Korea’s Top Stars Get Honest Acting Critique From Experts

Recently a panel of experienced entertainment veterans ranging from the former head of SBS to an acting professor at Seoul University got together and critiqued the pure acting ability of the top-paid stars in Korean entertainment. I found all the criticisms valid, the rankings based on acting ability pretty much dead on, and some of the critiques so funny I was rolling on the floor.

If you think that liking a star means not being able to be honest about your beloved’s skills, then I suggest you not read on. Otherwise, check out the sad but true reality – some stars really aren’t great thespians. But at least they all try hard. The post tags will show which 10 actors got the full scrutiny.

I’ll translate in the order they were ranked.

Jang Dong Gun: pros – has a masculine charisma and a great ability to convey it, the performance is honest, is not a poser; cons – kind but cannot do vicious, needs to strength the ability to make a dramatic impression and to touch the viewers hearts. (Next up – play a serial killer, Jang Dong Gun – leave the President stuff to someone else).

Jung Woo Sung: pros – exceptional ability to understand and convey a character; cons – like a long time lover or a “newbie” who has been in the industry for quite some time, feels somber and without passion. (Tru dat).

Yoon Eun Hye: pros – finding the right character, can surpass any acting threshold; cons – after Coffee Prince, has lost her way, cannot rely on being cute. (She’s so hit – dead center, or miss – not even hitting the target, much less the bullseye).

Bae Yon Joon: pros – everlasting Hallyu star image; cons – always and forever there are two performances, wearing glasses and not wearing glasses. (MWAHAHAHAHA!, I’m dying here).

Kim Tae Hee: pros – in My Princess, showed a glimmer of hope that acting can improve; cons – appears to have a fundamental confusion about the skill of acting, expressions of anger, expressions of sadness, its always locked into a form. (I definitely see the glimmer of hope).

Shin Mina: pros – has the potential to express any character naturally; cons – always puts the other side in a passive position, dry line readings and expressions makes even the best male actor unable to fully engage.

Choi Ji Woo: pros – has a unique, pure charisma; cons – since Winter Sonata, with her aging, her allure has decreased, needs to learn to act with her entire body rather than just with her face. (So true, but that crying face does work well).

Song Seung Heon: pros – since Happy Together, the freshness has carried over to subsequent projects, acting is mature; cons – acting does not leave a strong impression, whether dialogue or characters. (He usually skims the surface of his characters, which is why most don’t make an impression).

Kwon Sang Woo: pros – has experience and honesty in his acting; cons – its very immature to think that he can overcome his line reading impediments by choosing to do physical roles.

Jeon Ji Hyun: pros – for CFs which require an instantaneous explosion and concentration, she displays an incredible charisma and connection with the camera; cons – has an aura of mystery, even giving off a sense to the viewer that she fades from the screen and into the background.

Whenever idols-turned-actors get eviscerated for their limited acting ability and fans counter that people should cut them some slack, I contend that acting is hard hard work. Even the most experienced and highest-paid actors are judged on their talent and improvement. I love an honest look at my favorite actors, because liking someone means being cognizant of their shortcomings.

[Credit: Chosun Ilbo]


Korea’s Top Stars Get Honest Acting Critique From Experts — 46 Comments

  1. hahaha, I’m laughing so hard about what they said on Bae Yon Joon, omona!

    about Yoon Eun Hye, I absolutely agree — poor girl has indeed wandered aimlessly after Coffee Prince. No offense to the fans.

    • so agree with YEH, she quite misses a lot of her recent acting stints. is it me or her choices drama recently are quite blahhhh..?

      wonder what the critics can say about Ko Hyun Jung …?

    • Well, it’s only been one drama since Coffee Prince, so yes she missed it but everyone can have a bad drama. And after Coffee Prince, I think it was hard for her to choose another role. It’s not like she’s had 2 or more bad dramas after Coffee Prince, so I don’t really take the evaluation wholeheartedly.

