10 K-Dramas That Marked Actors’ Return From The Military

When it comes time for an actor to enlist in the military, fans tend to convey a variety of responses. Sometimes it’s disappointment, sadness, sorrow, or even pride that their favorite actor is serving their country. At the time of enlistment, it might seem like you’ll never see them again, but the truth is, time does pass and actors do return from the military, eager to take on new projects. Here are 10 actors and the K-dramas that marked their return from the military.

Note: List is in no particular order!

1. “The King: Eternal Monarch” – Lee Min Ho

Lee Min Ho began his military service journey at the height of his career on May 12, 2017. “The Legend of the Blue Sea” was his last project before enlisting. He was released on April 25, 2019. Shortly after, it was announced that Lee Min Ho had agreed to star in Kim Eun Sook’s new fantasy K-drama, “The King: Eternal Monarch.” This marked Lee Min Ho’s second project with Kim Eun Sook.

In “The King: Eternal Monarch,” Lee Min Ho stars as Lee Gon, the leader of a parallel world where a country like Korea also exists. He tries to find a mysterious girl named Jung Tae Eul (Kim Go Eun) who he believes he is destined to be with. After he accidentally runs into the parallel world while riding his horse in the forest, he meets Jung Tae Eul. The two embark on a passionate romance that is constantly tested as they are torn between time and space.

2. “Hwayugi” – Lee Seung Gi

Lee Seung Gi was also at the prime of his career when he enlisted, hosting variety shows, starring in K-dramas, and continuing to release songs. He enlisted in the military on February 1, 2016 and was released on October 31, 2017. During his time in the military, Lee Seung Gi received a great deal of praise as he was even appointed as a member of the special forces. After being discharged, his first project was the lead role in the Hong Sisters’ tvN drama “Hwayugi.”

Watch Lee Seung Gi’s return to dramaworld in “Hwayugi”:

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3. “Descendants of the Sun” – Song Joong Ki

Song Joong Ki enlisted in the military on August 27, 2013 while he was quite popular as a result of starring in the hit melodrama “The Innocent Man” and the film “A Werewolf Boy.” He had also gained a lot of popularity being in the hit variety series “Running Man,” so fans were obviously torn when it was time for him to go to the army.

He was discharged from the military on May 26th, 2015 and went straight into filming for Kim Eun Sook’s next highly anticipated project at the time, “Descendants of the Sun.”

Song Joong Ki was offered the role of Yoo Shi Jin while he was still in the military. It didn’t take much time for him to accept the offer. Because he was right out of the military, it was easy for him to get into the role of the captain. In particular, the lingo that his character had to use is particular to those who are athletes or in the military. Song Joong Ki said that it was like he had never left the military and the transition to the role was smooth.

Start watching “Descendants of the Sun”:

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4. “Alice” – Joo Won

Joo Won began his military service on May 16, 2017, right after his drama “My Sassy Girl” was completed. He was discharged on February 5, 2019. The first project he took on was the lead role in SBS’s sci-fi drama “Alice” alongside Kim Hee Sun.

Joo Won’s character Park Jin Gyum is a detective who doesn’t let his emotions get in the way of his line of work. While working on a case, he sees that there are people who are time traveling from the future. He meets Tae Yi (Kim Hee Sun) who is from the future and the two realize their meeting is fate.

Watch the first episode of “Alice”:

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5. “Private Lives” – Go Kyung Pyo

Go Kyung Pyo enlisted in the military on May 21, 2018 and was discharged on January 15, 2020. Go Kyung Pyo had a steady rise to fame before enlisting in the army, especially with projects like “Reply 1988,” “Jealousy Incarnate,” and “Chicago Typewriter.” His absence in the entertainment industry was noticeable.

