Empress Ki – a half-review

Somehow I’ve made it through about 30 or so episodes of Empress Ki, mostly due to being sick and unable to do anything else. Thankfully, I am better now and enjoying the sunshine flooding Minnesota this week.

Empress Ki, like most of the Korean historical dramas, is decidedly epic in scale. A lot of the time it has me remembering the Lord of the Rings movies and that’s mainly due to the wonderful costumes and sets. The clothing alone makes the series worth watching. Empress Ki is a fast watch, despite so many episodes, because there’s really not much filler. Every episode has something major happen and the plot continually moves forward. The lead actors, Ha Ji-Won (Empress Ki/Seung Nyang), Joo Jin-Mo (Wang Yoo, the Korean king), and Ji Chang Wook (Ta Hwan/Emperor of Yuan), are all outstanding and do a good job with what they are given. I stress, what they are given, to work with.

Now to the story and writing. I’m in favor of keeping the plot moving most of the time and Empress Ki’s writing certainly fulfills that, however, in this case it comes at a cost, namely character and emotional development. Because the characters are constantly besieged by taxing or exciting moment after moment, they never really have time to process what’s happened to them, and neither does the audience. Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo, because they are strong characters, both physically and emotionally, deal with everything stoically–too stoically. We rarely get to see their vulnerabilities or them acting, for lack of a better expression, like humans! In contrast to them the Emperor of Yuan is so weak as to strain credulity. True, he’s much used and abused by the villain Yeon Chul (the subtitles I’m watching label him as El Tamur), and he’s young, but he has no interests or vices or focus in his life except for Seung Nyang and his out-of-control emotions often seem out of place. He would be more interesting, for example, if he actually was a drunk or a womanizer or even an actual basket case. The other leads, too, have no interests except the future direction of Korea and/or revenge. With a shorter series, these flaws would be fine, but at 51 episodes it’s not so excusable that most of the  emotional impact comes from minor characters, especially the eunuchs. Hopefully this gets addressed in the last 20 episodes, but it’s making me question whether I want to continue watching.

The love triangle is also irritating me, because the scenes depicting it are scarce and short. This wouldn’t be so bad if it was made up for by, say, amazing actions scenes, but, sadly it’s not. The Yuan Emperor has the most scenes dealing with romance, mostly his unrequited love for Seung Nyang. She is stoic, shows him no tenderness, has next-to-no feminine attributes and wiles that I’m often scratching my head at how he’s so infatuated. Because the plot calls for it, I guess. Also, the epic love for all time between Seung Nyang and Wang Yoo is scarcely represented adequately as such. She gets a ton more screen time with the man for whom she feels nothing. On top of that, both men seem incapable of having their own lives apart from Seung Nyang. She is amazing as their buddy and helping them get out of scrapes, but again, it’s baffling that she has cast such a spell over them in a (supposedly) romantic way, and she ironically seemed more feminine when everyone still thought she was a man.  I don’t think in writing strong female characters we need to balance it by making the male characters weaker, but it’s often done, though not quite believable.

All that aside, there are a lot of great scenes in Empress Ki, and many solid emotional scenes. We relish Seung Nyang triumphing over both villain Yeon Chul and his daughter, the Yuan Empress (played perfectly by Baek Jin-Hee of Missing Nine – Baek is a power house actress and her character’s story is a pathetic one.) We feel for Seung Nyang at certain losses and admire her smarts and resourcefulness. We feel the heartbreak of Wang Yoo and the Emperor, even if it’s not explained well.

I’ve decided to try and finish Empress Ki and I hope that it ends as well or better than it started, because the first fifteen to twenty episodes were pretty good. Middles are always hard to write and I do admire the writers for keeping the series jam packed with happenings, and for the production team and director having such attention to detail in the clothing, sets, and camerawork. I’ll have a full review up once I finish the series.


On Being an Invalid

Illness is a stumbling block. Cold, flu, measles, whatever it is, it throws a healthy person off their feet. Some illness is so mild that the people land immediately back on their feet, but sometimes it takes a person a few tumbles and wobbles before, shakily and uncertainly, they rise to the health they previously held. The ones who never recover are either permanent invalids or dead.

