The Current Crop of Korean Child Actors Grow Up Talented and Thriving

Precocious and preternaturally talented child actors appears to be a dime a dozen in the world of K-dramas, in breadth and depth easily surpassing the other Asian countries and their stable of kid actors. In the modern era of K-dramas since the dawn of Hallyu, there have been a handful of faces seen as the child counterpart of famous leads and along the way many of them have grown up and become bona fide leads of their own. From Moon Geun Young to Park Shin Hye to Lee Hyun Woo to Park Eun Bin, the child actor of yesterday could easily be the shining main star of today. I noticed that this year has been especially rich with roles for child actors, and dramas such as The Queen’s Classroom and The Suspicious Housekeeper are chock full of featured roles for the younger generation. It’s safe to say the most high profile teen actor of the moment is Yeo Jin Gu, who is currently headlining the movie Hwa Yi with Kim Yoon Seok as well as a sitcom for tvN Potato Star 2013qr3. He’s literally grown up before my eyes since I’ve watched him when he was just a wee little nugget starting out in dramas like Iljimae and Queen of the Game. He’s primed to go far since he has the trifecta of leading man looks, camera-ready charisma, and true acting chops, the question is only how fast he’ll get there. But among his generation of child stars there are also lots of fantastic talent armed with the same three weapons in their arsenal so I wanted to do a quick run down so that we can all marvel at how so many child stars grew up so well and anticipate stepping into the shoes of their sunbaes with energy and finesse. Of course, no post about child actors (current and formers), will ever not include a certain someone someone I’ll close out the post with.

Yeo Jin Gu, currently 16 years old.

Park Gun Tae, currently 17 years old.

Nam Ji Hyun, currently 18 years old.

Park Ji Bin, currently 18 years old.

Kim Yoo Jung, currently 14 years old.

Kim So Hyun, currently 14 years old.

Chae Sang Woo, currently 14 years old.

Seo Shin Ae, currently 15 years old.

Lee Young Yoo, currently 15 years old.

Let’s never forget the Godfather of all modern K-drama child star evolution success stories – Yoo Seung Ho, who is now 20 years old and currently in the army. He started off with a bang in Jibeuro (The Way Home), and it was so wonderful when he grew up and went back to visit the halmoni he made the movie with. I see Kim Sae Ron (who is still firmly in tween territory right now) totally following in his footsteps. Who’s just dying for him to come back from the army? *memememememememememememememe* His is textbook definition of the career trajectory all child actors should emulate.


The Current Crop of Korean Child Actors Grow Up Talented and Thriving — 34 Comments

  1. Child actors are at the center of attention nowadays. Hope the pressure doesn’t affect them too much like their American counterparts. Ie. Lindsay Logan Miley Cyrus Amanda bynes…but judging from the list of the current generation of past child actors, they are doing well maybe it has to do with how they are brought up in Korea.

  2. Gosh you have no idea how many childhood portions of so many dramas- that I watch and drop the adults. Or actually rewatch only the childhood portions of certain dramas.

    They are so talented and have so much charisma.

  3. squeeeee. i saw yeo jin gu in Sad Movie (jung woo sung’s in it so you must have seen it) and he was the cutest thing everrrrr. looking forward for this crop to take on leading roles. and the next generation seems promising with kim sae ron being awesome everywhere.
    unfortunately right now there’s really a lack of leading ladies in their early twenties who can lead mainstream dramas. there’s only park shin hye. where are all the other young actresses?

  4. Lots of great acting talent in this group of young actors!

    That photo of Kim Yoo-Jung on the white rug is way too sexualized for a 14-year-old.

    I could not recognize Nam Ji-hyun from her Will It Snow For Christmas drama.

    • I thought the same thing, about that picture of KYJ. There have been other pictures of her (I think) where she was also too sexualized for her age (I think she was 12 or 13 when she took them). Was that really necessary? It’s not like she can’t act (so they need to make her look like a pin-up). I first saw her in Formidable Rivals, and I loved her in it. She was really good, and I loved her relationship with her adopted dad. She cried really well in that drama.

      I am also one who is taken (very), by Korean child actors and actresses. I often wonder how they are directed and coached to produce such great emotions and such great acting.

