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[Actor Spotlight] Lee Min-ki

Lee Min-ki

Next in our profile series is Lee Min-ki, star of the currently airing romance drama Beauty Inside. Born in 1985 in Gimhae, South Korea, he made his debut in 2005. Like many, he got his start on daily and weekend dramas, but soon after disappeared from dramaland and focused on films. He spent a good ten years of his career working steadily in the film industry (not counting occasional wonderful guest and cameo appearances in dramas). There were some high-grossing and popular films like Haeundae, Very Ordinary Couple, and Chilling Romance, along with some darker, more avant-garde films.

Lee Min-ki is interesting as a leading man — he’s neither a flower boy nor the boy next door, nor a typical action star. He doesn’t have the warm, boyish onscreen presence we are so used to expecting from of our drama stars. He’s a bit rough, edgy, and unpredictable, and he brings an interesting energy to the screen. After serving his mandatory military service, Lee Min-ki made his long-awaited return to dramas in 2017. He has had a prolific career in both Korean dramas and films, but — and I might be a little biased — I always prefer dramaland, so I’ve been excited to see the scripts that have caught his eye.

Here are some highlights and favorites from his drama career, followed by his full filmography.

 

Dal-ja’s Spring (2007)
Dalja's Spring
Dal-ja’s Spring was an early noona romance, a trend that remains popular to this day. The story followed Oh Dal-ja (played by Chae Rim, who’s hard not to love in anything), a single 33-year-old woman with a great apartment, independence, and a successful career, but lacking romance. Through a mix of happenstance and drunken contract writing, a younger guy she barely knew (played by Lee Min-ki) agreed to pose as her boyfriend; the set-up is familiar, but the energy of this drama was great. Lee Min-ki’s character was straightforward, bold, and honest with Dal-ja throughout their relationship as it evolved from fake dating to real attraction to love. Dal-ja’s world was a little sparkly and shallow, and I love the down-to-earth perspective and experience that Lee Min-ki’s character brought to the show — and to Dal-ja herself.

 

Shut Up Flower Boy Band (2012)
Shut Up Flower Boy Band
So much eyeliner, so much angst! I don’t usually like to use words like “crushed,” but there’s no better word here: Lee Min-ki crushed his role as the leader and vocalist of a high school rock band. Technically, this was a guest appearance in the drama, but his character (and overall screen presence) was larger-than-life and charismatic to the point of overshadowing the other actors. Half of this is because Lee Min-ki was brilliant, and the other half was an intentional choice of the show. When his character exited (not a spoiler — this happens in Episode 2), you caught yourself wondering how the story could continue without him, but it was that absence that drove the rest of the plot. The drama then followed the rest of his band mates (played by Sung Joon, L, Lee Hyun-jae, Yoo Min-gyu, and Kim Min-seok) as they came to terms with his loss and navigated high school, rivalries, love, and of course, music. This show was a 10/10 for me. Just writing about it makes me want to rewatch it again!

 

Because This Life Is Our First (2017)
Because This Life
Man, Lee Min-ki plays a great weirdo. His character in Because This Life Is Our First was awkward, anti-social, and just plain odd. He would refuse social events using feeding his cat or taking out the recycling as excuses. His ultra-serious face and deadpan delivery was brilliant, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for the perfect moment to use those reasons myself. Lee acted opposite Jung So-min, a down-on-her-luck writer desperately in need of a place to live, and together they devised a cohabitation plan by way of a contract marriage. With two great actors, a strong script, and a much beloved plot contrivance made new and fresh, it’s no wonder that this show was so popular.

 
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018)
What's Wrong With Secretary Kim
Lee Min-ki’s role in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim was only a cameo, but it was the best kind, because there are cameos, and then there are magical meta cameos — and this was the latter. In a lovely and extended flashback sequence, the audience caught a glimpse of the heroine’s parents and got some backstory. Lee Min-ki played the heroine’s father, Jung So-min played her mother, and drama fans everywhere squealed with delight. It wasn’t exactly is if they were playing their characters from Because This Life Is Our First — but they very well could have been. The flashback sequence followed the family on an impromptu trip to the seashore, and we saw an ordinary but precious day in our heroine’s life. Perhaps because we knew her family would meet with some tragedy later down the road, it packed a more punch, but I also think the beautiful execution and great performances (thanks to their history) made this a wonderful moment in the show.