After being sick this week and unable to do much else but sit and stare and maybe watch some YouTube, I recalled to mind the strange desire I had as a child to be Colin from The Secret Garden. What would life be like, I wondered, if you weren’t required to do anything but lie about all day? Well, there’s my laziness for you! I didn’t see Colin’s loneliness, poor health from simply not moving much, and what he’d suffered from actual disease. Would I have been as happy as he was to find that he wasn’t crippled after all? Would illness have been so romantic to me had it been a permanent state for myself?  Probably not.

I turn 40 in about a week and have definitely had my share of illness over the years. I began life too early, so early, in fact, that my mother had to be air-lifted to the Twin Cities way back in 1978. Back then being 2+ months premature was a dire state, today, babies are born and thrive even months earlier than that. When I popped out of momma, I was blue and had a heart murmur.  Today, I’m still rather wheezy, but my heart has no murmur and I’m generally healthy except for loads of allergies likely due to being stored in an incubator for the first few months of my life. The biggest thing health wise, I lack, is energy. Is this a troubled spirit thing or a troubled body thing? I don’t know, I just know I seem to get tired a lot, no matter how much I sleep, or how much coffee I drink. As an adult, there’s no way I would happily dream about being confined to my bed for the rest of my days and I am so sorry for the people that have that as their life and I hope they are able to find joy hiding somewhere in their circumstances.

Sometimes illness and disease are parts of characters for stories. What would Moulin Rouge be without Satine’s tuberculosis? It’s both part of her character and part of the plot. What would Unbreakable be without Samuel L. Jackson’s “glass man” to Bruce Willis’s secret superhero? I’d like to write a detective series where the detective was continually dying of something. It wouldn’t be a long series, but the urgency in solving the mysteries would be somewhat unique. Actually, it’s probably already been done somewhere, so if you know of a series like this, add a comment, as I’d like to read it.

So I’m on the mend, tumbling back to my feet, and I think it’s going to be a really great spring. That warm weather energy is hovering and waiting until just the right moment, and then everything will be humming with life, including my writing. Oh, the stories I have to tell! No, not ready to be a permanent invalid, not even close. And thank God for health. Sometimes, in this world, it’s all we really have to keep us going.

Stories this coming month

As I’m really trying to push myself on revising and correcting Trolls for Dust Season 2, this upcoming month, I may not have many stories to review. There are a few that I do want to, however. With movies or dramas I usually get on a kick of watching all projects by a certain actor or director or writer. Right now I’m in the middle of a Ji Chang Wook kick and found a place to watch Empress Ki. It’s a long series, over 50 episodes, so I probably won’t finish it in March, but wow, epic, awesome story so far and also starring one of my favorite actresses Ha Ji Won.

In doing more vaccine-related reading, I wolfed down Dr. Suzanne Humphries’ book Rising from the Dead and am almost halfway through Dissolving Illusions. These are not easy books to read, especially if, like me, you’ve thought your whole life (without really having actual knowledge of the issue) that vaccines are always safe and effective. These books call into question much of our modern medical practices and have historical evidence and testimony to back it up. Think the pro-vax/anti-vax emotionally charged debate started only with supposed frauds like Andrew Wakefield? Wrong. It’s been the same debate since day one of the small pox vaccine, only back then those who refused vaccine or questioned them were jailed, fined, and basically had no freedom on the issue. Any strides they made in the direction of choice in the matter had to be fought for. And the pro-vax side was just as arrogant and mean-spirited as they are today. And also as unquestioning of their own side as they are today. What’s most amusing today is that a lot of the claims that it was a vaccine that brought the rates for such-and-such a disease down are really a matter of correlation, which today we are told by proud pro-vaxxers does not ever equal causation. Dr. Humphries’ books indicate that to conclude better living conditions, cleanliness and overall public hygiene contributed the most to the decline in diseases, is also valid. Many vaccines, for example, were introduced well after many of these diseases were on a downturn due to public sanitation. The evidence that it was vaccines isn’t actually as strong as promoted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the vaccines didn’t and don’t work in some cases, but their benefits may have been largely overstated. This book is truly about dissolving illusions, and as a result is really hard to read. If you have any interest into why anti-vaxxers are certain they are onto the truth, this book is a good place to start in understanding why they think that way.