When Go Kyung Pyo announced that he had accepted the role of Lee Jeong Hwan in JTBC’s “Private Lives” alongside Seohyun, it was exciting to have him back. “Private Lives” is about Lee Jeong Hwan (Go Kyung Pyo), a team manager of a big company. Although it looks like he leads a normal life, he hides a secret. He meets Cha Joo Eun (Seohyun) who despite her sweet visuals, is a swindler. The two team up to take down a huge conglomerate.

6. “Mirror of the Witch” – Yoon Shi Yoon

Yoon Shi Yoon started his military service on April 28, 2014 and was discharged on January 27, 2016. He joined the Marines, which is rare for a celebrity, because he had a fear of water and wanted to conquer this fear. We can definitely appreciate his bravery!

Yoon Shi Yoon got right into work as soon as he left the army. He starred in “Mirror of the Witch” alongside Kim Sae Ron. Yoon Shi Yoon plays a scholar by the name of Heo Jun who meets Yeon Hee (Kim Sae Ron), a princess who is isolated from the Kingdom and is kept a secret as a result of a curse. Heo Jun tries to help the princess return to her rightful place.

Start watching “Mirror of the Witch”:

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7. “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay” – Kim Soo Hyun

Kim Soo Hyun enlisted in the military on October 23, 2017 following his role in the movie “Real.” He was discharged on July 1, 2019.

There was a lot of anticipation for Kim Soo Hyun to pick his first drama project after being discharged from the military. The expectations were even higher as he had not starred in a K-drama since his role in “The Producers.” People were excited to hear that Kim Soo Hyun would be starring in “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” and that his counterpart would be Seo Ye Ji.

8. “When the Camellia Blooms” – Kang Ha Neul

Much to the sadness of his fans, Kang Ha Neul enlisted in the army on September 11, 2017 and was discharged on May 23, 2019. Although his enlistment was devastating, a couple of his movies were released while he was in the military, which made it a little less painful. These movies included the psychological thriller “Forgotten” and the fantasy movie “I Have a Date with Spring.”

Talk about a strong comeback into dramaland! “When the Camellia Blooms” was Kang Ha Neul’s first drama after serving in the military, and with this role, he swept several awards including Best Actor at the Baeksang Arts Awards and KBS Drama Awards. It was his first time getting either of these recognitions, so it was quite the big deal for Kang Ha Neul!

9. “That Winter the Wind Blows” – Jo In Sung

Jo In Sung debuted in 2000, which makes him a veteran in the acting industry. It didn’t take long for him to rise to stardom, and every work he was a part of was pretty successful. Jo In Sung’s last project before enlisting in the military on April 6, 2009 was the critically acclaimed film “A Frozen Flower.”

Jo In Sung is known to be very picky about the roles that he picks, so when he does pick a project, you can trust that it will be good. When he was discharged from the military on May 4th, 2011, it took him another two years for him to decide on a project. The drama he decided on was “That Winter, The Wind Blows” where he played Oh Soo, the con-artist, alongside Song Hye Kyo.

Watch the first episode below:

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10. “Melting Me Softly” – Ji Chang Wook

Ji Chang Wook enlisted in the military on August 14, 2017. He was practically working right up until the day he went to the army. When he was discharged on April 27, 2019, he got right to work by accepting the role of Ma Dong Chan in “Melting Me Softly.” He’s continued to come out with dramas since then and there seems to be no signs of him slowing down!

Watch the first episode now:

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Hey Soompiers, which of these returns were you looking forward to most? Let me know in the comments below!

binahearts is a Soompi writer whose ultimate biases are Song Joong Ki and BIGBANG. She is also the author of “K-POP A To Z: The Definitive K-Pop Encyclopedia.” Make sure you follow binahearts on Instagram as she journeys through her latest Korean crazes!

Currently watching: “How Do You Play?,” “Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol” and “Start-Up”
All-time favorite dramas: “Secret Garden,” “Goblin,” “Because This Is My First Life,” “Star In My Heart
Looking forward to: Won Bin‘s return to the small screen

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