6 Of Yoo Yeon Seok’s K-Drama Roles That Showed Off His Versatility
Whether he’s playing the brooding, ferocious samurai or the kind and endearing pediatrician, Yoo Yeon Seok has this innate ability to get under the skin of his characters, and what makes them even more appealing is how relatable they are.
In his recent slow-burn office romance “The Interest Of Love,” Yoo Yeon Seok plays Ha Sang Soo, the awkward and shy bank employee who is in love with his co-worker Ahn Soo Young (Moon Ga Young). Sang Soo harbors no worldly ambition. “I just want to be average,” he says as a man who just wants to blend in and be unnoticed. But love does strange things to people, and as he wears his heart on his sleeve, Sang Soo’s uneventful life is swamped by emotional upheavals. Yoo Yeon Seok as Sang Soo is the proverbial boy next door, the “Mr. Reliable” you take home to meet Mom. But he’s also someone who gets taken for granted. But as we wait to see what unfolds and whether these feelings get returned by Soo Young in “The Interest of Love,” here are six dramas which give us insight into the versatile actor and his craft.
“Hospital Playlist” Seasons 1 & 2
Five doctors well into their 40s have been best friends since medical school and remain inseparable as they head the various departments at Yulje Medical Center. Ahn Jung Won (Yoo Yeon Seok) loves children, loves God, and loves to serve those in need. The gentle and thoughtful pediatrician and the benevolent benefactor running the charity Daddy’s Long Legs for underprivileged children, Ahn Jung Won wants to enter the priesthood since that’s where his mission lies. However, his carefully laid plans go awry when he meets Jang Gyeo Ul (Shin Hyun Been) at the hospital, much to the delight of his mother and friends. Jung Won, when not tending to emergencies, also twirls the drum sticks as he is the drummer in the band that the quintet has formed, and their jam sessions together are sacred.
There are many delightful aspects of Jung Won’s personality, be it his stethoscope with a crocodile doll hanging, hiding candy from his friends but sharing them with his patients, being the reliable guy and the caring and awkward boyfriend, and of course, his bickering bromance with Joon Wan (Jung Kyung Ho), his bestie and roommate. Jung Won is a reliably guy, and Yoo Yeon Sook’s portrayal of him ticks all the boxes. “Hospital Playlist” is a feel-good dose of happiness celebrating friendship and everything in between.
Menacing and ruthless with a brave heart, samurai Gu Dong Mae (Yoo Yeon Seok) is a member of the Japanese Black Dragon Society. He is contemptuous of the Joseon regime for its class divides, discriminations, and corrupt practices against the weaker section of society. The son of a butcher, Dong Mae had it rough. Abandoned by his own country, he flees to Japan, only to return as a mercenary with superior fighting skills. He defies death, and though he is a rebel with a cause, his brash sensitivity comes to the fore only with Ae Shin (Kim Tae Ri), who has never looked down on him. Dong Mae may be defined as the villain, and he has qualms in being the bad guy, but he is a man shaped by his times when your worth is determined by the family and class you are born into.
Yoo Yeon Seok gives a go for gold performance in this drama as the badass yet tragic yakuza. He’s the underdog one can’t help shed a tear for. Showcasing his range as an actor, Yoo Yeon Seok brings Dong Mae’s rage, pathos, and pain eloquently. And the love-hate dynamic between Dong Mae and Eugene Choi (Lee Byung Hun) is tense yet entertaining.
Filled with first love, friendships, dreams, and aspirations, the “Reply” series embraces viewers with its comforting nostalgia. The year 1994 chronicles the significant events from the rise of the first generation K-pop group Seo Taiji and the Boys to the birth of the Korean Basketball League. Part of a group of college students who are on a journey of self discovery, Yoo Yeon Seok plays Chil Bong, the handsome and warmhearted freshman at Yonsei University and the rising star of the baseball team. He is also the smiley boy who only has eyes for his bratty, no-nonsense friend Sung Na Jung (Go Ara).
This was the show that catapulted Yoo Yeon Seok to fame. His depiction of the charming Chil Bong and his delightful performance won him hearts and fans. He is so charming in this role that you cannot help but cheer him on, even when he gets his heart broken.
“I feel like I couldn’t quit because all my suffering until now would have been for nothing. And I don’t have the confidence that I’d be better at anything else if I quit.” A headstrong, quick-tempered but skilled young doctor, Kang Dong Joo (Yoo Yeon Seok) had seen his father die due to the apathy of the medical staff when he was a teenager. Encouraged by a stranger at the hospital to turn his rage into something productive, Dong Joo ends up at the same hospital but this time as a medical intern.
Despite his talent, he is transferred to the dilapidated Doldam Hospital run by the maverick genius surgeon Dr. Kim (Han Suk Kyu). Dong Joo is conflicted between his stubborn ambition and values. He wants to succeed at any cost but also has a strong sense of truth and justice. As he evolves under guidance of Dr. Kim, Dong Joo realizes his mission is to serve selflessly as a doctor, and the rest will take care of itself. Yoo Yeon Seok has often credited “Dr. Romantic” as being another show which helped enhance his credibility as an actor, and his portrayal of Dong Joo’s struggles strikes an emotive chord.
Start watching “Dr. Romantic”:
“Warm and Cozy”
A smug and laidback rich boy, Baek Gun Woo (Yoo Yeon Seok) is a whimsical man. He opens a restaurant in Jeju in order to be close to the object of his affection. He is a talented chef but only cooks when he is in the mood and has no qualms in being bratty. The man knows how to confuse everyone including Jung Joo (Kang Sora) with whom he is constantly bickering. But there is a side to Gun Woo which is endearing, be it his jealousy toward Jung Joo when she gets attention from other men or the content smile on his face when he immerses himself in cooking. Yoo Yeon Seok charms as Gun Woo endlessly. Even when he gets obnoxious on screen, you can’t help but smile at his antics.
Start watching “Warm and Cozy”:
“Gu Family Book”
A historical fantasy series, “Gu Family Book” tells the story of half-human and half-gumiho Kang Chi (Lee Seung Gi) who struggles with his identity. His friend-turned-foe is the cold and cynical Park Tae Seok (Yoo Yeon Seok), whose sword fighting and martial arts skills are unmatchable. Though Yoo Yeon Seok may not have been the protagonist in the show, he brought such gravitas to his character that it made for another reason to watch this drama.
Hey Soompiers, which one is your favorite Yoo Yeon Seok K-drama? Let us know in the comments below!
Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Song Joong Ki and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.
All-time favorite dramas: “Descendants of the Sun,” “Queen of the Game,” and “Reply 1988.”
Currently watching: “Interest of Love”