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[Actor Spotlight] Choi Jin-hyuk

The next actor in our spotlight is Choi Jin-hyuk. He’s starring in An Empress’s Dignity, which is about to premiere as SBS’s latest Wednesday-Thursday drama. Born in Mokpo, South Korea in 1986, Choi Jin-hyuk didn’t get the recognition he deserved until several years into his career. He had already been acting in bit parts for many years when he stole the screen in Gu Family Book and finally got his big break. Following that drama, he quickly advanced to second lead and then leading man status. He has been working steadily ever since, bringing that special Choi Jin-hyuk charm to dramaland. Color me grateful!

Choi Jin-Hyun has a unique gravitas — his grounded and mature presence on screen have won him a nice variety of roles. Partly because he was a bit older when he found success, and partly because his face has “history,” he often plays more mature characters than we’re used to seeing a newbie take on. He’s played the older brother to Lee Min-ho and the father to Lee Seung-gi (even though he’s barely a year older than both of them), a veteran detective, and a clever prosecutor with an appropriate amount of emotional baggage. In addition to his onscreen gravitas, he’s also plain delightful to watch — he’s one of those actors that could make eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich seem interesting.

Here are some of his drama highlights, followed by his full filmography.

 
Gu Family Book (2013)

Gu, gu, gu. You weren’t particularly strong, and your awful ending left me bitter, but in retrospect I’m content enough since Choi Jin-hyuk’s fantastic performance and grounded screen presence made this show for me (as did Sung-joon, but that’s a story for another day). Choi Jin-hyuk played a gumiho that fell in love with a human, setting the backstory for the rest of the drama — and for a backstory it was remarkably compelling. I almost wished they had lingered a little longer in the gumiho’s Moonlight Garden, which was a kind of Lothlorien with orbs of twinkling light, because what says magical canyon better than that? Luckily for Gu Family Book, Choi Jin-hyuk also made some appearances later in the drama. He played the father of Lee Seung-gi’s character, and in their scenes together they did a great job of expressing the contrast and complexity between their two characters. Choi Jin-hyuk got a lot of (completely warranted) attention for this role, and a lot of casting offers followed.

 
Heirs (2013)

Wow, Heirs was five years ago already? It feels like just a few months ago I was watching this drama hoping against all hope that it would be better than it was. One thing Heirs did have going for it was an ensemble cast of actors old and new — and regardless of critical reception, it didn’t hurt anyone’s career to be seen in a drama with as much hype (and visibility) as this one. Choi Jin-hyuk was one of these actors: he played leading man Lee Min-ho’s hyung. Thanks to Choi’s capacity as an actor, he took the somewhat boring role of a typical cold and calculating chaebol heir, and humanized him into someone who you could understand, or maybe even pity. He willfully gave up love and happiness for money, and bore his unhappiness with the maturity of someone who knew his choices had created his consequences. Also, why did he sleep in a wool sweater? I’m still wondering about this five years later.

 
Fated To Love You (2014)

“Fated to love you” is how I pretty much felt about Choi Jin-hyuk in this Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk drama. His character was intelligent, calm, and collected compared to the wacky, unbuttoned character Jang Hyuk played — and he was actually a great foil for him in that respect. He looked after Jang Nara’s character as her “neighborhood oppa,” cared about her future, nurtured her artistic talents… and remains in my ever-growing list of second lead syndrome sufferings. Jang Nara is at her most adorable in this rom-com, which is about the consequences of her one-night-stand with Jang Hyuk’s character, keeping in touch with your girlhood dreams, and so much more.

