Best K-Drama Actresses of 2014

2014 brought us many notable female leads, from an endearingly vain celebrity to a housewife who gets an extreme makeover, and many, many more. Here the Soompi staff share who the contenders are for Best Actress of 2014 are for the Soompi Awards 2014 and the reasons why you should vote for them. While the final vote is up to youyou can check out our gallery featuring the talented K-drama actresses to help you decide.

Ha Ji Won is the ultimate action queen of the year. She proved both her acting and action chops in the high octane historical drama “Empress Ki.” She learned how to ride a horse and mastered various forms of martial arts for her role as the titular empress, all of her efforts which contributed to the show being highly popular and successful. The sageuk drama was a hit worldwide, notably in Taiwan and Singapore. Thumbs up for portraying Empress Ki in a powerful way. kokoberry

I’m not going to lie: Before Jun Ji Hyun made her return to the small screen this year in “My Love From the Stars,” I was one of many who had assumed that her star power was on permanent decline. Undoubtedly the nation’s sweetheart and official “sassy girl” at the turn of the century, Jun Ji Hyun’s only memorable role in the past few years was a costarring role in an ensemble effort (“The Thieves“); her highly-publicized forays into the international market were not a success. A return to the relative small-time league of Korean dramas (in which she hadn’t been seen since 1999’s “Happy Together“) made sense, but it didn’t exactly seem like the stuff of superstar dreams.

Then she turned “My Love From the Stars” into the most epic comeback imaginable.

She sent chicken and beer restaurants into overdrive in China. She caused a luxury-brand lipstick to sell out worldwide. She consistently topped the CF earnings lists (and still is). She picked up the highest honors at the Baeksang Arts Awards. How did she manage all this? Well, she took the difficult role of spoiled, spacey Hallyu star Cheon Song Yi and somehow made her completely lovable. I don’t think anyone else could have done it the way Jun Ji Hyun did. We laughed at her, we laughed with her, we sympathized with her when she was in pain, and we cheered for her when she rose back to the top with grace (just like her real-life counterpart). I love the rest of the actresses on this list, but let’s face it: 2014 belongs to Jun Ji Hyun. melkimx

Many fans were happy to see Song Ji Hyo return to dramaland in “Emergency Couple.” She was able to show another side of herself as a divorcee doctor differing from her ace image on “Running Man” – she struggled through tumultuous situations while working with her ex-husband in the emergency room which is stressful in itself. Plus, her chemistry with co-star Choi Jin Hyuk was sizzling! Her role reminded us that she could have great chemistry with others beside Gary. kokoberry

One of the hardest goals to accomplish when filming a drama involving time jumps is flawlessly picking up where the younger, teenage version of your character left off, especially if they did a remarkable job. Such was the case for Gu Hye Sun in “Angel Eyes,” but she made it look so easy! After all, Yoon Soo Wan wasn’t your typical female lead; she was blind and had undergone a cornea transplant. The portrayal of that aspect is no easy feat, but Gu Hye Sun was utterly convincing in her role. From her look of wonder and gratitude at actually seeing the rays of sunlight streaming through her fingers to her closing her eyes to recognize, by touch, the man she loves, Gu Hye Sun fully captured the essence of Yoon Soo Wan.

She wrung out hearts like wet laundry with her sorrow over Yoo Jung Hwa, her “second mother,” and with her steadfast love for Park Dong Joo. Thankfully, Gu Hye Sun never went down the wishy-washy route with the unfortunate second leading man, Kang Ji Woon, which adds major bonus points to her already long list of talents. In other words, I couldn’t imagine anyone else portraying Yoon Soo Wan other than Gu Hye Sun and that definitely means she’s Best Actress material. akinahana89

Taking on the role of a remake drama is always a difficult task. Not only do remakes begin with more negativity and criticism than originals, but they are also subject to constant comparisons; however, Jang Nara took up the challenge with “Fated to Love You” (the Taiwanese drama with the highest rating to date) and gave her role of Post-It girl, Kim Mi Young, a refreshing twist. Jang Nara didn’t simply portray the character, she became it. Every subtle shift of emotions, every subconscious “spectacle tic,” every smile, laugh, and cry of sorrow became her as Jang Nara paid extraordinary attention to even the smallest detail that truly made Kim Mi Young one of a kind.

As if that wasn’t already accomplished enough, a mere month later, Jang Nara signed up for another MBC drama as Eun Ha Soo in “Mister Baek.” With trait similarities to Kim Mi Young, an actress with less experience or talent might have simply given a repeat performance, but once again, Jang Nara brought Eun Ha Soo to life and allowed her to shine in a different light.

I’ll admit that my previous drama experiences with Jang Nara were always cutesy roles, which were enjoyable while they lasted, but she definitely knocked these recent roles right out of the ballpark. With her character diversity this year, including a romantic melodrama special titled “Old Goodbye,” Jang Nara is, without a doubt, one of the best contenders for Best Actress. akinahana89

Han Groo sparkled as Joo Jang Mi in “Marriage Not Dating.” She was so committed to the role that she made the many funny parts so incredibly funny. But while making us laugh, she was also able to make us care about her, feel what she was feeling, and want to be on her side. Han Groo and Yeon Woo Jin had great chemistry and made this modern rom-com a standout drama this year. Han Groo, in her first lead role in a drama, made us feel that no one else could have played the role as well as she did. fitzdarcy

Gong Hyo Jin can only be described in one word: goddess. She boasts a perfect chemistry with every single actor she’s ever worked with, Jo In Sung included (“It’s Okay, That’s Love“). That chemistry plus her flawless acting results in a hit drama almost every single time she stars. Additionally, her fashion is a trendsetter without miss, and “It’s Okay, That’s Love” was no exception. Classy, chic, and talented, Gong Hyo Jin should be every young girl’s role model. hearteu

All of the newbies at One International in “Misaeng” had their struggles, but Ahn Young Yi may have had the worst situation. Faced with a hierarchy that resented her for being a woman (and a talented, intelligent woman, at that!), Young Yi endured so much abuse that I wanted nothing more than to skip her painful scenes. But I couldn’t, because then I would have missed Kang So Ra’s quiet, alert performance. Kang had this wonderful way of expressing Young Yi’s determination and backbone, even as she was willing to act as a glorified servant to her male coworkers. That glint of steel, combined with a sly sense of humor, made this performance one of my favorites of the year. rughydrangea

Han Ye Seul had a strong comeback with “Birth of a Beauty,” returning to her romantic comedy roots. She truly shines in this category and brought us many laughs. She was able to transcend Sa Geum Ran/Sara into more than just a sweet and pretty face as she portrayed her character’s inner transformation. We saw her deal with betrayal, go through an extreme makeover, spy on her murderous husband, fall in love, and become a successful chef. Han Ye Seul is definitely getting back into the limelight and is here to stay there. -kokoberry

Park Shin Hye has always been a consistent name in dramas, starring in at least one each year. Several of these dramas being quite popular. While Park Shin Hye has played many different roles, I find that her best and most enjoyable ones are those like her current character in “Pinocchio” where she can be more than just the stereotypical drama girl. “Pinocchio” has really brought out that silly and strong-headed side of her that feels genuine and natural. bluephoenix1919