For March, I also have kindly been loaned the next couple of books in Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince series and am curious to see where it goes.

And lastly, I am re-reading my own Trolls for Dust series, both books one and two with the hope to get this much-delayed book two out for everyone to read in print. I also have another short series I am working on, and if it works out, may be able to publish that before the end of the year. But, who knows? I’m always hopeful about these things at the beginning and then other things clamor for my attention.

The K2: Kdrama review

The K2The K2 lost me as a viewer the first time around. I watched the first episode with the sound off, as I sometimes do, and focused on the amazing visuals, which were as good as any feature film. It was the story and writing that gave me pause and I was not surprised to find that the same writer also wrote Yong-Pal, another drama that lost me half-way through.

This isn’t to say The K2 isn’t worth watching. It is an incredible action-packed drama, but like Yong-Pal, it would have been better served either by half-hour episodes or ten or even less hour-long episodes. Jang Hyeok Rin is an awesome writer, but these kinds of stories don’t exactly fit into the time frames usually allotted for Korean dramas. These stories are better suited to what in America we would call a “miniseries.” Jang essentially writes morality play fairy tales set in the modern world. Morality plays and fairy tales are are older, simpler stories that get at common truths. This means that the characters are archetypes – i.e., the princess locked in the tower, the lone warrior, the evil step-mother/witch – and plot devices, not the complicated character confections (say that five times fast) with a high degree of moral confusion that we’ve become so accustomed to today. This also means that the stories, being necessarily more simplistic, will not stretch as well without either adding a lot of superfluous material or slowing the plot down to an unsustainable degree. Cutting episodes or the time length of episodes would instantly solve this problem, but it would take a very confident, savvy production company to decide to do that.

What The K2 has going for it is a great story at its heart, awesome visuals (you could watch the whole thing without either sound or translation and not be lost much at all), solid writing, commendable acting, and music that will both irritate and haunt. The soundtrack choices were fairly brave, being operatic and even church music, not even in Korean, but in, I think, Latin and German. As a viewer you really only get the full impact if you watch it on a site like viki.com that takes the time to translate at least some of the lyrics. The songs are the “chorus” of Greek theatre, an essential part of the story and part and parcel of the morality play angle.

Episode one is exhaustingly full of action, and although the action is fairly steady through the first few episodes, there’s no way a production would be able to sustain that level through the entire thing. The biggest drawback to episode one, though, isn’t the action, but that they risk losing viewers by ending the same way they began, with Anna, our “princess captive,” running away from–whatever horrors a woman in white runs from. As a viewer, one wonders just how many times we are going to have to watch this girl run away, epic as it is. By the end of the hour, we also don’t really know what the plot is. We have a vague idea of who the characters are, but little else. This problem is fixed as the plot is more developed in the following episodes, but it’s the reason why I didn’t continue watching and also why I gave it a second chance, as it didn’t seem like all that production effort could possibly be put into a crummy story.

Crummy story The K2, is not, though I found – like with Yong-Pal, my interest waning in the last few episodes that had to stretch the story in order to finish it in the time allotted. For both dramas, it’s a shame because the first halves of each were awesome. Ok, enough harping on the time issue, let’s get to some meat and bones.

If we’re really honest, the characters in fairy tales, at least the prince and princess, typically don’t have a lot of personality. They are there to be rescued or to rescue or to serve some purpose of the plot. It is the villains that tend to be more–though not always–interesting. The K2 doesn’t vary from this and I think that’s a credit to it. They cast a stellar actress, Song Yoon A, to play the baddy step-mom, and it was her character that kept me watching throughout. Cho Seung Ha, who plays serial adulterer and politician Jang Se Joon, was no slouch either, and it was the pair of them that seemed the drivers of the plot.