 
Pride and Prejudice (2014)

Not the strongest title for a story about prosecutors fighting crime, corruption, and their traumatic past experiences, but Pride and Prejudice was an enjoyable drama. More than anything, it was nice to see Choi Jin-hyuk take on the role of the leading man. He played opposite Baek Jin-hee as prosecutors working for the good of the common people. You know, like they should. One thing this drama did particularly well for me was creating really authentic-feeling relationships and environments. The prosecution team, led by Choi Min-soo (amazing), and made up of Choi Jin-hyuk, Baek Jin-hee, Choi Woo-shik, and Lee Tae-hwan, felt like the real deal. Another authentic setup was the hodgepodge family formed by Choi Jin-hyuk, Lee Tae-hwan, and the halmoni who made sure they ate their three meals a day. I’m not sure why or how the drama was so successful with this — was it the script, the direction, or just really good chemistry with the cast? Maybe it was all of the above. Either way, Pride and Prejudice did its thing and had a good balance of prosecuting and investigating with character and plot development.

 
An Empress’s Dignity (2018)

For those like me who suffered through a painful bout of second lead syndrome in Fated to Love You, well, Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Nara are reunited as leads in the upcoming SBS drama An Empress’s Dignity. Not only that, but the show sounds like a fun one: an alternative-reality Korea is ruled by a monarchy, and the emperor is none other than Shin Sung-rok. Jang Nara is a musical actress and his new wife/empress; Choi Jin-hyuk is an elite imperial bodyguard. There’s a revenge scheme, subterfuge, and hopefully some romance awaiting us.

 
Choi Jin-hyuk’s full filmography:

  • Beautiful Days (2007) [Drama]
  • Daily drama about four siblings growing up poor but hopeful in 1970s Korea.

  • My Precious Child (2008) [Drama]
  • Small role in this family/romance weekend drama about a radio PD and a singer.

  • Korean Ghost Stories (2008 and 2009) [Drama]
  • Choi Jin-hyuk acted in two separate episodes of this long-running episodic series on horror folklore, myths, ghosts, gumihos, and the like.

  • Pasta (2010) [Drama]
  • Supporting role in this Gong Hyo-jin show about the drama in an Italian restaurant’s kitchen that I should have seen but haven’t yet.

  • It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl (2010) [Drama]
  • Moon Chae-won is forced to grow up from her sheltered life and step into the real world.

  • My Daughter the Flower (2011) [Drama]
  • Supporting role in the daily mother/daughter drama starring Jin Se-yeon and Jo Min-soo.

  • I Need Romance (2011) [Drama]
  • Supporting role in the first of the very cable-y I Need Romance series where various single women navigate (and need) romance.

  • Panda and Hedgehog (2012) [Drama]
  • Pastry shop rom-com with Yoon Seung-ha and Donghae in the lead, and Choi Jin-hyuk as the rival.

  • Tone-Deaf Clinic (2012) [Film]
  • Singing lessons for the tone deaf in this Yoon Sang-hyun and Park Ha-sun rom-com.

  • Gu Family Book (2013) [Drama]
  • Supporting/backstory role as Lee Seung-gi’s gumiho father, and this role is a thing of beauty (see above).

  • The Heirs (2013) [Drama]
  • Lee Min-ho’s older brother in this much-hyped Kim Eun-sook drama (see above).

  • Fated To Love You (2014) [Drama]
  • Choi Jin-hyuk + second lead syndrome in this fun (and slightly wild) Jang Nara and Jang Hyuk drama (see above).

  • Pride and Prejudice (2014) [Drama]
  • Prosecutor alongside Baek Jin-hee. The cast was great, and I regret nothing (see above).

  • Grandpas Over Flowers Investigation Team (2014) [Drama/Cameo]
  • Cameo as the younger version of Lee Soon-jae in this drama that tried to mimic the awesomeness of the tvN variety show.

  • Emergency Couple (2014) [Drama]
  • Bickering divorced couple Choi Jin-hyuk and Song Ji-hyo work together in the ER. Sounded great on paper but was pretty unwatchable for me.

  • The Divine Move (2014) [Film]
  • Side role in a dark Jung Woo-sung movie about baduk, gambling, murder, revenge, and light things like that.

  • Vampire in Love (2015) [Film]
  • Japanese film about vampires (in love?). Choi Jin-hyuk plays the right-hand man of the lead, and is notably the only Korean actor in the cast.