 

Beauty Inside (2018)

In the currently airing drama Beauty Inside starring Lee Min-ki and Seo Hyun-jin, dramaland tries its hand at a sort-of remake of the 2015 film of the same name. In the film, the lead male character woke up every day in a different body; in the drama version, it’s the female lead who changes bodies. And, because it’s a drama, and dramas are generally safe and happy places with rules that govern the story, she only changes bodies for a short time, soon returning to her Seo Hyun-jin self. That means Lee Min-ki — as the male lead who loves her and recognizes her in all her forms — has a much easier time in the drama than his counterpart in the film. Despite the changes in plot, and the lighter take on a rather complex story, the thought of Lee Min-ki and Seo Hyun-Jin starring together is an exciting one.

 
Lee Min-ki’s full filmography:

  • Be Strong, Geum-Soon! (2005) [Drama]
  • Supporting role in a daily family drama that starred Kang Ji-hwan and Han Hye-jin.

  • Taereung National Village (2005) [Drama]
  • A meditative Olympic-themed sports/romance drama where Lee Min-ki played a judo athlete.

  • I Really, Really Like You (2006) [Drama]
  • Early weekend drama co-starring Eugene about the drama behind the scenes at the Blue House.

  • Dal-ja’s Spring (2007) [Drama]
  • Early noona romance that you can’t not enjoy (see above).

  • A Good Day to Have an Affair (2007) [Film]
  • Bored housewives (namely, Kim Hye-soo) and affairs with younger men, one of whom is Lee Min-ki.

  • Mixed-up Investigative Agency (2007) [Drama]
  • Misfits, a bumbling investigation agency, a treasure map, and a quirky adventure.

  • Humming (2008) [Film/Cameo]
  • Cameo as Lee Chun-hee’s friend in this popular romance movie.

  • Romantic Island (2008) [Film]
  • Couples old and new cross paths in the Philippines in this rom-com.

  • Oishii Man (2009) [Film]
  • Quiet movie about a musician in a crisis who travels to Hokkaido, Japan.

  • Haeundae (2009) [Film]
  • Tsunami disaster movie starring Ha Ji-won that earned Lee Min-ki a Best New Actor Baeksang award.

  • A Million (2009) [Film]
  • A thriller about a Survivor-like TV show that becomes all too real.

  • Quick (2011) [Film]
  • Action film starring Lee Min-ki that’s full of motorcycles, bombs, and a race against the clock.

  • Chilling Romance (2011) [Film]
  • Horror rom-com starring Lee Min-ki and Son Ye-jin as the leads. She sees ghosts, he’s a magician who conjures them, and we can guess where the story goes from there.

  • Very Ordinary Couple (2011) [Film]
  • A thoughtful relationship drama featuring the breakup saga of Lee Min-ki and Kim Min-hee.

  • Shut Up Flower Boy Band (2012) [Drama/Guest Appearance]
  • Pure magic (see above).

  • Monster (2013) [Film]
  • A thriller filled with madness, murder, revenge, and Lee Min-ki trying to kill Kim Go-eun (nooo!).

  • For the Emperor (2014) [Film]
  • Moody noir film starring Lee Min-ki and set in the Busan underbelly.

  • Shoot Me in the Heart (2015) [Film]
  • Lee Min-ki and Yeo Jin-gu run amok in a psychiatric hospital. I can’t even imagine how good these two are together!

  • Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead (2018) [Film]
  • The third Detective K film about Joseon vampires and other occult mysteries.

  • Because This Is Our First Life (2018) [Drama]
  • Delightful and fresh contract marriage drama (see above).

  • What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018) [Drama/Cameo]
  • Awesome meta-rich cameo (see above).

  • Beauty Inside (2018) [Drama]
  • Currently airing drama version of the film from 2015 (see above).

 
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I call him "Face" for no reason other than HIS FACE OMG [such cheekbones, such wow].

Thank you!

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Elle! Well, hello, there! {{waving frantically}}. Good to see you!

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Hello! ^-^

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He has such an otherworldly charm to him. It comes from his eyes and bone structure. A real gorgeous guys

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He has very striking features, and I recognize that he isn't your classic Korean pretty boy and he might not be everyone's type of handsome, but I could stare at his face all day. He's very unique and leaves an impression.