      Besides, it was the script that messed up the whole production..

  2. This was a very interesting article. I always love a good, honest critique of acting from “experts”. I would’ve liked to see more actors included, like Go HyunJung. Everyone absolutely raved about her as MiShil in Queen SeonDeok, but I guess I must be an ignorant, because while I thought she was good, she didn’t exactly blow me away either. Maybe I was distracted by all the eyebrow movement.

    • I like her. I watched her in Spring Day and then QSD and i have to agree she is a very great actress.
      But for me she was best at What’s up fox? with Chun Jung Myung….

      still want more critic on my fave talents like Gong Hyo Jin, Lee Jung Jae, hyunbin, Han Ye Seul and Kim Sun Ah

  3. Dying…i’m dyyyyiiiing here. *dries tears of laughter*

    Re: Bae Yon Joon! OMG. LOLling forever and ever.

    Every critic is spot on.

  4. “always and forever there are two performances, wearing glasses and not wearing glasses”


    but i just don’t get the ranking..the no.1 is the one who get the best or the worst critiques? What does the meter (7.2, 6.4, etc) tells?

    • Each critic gave a star a score from 1 (sucks) to 10 (rocks), and the number you see for each actor is the combined average.

      Hence, the critics didn’t rank the stars, but simply gave each one a numerical assessment. The stars are then ranked in that chart based on the combined average of their scores.

  5. Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo gets scores that are worse than that of Yoon Eun Hye?!…..lol……i might not be able to disagree there but I do think that Shin Min Ah is better than Kim Tae Hee and Yoon Eun Hye

    • Yah, Couldn’t believe Kim Tae Hee scored above Shin Min Ah. Or Song Seung Hoon over Kwon Sang Woo. Really? Maybe the critics were wowed by the recent improvement demonstrated in My Princess, but still seems a bit too easily skewed.

  6. Honestly I’m surprised Kim Tae-hee ranked so highly, even though she did do a great job in My Princess. And I don’t know that I would have put Shin Min-ah below Yoon Eun-hye, either. I like YEH in both Goong and Coffee Prince, and you could even say she was downright amazing in CP, but I think overall SMA has had more consistently good acting over a longer period of time. The only other one I’m meh on is Bae Young-joon, but the only thing I’ve ever seen him in is Dream High (haha!) so I can’t really be considered a reliable judge. Thanks for sharing, koala-unni! ^_^

  7. Thank you Ockoala for this.

    Omoo I was laughing a lot!

    So true this about KSW ”its very immature to think that he can overcome his line reading impediments by choosing to do physical roles.”

    And about KTH ”appears to have a fundamental confusion about the skill of acting, expressions of anger, expressions of sadness, its always locked into a form. ” Oh yes! That is right, is always the same, sad she is with her eyebrow down and with the mouth a little open, angry she is like this >_< never change.

    But I do think her smile is so honest, don't know why, she do 'happy scenes' well.. seems real 😀

    About YEH I agree, she seems to have lost her path. I liked her in CP and Goong, but she does some characters that aren't good lately., just MEH.

    • If you read my post carefully, the critics rated the “top-paid” stars in Korea.

      These 10 make the most money, through endorsements and on a per-project basis. That is the only reason they were included on the list.

      The list does not posit that these are the top 10 best actors in Korea or any such assumption.

      • So Koala, are those the top ten top paid stars? Or they just pick 10 out of the top paid? I cannot believe that the PD will pay YEH more than Ha Ji Won or Song Hye Kyo or Lee Min-Jeong or Lee Da hae?

      • Top paid in terms of TOTAL earnings. YEH is a CF queen (as are CJW, KTH, SMA, and JJH). But YEH also has one of the highest per episode salaries amongst the female stars for a drama.

        Of the ladies you listed, only HJW can match her price. It might be hard for you to imagine, but YEH is an undisputed top star in Korea.