The two main characters, Anna, the “princess in the tower” and, Kim Je-Ha, the “lone wolf” were more people that things happened to than made things happen. When they did make things happen, it wasn’t so much character-driven as plot-driven. That aside, because the characters were archetypes, and simple yet well-written, Ji Chang Wook and Yoona really showed off some talent in playing them. Playing a damaged, yet sweet girl and a mercenary with little-to-no past and making either interesting can be a challenge. Add on top of that, that I at least have found both actors to be rather stone-faced and wooden at times and I’m not sure if that’s merely my perception or if they just don’t have a good grasp of how to make an engaging face onscreen even if one’s character isn’t showing strong emotion at the time. That probably sounds more like an insult than intended, but I thought they did well will the simple characters and better than I have seen them do with more complex characters and plots. I wish all actors could be more like Seo In Guk (Shopping King Louie) who somehow manages to actually be a completely different character every time he’s onscreen, but I realize that ability is extremely rare and that most actors simply play whatever type of person their character is. All of the acting in The K2 is top notch, if necessarily simple, and suits the tenor and mechanics of the plot.

Speaking of the the plot, Choi Yoo Jin, the step-mother is the main character. What we are seeing onscreen is possibly what her life would have been like if she’d married a good man of action who loves her instead of a fearful and manipulative adulterer who doesn’t. Several times she mentions how innocent she once was, and how (at least in her head) she would have been a good person had only her husband loved her. Since we really don’t know what young girl Yoo Jin was like, we don’t have much to go by, but it becomes clear early on that the successes the couple has had politically are almost entirely due to Yoo Jin’s brains and tenacity, not her husband’s, and that she feels upon meeting the “wolf” that had she been with someone like him, those skills would have been put to far better use. Is this just wishful thinking on her part? As her character is quite skillful at manipulation, I’m not sure, neither, I think is Ji Chang Wook’s “wolf” who would certainly save her from herself were it possible. The moral in this play is pretty straightforward, loving someone means actually loving them and only pretending to love creates monsters out of people, anxiety, distrust, the list could go on and on. At the end of the series we really don’t know who either the wolf or Anna really are, and that’s alright, because who they are isn’t the point, the fact that they really love each other and other people is the point. They don’t pretend to love, they actually love, and they earn their  happy ending due to it. Such a simple thing, but humans fail at this simple thing every single day.

A couple of more things to add, “Cloud 9” was an intriguing idea, but completely mishandled as was the location and threat at the end, both of which hampered the story and the pacing in a negative way. It was likely one of those choices made in which the ere simply isn’t time to go back and correct it, and that’s a shame, but happens a lot in television. That all said, I really liked The K2, and would watch it again. The atmosphere, the action, and the music all stayed with me long after watching the last episode.

The Thief: Book Review

There’s a lot of buzz circulating about the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Although I enjoyed the first book, The Thief, it very much seemed a simple opening act to a far larger, grander story, so I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Many YA fantasy series tend to take off from Greek and Roman culture and mythology, so I can’t say this series is very unique in that aspect, but the narration is done well to the point that once one finishes the story, one wants to go back and analyze it from the beginning. As a whole, the world of the series is well defined, which helps aid the slow pace of the story. The pacing is probably the most troubling aspect. Nothing “happens” for long periods of time, but, again, in going back, one would realize a lot happened, or, at least, a lot of information was given. The problem is that many readers may give up far before the ending, but as the series as a whole is getting a lot of good buzz and recommendations, I think that was a risk the author was willing to take.

This book reminds me of a similar tale regarding the narration called The False Prince by  Jennifer A. Nielsen. That book also has some trouble with keeping the energy up, but is well plotted.


Both series involve unreliable narrators and both use that element well. It’s annoying when such narration is used, but there’s no “twist in the tale,” as they say (see my review of Here Lies Daniel Tate). Both stories are also smaller openings in a much wider story. Starting out simple and building is a great way to build an audience at the same time. I tend to like jump starting the deeper plot aspects right away, but there is nothing so satisfying as a slow burn of a tale and The Thief is that.

2018: Beyond the big lies

All week I’ve been thinking the best way to sum up 2017, and for myself it would be this: the past year has all been about big lies revealed. 2018 will be for so many of us about living beyond the lies, living in a very different world.

