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[Actor Spotlight] Lee Jong-seok

This week our spotlight article features Lee Jong-seok, whose new drama Romance Is a Bonus Book just started its run on tvN. Born in 1989 in Suwon, South Korea, Lee Jong-seok started his career as a runway model. He debuted in 2005 and set a record as the youngest model to participate in Seoul Fashion Week (he was around 15 at the time!). Like many popular actors today, Lee Jong-seok transitioned from modeling to acting, and he is arguably one of the most successful examples of a model-actor from his generation of actors.

Lee Jong-seok’s acting debut came in 2010 with a supporting role in Prosecutor Princess. Each of his subsequent roles brought him more attention, with School 2013 generally being recognized as the drama that made him a household name. Whether it’s excellent management, a sixth sense for choosing scripts, or just because the camera loves him, Lee Jong-seok brings a little magic to each of his dramas. He will be missed while he’s serving in the military — but at least we have a lovely drama to enjoy before he’s off!

Here are some favorite dramaland moments from Lee Jong-seok, followed by his full filmography.

 
I Hear Your Voice (2013)

This drama is one of those Top Ten dramas that I think most everyone enjoyed, if not flat-out adored. Lee Jong-seok played the young hero who found himself able to hear other people’s thoughts after a tragic event in his past. As often occurs in dramaland, the past and the present collide, and when Lee Jong-seok re-met the girl (played by Lee Bo-young) who helped him in the past, she had become a jaded lawyer — nothing like the girl he remembered from his childhood. I Hear Your Voice was successful for a lot of reasons, but one was because it was able to bring so many elements from different genres together in a way that was compelling, fun, and fresh. It was part revenge melo, part courtroom drama, part thriller, part noona romance — and suffice it to say it holds a special place in drama history.

 
W – Two Worlds (2016)

I know everyone is a little burnt on Song Jae-jung penned dramas right now, but we can’t talk about Lee Jong-seok without featuring W. Erase the last 15 minutes and you have so much fantastic, inventive, and fourth-wall-breaking storytelling going on! Lee Jong-seok starred as the beloved manhwa character, and Han Hyo-joo starred opposite him as the daughter of the manhwa artist who created Lee Jong-seok’s character. When Han Hyo-joo’s character found herself suddenly transported to the fictional manhwa world, chaos ensued. Realities overlapped, rules of the space/time dimension were broken, and I’m not really sure how it all made sense, but the concept and the acting and the characters were so strong that it didn’t much matter. For me, this drama is a testament to the fact that vivid, relatable, and authentic characters have the power to pull the audience along for any crazy kind of ride.

 
Romance Is a Bonus Book (2019)

Lee Jong-seok is back right before his mandatory military service with a delightful little rom-com that also stars Lee Na-young in her return to dramaland after many years. With Lee Jong-seok in the lead, a noona down on her luck, and the backdrop of the copywriting, publishing, and editorial world, I was already sold on this drama before it even premiered. At the time of writing this I’ve just watched the premiere episode hot off the presses and: rejoice! Contrary to what I expected, the lead couple already knows each other from the first moment the drama starts. This means no secret childhood connections to uncover. It also means that the drama gets to do all sorts of fun things with their already existing relationship which is not only so much more interesting, but already happening, even in the first episode. Onward!

 
Lee Jong-seok’s full filmography:

  • Prosecutor Princess (2010) [Drama]
    I forgot Lee Jong-seok had a side role in this! Kim So-yeon plays the beyond spoiled and ditzy prosecutor opposite Park Shi-hoo. I didn’t get very far into this drama, but Kim So-yeon was great in a Legally Blonde kind of way.

  • Secret Garden (2010) [Drama]
    I forgot Lee Jong-seok had a side role in this, part two! Huge bodyswap rom-com hit for Ha Ji-won and Hyun Bin that’s quickly become a classic.

  • Ghost (2010) [Film]
    Lee Jong-seok made his film debut in this thriller/horror omnibus film.

  • High Kick 3 (2011) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok has a supporting role in this popular sitcom series. The subtitle for this season was Revenge of the Short Legged, which pretty much says it all.

  • My Prettiest Moments (2012) [Drama]
    One-episode drama special involving Lee Jong-seok falling in love with the terminally ill Jeon Ye-seo. I can’t. Too sad.

  • As One (2012) [Film]
    Ha Ji-won and Bae Doo-na star in this movie about Korea’s first unified sports team in a 1991 championship.

  • R2B: Return to Base (2012) [Film]
    Aviation + action film loosely based off Top Gun starring Rain, Shin Se-kyung, Lee Hana, and Lee Jong-seok in a supporting role.