  5. i am so happy and giddy about this young guns. I’ll play favorites for bow so I’ll just mention a couple of them:
    I ssriously excited about kim yoojubg. Love her in The grudge: the tale of the fox child He was one mighty tyke in acting chaps and charisma in that show romaning Lee MinHo (TMTETS). still hoping they would have a happy ending somewhere down the drama twilight zone.
    Next is Park Jibin who has impressed me when he played the ever awesome younger Seojin as San in yisan, I lost him for about 2 or so. he was playing some minor and forgettable roles that I lost track of him, until he resurfaced again with in INcarnation of money with that wow body. He’s acting was again amazing. and now I am excited since he is kinda romancing yet just being friendly with Kim Sohyun in Suspocious Housekeeper.
    and also who could forget JinGu. Man this litlle man, well cant call him that anymore, he has grown up. at 16 he looks so manly that this noona is kinda scary in love with you JinGu. I noticed him first in Giant when they were the child counter part. romancing Nam Jihyun & having eldest brother played in kim soohyun. Saw him and Kim Yoojunng un Iljimae but they escaped my noticed since they were just this cute little couple playing tragic kinda romeo-juliet. But now, man he is smokin…. hot hot hot. and acting is up in the scare from here to timbukto

    and Yup every one is waiting for SeungHO. My goodness gracious cant imagine what he’ll set fire on when he comes back with post army body. Seungho we noonas will be waiting, definitely…!!!!

    The one child i go, ‘what the hell happened’ would be JGS. he had the trifecta aspect going for him. he was awesome in his teenage years career. but somewhere 3-4 years ago his train to being awesome extraordinaire lead man status derailed (in my opinion). I know he is still mighty popular in some parts of asia but I somehow lost appetite in anything he does. He is just weirdly giving me a persona that is a turn off, and his last projects is another turn off. I keep praying, please pick something awesome like when he was in beethoven virus and etc, and seriously he needs to ditch that new movie pretty man. is he not tired of the same cut character? handsome, arrogant. I know he has range so why not play something beyond that characters???
    I am still wishing and praying he comes to his senses, I know he can…

  6. Thank you for this post! I’m always amazed at how talented the young actors are in Korean films and dramas, and the ones you chose for this list are some of the best and most recognizable child actors in Korea. My personal favorite out of your choices is Seo Shin-Ae, who was a revelation in Meet Mr. Daddy and Thank You. I cried buckets of tears from her performances. She brought out the inner beauty and vulnerability of her characters, and I would love to see her in more projects.

    Personally, I think this list would benefit from the inclusion of the young cast of The Crucible/Silenced. That movie was so amazing, so intense, and those kids acted the heck out of such difficult roles. I think we need to keep an eye out for them as the leads of the future, especially Kim Hyun-Soo and Baek Seung-Hwan. Very, very few children coming out of Hollywood could have pulled off those performances.

    Also, I have to admit to a very inappropriate crush on Yeo Jin-Goo in Potato Star. He could be my son – if I’d had him when I was in middle school. But still! He’s gotten so dreamy.

  7. I am LOVING yeo jin gu’s character in potato star!!! They shouldnt mess with our heads like this!!! 16 is just WRONG!! They shouldnt make him 24 and confuse my hormones like this!! Yikes. Younger and younger. 🙂

  8. yoo seung ho.. oh.. noona feels so happy right now just by seeing his pics.. haha..

    agree with you.. they are super talented.. wow..

  9. South Korea really has a stable talents of kid/teen actors. Blown away by the sheer number.

    Amongst the list, I really love Kim Yoo Jung, a complete package. She has that leading lady looks, depth in her acting and that charisma or the indefinable actress aura. And I think one good thing that Yoo Jung has in her corner is that she shines in both the small (Flames, Gumiho, METS, etc) and big screen (Chaser, etc). Let’s face it, some actresses can only shine in one medium, most of the time it’s in the small screen, only a handful can really command the big screen and rare to find actresses shining in both. And I think Yeo Jin Goo has now put his initials steps in conquering the big screen with the success of Hwai and with Yoo Jung solidifying her big screen presence with Alumni and Elegant Lies.