Currently, I am reading Dinesh D’Souza’s The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left, so I’ve been thinking about the other big lies out there as well and just how much they’ve shaped my way of thinking, society’s way of thinking, etc. The biggest recent lie, of course, has been that President Trump is a buffoon, doesn’t know what he’s doing, his followers are racist, etc. And now we stand on the precipice of a DOJ investigation knocking out Trump’s adversaries one by one, due to their own stupidity. Anyone who at this point think’s he’s dumb just refuses to see the truth staring them in the face. Trump’s accomplishing his goals on a careful timeline and using Twitter and trollish statements to continually distract the dishonest media. He is bringing tax cuts, jobs, and more prosperity for all Americans, and poo-pooing the lie that putting citizens of a country first is somehow immoral as the Progressive Left would have us believe. He is likely the smartest president we’ve ever had, having both intellect and street smarts. Will we ever get tired of winning? I don’t think I will, but who knows?

Second lie: The media is remotely intelligent and honest. Sure, sure, they are. Just like Pulitzer and Hearst were, right? Any kid who watched Newsies in the 90’s was given a great lesson on crony capitalism and the corruption that happens when the media has too much power. What keeps the media in check is citizen journalism. Just like the Newsies, using the power of the press–uh, internet–we are recording and writing our own stories, hearing firsthand accounts of events in real time and analyzing coverage on our own. Trump’s dismissal and bypassing of the mainstream media and press has to be the single greatest move for the average person. The wizards behind the curtain aren’t much to look at and have nothing but sound bytes and talking points. It was hilarious to watch the media’s desperate efforts to get Hillary Clinton elected–and they don’t even like her! How smart is Trump? Smart enough to know that being interviewed on Alex Jones’s Infowars was a plus and not a minus! More and more people are waking up to the dishonesty of the media every day and it is awesome.

Third lie: The Republican party is for America. Okay, we voters gave them the benefit of the doubt for awhile during the campaign. Trump was a purple cow opponent and they really didn’t know how to handle it. What was shocking to a lot of us conservatives and Republicans, though, was that we heard Trump speaking the truth, and the party did not agree with him and even went along with the mainstream media’s lies about him. These were people who should have had his back, who themselves had been lied about just because of the political party to which they belonged. 2017 revealed more lies: Republicans in Congress had no interest in getting rid of either oppressive taxation or Obamacare. They were not interested in bringing back jobs for American citizens and would not even break a sweat speaking up in our defense. That they grudgingly passed some of the legislation late 2017 only shows that they aren’t too dimwitted to see the writing on the wall. Trump and his allies are cleverer, more informed, more influential, and have more at stake than the Deep State ever will. Would anyone doubt at this point that should Trump fail, he and his family would be drawn and quartered by his enemies for whom the word “mercy” is scarcely a word in their vocabulary?

Fourth Lie: Vaccines are good for you. You saw that right, after actually, finally taking the time to look into this whole vaccine issue for myself, I think that the assertion that any vaccine is generally good for a person is an outright lie. Could I regale you with tales of CDC, big pharma corruption? Could I tell you that there is evidence that sanitation and nutrition had more to do with falling disease rates than any vaccine? Could I list story after story that I’ve heard, read, and witnessed for myself about vaccine injury? Would any of these things really convince you? This is a lie so, so big, that it really takes individuals doing their own research, reading the studies, reading the articles and stories. Most will not be convinced if they don’t do the research for themselves. We are all “doubting Thomases” when it comes to the modern healthcare. We have to press our fingers into wounds to believe they are there. This is also the scariest lie, because it calls the entire health industry into question. More and more people are waking up to the fact that at least some vaccines, like the flu shot, aren’t really worth getting for various reasons. Over time, those people will start to question other vaccines and the whole line of dominoes will fall one by one, changing the landscape of modern healthcare, some of us hope, forever.

These are only some of the big lies I’ve learned about lately, but I’m sure there are more, so, so many more. I had to say goodby to a friend this year because of the lies she told, and it was hard to swallow that she’d been lying to me for years upon years and I just sort of overlooked it. Now that I see the lies, I can’t go back. I can’t trust her ever again, I can’t trust the media, and though I follow it, I am skeptical of the new media, too. Profit, not necessarily truth, is king in media. It’s just the way it is and the way it always will be. Our society is now taking up new lies, that people can be whatever, gender, race, or animal they choose to be. What the ramifications of these delusions will be, I don’t know, but though they may at first seem more laughable and harmless than the other lies, they are not. Whatever ground we have won revealing the other, political lies, we cannot sleep, we cannot lose to these even more damaging lies. Our children’s futures are at stake.

