In this new crop of Hallyu stars, Nam Joo Hyuk has risen up the ranks to be one of the well-loved oppas in South Korean dramas.
He debuted into the entertainment industry as a model, and has even worked the runway in 2013. He also starred in music videos before he finally broke out into the world of TV dramas in 2014. Since then, it has been one drama after another.
If you’ve grown to be fond of the young actor, you can binge on these 8 dramas.
Start-Up is one of the many hits that marked 2020’s roster of K-drama releases. It’s about young, aspiring entrepreneurs and their uphill climb to launch their virtual dreams into reality. Nam Joo-hyuk played software engineer Nam Do-san, who is a genius at his work but lacks the ability to read social cues and has no interest in social interactions. So, he hires Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy) to be CEO and the two of them work with their team to take their small tech start-up and have it compete in the bigger stage.
However, this story has roots from years back. When Dal-mi was young, she received encouraging letters from a man named Nam Do-san, but the letters were really written by a boy named Han Ji-pyeong (Kim Seon-ho). When a grown-up Dal-mi decides to find the real Do-san, Ji-pyeong asks Do-san to pretend he really wrote the letters. Do-san and Dal-mi are perfect for each other but their budding relationship is based on a lie.
If you haven’t caught up with all the Do-san vs Ji-pyeong debate, that’s just one of the many reasons to watch this show. With a heart-tugging second-lead romance, this drama is not only imperfectly endearing, but it also appeals to those who are in the same struggle to reach their dreams.
The School Nurse Files
Nam Joo-hyuk certainly took the spotlight in 2020 as he also starred in another Netflix original. This action-packed fantasy series is about Anh Eun-young (Jung Yu-mi), a high school nurse who has a special ability to protect students from mysterious jelly monsters that only she can see.
Joo-hyuk plays Hong In-pyo, a timid Chinese character teacher who accidentally releases monster-like creatures known as “jellies” that place the student body in danger. However, he also has the ability to replenish Eun-young’s powers with just a touch of his hand, making him essentially her “personal charger.” He also happens to possess a special energy field that protected him from these jellies.
Together, the pair went on to solve paranormal mysteries that also had something to do with these mysterious creatures.
The Light in Your Eyes
This romance and fantasy series was one of the most anticipated dramas of 2019. For his part, Nam Joo-hyuk transformed into Lee Joon-ha, an aspiring reporter who could never catch a lucky break. He soon became friends with Kim Hye-ja (Han Ji-min), a woman who happens to own a watch that can manipulate time.
Hye-ja found the magical watch on the beach as a child. But she later found a desperate reason to use it, and that was to prevent her father from dying in a car accident. It so happens that turning back time comes with a price—she will age every time she turns time back.
Joon-ha got fed up with his family problems and gave up on his dreams. Having fallen from grace, he now works as a scammer at an elderly care center. Little did he know that Hye-ja, who is now an old lady after manipulating time, goes to this facility to pass time. The two old friends meet again and with lives totally changed, they go on an interesting journey to find strength in each other while dealing with their personal struggles and regrets.
As the title suggests, this show is about learning how to live life with light in your eyes – how to rediscover it when it’s lost, how to sustain it, and how to help others to find it.
The Bride of Habaek
In this 16-episode drama, Nam Joo-hyuk played the titular role of Habaek, a god of the Land of Water. Habaek visits earth to retrieve the sacred stones that he needed to claim the throne of the Divine Realm. He seeks out the help of neuropsychiatrist So-ah (Shin Se-Kyung), who happens to be the only remaining descendant from a middle-class family fated to serve him for generations. What is interesting about this character is that even though Habaek is a god, he was certainly clumsy in his human form.
Habaek’s clumsiness only made So-ah doubt his claim. She refuses to believe that he’s a god, rather, she mistakes him for suffering from a mental illness. But when she meets the gods of the Land of Water, the Land of the Sky, and the demigod Hu-ye (Lim Ju-hwan), she realizes that she should help him on his mission.
Nam Joo-hyuk expressed that it was challenging to portray a god who was also clumsy. But he was able to strike a balance and maintain the character’s god-like aura.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo
Nam Joo-hyuk transformed into Jung Joon-hyung, in what would be one of his most iconic roles in this 2016 teen drama. Inspired by the real-life weightlifter, Jang Mi-ran, this drama not only paid homage to the sport, but it also won the hearts of viewers.
