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Actors in dramaland: Overcoming a bad first impression


Secret Garden

Getting into K-dramas is like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool. You don’t know exactly what you’re in for — and suddenly you’re over your head. You can’t climb out of the pool gracefully, and you really don’t mind. Dramaland has got its claws into you.

Whether you’re a new fan, a decade-long devotee, or maybe someone that comes back to dramas every so often, everyone will encounter this phenomenon at some point: you form a firm opinion on an actor based on the first project you saw them in. I’m not talking about acting skill as much as I am the impression of an actor based on their role — so in a way, it’s a testament to their ability to be clingy, obnoxious, or straight-up antagonistic.


My Girl

One could argue that the first time we are exposed to an actor has the same (if not more) power than the first impression we receive when we meet someone in real life. I would argue that bad first impressions of actors are even harder to uproot, because while in real life we have interactions and conversations to change our minds, in dramaland we just have more performances. And often, they’re colored by what we’ve seen of them before. I’ll use myself as an example.

One of my early dramas, My Girl, introduced me to the likes of Lee Dong-wook and Lee Jun-ki — but also Park Shi-yeon. In a drama-making era where the clingy and catty second lead female was just becoming A Thing, this drama is responsible for my subsequent distaste for Park Shi-yeon… but it’s nothing about her, and everything about the impression that role left on me.


When a Man Loves

Granted, Park Shi-yeon might not be the best example, since many of her roles since then have been a bit unlikeable (everything from Nice Guy to When My Love Blooms). While I give kudos to her for having the courage to play mostly unlikeable characters, and be convincing at them, it doesn’t do much to help clear my bad first impression of her.

Similarly, UEE is another actress who is… not my favorite. Again, it’s nothing about her as a person, or her skill as an actor — really, much more flimsily, it’s because I first saw her in You’re Beautiful and I flat-out couldn’t stand her character. No matter how many sweet and doe-eyed heroines she might have played after this drama, I can’t quite clear the negative reaction I have to her from that very first role. The same goes for Han Sun-hwa solely because of Marriage not Dating — and there’s a pile of others.


My ID is Gangnam Beauty

This works for guys, too, and this one will be controversial: I never really “got” Hyun Bin for a long time. And it wasn’t because I couldn’t stand his character from My Name is Kim Sam-soon — it was actually because I first saw him in Secret Garden. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t like him either, and the “meh” feeling continued for far longer than it should have.

In the same way, being introduced to Song Kang in Love Alarm has made him always seem like a brat to me because of that role, and first seeing Im Shi-wan in Misaeng made me too depressed to even look at him as an oppa. Cha Eun-woo turned me off with his stiff role in My ID is Gangnam Beauty, and the character Yeon Woo-jin played in When a Man Loves annoyed me so much I still can’t fully forgive him.


Memories of the Alhambra

These examples of my first impression biases suggest that Mr. Darcy’s famous line is quite true: “My good opinion once lost is lost forever.” But is the world of K-drama bad first impressions as immutable as Mr. Darcy says? Luckily, no — it isn’t.

Every now and then comes a drama, a role, a story — and it acts like a light bulb over my head. With one quick switch, it changes my long-held opinion of an actor, and wipes out any history that had been standing in the way. When Memories of the Alhambra came around, I went from “meh” over Hyun Bin, to being a heart-eyed fangirl, and then his next role in Crash Landing on You only made this more so. Similarly, after avoiding Im Shi-wan dramas because I didn’t think I liked him, Run On was the drama that finally did the trick, and the Im Shi-wan awakening fell on me like the giant anvil from the cartoons.


Run On

Happily, this awakening moment seems to be quite forgiving. Previously held negative impressions are all but gone, and the ability to fangirl becomes practically infinite.

There are a few actors where I’m still waiting for the magic to arrive and the bias to shift (viz., Lee Seung-gi and Cha Eun-woo — don’t hate me!), but once I’ve seen how easily that can happen, I now jump into a drama ready to be wowed, and ready for my mind to be changed.


