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[Scene stealers] The traitor at the heart of the forest

By gadis

For years, the words “scene stealer” used to mean memorable comic relief characters to me. That is, until around 2 years ago when a certain drama called Forest of Secrets took dramaland by storm and almost single-handedly redefined the meaning of a good drama. It’s there that I met Section Chief Yoon, a villain so unlike any other I’d seen before. He was a bad guy that stirred in me both genuine sympathy and anger for what he chose to do. It was the first time I felt such a real sting of betrayal from a fictional character, yet that didn’t stop my heart from breaking over his tragic life story. It amazed me that a secondary character like him could loom so large in my mind. By the time the credits started rolling, I was left winded from trying to make sense of my all-over-the-place emotions.

It can’t be easy to stand out in a drama full of strong, nuanced performances. And yet, Lee Kyu-hyung, who was a relatively unknown actor in dramaland at that time, managed to do that with his subtle performance. He didn’t come sweeping in with a flashy performance to instantly capture our attention. Instead, he appeared as a perfectly ordinary civil servant: well-liked, unremarkable, hardworking, and a strict prosecutor. From early on, we saw him digging around our hero Shi-mok’s past for his boss, which in hindsight should have raised alarm about his character. But ironically, the fact that he had clear orders to snoop and was quick to acknowledge and apologize for that were the very things that won the my trust. In a drama where almost everyone was a suspect, the viewers could at least count on Yoon to be trustworthy.

Yoon remained a steadfast presence throughout the series. He was the quiet and dependable team member who was always ready to help even though he mostly kept to himself. He was almost invisible in his ordinariness so it was easy to both trust and mark him as unimportant. I remember how much it always surprised me when the show threw in unexpected tidbits about him as the drama went on. The way Yoon kept himself apart from others suddenly made sense when someone shared the story about his son’s tragic death and his subsequent divorce. His exceptional martial skills didn’t appear out-of-place anymore once you knew he’d served in special forces. I even remember how odd it was to see him laughing for the first time halfway through the series, and suddenly it dawned on me how rigidly he usually held himself.

In retrospect, it’s almost funny how every revelation that should have been alarming instead humanized and turned him into a real, flawed, and deeply hurt person. I was lulled into a false sense of security by his affable nature — and blinded by my sympathy for him. Even when the storm hit at the end of episode 12, I couldn’t help but desperately hope that Yoon was still the same good guy I’d come to know (I liked him, dangit!). It came to the point where I was angry at myself for letting him play with my trust. But the moment he brokenly recounted his story, his anguish was mine, regardless of what I thought about his twisted revenge and misguided sense of justice.

Maybe it’s no wonder then that even the littlest things Yoon did or said by the finale episode were able spark flames of hope in me. His confession meant his moral character was still salvageable. His abject apology to the victim’s son represented genuine remorse for what he did. I couldn’t help but believe that our heroine Yeo-jin’s words at the close of the drama reminded him that there was another way to deal with his grief and sorrow. With the news of a possible second season, I’m going to keep on hoping that the drama will grant us a glimpse of Yoon finding a better and healthier way to live his (hopefully, not-so-lonely) life.

 
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Thank you SO MUCH for this piece of writing! I so wished to read about this character, but I realized that that actor was my scene stealer in my last three favorite dramas: Forest of Secret, Prison Playbook and Life. Everytime a small part made absolutly memorable by the warmth and the ability of this actor. I hope to see the scene stealer steal my heart as the main character of a drama one day!

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His performance is always top notch and he kept picking unusual characters to play, which probably explain how easily he becomes one of my favorite actor.
I also hope he'll play as drama lead soon, though he seems to be having a blast in musical atm.

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Yesss, he most definitely was a scene-stealer in Wise Prison Life too!
Loved his character

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OOOOHH!!! I just rewatched forest of secret randomly yesterday and I remember joking like "lmao what if Chief Yoon is the bad guy hahaha" THEN IT HAPPENED I WAS SO PISSED OFF (in a very good way, kudos amazing writer). What's worse was the red herring that he might kill Eunsoo which is like worst betrayal ever

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Yoon! Breaks my heart again, why don't you. You're so on point about the built up of his ordinariness that the weight and impact of the revelations toward the end just whoopered us over. The interrogation scenes floored me, lots of tears were shed for both Yoon and Shi-mok. I definitely think that his moral character is salvagable, as you said, especially seeing how he couldn't pull off the final blow at Yeo-jin. That scene settles it for me before his confession and apology. He's a good guy that's led astray by grief. Thanks so much for writing about Yoon and Lee Kyung Hyun! Forest of Secret was my first kdrama after quiet a few years, and I remember thinking why I had stopped watching to miss out on this wonderful actor. (it was also the first time I ever seen JSW in anything. I missed out on so much.)