2018 will hopefully be–should be–about law and order, of lie-tellers and deceivers being brought to justice. Hillary Clinton and many other deserve to be in jail. We are actually doing them a wrong to not hold them to account for what they have done our country. I hope with Trump’s executive order regarding trafficking, that he and his allies will be able to finally hold them accountable. For we the people, we need to continue to live in the light of truth. For many of us Trump supports, even though he won, our worlds have been shattered. We’ve lost friends and family members who think we are evil for supporting him and we’re not sure we want to belong to a political party anymore. Some Trump supporters have even been physically attacked while they at the same time get called fascists and Nazi’s. Ever wonder how that all started? I highly recommend D’Souza’s book. Though he wasn’t born in America, D’Souza is American at heart, something most legal immigrants have in common. More importantly, he cares about researching the facts, something we should all take the time to do. Truth is where Good is, it’s where God is, it’s where all the blessings of life reside. We remember to clean our homes, yet often forget to clean our minds of the trash, dirt, and garbage that accumulates.

How do we live in 2018 after so many lies have been shattered? No fear. We now have the opportunity to go forward in the truth. It won’t be easy, but it will be a lot more rewarding than living under the tyranny of lies. God is perfect love because he is and has perfect truth. How can we love our fellow man and our families well if we do not at least try to live in the truth? Are we doing anyone any favors by pretending someone’s entire self-worth should rest in their skin color, genitalia, and sex preferences? By pretending that certain lifestyles do not carry dire risks and consequences? By teaching them that the world should and will conform to each individual’s whims rather than the other way around? Should we really be afraid to share these truths? If the truth isn’t worth experiencing or suffering a bit of uncomfortableness, well, then what is? Can we protect our loved ones by telling them they have imaginary super powers or can we protect them by advising them to live diligently and show them practical ways to defend themselves? Can we find ourselves, now that we are winning, to speak the truth in love? Can we bring the sunlight that people so desperately need? For Christians, can we hope to share the truth of the Gospel if we can’t even talk about the truth of sin? Let 2018 be the year. No fear. Let us live in the truth.

My 5 favorite Kdrama actors

I’ve been watching Korean dramas for a few years now and have found I have a few favorites. The trouble with watching shows or movies of a different culture and/or language is that acting standards and line delivery are different. For many viewers from Western countries who are used to watching Hollywood, UK, or European films, the acting of other countries can come across as very over-the-top and fake, and often the comedy falls flat or is head-scratching. I have no doubt this works both ways. It takes a lot of viewing time to really see how good actors are, due to cultural and/or language barriers and many people don’t have patience for that. Having spent an embarrassing amount of my own life watching Hollywood, UK, and other movies and shows, jumping to Kdramas was no big deal time wise. The positive view of this is that I have come to appreciate South Korean culture, food, and language, as well as having viewed some of the best shows of all time (Signal, for example).

Here is a list of five drama actors I’ve come to appreciate. Yes, they are easy on the eyes, but are also extremely talented and stand apart from many of their fellow actors.

#1 Seo In Guk


We have music talent shows to thank for a lot of our amazing stars and singers today, and one of those is Seo In Guk, who won Superstar K in 2009. He has a classic rags-to-riches story and is multitalented on every level. Due to hard work and thoughtfulness, this guy could succeed in anything he puts his mind and effort into. Not only is he a great singer and performer, but is a brilliant actor who plays his character, not himself, and is able to turn this talent on and off at will. This is rare, as a lot of actors have to continually play the character even when not filming to keep up the, uh, charade. He’s also very open about how he creates each character, also unusual as many actors prefer keeping the acting trade shrouded in mystery. He was due for military duty this past year, but because of a health issue, could not enlist. As a recent fan of Seo In Guk, I look forward to seeing where his career will go from here. Best dramas of his that I’ve seen so far: Reply 1997, High School King of Savvy, Squad 38, Hello Monster (aka I Remember You), and Shopping King Louie.