  • Tunnel (2017) [Drama]
  • Choi Jin-hyuk and Yoon Hyun-min as cops in this time-jump drama awesomeness. Too bad I’m too scared to actually watch it.

  • Devilish Joy (2018) [Drama]
  • A romantic take on memory loss (I guess that’s possible in dramaland?) starring Choi Jin-hyuk and Song Ha-yoon.

  • Empress’s Dignity (2018) [Drama]
  • Upcoming alternate-reality drama reuniting Choi Jin-hyuk and Jang Nara in a Korea governed by a monarch. Look and sounds fun.

 
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Seeing him, makes me want to hear his deep romantic voice. What a voice he has!
I love him in almost all dramas, but the two characters he shined were:
1- Gumiho in Gu Family book- Though his role was small, but he truly stole the show for me. He was the reason why i even started watching the show.
2- Gwang ho in Tunnel - He nailed this character. A man of his words. A man who could go any length to protect his loved ones. What a fantastic drama it was. I am glad he took this role.

The most wasted character he played would be in Heirs. He played the older brother to Lee min Ho. He was used a furniture piece in this drama. I wished his character had more depth. But the character was so lonely and dull.

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Totally agree with your two favorite characters played by Choi Jun-huk!! My first time watching him was in The Heirs and I remember thinking he was hot-hot. However, I didn't watch anything from him until Tunnel and he blew me away. And just

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Thank you for posting this! I am a huge CJH fan so it's great to see him getting love.

I watched Fated to love you for Jang Hyuk but couldnt get over how amazing (and hot) this other guy was... the scene where he proposes with the sand (swooon)...

I agree Emergency Couple was painful but Tunnel is amazing. I'm not usually into the police shows but this one was so good and CJH is really amazing in it.

Devilish Joy starts out fun and is full of pretty but really stalls. Worth checking out if you want to see CJH take brooding showers.

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I have yet to see him in any drama. *takes down notes* *also wondering who'll be discussed next*

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The guys are great, but how about the women?

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They're coming! ^_^

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Yay! I knew DB wouldn't let us down.

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Emergency couple is my fav as him as main lead. Tunnel is a good drama too.

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Oh, please, watch Tunnel! It's my favourite Choi Jin Hyuk's drama 😍

I'm a scaredy cat, but I managed this one (sometimes switching off the sound helped 😉).

And if Signal was more brains, Tunnel was the emotional version... Don't think, feel! 😂

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Yes! Do watch tunnel! There is nothing to be scared about! (Almost!)

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Yes this is how I made it through watching tunnel too, and watching it in the daylight!

The acting was absolutely stellar, his performance was so powerful and gutwrenching! A must watch :)

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I like the muting trick!

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Don't think, feel! Let's bring it back!

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Mine too. If anything, that is the first one everyone should start with as a introduction. So good.

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yes!! please watch Tunnel! i even defended it for a previous DB theme of the month! http://www.dramabeans.com/2018/01/in-defense-of-tunnel-and-no-it-wasnt-another-signal/ I was so sad that Gwang-ho wasn't one of the featured highlights :(

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i so love this man and his acting! i have watched almost every one he has been in. he really hooked me in gu family book though. i am one who enjoyed emrgency couple. his acting brings out the best in his parts and others so if i don't like a drama i can concentrate on him alone and enjoy it somewhat. he has such depth and gentleness and romanticism in his acting. his smile is a goner for me everytime! thanks for the article on him. thanks for him! tunnel was one of his best ones. i enjoyed devilish joy too just as an easy watch with his charm and acting.

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emergency couple was the one that did it for me! haha <3

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I have only seen him in Fated to love you. I usually don't care for over the top leads, but Jang Hyuk killed it, so no second-lead syndrome for me. But I am looking forward to Empress Dignity, because I love Jang Nara.