  • School 2013 (2012) [Drama]
    The drama that put both Lee Jong-seok and Kim Woo-bin on the acting map. I love the School series but as painful as it is to admit, haven’t seen this one yet. But I can appreciate it from afar, right?

  • The Face Reader (2013) [Film]
    Tale of a famous Joseon-era face reader and his son, rife with court rivalries, politics, and power struggles.

  • No Breathing (2013) [Film]
    A sports film about two young swimming prodigies — one Seo In-gook, the other Lee Jong-seok. The clashing, the competing, the bonding! If only I liked swimming.

  • I Hear Your Voice (2013) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok can hear your voice, and Lee Bo-young will prosecute you (see above).

  • Potato Star 2013QR3 (2013) [Drama/Cameo]
    Lee Jong-seok cameos in this quirky pseudo-apocalyptic drama starring Ha Yeon-soo and Yeo Jin-goo about a mysterious asteroid crashing on Earth. Like many K-dramas, it’s much better than it sounds.

  • Doctor Stranger (2014) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok, Kang So-ra, Jin Se-yeon, and Park Hae-jin star in this medical drama with complicated backstory that was a bit of a disaster. Just a bit.

  • Hot Young Bloods (2014) [Film]
    Tale of high school love and rivalry starring an iljin Park Bo-young as the girl with a secret crush on Lee Jong-seok, the school Casanova.

  • Pinocchio (2014) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok brings his magic wherever he goes, and just lights up dramas. It doesn’t matter who else stars in it, it will always be a Lee Jong-seok drama. In Pinocchio, Lee Jong-seok stars with Park Shin-hye as pseudo-family and rookie reporters chasing down the truth behind their convoluted (and connected) pasts.

  • W — Two Worlds (2016) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok lends his best charisma to the larger-than-life role of a manhwa hero, and it works (see above).

  • Gogh, The Starry Night (2016) [Web Drama/Cameo]
    Short Chinese/Korean web drama starring Kwon Yuri as the heroine working for a boss with a temper, played by Kim Young-gwang. This one totally escaped my radar. And now it just slid into my weekend plans. Four episodes chock full of amazing cameos!

  • Seven First Kisses (2016) [Web Drama]
    We don’t usually add web dramas here but I can’t not mention this walking Lotte ad because it was through-and-through ridiculous (as in fun). Each mini segment features the heroine in a vignette with a famous actor — Ji Chang-wook in the action/spy vignette, EXO’s Kai as the singer with crush on his noona tutor, and Lee Jong-seok as the blindingly charming celebrity who will melt you into a puddle. All these heroes (and more) almost kiss the heroine. And then she wakes up. The end. Now, go shop at Lotte!

  • Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo (2016) [Drama]
    Fantastic meta-filled cameo in a total sweetheart of a drama starring Lee Sung-kyung and Nam Joo-hyuk.

  • While You Were Sleeping (2017) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok and Suzy star in this drama about a heroine who has premonitions, and a prosecutor who tries to help. I enjoyed this drama through and through. Probably more than I should have.

  • VIP (2017) [Film]
    Jang Dong-gun and others chase after North Korean serial murder suspect Lee Jong-seok.

  • The Hymn of Death (2018) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok and Shin Hye-sun star in this tragic romance mini-drama that flew under the radar late last year.

  • Romance Is a Bonus Book (2019) [Drama]
    Lee Jong-seok + noona romance + books = sign me up to live watch this (see above).

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Oppaaaaa (~ ̄³ ̄)~

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LOL

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Err... Lee Jong-seok CAN hear Lee Bo-young's thoughts.
I would know, I've watched that drama a hundred times. 😂

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There are a few other things wrong with the description of the drama, actually. Sorry!

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Ooh he definitely heard them, to her horror 😂😂
I still love the part when he jumps out the ambulance with a broken leg looking for her

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Yes I love that scene and when they lay in the hospital bed together.

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It was so sweet.

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@missvictrix @frabbycrabsis
IHYV: Yes, Lee Bo Young's character was both aghast and at tiimes chill with LJS's character able to read her thoughts when he looked into her eyes.

I liked the time in the police station where she told him telepathically to call her 'noona' so that the police would not be suspicious and would let them go, and accept them living in her home. He very reluctantly called her 'noona'.

And the time she was embarrassed that he could tell what hots she had for him, so she wore the face shield to block out both the sun and her eyes, even indoors. LOL.

The only time he could not read her mind (or anyone else's for a while) was when he lost his memory.