        I’m sure this list is not all-inclusive, for example, where the heck is Lee Byung Hyun? But it’s meant just as commentary and not for people to wonder why certain actors were included and others left out.

      • Hi Koala sorry for my ignorantness. So are those the top 10 “top paid” stars in Korea. Or they just picked 10 out of those top paid stars? As I cannot imagine that the PD will pay Yoon Eun Hye more than Ha Ji Won or Lee Da Hae or Son Yeh Jin? What about the other male stars like So Ji Sub and Won Bin?

      • Sorry to belabor the point, but the list is the 10 stars who make the most money in TOTAL (i.e. their salaries for movies/dramas, all the make they make from commercials and endorsements, et. al.).

        It’s not just how much a PD would pay them, but their total earnings. CFs pay very very well, especially foreign CFs and most of these stars are Hallyu stars with work outside of Korea.

        You keep pointing out YEH specifically (I’m not sure why), but she is one of the higest paid actresses per project. She’s won a Baeksang and has two of the highest grossing dramas under her belt (Goong and Coffee Prince – which are still popular and generating dough today).

        Anyways, I’m just sharing the story, and not substantiating the selection of actors for the story itself.

  8. Sthg..wrong with my PC…I thought the message I sent earlier was being removed. Sorry for the repeat post.
    Thanks for your clarification as well. Just love your blog.

    • Oh don’t worry! I’m not upset. 🙂

      You asked great questions, but honestly, popularity and making money as a star is hard to predict. I just try to judge performances based on my personal preferences.

  9. I would have guessed LBH would have been in the top 10 paid – but then I don’t know if a) he does any CFs (other than that weird brandy thing The Influence that they peddled as an “online drama” – pretty pretty, but my brain still hurts) and b) whether his US and Japanese movies would be counted, as his salaries for those might not be known as those numbers are usually more closely held. I am pretty sure he was raking in the bucks in IRIS though.

    OTOH – I’m just laughing like a loon about Yonsama.

    • LBH is exactly who I was thinking was missing. Eh, doesn’t matter any which way, man is still richer than Creosus amongst the actors.

      The Yonsama critique makes it hard for me to look at glasses the same way again.

  10. Bwahahahaha! But I have to say I agree with a lot what they said. But my absolute favorite comment will forever be this regarding Yon-sama; “always and forever there are two performances, wearing glasses and not wearing glasses” that’s true!! Well he will forever have Japan and it’s obasans who will worship him and his glasses.

    It’s true what they said about Kim Tae Hee, she looks bewildered and stiff when she is supposed to emit something deeper.

  11. Top 10 stars based on their total earnings. It just goes to show that even top stars have their strength & weaknesses in their acting prowess.

    • Sorry I mean they are selected based on their total earnings, the top 10 stars that were judged on their acting prowess was the top earner in Korean Entertainment Industry.

  12. I think those top 10 selected are based on questionable acting abilities, not really on highest paid etc, They are popular and media darling but people still find something lacking in their acting. That’s the reason why they don’t judge Jang Hyuk, Ha Ji Won, Lee Da Hae (except in Chuno, she rarely got critize in acting department before).

    • It is said in the post that they are the top paid Korean Stars. So, they were picked because they are the top earner & their acting abilities were judged & evaluated by critics….

      • ya, but still wonder why they don’t evaluate Lee Young Ae and Rain, I read they are the top earner in kentertainment compared to 10 stars above, and no Song Hye Kyo, I believe she got more than YEH and Shim Mina. Anyway, I enjoyed reading it.

  13. lolz…
    did they just compare Yonsama to David Caruso!?! roflmaooooooo

    Yonsama may read this and do his own CSI Sapporo franchise and make another planet of $ out of it.

  14. ….but those are easy subjects. They’re playing safe, telling you something you already know and sorta winking.