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@mindy Just in time for the wedding!!!!

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I was thinking the same thing. Somebody has been paying attention to our crazy. That's a little chastening actually.

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@mindy, we summon thee! 😂

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His facial profile is just...perfect. It can inner change in each role he takes and looks magnificent no matter what angle he is filmed from. It can lead to a obsession.

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For all our sakes, I shall refrain from writing a lengthy love-letter on here.
But thank the heavens for LMK's existence ( and his soulful eyes and chiseled cheekbones).

Also, I will never get over Byung-hee in SUFBB.

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Still haven't gotten over the shock.

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Thank the heavens for all your posts about him, yuyuu. You the real MVP

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It’s okay I did it for you

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This cannot possibly be a coincidence.

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Or the most amazing coincidence ever!

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My thoughts exactly 😂😂😂 @mindy must be on cloud nine today 😀

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Can't be. It can't be. The DB overlords know all.

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Ooh, is something going on in Lee Min Ki's life? What is the coincidence you mentioned? I wanna know!

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Mindy, one of our beanies, really likes LMK so we held a "wedding" for her and LMK on the fanwall yesterday 😄 It was super fun. It should start around here on the fanwall
http://www.dramabeans.com/fan-posts/?acpage=5

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I apologize for any confusion this whole crazy thing has caused, LOL.

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No need to apologize! It was the most fun we've had on the fanwall since the Island Party during APAD 😄

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First Seo In Guk and now Lee Min Ki! And right in time for the wedding too!
I see a pattern! Hehhehe @missvictrix welcome to @mindy's wedding

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If @missvictrix feature Jung Kyung Ho or Gong Yoo next, that would be just spectacular 😀

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I would love Jung Kyung Ho to be next! <3

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Add me to that list.

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Mee too! Lee Min Ki, Jung Kyung Ho and SIG are just my type of actor - just to name a few.

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I wasn’t really impressed with him until I saw “For the Emperor.” I don’t know what that says about me, but he WAS that movie.

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I was impressed with him in SUFBB (and still have not finished that btw), but the true obsession began when he became Se Hee.

What I saw of For the Emperor, LMK was great (saw a lot of him too....), but the story was just not my cup of tea.

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I saw him first in SUFBB but it’s his portrayal of Nam Se-hee in BTIOFL that made me his fan. ^^

*Sings You Are My Destiny* Just because. Congratulations on his and Mindy’s wedding. <3

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You sure know how to spotlight the best! He might not be the flower boy next door but he's one of the most charming actors around. Especially his adorable smile. My favorite is Because This Life is Our First, but I love almost everything he's been in (except Beauty Inside).

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Lee Min Ki's debut was actually in 2004, with KBS's Drama City, "My Older Brother".

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I really hope there'll be an Actor Spotlight post on Won Bin, though he's done better movies than dramas methinks... But can't he be an exception? I mean, it's Won Bin!! And it's his birthday today (still 10th November where I am atm) so pretty please?

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i am amazed how an actor who has renounced acting ages ago and doesn't even have enough on his portfolio gets people going after all these years when the world is too full of temptations and quality products..

lol.. like i keep telling my cousin, he really should visit South Korea (the guy literally is carbon copy of won bin looks wise)

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Nam Sae-hee!!! 😁🙌🔥

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How apt... 😂😂😂

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I heard about Lee Min Ki way before I actually watched him in anything. I always know actor from the rave reviews about him in Dalja's Spring. Never actually saw the drama because I felt that I missed the bandwagon. The first time I see him in anything is the movie Quick and loved him in SUFBB. I have been following his drama since. Though I think I might catch up on his movies next.

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Contrary to consensus, I didn’t like him so much in Because This Is Our First Life — the role, not him, wasn’t attractive. I DID enjoy him a lot in the movie Shoot Me In The Heart. Skipping Beauty Inside (cuz the actress) but I must say he looks great in the stills. Hope to see him in more dramas in the near future.

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It's a personal thing obviously because I thought that Nam Se-hee was pretty well my perfect man, maybe even more than Dong-ha in Witch's Romance. I wish one existed in real life.

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He’s kinda.... slow?