If I remember this much, it means I really loved this show!!!

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Ahh, sorry Beanies! Clearly no one else has seen the MissVictrix edit of ICHYV... apparently it exists only in my head!

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To be fair, I'd like to see that version! 😂

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Thanks for the edited version @missvictrix!! 😄

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Apparently, weird bouts of drama-amnesia are contagious after spending too many years in dramaland. Watch out everyone!

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Is that... Twilight? XD

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Oh my God, it is! 😂

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Although he appeared in Secret Garden first, I saw him for the first time in High Kick 3. I remember him riding his scooter, with freshly-baked cookies for Kim Ji-won because he kind of had a thing for her.

Eventually I got to Secret Garden and watched what became classic scenes between Lee Jong-seok's character and Oska.

He's been keeping us watching with several interesting characters.

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LJS will always have a special place in my heart. He brought me back to kdramas.

I remember being turned off by his looks whenever I saw glimpses of him in other places (variety shows, mentions, snippets of his scenes in films and dramas), and then the W trailers came around and suddenly I saw the light. He has so much onscreen charisma that nothing else matters. I backtracked and it was IHYV that clinched the deal. LJS to me is an actor with an x-factor that made me double-check my standards.

He has many more acting challenges ahead of him, as well as a 2-year hiatus while he serves in the army, and I wish him much success in his endeavors.

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True confession: We all know LJS has a boyish face and long legs (showed off so well by his suits in While You Were Sleeping). But I have never seen him in a drama that played him up as a strong or athletic man. So when I saw the shower scene in Romance Is a Bonus Book, I was so taken aback: "What? LJS has muscles???!!" At first, I thought it must be the second lead. Hee, hee.

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His movie no breathing and While You Were Sleeping showed his muscle..... But I prefer to look him at turtleneck and suit.... Lol

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@cabanaalbana Me too!! He makes the most casual clothes look great!

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He may seem thin, but a very lean, strong body is hidden beneath all the turtlenecks ;)

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@lindag Latebloomer, how did I miss that? There was a LJS shower scene in RBB? Where?

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Episode 2, he was listening to some kind of podcast or news story and possibly thinking about what to do with Dan-yi noona's newly realized dilemma. The camera barely shows skin, it's basically just the shoulders and arms. Sadly doesn't do justice to how much he works out.

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Thanks @sukstan Suk! I see that I did not miss much!! 😆

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He does shower scenes in most of his dramas.

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He did kickbox or something like that in W.

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And here, I watched all of his drama and movie. Sad, I can't finish W, I skipped from ep 10 to 16.
He has charm that I can believe everything he said and how can his smile be that magical?????

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My ultimate, my one and only, I was waiting for your spotlight! I absolutely adore Lee Jong-seok. His existence has given me strength through all different stages of life and has given me so much joy, excitement, and fangirl giddiness. His visuals are to die for, his charm both on and off screen is so admirable. I gush about him to anyone who will listen, and my friends are no longer able to disassociate me from my ultimate oppa and nickname for him (suk!). I really hope the absolute best for him, and his success is so well deserved! I'll miss him terribly when he's gone, but I wish to support him for a very long time. Jong-suk oppa I love you hehe 💖💖

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Loved Lee Jong-seok in School 2013 and never stopped afterwards. I'm planning to watch his movies No Breathing and VIP. And most probably binge watch While You Were Sleeping Later.

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First saw him in Pinocchio..... the rest is history 😍😍

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Oooppss,, now that I'm reading his list of dramas, I apparently saw him before Pinocchio!!! He was in Prosecutor Princess???? 😱😱 Which guy? Prosecutor Princess is one of my favourites!

And oh dear, he was apparently in Secret Garden too?😣😣

Anywaysss my favourite scene of him will always be that moment in Pinocchio when he was in the boardroom with the rest of the applicants and In Ha. He got too emotional seeing his dad again in the news and ended up raising his voice at In Ha as he defended his argument. Like man, that was such a great, intense scene. I liked him since then. I haven't checked out his new drama tho.

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KeeAhhhhh *embraces post* my ❤❤❤❤ your finally here! ❤❤❤

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Goon grief, hopefully, I can finish this drama with him. I’ve tried 3 dramas. Wish me luck. Starting RIABB this week.

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@ally-le What was the difficulty that you had watching his dramas? Were they the "problematic" ones? 😆

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RBB is turning out to be surprisingly very thoughtful both in depicting the struggles of a single mom returning to the workforce and the dynamics of the publishing industry. I think you'll enjoy it, but even if you don't, I encourage you to stick around just for LJS because he's definitely worth it. His visuals are truly at a peak.

