth? I don’t see a dearth of male actors in their 20s and 30s. They were lamenting about this when Lee Min Ho, Kim Soo Hyun and a host of popular A list actors were in the army. Now those guys are done with Military Service and are back, and they are still lamenting. How about Park Seo Joon, Lee Seung Gi, Song Joong Ki, Seo In Guk, Lee Joon, Lee Jun Ki, Lee Min Ho, Im Si Wan, Choi Jin Hyuk and a host of other talented and popular actors? Did they suddenly disappear? Like most commenters have remarked, how well a drama does depends a lot on it’s ability to resonate with its audience and a lot of that relies more on the quality of the script, directing and editing, and to a lesser extent, whether or not the actor/actress is popular. A talented actor, whether they are A list or not, will shine with a well written script. We should have learned from the disaster of The Eternal Monarch where a host of directing, editing and script issues practically ruined the drama despite its high profile cast; or IOTNBO which was a gem, very well done, but the topic didn’t really resonate with the domestic audience. The influence of Netflix on kdramas means that the kdramas these days are being written to cater more to an international audience and is losing the flavor that makes it distinctly Korean.. Which means that the disparity between the domestic and international audience is widening. Consequently, either a drama will have a high tv rating and appeal widely to the domestic audience; or it will trend highly on Netflix and appeal to international viewers. It will be harder to find dramas that bridges the gap and captures both audiences and I highly doubt that this trend would be broken solely because an A list actor was cast.

    • Dearth meant the actors are either in the army or have other projects thus are unavailable right now:

      Lee Min Ho – Pachinko
      Park Seo Joon – Dream and Concrete Utopia
      Lee Seung Gi – Mouse
      Song Joong Ki – Vincenzo
      Seo In Guk – One Day Destruction Came to My Door
      Im Si Wan – Run On

      Lee Joon and Choi Jin Hyuk can’t carry a big name drama yet on their own. As much as I love Lee Jun Ki he’s no longer considered part of the 30s/20s line which is between the ages o9f 35-25.

      Kim Soo Hyun will never be cast second opposite even an A-list actress, projects are written around him nowadays to capitalize on his name recognition and popularity.

      • Hi @ockoala! Are there actors rn peaking your interest rn that if given that big chance will be a big star?

      • Kim Soo Hyun had only one project, where he wasn’t cast as second to his female partner and that girl still managed to outshine him in SK. Her name and character was constantly on Naver most searched top list. He rose to stardom by being casted along with much more popular than him at the moment A-list actresses. His upcoming project probably focus on him, but let’s not pretend he will never be casted in anything with other A-list actresses or that guys your listed before have less “focused on them” projects.

    • I know right. There is a whole Joo Won, Yoon Shi Yoon, Yoo Ah In who can do the job just fine.

      Not to mention, The year’s biggest cable hit(CLOY) was not delivered by any of the actors in 25-35 line. It was a pairing that are both pushing 40. The biggest public channel hits(Hyena/Hotstove League) were not delivered by the actors in this age group either. It was actors who are also 40+. Its noise about nothing.

  14. Haha. K-media had this same reaction when the likes of Lee Min Ho, Ji Chang Wook, Joo Won, and the rest of the late 80s hallyu actors left for the military. But look at their grand returns being majority flops in domestic ratings. What matters more than so-called star power is a good script, good directing, and a bit of luck. Most recent example is Uncanny Counter. No big names but already getting better ratings than the hallyu operas 4 episodes in.

  15. Star power, the ability to carry a drama, will ALWAYS be important and essential. Because not every single drama can be strong in script and directing, so the casting is also a critical factor.

    Sure we can ask that every drama be good in script and directing and it doesn’t matter who is cast, any Tim, Dick, and Jane with no name recognition but loads of talent can bring in ratings. That’s considered an anomaly and welcomed for sure but it’s not a formula that can be replicated. What can be replicated is putting famous and popular actors and actresses in dramas with okay writing and directing and having them carry it to ratings wins.

    It’s basically controlling 1 out of 3 factors, and one that is easiest to measure. Actor A or Actress B has had X number of hit dramas and tons of CFs, hence track record and higher probability to bring in viewers.

    K-ent is like every industry, two track model, one with unknowns that can hit it big with successful scripts and another with okay scripts and star appeal.

    • Agreed. All the smart asses that say all is needed is a good script and directing make it sound like good scripts can be pulled out of thin air. What is considered good? What is good to one target audience may not appeal to another.

    • Agreed that is exactly why the concept of ‘bankable actors’ exist. You can always bank on them for either high ratings or high sales or both.

  16. @Seriously, don’t discredit him just because he’s young. When he starred in MLFTS, he was already Baeksang best actor and one of the most, if not most bankable young actor at that time. Like Jun Ji Hyun was going to get out of bed to act alongside any nugu actor. If anything he was coming off back to back hits from Sun Moon and Secretly Greatly while her career had been stagnant for some years before MLFTS. During The Producers, he was already a top hallyu actor and much more in demand than A list actress. As for the actress constantly on Naver search list, that is inevitable since the drama had a lot of buzz while it was airing and she was the female lead. But overall, KSH topped the buzz worthy list and brand reputation list more than her. There are lots of stats on this, one being posted here on this site.
    http://koalasplayground.com/2020/12/05/106144/#more-106144

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