I Hear Your Voice

Bad first impressions are a thing, for sure, but what about positive ones? It wouldn’t be fair to talk only about the bad ones, because really, the good first impressions far outweigh those — and those good impressions have an even greater power over my enjoyment of that actor’s future projects.

It’s the difference between avoiding a drama because you don’t know if you’ll enjoy the performance, and seeking it out because you know that you will. It’s like having a drama soft spot. Because no matter how much flack Song Seung-heon gets, I will always love him because of the first drama I saw him in, Summer Scent, where he was swoony and wonderful.


Flower Boy Ramyun Shop

In the same way, I will always have the same soft spot for Lee Min-ho because of Boys Before Flowers (it’s a no-brainer), and Lee Jong-seok because of I Hear Your Voice. I have no choice but to love Kim Hye-yoon because of Extraordinary You, Jo Boa because of Shut Up Flower Boy Band, and Lee Chung-ah because of Flower Boy Ramyun Shop. The list goes on.

Bad first impressions in dramaland might be a powerful force to be reckoned with, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be altered. Minds can be changed, biases can be wrecked as quickly as they can be formed, and really, the world of dramas is wonderfully elastic. The more I experience it, the more I’m willing to jump into a drama with open arms. Who knows — maybe that actor who I don’t love (yet!) will cast a dramaland spell over me. And maybe, just maybe, my good opinion once lost is not lost forever.


Extraordinary You

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An enjoyable article! In taste however, we are quite the opposite Miss Victrix.

Hyun Bin - I loved him in Secret Garden. His acting was outstanding (no wonder he got a Daesang in Baeksang Awards), more than CLOY. Though I enjoyed CLOY as well.

Im Siwan - I admired him in Misaeng but Ran On was super boring for me. Much ado about nothing.

But I admire your writing skills and I super appreciate you’re super timely for reviews!!!!

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For bad to good impression, I can think of Nam Gyu Ri.

She was like a plastic doll in Cruel City / Heartless City. The weak link in an acting powerhouse with Jung Kyung Ho and Kim Yu Mi.

Followed by my next watch - 49 Days. A lightweight role is my impression. ( the only standout in that drama in Jung Il Woo).

Then I saw Nam Gyu Ri in Children of Nobody (Red Moon Blue Sun) . In this Baeksang nominated best drama, I can’t believe she can actually reprise a serious no nonsense role.

In You Are My Spring ( another ho humm drama for me thatMiss Victrix loved so much), the tedious boredom is relieved by the appearance of Nam Gyu Sri. She’s highly strung, over the top but not malicious. Fun to watch!

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I wasn't a fan of Nam Gyu-ri either, but she was absolutely spectacular in Kairos.

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Nam Gyu Ri kind of ruined 49 days for me. I always felt a deep sensation of cringe when she was on screen. \that is of course, before the end of the drama which... That is another matter. She managed to redeem herself, like you said in Kairos. But then again, there is nothing bad that I can say about that drama. Which leads me to the conclusion that a drama could make or break the first impression we have about an actor and if they are lucky enough to fine THE DRAMA, then they stay in our hearts forever.

I have just celebrated 10 years of drama watching 10 days ago and this is because Im Soo Hyang in The New Tales of Gisaeng. I won't go into how I wouldn't rewatch the drama, even if I were paid to, but there was a particular scene where she cried and it made such a strong impression on the K-Innocent me, that I kept watching and watching the whole thing and I was hooked. But what if the first time I saw her was Iris 2 or Inspiring Generation? And then it was Jang Geun Suk in You're Beautiful that made me look for more dramas of him and Lee Hong Ki that got me into K-Pop. But I don't want to imagine how it would have went if Bel AMi were the first time I laid my eyes on JGS. The nail in the coffin (the Western cinema's coffin) was Dramabeans and the rest is a 10 year old love story that doesn't seem to have an end in sight. Which makes me think that this is not about one actor or another, but a complex web of factors that make or break the first image we have of an actor that can stay with us for ever (I have a list of actors that make me not watch a drama no matter what and it may be just because of their unfortunate choice of one drama where they couldn't shine).