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Flirt With A Rock Club President.
(Hey he was my first introduction to dramas! aren't I lucky)

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Once upon a time, I really enjoyed his acting and loved his drama. I still think he’s a great actor. Probably my taste for drama has evolved and his works after W didn’t wow me like it used to. He still holds one of my favorite drama: Pinocchio.

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I saw him in Secret garden and School 2013 but I hear your voice is the drama that officially made me Lee Jong-seok ‘s fan. I hadn’t planned on watching it but after the first couple of weeks the reviews were so great that I gave it a try. He really impressed me with his on screen presence.
I would have never thought he was my type but his charisma is undeniable and he has amazing chemistry with all of his costars. Also his CeCe photoshoots are super hot. He was born for the camera. He consistently picks good dramas (Dr. Stranger never happened!) I’m going to miss him but I’m glad he has so many works that I can watch again and I need to catch up on his movies. I enjoy being his fan. Some actors you have to watch a lot of bad dramas but to see them but LJS’s dramas are a joy to watch. I adore him.

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Small correction: in I hear your voice he could read Lee Bo young's thought all the time, except when the amnesia episodes. She was not an exception although she wished she were. 😂

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Also, she was not a prosecutor. 😂😂😂

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Oh Lee Jong-seok Lee Jong-seok Lee Jong-seok...I know I sound too much of a fangirl but I can say his name for umpteenth times and still find his existence magical. I've known him since his High Kick days and always thought of him as a graceful and endearing presence among the K-actors that I watch. There's something magnetic about him that elevates his flaws and makes them charms instead. Even though I must say that it was his earlier, more passionate/powerful performances at the beginning of his it-boy career that won me over, I believe there are good things coming out of his more measured, cooled-off acting in recent works--hopefully it's him morphing into maturity. Let's see if breaking from acting for awhile will make him anew as an actor with even more desire to act, but I wish him the best.

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It's been interesting to see how his acting style has changed as he's matured in the industry. His dialogue is definitely carried out in a calmer manner, but his expressions are much more nuanced. Also, the difference between his performances in movies and dramas is actually pretty big. In movies, he allows himself to explore roles that are outside of tall, handsome oppa (or dongsaeng because noona killer!). But tall, handsome oppa will always be him at his best.

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Yeah I can tell he's toned down his expressions a lot compared to when he was still a fresh face in the industry. He's said before that after being an actor for a while he's started to get used to routine acting, which means more habit and less immersion, but I suppose that also gives him a consistent persona/LJS brand across his filmography. Agree about his movies showing more risk-taking and diversity. I would love to see him taking on more Chungmuro works after his discharge because personally I can see him going above and beyond the tall, handsome oppa we've already seen countless of times and excelling at that. Speaking of discharge let's all cry together as we're about to have to say adieu to the man-boy-puppy we all love.

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After a while, really deep immersion for every character played would become draining, and routine acting is not all bad. LJS brings his special charisma and charm to every role, and it always fits very well. His performance in VIP was jarring and very different, I enjoyed it immensely. Speaking of his discharge immediately makes me want to crawl into a hole :(

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He's one of my all-time fave actors! First saw him in Secret Garden and really enjoyed his small but memorable role with Oska. I actually did not recognise him at first sight when he appeared in School 2013 and had to go looking cos he looked so darn familiar.

Been loving his dramas ever since (except Dr Stranger - could not finish it) and particularly enjoyed W (minus the end). He's got a magical presence/charisma and just lights up the screen when he shows up.

P.S. Only LJS could make that horrible horrible Dal-po wig look semi-decent.

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I was watching episode 3 of Romance Is a Bonus Book yesterday and this guy has amazing chemistry with all of his co-stars (males and females alike)!!!

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At least try to get your review right. Yes he could hear her thoughts in the drama, I can hear your voice. Is anything else incorrect in your article?

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oh mY GOD PLEASE WATCH SCHOOL 2013 NOWwWWwwW

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i love him! his charisma goes thru any roof he is under. its gonna be a long 2 years in dramaland without that smile. its ok. send him off with Onew and Key and have a big reunion when they all get back!

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I'm so sad that beanies didn't make a recap for The Hymn of Death because that drama is so good! You don't need to ask about the acting if the actor and actress are Lee Jong-seok and Shin Hye-sun. I wish they make the episodes longer and not just 6 episodes for half hour each!

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Thanks for mentioning The Hymn of Death @parksooha13 SooHa. I went to watch the first 2 episodes and was quite moved. The music is wonderful.