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Reserved, quiet, introspective maybe. But slow? If you watch closely, he is actually very observant of everyone around him and performs small, yet thoughtful gestures for those close to him.

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Have you seen the way he avoid a bike in episode 8? Neo got nothing on him.

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I didn’t mean physically slow, lol

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@geliguolu, I'm joking😂

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Btw, yes Dong ha is perfect.❤️

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I just watched Because This is our First Life for the 2nd time and understood his character way more than the first time. Though I did like him the first time too. I love Shoot Me in the Heart! It's on Asiancrush right now.

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I’m glad he’s been active in dramaland lately. I’ve seen a few of his past works, but didn’t fall for him until Beauty Inside.
So now I’m like I NEED MOAR LMK PLZ.

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I loved Dal-ja's Spring. It was my first noona love story and it was great! I didn't watch his movies and his role was small in Shut Up FBB, so I was really pleased to see him again in Because This is Our First Life.

I love how his smile light up all his face, it's magic :p

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Well, crushed does describe him in more than one way for SUFBB...

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too soon, jig! TT

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😳🚛

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It's been so long since I've watched Dalja's spring but I remember I didn't like him much initially and didn't think he was that good looking. But, he eventually grew on me as the show went on and found him to be very attractive. I loved him in Shut Up Flower Boy Band and continued to love the show after his character died. So happy the he came back to dramaland in Because This is my First Life. He did a really good job with that character and I like the vulnerability/sensitivity he brought to his character. I don't how we managed to go on without him in dramaland but I'm glad he's back and hope he'll keep finding more projects to do! Really have to check out the Beauty Inside...

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Thank you for featuring Lee Min Ki. I have been following his career since I watched Dal Ja's Spring. And I even sat through I Really, Really Like You and all for the of Lee Min Ki. I'm just grateful that he's back in dramaland. There are only three Korean actors that will make me watch their drama regardless of the plot, Lee Min Ki, Seo In Gook and Jung Kyung Ho. So, I'll be waiting for your feature on Jung Kyung Ho?

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*nods at* Jung Kyung Ho

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I love him so much better in his earlier drama choice then he is right now. Love him Mixed-up Investigative Agency and Dalja's spring. I'm sad I'm not into his two recent project. I would have been very happy his partner with Seo Hyun Jin in different project because I think they would have better chemistry in other better demanding project. Rather than watching him in Movie nowadays when he is fully commit to his char.

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Wow. I don’t know if this is a crazy coincidence or what, but this is awesome, @missvictrix!

I don’t even know what to say because I don’t think my love for this guy is any sort of secret around here. Is there anything for me to say that I haven’t already said before?

I love him.

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Which is why we had a wedding today! 😜

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LOVE LOVE LOVE Lee Min Ki!

congratulations to @mindy on your upcoming nuptials!

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Oh, screw it. I have lots of things to say and I don’t care that I’ve said most if not all of them already before!

I first saw Min-ki in Shut Up: Flower Boy Band a few years ago and was kind of taken aback. I’d heard of him before but had never actually seen him. I was immediately struck by his sheer magnetism. He had this intensity that I don’t think I’d ever seen before, and just as I’m sure the director and writer planned, he made a huge impact in a short amount of time. He really was perfectly cast in that role. They needed someone with a star power that the green newbies leading the show lacked in order for the audience to feel the loss as deeply as the characters did. The gap between him and the rest of the cast in terms of both skill and natural pull was obvious, and I think that was entirely intentional.

A little while later I watched him in Spellbound and had to do a double-take--I had a hard time believing it was the same actor, and not just because of the style differences. Almost everything about how he carried himself and portrayed the character was completely different from his role in SUFBB. When I started Because This Life is Our First last year, I had a similar reaction. I almost couldn’t believe it was the same person.

That, I think, is one of Min-ki’s most obvious and most valuable assets as an actor. I’ve seen him play many roles (although I still have quite a few of his works to go through) and he’s never the same as any two characters. I really believe he is one of Korea’s most versatile actors.

Just like any actor, though, he was very green when he started out. I haven’t seen his very first projects, but I did watch a bit of I Really, Really Like You (I think I will finish it one of these days) and you could tell it was his first real leading role. Nevertheless, he had a natural sort of charm to him, one that was amplified and really put on display in Dal-ja’s Spring. I think his youth and inexperience was still apparent there, but he played Kang Tae-bong with such a natural, easygoing charisma, it was very easy to forgive him of any shortcomings in the role.