  10. The pics of little Park Ji Bin and Yoo Seung Ho are adorable. You know, looking at these pics sometimes makes me wish they would stay this little and adorable forever 🙂

  11. Watched most of these child actors and they are simply amazing. Better than most K-idols who ventured into the acting scenes (Taecyeon, Yunho, Kim Hyun Joong from SS501). My favorite is Park Ji Bin. I’ve loved him since “Hello, Brother” and “Ice Bar”.

  12. i love kim sae ron, seo shin ae and kim yoo jung the best. these three are hella talented esp seo shin ae. she already tackled few different roles. the crazy thing is all of them + kim so hyun are under one agency.

  13. On the topic of Queens Classroom, i thought the child actor who completely stole the show for me in that show was Chun Bo Geun, who played his character with a balance of goofyness, sweetness, and loneliness. I remember when he first made his debut as one of the kids from Stars Falling From the Sky. He was so adorable and had so much promise. Most of my tears in this show was shed for him, and in the most bittersweet way.
    The heroine, Kim Hwang Gi, amazes me with how much expression she can display at such a young age. I thought Chun Bo Geun and her gave the strongest performance amongst the child actors in that show, even though i was frustrated as hell at her character.
    Lee Young Yoo, who played the bitchy character, also gave an excellent performance to the point where i had to remind myself she was just a kid playing the villain role.

  14. Yoo Seung Ho!!!!!! I Miss You!!!!! (Haha) I think is really Awesome that every Korean guy has to make mandatory militar service but I miss soooooo much my oppas (Song Joon Ki, Yesung, Se7en, Yoo Seung Ho) :'( It makes me sad.
    Park Gun Tae is really handsome, the guy has grown really well. Kim So Hyun and Kim Yoo Jung are so pretty but I think they look older, even more Kim Yoo Jung she’s sexy 😉 while Park Ji Bin has a cute baby-face he looks younger ^^

  15. These kids are all so talented. Hope they make wise choices and don’t get tainted by the fame and corruption of the entertainment world.

  16. I like how the look the same with their younger selves…pls don’t do any plastic surgery in the future..I am not against it..just the fact that they look so pretty already with their natural given faces..

  17. I wonder how’s its gonna be when Yoo Seung Hoo will eventually be paired up with Kim Yoo Jung. It’s gonna happen. Only a six year difference.

  18. This list was good, I’m be super excited when Chun Bo Guen is on this list. He is an excellent child actor with a whole bunch of potential that really knows how to connect with the audience.

  19. Kim Yoo Jung is going to be such a beautiful goddess when she grows up. Future Song Hye-kyo, Han Ga-in, Kim Tae-hee, etc. I just hope she keeps her talent.

  20. was totally expecting Yoo Seung Ho to pop up at the end! Miss the guy so much. Such a sweet boy to visit the halmoni. And totally reminding me of So Jisub as well. 🙂

  21. The ones that really pop out to me from this list is Yeo Jin Gun, Kim Yoo Jung, Park Gun Tae and Kim So Hyun. They are the four actors/actress that I believe have such raw talents and unbelievable screen presence. Their acting is honestly better than some “actors” I see on screen. Very beautiful/handsome young guys and girls. Yoo Jung-ah has really good chemistry with her leading men. Yeo Ji Gun and her completely stole the show in TMTETS, cried a bucket loads of tears because of them. Park Gun Tae & Yoo-Jung in May Queen (its a crack of a drama like the hair pulling kind) WOW! Their so freaking adorable!! You got to watch this Koala Unnie!!!

    Yoo Seung Ho is what all child actors should aim for. He has the looks, talent and the personality. And at the tender age of 20 years old he went off to the army which is a brilliant move on his part! That means that he can come back with the full support of many Koreans and pick a great project & his career will be soaring to new heights. I foresee amazing things for this gorgeous young man!
    Come back quickly!!

  22. Talented bunch I look forward to them growing up. The boys look their ages but the girls look older than they really are…let’s up they don’t grow too fast.

  23. I want Yoo Seung Ho to come back !!!!! He is definitely going to be very successful. He is driving all the girls crazy including ajumma like me.

  24. For, Yeo Jin Gu,
    I would like to watch him in Korean movies , he have a very down to earth personality and honest though toughness looks at this young age. Surely one day he would be Korea’s international face . His face reminds of early Korean Hallyu’s , comparing him with today’s Korean industry talents he still stands best bcoz of his mature-pure looks .
    Best of luck to him. – fan from India

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