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I completed this tragedy and was both devastated and elevated by it! Thanks again!

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I really enjoyed that mini series.

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I loved him in W but I could not manage to finish While you were sleeping as I could not see any chemistry between the leads (suzy is a big ? in my book). Romance Is a Bonus Book is a very nice surprise. I watched all 4 episodes and I love the chemistry and the plot. LJS gives off W vibes in this one. I am so happy that we finally got a nice rom com with him before his mandatory military service.

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Agree with others that he's very charming. He's definitely not my type with that baby face, but he conveys so much warmth when he's onscreen...I always end up thinking that I'd want to go on a date with him and get a taste of that sweetness. 😊
I've liked most of his dramas and the chemistry with his co-stars is always good. Those kisses in W and Pinocchio made my heart flutter.
Too bad that he's going to the military service soon. I'll miss him, 2years is a long time!

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Honestly currently one of my favourite K-drama actors. He elevates everything he's in, and he is one of those actors that manages to bring out the best in their co-stars. His charisma is off the charts, and I don't just mean his physical beauty. That's easy to come by in dramaland (or in Hollywood). What's not so easy to come by is raw charisma, or the ability to immediately capture the viewer's attention and hold it, even if the script/scene is absolute trash.

Luckily, most of the things he's been in have been decent to really excellent. I hope he'll do many more awesome dramas after his return from the army!

(Oh and it helps that he's one of those K-drama actors that seem to be really awesome at on-screen kissing....that's rare.)

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My favorite actor! A friend convinced me to watch W because of the plot (which was amazing and made me realize that kdramas are not only about sappy or tragic love stories anymore), and I ended up in awe of the actor that is Lee Jong Suk.

I ended up watching almost everything he acted on, including movies and discovered he was in Secret Garden! (I remember thinking the supporting actor that played a gay guy was good! Imagine my surprise when I found out it was LJS! I actually noticed him waaaay before.)

Many like him for his looks, but I think many people really like him for his acting. His looks is just a bonus. He really looks his "most gorgeous" and "most heart-fluttering" when he is acting. You have to watch him in a drama to be caught by the LJS bug.

But I think what is most admirable about LJS (after reading loads of articles and watching lots of interviews and specials about him) is at a young age, he set out and worked hard (and is still working hard) to try to be the best. Working hard for him is not just making a lot of dramas or movies, he actually spends time to really learn more about his craft. Judging from what co-stars and PDs say about him, he looks to his seniors for advice and seems to be his worst critic.

"Romance is a Bonus Book" is his first rom-com. At first I was thinking "what's the big deal? Most of his dramas had romantic plots anyway." Then during the presscon for this drama, he said he found it a bit difficult to film 16 episodes that is all about human interactions. And I realized... he's right! There's no courtroom scenes (WYWS) , no confrontations with bad guys (ICHYV, W).
He also said his past roles were developing characters, and this one (Cha Eun Ho) is already complete. Again, seeing the first 4 eps, I'm thinking he's right again. Didn't expect such insights from an actor. But then again, I don't really check out presscons of other dramas. 😂

This is already a long post ☺️ sorry! I'll end it by saying, I think he is the real deal. I hope he'll continue to surprise us and am looking forward to his new roles especially after fulfilling his military duties.

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I just watched a heartrending tragedy, Hymn of Death with LJS and Shin Hye Sun as the leads and was blown away by it. I read somewhere that LJS chose the role here even without guarantee that he would be paid.

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Yes that's true. Though I think "no guarantee" actually meant "no pay". He wanted to support short dramas (he appeared in one early in his career) and he worked with the PD in WYWS. I guess he's doing it with "no guarantee" meant more budget for the production itself. :)

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*All these heroes (and more) almost kiss the heroine. And then she wakes up. The end. Now, go shop at Lotte!*

I laughed so much

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Love him, love his dramas, love, love, love! So glad he exists in this world and I can watch him on the screen.

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How did I miss this? Heeh. Probably busy gif-ing RIABB scenes!

Thank you for this spot dedicated to Lee Jong Suk. Makes me want to re-watch his dramas while waiting for RIABB updates. Most of what I wanted to say have been said by other beanies bUUUUT of course, there's no harm in saying them again! I love, love how he carries himself in every drama he stars in. His charisma seriously knows no bound! And you're absolutely right, the camera just loves him... def. LJS-biased. His expressions just make you want to react with him... mirror whatever he's feeling. It also doesn't hurt that he's tall, has a lean built and knows how to work a room! Ahhh, seriously gonna miss him after RIABB ;A;

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