A good K-drama always comes with a great villain! Whether we like it or not, they add spice to the story. In fact, effective villains, with all their scheming and manipulation, can make stories binge-able. And that is because we are suckers for sweet vengeance!
While there may be countless antagonists in K-dramas in all forms of evil, here’s a shortlist of 10 characters we love to hate!
Lee Jae Kyung – My Love From the Star Villian
Lee Jae-kyung is a villain in the 2013 K-drama, My Love from the Star, and was played by actor Shin Sung-rok. This popular TV series was a hit during and even after its run, and part of that success was that it was headlined by big names such as Jun Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun. However, what added to the thrill of the story was the villainous businessman, Lee Jae-kyung.
Lee Jae-lyung was the heir of a conglomerate and the older brother of Lee Hee-kyoung (Park Hae-jin), who was in love with Cheon Song-yi (Jun Ji-hyun). His character made everybody’s skin crawl because he was such a psychopath hidden neatly in sheep’s clothing. Fortunately, the ending gave justice to the several episodes that he was painfully annoying and evil!
Park Joong Heon – Guardian: The Great and Lonely God (Goblin)
Goblin was one of the most successful Korean dramas and part of this captivating story is its unforgettable villain, Park Joong-heon (Kim Byung-chul). He was a cunning and manipulative eunuch from the Goryeo Dynasty who pretty much killed a family line just to get his favorite kid to be the successor. He is dangerously evil because he can manipulate the King to do his bidding. So when he set out to exact his evil plans on General Kim Shin (Gong Yoo), he was able to turn the king against him by stirring jealousy and hatred. This character was unforgettable because he was just so obviously cunning. Byung-chul also had to be commended for his performance because you could see contempt and greed in his eyes – and we love to hate him for it!
Kim Byung-chul is also part of the 2018 drama Sky Castle in which he played another annoying and deplorable character. You can catch him and another notable villain in this drama which is also included in this list!
Cho Cheol-gang – Crash Landing on You
The moment Cho Cheol-gang came on-screen, we already knew that this guy’s bad news. They say that you don’t judge the book by its cover, but at first sight, you will know that he is a shady character. Korean actor Oh Man-seok delivered a compelling performance that kept us on the edge.
As the Lieutenant Commander in the North Korean Armed Forces’ Security Bureau, his character has quite the connection, which makes it easy for him to act on his evil schemes. Of course, a lot of audiences hated him because he had an ax to grind against everyone’s favorite Captain Ri (Hyun Bin). He was corrupt, cunning, and loathsome. After justice caught up with him, he just went rogue and became rabidly driven to exact revenge.
Coach Kim Joo Young – SKY Castle
What is so alluring about actress Kim Seo-hyung is the fact that she can deliver evilness with class and subtlety. The 2018 satirical dark comedy, SKY Castle, introduced us to Coach Kim Joo-yooung who was an elusive academic coordinator who was sought after by rich families. Battling for coveted spots in prestigious universities, parents are competing to land the best tutors around to give their kids intense preparation for the entrance exams. Coach Kiim Joo Young had an impressive streak of success, but her unconventional ways hide evil intentions. There was such brilliance poured into being manipulative that even Kim Seo-hyung herself admitted that she felt tormented by her own role that it drove her to depressive episodes. This performance earned Seo-hyung a Best Actress nomination in the 55th Baeksang Arts Awards.
Jang Dae-hee – Itaewon Class
Every good underdog story comes with another’s success story. Unfortunately, that would be in the person of Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung), the ruthless antagonist who has no remorse and emotion. He was the Goliath to Park Sae Ro Yi’s (Park Seo Joon) David. He runs the largest restaurateur group called Jangga and terrifyingly wields his power whenever he can. So it was no wonder why he spawned a chaotically evil heir, Jang Geun-won (Ahn Bo-hyun), who keeps an elastic smirk that begs to be punched.