#2 Jung Kyung Ho

Jung Kyung Ho

Jung Kyung Ho (also Jung Kyoung Ho) is one of those actors who should be showered with awards. He’s on point in every scene and chameleon-like in his ability to handle different dramas. Jung has very emotive eyes and uses them to full advantage. He, too, simply becomes his character and has a magnetic presence onscreen, and his career so far has been a pretty even mix between movies and dramas. Like Seo In Guk, Jung Kyung Ho is a bit under the radar and underestimated in his abilities–at least internationally. Jung is definitely equal to any of Hollywood’s A-list actors, and would probably put some of them to shame. His one flaw may be that he tends to work with writers and directors that flounder a bit, but can’t always be helped. Best dramas I’ve seen him in so far: Heartless City, Missing 9, Falling in Love with Soon Jung, and One More Happy Ending.

#3 Sung Joon

Sung Joon

A tall drink of water, Sung Joon is much younger than he appears. I was surprised to find he’s only 27. Maybe it’s his height or his deep voice, but he has no problem playing characters much older than himself and is often paired with older women. His choices of projects are riskier than most, and sometimes I think he gives the writers of some scripts a bit too much faith, but it’s refreshing to see someone so fearless. Sung Joon started out as a model, but has turned into a great actor, especially when it comes to romantic scenes. If he’s not putting his entire heart and soul into kissing his onscreen women, he’s very good a faking it. If I were a fellow male actor, I’d be a little hesitant to work with him as he has such an overwhelming screen presence, it’s almost distracting. Lee Min Ki had to work very hard in Shut Up Flower Boy Band to make his character come across as the actual leader of their band, so strong was Sung Joon’s presence. Best dramas I’ve seen him in so far: Ms. Perfect, Shut Up Flower Boy Band, Madame Antoine, and In Need of Romance 3).

#4 Lee Seung Gi

Lee Seung Gi

Lee Seung Gi is one of those actors that slowly earns audience appreciation. He is no stranger to TV, having been on several dramas and variety shows and he also is successful in nearly everything he does. Lee Seung Gi comes across as not only likable onscreen, but offscreen as well, joking with interviewers and the audience. He’s comfortable in his own skin and it shows. He often plays characters that seem very dumb at first, but then prove themselves later on. Although he has a good voice, I think he is more talented at acting than singing. So far his career has mostly been playing vain young men forced to grow up, and I hope now that he’s done with his military service he will choose a wider variety of characters to play. It would be great to see him take on the role of the bad guy, for example. He, for one, picks his projects well. Best dramas I’ve seen him in so far: You are All Surrounded, Gu Family Book, King 2 Hearts, and My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox.

#5 Lee Min Ho

Lee Min Ho

Due to the commercial success of Boys Over Flowers and The Heirs, one would hard pressed to find an international Kdrama fan who hasn’t heard of Lee Min Ho and his Brad Pitt good looks. Although I enjoy his dramas, he has slipped from being my #1 to watch, as his performances are hit or miss for me. When he is good, he is so good, and when he’s not I wonder if his own fame is overshadowing him. Lee Min Ho shot to fame in 2009 by playing Gu Jun Pyo, a vain, spoiled rich boy,  in Boys over Flowers, and hasn’t looked back since. Not the first to play the character, Lee made Gu Jun Pyo his own and the Korean BOF wouldn’t be nearly as funny without him. Lee also is very gifted in doing action scenes, having a natural athleticism that makes the most bizarre choreography (attacking a cook with a spoon, for example) look natural. He is also a very talented model, and would be #1 on this list if it were for modeling. Sadly, Lee’s most recent dramas The Heirs and The Legend of the Blue Sea were definite misses for me. He was paired with other famous actresses with whom he had no onscreen chemistry, and it showed. He also did not have a firm grasp on who his characters were and acted rather blandly due to that. Since all parties in these two projects have been great and successful with other productions, I have to wonder if there wasn’t too much pressure for profit involved. Both projects were very financially successful and had all star casts, directors and writers, but lacked heart and truly good storytelling. After finishing his military service, I hope Lee will choose projects and characters that he can really play well instead of focusing on the financial success. It’s hard to be so famous that you can’t take a real risk, and the projects he’s performed best in were not foregone successes. Best dramas I’ve seen him in so far: Boys Over Flowers, City Hunter, Personal Taste, and Faith.