I think that Shut Up: Flower Boy Band was really the turning point for him, though, in terms of his acting. He channeled an incredible intensity that I don’t believe he ever had shown before while playing that role, and he was Byung-hee. That same sort of intensity was present in his film roles that followed, in movies like Very Ordinary Couple, Monster, For The Emperor, and Shoot Me in the Heart. But at the same time, they were completely different roles, and he showed a different side of him in each one. He manages to be so compelling and completely immersed into his roles without coming across as over-the-top, even when his characters could easily be caricature-ish and campy given what’s in the script.

As amazing and magnetic as I think he was in those roles, the one...

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As amazing and magnetic as I think he was in those roles, the one that I believe to be his best role yet is Nam Se-hee in Because This Life is Our First. Maybe I’m biased because it’s the role that made me fall in love, but I think he showed such an impressively subtle performance as everyone’s favorite gentle, cat-loving landlord/husband. I truly believe that Nam Se-hee is the best drama hero of all time, and I have already written essays on the character and the show on the recaps when it was airing, so I won’t spend too much time talking about Se-hee’s excellence here. It’s a fact that everyone already knows, anyway. And I can’t imagine anyone but Min-ki playing the role so perfectly.

He was the perfect introvert. He was not robotic, he was just reserved. He made every expression matter, and the restrained way in which he expressed his emotions, especially when upset or angry (which didn’t happen too often), was masterful. I found the scenes between Se-hee and his father to be particularly good, along with the end of episode 8 and the moment he found out why Ji-ho came to his house in the middle of the night in 14. There are many more that I could mention, but I’ll stop there.

The fact that he can play the most terrifying and cold serial killers and gangsters with so much conviction and intensity AND play the most tender and loving (in their own way) drama heroes such as Tae-bong and Se-hee drives me crazy and I may or may not be blushing as I type this so I’ll just stop there with that.

While I’m not watching Beauty Inside, I’m pleased that it’s getting positive buzz, and he clearly has amazing chemistry with Seo Hyun-jin. I’ll be honest, I’m not quite sure if he actually has good chemistry with all of his co-stars or if he just has such great chemistry with me through the screen that I’m projecting, but whether it be with Seo Hyun-jin, Jung So-min, Chae Rim, or even Yeo Jin-goo, he always seems to have a comfortable sort of camaraderie with his costars that shows both on-screen and behind-the-scenes. And he’s just adorable. I was shocked when I watched an interview with him some time after I saw SUFBB and saw how shy and reserved he is in real life. I didn’t expect that at all! @egads described his TBI character as “a marshmallow who giggles” to me the other day and I feel like that’s a good way to describe him, too. But even despite knowing from behind-the-scenes footage and the words of his costars that he is a gentle and shy person, I can’t fathom the idea of meeting him in real life and the very thought makes me feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust.

I can’t wait to see what he does next, and I hope I love his next project, whether it be a movie or a drama. Honestly, I hope he does a movie next. I think what I want to see from him next is more vulnerability--he has shown that in his roles before, of course, but I want to see something that will make me cry. Because I’m a sadist. Really, though,...

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Really, though, I’ll accept anything good. And I would really love for him to star in something with Kim Ji-won in the future. I’m unfamiliar with her acting, but their interactions at the Detective K release events were so cute and they seemed to get along so well! I’d love to see them in a rom-com or something in the future.

Also....

He seems to be really good at the whole. Kissing. Thing. I don’t know. Just a dumb observation.

And his eyes are so pretty I want to die.

This is so long and so gross and I’m so embarrassed and I didn’t even say everything I wanted to say.

-runs away-

(Thanks again, @missvictrix!)

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For me, he has the most charming smile. He could charm to female any time I do believe.

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I think that you’ve captured a lot of what appeals to me about this man, this actor. I’ve only seen him in two dramas, BTIOFL and now Beauty Inside and I was smitten. And yet I still need more descriptors to pin point his essence, what draws me to him. And I suppose my attraction can only be based on his two dramas but I feel there’s a reserved man who exudes a quiet sensuality, loyalty, integrity , individuality that make for his appeal. Or at least I’m hoping these are his characteristics not knowing him personally. I don’t know....all I am certain of is that I am glued to his face and body as soon as he makes an appearance on screen.