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Thank you for this!! Lee Kyu Hyung is such an amazing actor, I loved him in Forest of Secrets and Life! (I so need to watch Prison Playbook.) He's so underrated and deserves so much more recognition for his work.

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Very well written!! You make me miss Forest of Secrets all over again

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Thank you @gadis for this lovely analysis! LKH is definitely one of many reasons why Forest of Secrets was fabulous. It was a standout performance in a drama over-packed with so many!

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Scene stealers were never ever the comic relief characters for me. They have always been the quiet but piercing ones. The ones that make me go immediately to their profile page and wonder how on earth they have had so few roles or so many inconsequent ones.

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YASSSS @gadis. I loved his character and how 3 dimensional the script made him. The acting was phenomenal and I was a betrayed mess at the end of it. definitely a scene stealer!

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Also I’ll never forget the adorable look of his when Hwang Si Mok didn’t eat his bread 😂

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Omg I love him in Secret of Forest too. That's when I fall for him. I want to watch prison playbook just for him and Jung Kyung Ho. What a weird coincidence. Hahaha

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You should definitely watch Prison Playbook! This actor plays a gay druggie trying to get over his addiction in prison, and he's delightful in the drama.

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Ok. I just found out now, he was the one in Life playing the younger brother and also he was in Prison Playbook as the drug maniac (Han yang). My god. How could i have not noticed him until today. What an great actor he is. Three very different characters came from that same face. Wow.
He was truly a scene stealer in all 3 dramas.

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i had a facepalm moment, how could i have not realised him as the same guy In both FOS & Prison playbook (havent watched life)

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This just makes me want to watch Forest of Secrets so much more. It's been on my list for so long, but not at the top of it. I heard it's really good, and I adored this actor in Prison Playbook! Placing FOS on top of the to watch list now! The question is when will I ever get to it.

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Wow. I teared up just reading this. Lee Kyuhyung has a way of making a seemingly easy to forget character stand out. It blew my mind when his tattoo got revealed and I just couldn't believe it. Wow, was I played. That first photo is one of the best shots I've seen in a drama. The way that was shot was just amazing in all levels!

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Thanks for an intriguing essay, @gadis. I haven't seen FOREST OF SECRETS, but after reading your article, it sounds like a show I would enjoy. And Lee Kyu-hyung sounds like my kind of actor. ;-)

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You would LOVE FOS! Wait, a drama I’ve seen but you haven’t? *writes down the date for posterity*

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LOL, @ally-le. Amazingly enough, I can't watch every show that comes down the pike. I passed on FOREST OF SECRETS and before it, CHICAGO TYPEWRITER, both of which were showered with praise here on DramaBeans. So many dramas, so little time. ;-)

When FOREST OF SECRETS aired, I was already live-watching LOOKOUT, DUEL, CIRCLE, SEVEN DAY QUEEN, BEST HIT, RULER: MASTER OF THE MASK, MY SASSY GIRL, and MAN TO MAN. Or recovering from having watched them. ;-)

I just took a gander at AsianWiki, and FOS has a heavy hitting cast. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks for endorsing it. ;-)

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For the record, I didn’t watch FOS until early this year, because I was drowning in kdramas at the time as well!

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Hi @pakalanapikake and let me jump on the bandwagon here. FOS was my No. 1 drama of 2017 followed by DEFENDANT.
Comparing my 2017 viewing with your list in your second paragraph we have DUEL and MASTER OF THE MASK in common. I was also watching CHICAGO TYPEWRITER, SUSPICIOUS PARTNER and FOREST OF SECRETS. FOS had a fantastic OST. For those who haven't heard or want to go down memory lane, here is a little taste of FOS's OST:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCZb24j2Szo

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Thanks for your recommendation, @marcusnyc20 Bong-soo. There's a lot of overlap in our drama and actor likes, more so than the above list would indicate.

CHICAGO TYPEWRITER (which always makes me think of the Prohibition-era Thompson submachine gun to which it refers) has been on my to-watch list for a while. I've read the raves over it in Beanie comments. Yoo Ah-in is a fave.

Thanks for that link to the FOS OST. What a majestically-thrilling piece of music. It starts out sounding almost gamelan-like. I dig the synthesizers/strings.

One of my fave OSTs of 2018: Cdrama GUARDIAN 《镇魂》Main Theme "We Won't Be Falling" by Chen Xue Ran.

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The soundtrack is AMAZING!! I’ve had a lot of the songs as well as the BMG on repeat for over a year now!

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You should. That cast is ridiculous and everyone was on their A-game in it.

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Thanks, @larelle79!