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I keep forgetting he is a relatively new actor, it's so great to see how far he has come and how talented he is. I'm glad you covered him in this week spotlight post. :)

It's finally clicked who he played in Pasta- even though I re-watch that drama every year.
Maybe I would have watched heirs if I'd known he was starring in it!
I would definitely recommend watching tunnel, that was his best work yet.

Hoping that his new drama An Empress’s Dignity is a huge hit!

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I’ve never watched GFB but I remember how we was the breakout star even though he had a fairly minor role. I didn’t get to watch him act till Tunnel but I really enjoyed him in that drama.

Slightly off topic but I hope we can get an actress in the next post for this series!

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Choi Jin-hyuk first caught my eyes in Pride and Prejudice. He has this very mature and commanding vibe that's quite rare for people his age. And how happy I am to see that particular vibe used really well in Tunnel. I still can't believe he can make himself felt like a genuine dad figure to people who aren't much older than him.

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I've only seen him in "Fated To Love You" and I thought he was overshadowed by Jang Hyuk (who wouldn't be with that crazy, maniacal laugh?--great laugh though).

Can you guys profile Lee Je Hoon next? I think he's an underrated but very talented actor. Also, it's hilarious that his fans' nickname for him is "Grandpa" since he has such a boring off-screen persona.

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His boyish smile always melt my icy heart. That crook in the corner of his eyes when he flash that smile.. *swoon*

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First saw him in Pasta and I was already putting him on my radar as my next hot-oppa to stalk. 😘
Glad that he’s doing so well now. I loved him in Tunnel, but after that masterpiece, haven’t really watch him in anything else..

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I know nowadays it’s not but to be much of a compliment to say someone is “fatherly,” but to me CJH has that vibe in the best possible way. Not just because he will forever be “Papa Gu” to me, but also because in his best roles (eg Tunnel) he plays characters that are reliable and awkwardly romantic and faithful while determined to take down bad guys and keep their families safe.

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Agree on the 'fatherly'. I guess it comes from the protective aura he exudes.

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It's quite a regret I just came to know CJH this year, thanks to Devilish Joy.. I know that drama was full of cliches but I don't know, I fell in love with Choi Jin Hyuk's dreamy white knight Gong Ma Sung in episode 1.. Then I watched "Tunnel" afterwards, I can't believe he was the same man I saw in DJ.. Haha, what a versatile actor. And just this weekend I watched his previous videos, interviews, his parts in GFB that leveled up his acting career.. His like my happy pill these days.. I melt everytime I see his eye smiles. I'm glad he has another drama coming and I plan to watched his other previous dramas too. 😍
Thanks for featuring him in this article. 😊

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Maybe you should try 'Tunnel'? I think he was his best as a lead there.

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Choi Jin-hyuk! (that voice) ... one of those who makes the list for a special spot, and whose new dramas always warrant a check-in, no matter how busy.

I Need Romance was probably my first look ... = > to more recent Devilish Joy, which I eventually abandoned 3/4 way.

Favorite? Probably Emergency Couple - somewhat more serious role for him, with more range. And I was rooting for second lead in Fated to Love You. :P

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CJH, is my mother's favorite K-Drama actor. We call him her husband and his last drama actually had my mother reminding me to tell her when it was airing every week. So besides keeping me entertained for a while now with his acting ability, I have to thank CJH for indoctrinating my mother into full-on K-Drama addict mode. She is looking forward to viewing his new drama! <3

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it's too bad you didn't watch Tunnel: he was excellent in this one and it would have made a great exposé on this list, rather than a simple passing mention..
thanks for sharing though!

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I like him.
And I really liked how he potrayed his character in Heirs. It's actually one of the interesting things that I remember about this show.

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Another spotlight, another oppa.

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I'm completely baffled why Tunnel is too scary to watch. There is absolutely nothing scary about it. It's no different then any other crime drama except he is from the past. I personally liked Signal better, Signal was amazing though, but Tunnel was still really good.

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Good acting + AMAZING voice! I'm a fan!

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