Many were drawn to the coming-of-age drama that centered around Kim Bok-joo (Lee Sung-kyung), an aspiring weightlifter who’s on the path to self-discovery. Bok-joo is not your typical teenager as she dedicated herself to weightlifting. But her journey was in for a spin when she fell in love with Joon-hyung, a student in the same school as her who was training for the national swim team.
As a coming-of-age story that explored themes like sports, family problems, and even touchy matters like depression, many were impressed by how Joo-hyuk portrayed his character. As a mischievous young man who seemed carefree, we also get to see how his childhood heartbreak gnawed at him. As his feelings for Bok-joo grew deeper, he also had something to learn from her as they both journey on the path towards healing.
Not for nothing, Joo-hyuk also looked the part as he was every bit swoon-worthy as a swimmer. His onscreen chemistry with Sung-kyung was also on point that it’s almost bittersweet knowing that their real-life relationship that blossomed from this drama didn’t pan out as many would have hoped for. But still, this series is definitely worth binging or watching again!
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a 2016 period K-drama with a star-studded cast. The drama is a cult-favorite among fans and stars IU, Lee Joon Gi, Kang Ha Neul, Kang Ha Na, Ji Soo, Baekhyun, and more.
Nam Joo Hyuk joins the cast as 13th prince Wang Wook who is a romantic playboy known for his refined and aristocratic manners. This was Joo-hyuk’s first historical drama where he also starred alongside his best friend, Ji-soo.
In this story, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun) drowns in a lake and comes up for air only to find herself in the Goryeo era. She is then magically transported to the year 941 in the body of Hae-soo. In her confusion and desperate attempt to fit in, it was not hard to fall for 8th Prince Wang Wook—a man who was gentle and kind-hearted. But as she has gotten to know more of the other princes, the mysterious Prince Wang So (Lee Joon-gi) caught her attention. He is fearsome, but he hides his face behind a mask. People steer clear from him and he was given the derogatory name of “wolf dog”.
As the story develops, Hae Soo was embroiled in palace politics and the rivalry among the princes as they fight for the throne. But Hae Soo’s spunk and acts of rebellion would’ve had her killed very early on, but she manages to survive because of how fond the princes are of her. Even if she has the best of intentions, she ultimately ends up being swallowed whole by the very system she tried so hard to change.
Cheese in the Trap
Cheese in the Trap centers on Hong Seol (Kim Go-eun), one of the top students in the business department at her university. She returns to school after taking a semester off. No one knows the real reason, but her absence has been about Yoo Jung (Park Hae-jin). Hong Seol discovered the truth about him, and instead of exposing it or giving in to his veiled threats, she decided to leave school instead.
When she came back, she was surprised to see that Yoo Jung has been treating her better since the last time they saw each other. What’s even stranger was when she starts to see how he has been secretly helping her through his own questionable methods. As a budding relationship develops between Seol and Jung, they must confront their own flaws and doubts about each other to find happiness.
Nam Joo Hyuk plays the role of Kwon Eun Taek, a friend and junior to Hong Seol and her friend Bo-ra (Park Min-ji). In the webtoon, Joo-hyuk’s character is described as a tall and cute college student, who seems a little clumsy and awkward at times but is really a reliable and trustworthy friend. He has also fallen hard for Bo-ra.
As a fan of the webtoon series from which the drama was inspired, Joo-hyuk was thrilled to take on this role. The show’s producer also finds him to be the perfect fit for his character because he also has many charms just like Eun Taek.
Nam Joo-hyuk made his TV debut in this 2014 tvN drama, Surplus Princess, also known as The Idle Mermaid. It’s a modern retelling of The Little Mermaid.
In this story, a mermaid came to modern-day Seoul to meet her “prince charming.” She researched human life through a smartphone that was dropped into the ocean which sparked a desire to live as one.
One day she meets the handsome chef in the water. They end up kissing. After that incident, they want to see each other again. Now, she is even more determined to become a human to meet him. She earns two legs by drinking a potion from the witch. However, that potion is only available for 100 days. If she can’t find her true love within that time, she will burst into bubbles.
For this drama, Joo-hyuk plays the supporting role of Park Dae-bak, also known as Big. He is a computer genius who was cut off by his parents so he ends up living at the surplus house.