What feeds Jang Dae-hee’s ego is his belief that because he is rich, he is powerful, and because of that, he should be right. He’s driven by a petty desire to see Saeroyi on his knees, and willing to stop at nothing to bring him down.
Queen Consort Cho – Kingdom
Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun) was another remarkable villain from the successful zombie sageuk, Kingdom. She deserves a comfortable spot on this list as she left viewers dumbfounded at the sheer intensity of her wickedness. She was born to the evil Cho clan where she was introduced to her father’s selfish plans to remove the Royal Family from power and allow their followers to attain political influence over Joseon.
While the father has his own brand of evil, the Queen Consort Cho was in another level of depravity. She has this sinister hunger for power and she remained seemingly emotionless amidst the horror she unleashed.
Jang Joon Woo – Vincenzo
Most of the time villains are effective mainly because of how they look – a gift that works to their advantage. However, Vincenzo gave us a handsome bad guy in the character of Jang Joon-woo (Ok Taecyeon), and that was one of the many plot twists that made this drama interesting!
We first meet Joon-Woo as an awkward and clumsy intern at Wusang Law Firm, hired to defend and protect the corrupt and murderous pharmaceutical company Babel Group. He works under Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been), a cutthroat and beautiful lawyer who resorts to bribery and blackmail to win her cases. In episode 4, he sheds his innocent image revealing that he is actually the true heir to Babel Group whose real name is Jang Han-seok. He was the man behind all the corruption and bloodshed—including the murder of Cha-young’s father Hong Yu-chan, a human rights lawyer hellbent on taking down Babel.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, but we all love to hate a two-faced bad guy. The more they reveal their true intentions, the more diabolical they seem and that makes great TV!
Lady Mishil – Queen Seon Deok
One of the strongest, most powerful, and easily one of the evilest characters in the history of sageuks was Lady Mishil (Go Hyun Jung). Her character is based on the real history of Lady Mishil, who rose to power being a concubine to three successive Silla Kings – King Jinheung, King Jinji, and King Jinpyeong. She is a seductress who uses her unmatched ability to plot the most cunning schemes making her one of the key reasons for the 60-episode drama’s incredible success.
This story shows us two strong women, but one of them is consumed by insurmountable ambition. Her genius is akin to Shakespearean villainy and her tragic fate was just as dramatic.
Joo Dan Tae – The Penthouse
Joo Dan-tae (Um Ki-joon) is a narcissistic psychopath who can’t stand losing anything that he believes is his, and he wouldn’t have any second thoughts about murdering anyone who gets in his way!
Just like any cold and calculative villain, Dan-tae is also sadistic, disturbing, and greedy. With a clean reputation, he seems to get away with anything. He just becomes even more cunning at every turn of the story. Repressing his true character might have taken a toll on him that whenever he gets to be himself, he can get extremely violent.
If you are not familiar with Um Ki-joon’s body of work, you will know that he actually played several villain roles such as Cha Sun-ho in Innocent Defendant and Jo Hyun-min in Phantom. It seems that has a knack for antagonistic roles and he always delivers!
Kang Hee Soo – Boys Over Flowers
This popular remake was just as successful as its Taiwanese version, Meteor Garden, and one factor is because of one annoying matriarch! Of course who could forget Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), but how can ever miss his villain of a mother?
Played by actress Lee Hye-young, Kang Hee-soo is a successful businesswoman in South Korea, but despite the humongous responsibility that rests on her shoulders, she was keen on breaking up Jun-pyo and Geum Jan-di’s (Ku Hye-sun) relationship. She goes to great lengths to do this and you often feel helpless watching it unfold because she holds so much influence.
She hated Geum Jan-di because for her, she is low-class and nothing like herself. She was never really a loving mother, but only cared about their family’s public image even to the detriment of her own children! It’s truly hard not to hate on this manipulative, selfish, and immature character.
Do you have any K-drama villains in mind? We would like to hear your thoughts in the comments!