    Now let’s hear about Kim Myung-Min (prey of his own talent?), Ha Ji-Won (one-dimensional as they get), Lee Byung-Heon (monstrous efforts, little talent), Go Hyun-Jung (good in certain conditions, but her image precedes her), Kim Nam-Gil (needs to be controlled and limited more than any top young actor in the scene), Jang Geun-Seok (artificially limiting his own potential to make money) and so on…

    • Can I pay you to critique the actors? What you just said, saying that I agree with you on everything feels so flimsy and brown-nosing, even though that is my impression as well. I simply lack the ability to articulate it like you do.

  15. Great post. I found all the criticisms to be true and a few were just drop-dead hilarious. They aren’t the best actors/actresses but I can understand why they’re so rich (CFs = $$).

  16. i think yoon eun hye should stay far away from bitchy characters or complicated ones . I think she has the same problem as song hye gyo who ruined the world they live in despite my undying devotion to Binnie . I found her Trying to be complicated instead of actually being complicated though cute , warm charcters suit the perfectly . Yoon eun hye i think worked super hard to shed herself of the idol turned actor image and i totally sympathised with her but sadly the chritisims wasn’t uncalled for . moon chae won just went ahead and stole the spotlight .

    • Your should leave Song Hye Kyo that drama – Worlds Within is a very distinguish and unique one, you might not appreciate it but at least Song Hye Kyo show diversity and versatility on the roles she play.

  17. LMAOO about bae yong joon. hahahah
    omg so funny
    i want them to review Han Hyo Joo, Lee Seung Ki, Jung Il Woo, and … h m . ..Lee Yeon Hee

  18. About Yoon Eun Hye being one of the top paid actors and people complaining and not getting it….. She is like THE top actor, actress and actor, that is paid. She got paid around 40 million won per episode just for that “trainwreck” (due to the script) Take Care of the Young Lady.. She was going to get paid 50 million won per episode for Love Song, but that did not happen. And she is the CF Queen and ratings queen.

    She is also the most well-known actress abroad. So yes, she is a top paid actor.

  19. I think that YEH-unni works hard enough and deserves to be in the top 10. Due to this, people looks and expects too much from her, and whatever she does is being scrutinized and critiqued. She is exploring every aspect her career has to offer, and probably that leap of faith she accepted My Fair Lady. But Lie to Me is another abyssal drama of hers, the plot is draggy and it sucks on some parts, is that still her fault? She and KJH worked really hard to keep the drama afloat and we still love them for their sizzling chemistry. so maybe the critic is right but cut her some slack. She just need to learn unlearn things to find herself back.

  20. Interesting isn’t it, my first question would be who are these experienced entertainment veterans, who are giving all this wonderful insight? Does it mean that these same people who have made these judgements were themselves top lead actors? Sometimes company executives who have never acted themselves, but who have lots of money can either make or break an actor and seem to have an endless opinion about who can act and who can’t. Actually if it weren’t for the fans these so called (star makers) would have total control. As it is now the so called, “Experienced Veterans,” can and do manipulate the fans whenever they can get away with it. Talented group minded actors would never have made judgements like this against their fellow actors, they to know how hard it is to survive in this business.

    I have found many critics are (talent wannabes) and couldn’t themselves act, even if their life depended on it. They often times are the most mean spirited people walking this earth, go figure that one.

    Critics make their living off of dissing other people, so I guess these 10 did serve a purpose for the (wannabes) after all.

    As far as YEH finding herself, she is still working and still has a fan base and making lots and lots of money, so I guess that young lady is doing something right. I would hope all the people who follow YEH will look at this critique and thumb there noses at it, that is what I am going to do, I make my own decisions about which actors I like and which I don’t want to watch again. I never let strangers make my decisions for me, especially wannabe strangers. Just my opinion.

  21. I agree about YEH. She has a very unique talent in any roles that directors gave her. There are much better actress than YEH including Song Hye Kyo, she is my favorite but she can’t be Go Eun Chan(YEH’s character in CP) and be cute in some ways.

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