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SUFBB was an unforgettable role and was sad that he was only on screen. But he's now choosing dramas and I'm being greedy that I want to see him soon after TBI.

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Min-ki is one of my earlier heartthrobs from SUFBB and Dal-ja's Spring. He falls in the category of devil-may-care attractive, definitely my type!

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There is something that's been bothering me about people's reaction to Park Shi Hoo and Lee Min Ki
People hate park shi hoo for everything he has done which i understand,
but then again lee min ki was also accused of assault by a girl and then later, charges were dropped because she had filed them mistakenly ?
How are people able to overlook this ?
I too like Lee min ki, loved him in btiofl but there is always that niggling feeling in my mind.
So is it because their crimes were a bit different or something else ?

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We could write lots of words about this because it's not a simple issue. But if I had to be succinct I'd say this:

People think Lee Min Ki probably didn't do anything wrong, while they know for sure that Park Shi-hoo is a rapist who got off due to money, connections and harassing the victim until she dropped the charges out of exhaustion.

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So do peole on Dramabeans also have this same thought or is it mainly the public in South Korea ?

Lee Min Ki may not be a rapist but he may have also used his power and connectins to get the victim to drop charges and give a flimsy excuse like "filed them by mistake "
Anyway thanks for answering my question.

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I don't know how people feel in South Korea but I do know that LMK's dramas still rate and nobody gets angry at his casting like they do with Park Shi-hoo.

Like I said, there's a lot to unpack here and I don't really want to get into it in this forum. However, there's quite a lot on the issue scattered throughout the site if you want to look for it.

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Maybe because the issue was well handled by his agency. News about the assault broke out when the case has been resolved. Also, it was the same time when the Park Yoo chun's case was all over the news so maybe it was buried. Nevertheless, it is still as shady af cause it was during his military service and he admitted going to the nightclub. He is also nicknamed "boobwatcher" by staff of a production in 2014.
Am one of those fans who eally can't watch lee min ki now as it will always remind me of how shady he is.

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The whole thing has always sounded really sketchy to me (on his part). I still watch things that he's in, and I do think he's very talented, but the "mistaken assault charges" explanation never really made sense to me. We'll never really know what happened, but it definitely is something I think of when I see him.

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More than the full fledged lead roles he has played, the most memorable and unforgettable role i would choose is the cameo role in 'Shut up flowerboy band' . Whenever someone says Lee min ki, i always go back to that scene where he dies in that drama. The best and saddest truck- of -doom scene ever in k -drama land. I bawled my eyes out in that scene. He was so fantastic in that small role as a a leader to a boy band group. Now he seems more robotic in his lead rom-com roles, maybe due to the character of those shows. His aura, his style, his body language was so different in Shutup flower boy band.
Now i just want to see him play a crazy free-spirited guy in a k-drama.

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Someone, somewhere made the suggestion of a Minki vampire, and that’s what I’m rooting for now. Though probably a film would be better for that as sustaining a vampire plot over the life of a drama would probably not work well.

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Everyone everywhere.

He has Vampire stamped on his forehead.

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I loved the cameo in WWSK, it was so lovely to get a glimpse of what the characters would be like in the future!

Can't wait to see what his next project will be after the beauty Inside...
Maybe a Sageuk.

Thank you Missvictrix, I know what I'll be watching after The Beauty Inside is completed. ;)

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he was so good in because this is our first life!!!!

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I just saw "Monster" this afternoon and he was a TERRIFYING sociopath. Even in scenes where he was just standing doing nothing he was terrifying (& disturbingly mesmerizing!). It was like he took sadistic relish in murdering the bejeezus out of his victims. Reminds me of those really attractive jungle plants which draws its prey in but if you so much as twitch in its direction you're guaranteed a horrifying death.

And yeah, a few people did mention vampire.

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Thank you @missvictrix for the profile on Lee Min ki! Love him in everything, but my favorite role for him was on Nell's video,.....unbelievable acting, even with only partial shots of his face.

https://youtu.be/a6AzbOupbxk

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Today's the first time I've seen that mv! That was a good one, thank you.

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He's totally adorbs😊 hottie, awesome sexiness!

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