You're right. What a cast! ;-)

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He reminds me Jo Jung Seok ! The both are musical actors and they tend to be scenes stealer when they are in a drama :)

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@kurama,

That's very interesting about Lee Kyu-hyung's being a musical actor, and reminiscent of Jo Jung-seok to boot. Cho Seung-woo is a musical actor, too. I've gotten the impression that stage actors in general bring a different kind of presence to film and TV drama performances. ;-)

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Surprised you didn't watch FOS >.< Every bit of this drama was awesome!

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What a sweet homage to “oppa!” Well written and if ever there was a reveal in a kdrama that came out of left field, this would be it. I was stunned but he sold his character and I really didn’t blame him in the end. But him in Prison Playbook was what killed me. I rooted so hard for his character, openly homosexual, a slave to his addiction, ultimately losing his battle and his love all in one scene. I was torn to pieces by that, and I’m still not over it even now.

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Trust @gadis for writing an ode to brilliant actor Lee Kyu-Hyung <3<3<3

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^^
Now I just need to find another excuse to write about Hanyang and mention Lee Kyu-hyung's first drama appearance in Hwarang to complete it. 😜

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I guess I shouldn’t give in and watch Forest of Secrets now? 😃😃😃 Great wring gadis!!!

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He's character is so heartbreaking!

Just watched LKH in "Lifebar" and he shared the stories behindthis character. I was so surprised that him being the villain was kept in secret other actors/actresses didn't know about it, including Jo Seung-woo. One day they had to shoot the scenes where he did the killings, and the crews had to cover him because other actors were there. It's small thing but interesting how the movie production kept the villain a secret.

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I'm not really surprised when he finally caught as the killer in ep. 12 because I managed to put the pieces together somewhere from ep. 10. However it wasn't easy to swallow the fact that he did killed a person to seek justice for his lost, and when it finally shoved to my face I have to admit that the blow still hurt.

I hope we'll get to see him in second season. I can't wait for it to materialized because currently airing drama did not really satisfy my craving for awesomely written drama like Secret Forest.

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@gadis You're making me want to rewatch this and I just did a few months ago.

Just remembering the scenes when he recounted his story breaks my heart. TT__TT And thank you for another awesome piece on Oppa >.<

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All the FoS feels just came flooding back! You've explained why FoS's character writing was one of the best in dramaland. I also like Chief Yoon. When everyone else seems suspicious and questionable, I feel like at least I can trust him, the quiet and stoic one who just happens to slowly open up a little more at a time. This makes the twist all the more impactful.

The betrayal and shock we all felt when the murderer was finally revealed, was mixed with sympathy from his back story. It's a strange feeling but that's how a great villain was made. Lee Kyu-hyung's acting in the interrogation room with Jo Seung-woo was one of the highlights of the series. This performance was the one that put him in the map and I'm glad he followed it with more consecutive memorable performances.

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Thank you for this excellent ode to one of my all time faves drama characters. Actually almost all my all time faves live (or not atm) in SF univers. Well not all of them, but so many.. And Yoon really succeeded in breaking my heart a little. Bt I'm totally ready for more Lee Kyu Hyung/Yoon, my Kleenex rainy day stocks is enormous. So waiting and ready for season 2.

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I saw the header picture of Lee Kyu-hyung and thought maybe @gadis is the writer and lo and behold! Hehe

I had such a huge crush on him as Chief Yoon and was also broken-hearted when he was revealed to be the bad-guy. Lee Kyu-hyung really made me sit up and take notice the way he played the character and I immediately memorized his name as someone to watch for.

He then went and stole my heart in Prison Playbook ♥ I love how versatile he can be, playing all sorts of characters to great effect. Really really talented, and with a great voice too!

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I'm both embarrassed and proud that people know of my huge crush on Lee Kyu-hyung. 😶
Thank you for reading, @jaderjy.

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Oh don't be embarrassed! I really enjoy the video clips of his musicals that you share. And we should all be proud of our oppas! 😍

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What an awesome post! I LOVE Forest of Secrets. It is one of the best shows that I’ve ever seen. Your analysis of Chief Yoon is spot-on. I didn’t even realize how much I had come to trust him while being suspicious of everyone else till I read your analysis. It was a wonderful performance. His interactions with Yeo-Jin and Shi-Mok crackled with chemistry. I’m patiently and nervously waiting for season 2.
I haven’t yet watched Prison Playbook or Life yet. I have a hard time letting go of the characters that I love and both these dramas have actors who portrayed the amazing characters (Jo Seung-Wo in Life and Jung Kyung-Ho Prison Playbook) but you have peaked my interest in Lee Kyung-Hyung’s performance. I’ll have to check it out soon.

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Yesss!! All of Forest of Secrets was so brilliant. But he did such a good job. And he was such a scene stealer in Playbook Prison!! Looney was amazing!!

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