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Argh! The worst first impression I can recall (and I wish I couldn't) was Hyeri in Hyde Jekyll, Me. I finished that one but dropped the next two I started where she was a lead. It took Roommate/Gumiho to (mostly) wash away the bad taste.

For good first impressions, think Ko Hyun-jung in Queen's Classroom, Han Groo in Girl K... actually the list could get pretty long.

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I met Hiery for the first time in "the entertainers", and I didn't love her, but I didn't dislike her at all, although at the time I did read bad reviews about her. Then I watched her in Miss Lee and I liked her very much. To finish my story with her, I watched My Roommate is a Gumiho, and I loved her a lot, a lot, a lot... I haven't even watched the Reply serie in which she is in, but I will.
Have no intention to watch jekyll/hyde.

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Yes. No one should EVER watch Jekyll Hyde 😵‍💫

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Hyeri in Monstrum will make anyone run away from her acting.

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I feel the exact opposite. I didn't finish Entertainer (this is the only one Ji Sung's drama that I couldn't finish and I have to thank Kill Me, Heal Me for my love for this guy - and let's not talk about the FL) so I couldn't really make a proper impression of Hyeri, but the general feeling wasn't particularly positive. But now, after watching My Roommate is a Gumiho, I definitely know that this one is one actress I am not looking forward to watch again. I really didn't feel the way she played her character. And my comment about Ji Sung brings me back to my observation from my previous comment, what if Entertainer robbed me of my profound fascination of powerhouse that Ji Sung is?
What if IU never played in Ahjussi? (Talking about washing away bad taste...)

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LYH in Miss Korea and IU in My Ahjusshi, both out acted LSK. Uee in Marriage Contract. On the other hand PSH in everything except Flower Boys Next Door is unwatchable. Same for JCW and Healer the only drama that wasn't dumpster fire.

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But LSK did a great great job in My Ajusshi. I wouldn't say IU out acted him... It is just that he had to remain controlled because of the criticism over the age difference and the crazy reaction from the fans and public in general.
I am sure, in the original script, he would have giving his character a more nuanced change toward the end the story.

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LSK was amazing in My Ajusshi. He was nominated for the Grand Prize (Daesang). Together he and IU were brilliant. His character was holding it in big time and Lee Ji-an recognized that he was dragging himself through life just the same as her. LSK is one of the best actors of his generation. No competition between them. They were a great ensemble.

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Allow me to disagree. PSH was fine in Sisyphus, to my surprise at the time (because I forgot about Pinocchio where she was surprisingly good). Everything else... her characters seem so bland for a reason. I completely agree with you about JCW though, and I wish I could not to, but no he is on my "don't watch/ don't follow list" - I tried to like him again, but I couldn't finish any of his last 4 dramas which is a record for me and shows how much I wanted to like him again.

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totally agree about JCW. He needs to pick better roles and not just star in every single kdrama offered to him. He seems to be in too many bad shows.

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PSH was also very good Pinocchio, my humble opinion. And by the way.... I forgot to say it before

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There's a host on the podcast Drama Over Flowers who has repeatedly expressed her dislike (almost distain) for Hyeri based on one or two previous roles she had seen her in. But she said she had purposefully avoided watching 'Reply 1988' which was Hyeri's magnum opus. That's like basing your opinion of Shin Min-a on the drama 'Tomorrow With You' without having watched 'My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho' or 'Arang and The Magistrate'. There are some roles an actor does NOT shine in, and there are some roles they DO shine in.

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I met Shin Min-a in "Oh my Venus", and I enjoyed her very much. Only later I watched My girlfriend is a gumiho, and then again, at least her... I loved her very much.
But then I watched "tomorrow with you", and it was meh for me... boring, and yes, definitively, she didn't shine in that role at all.

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This is why Dramabeans is so fun. I loved her in Tomorrow With You. Not her character to start with, but then, even her character. I know a lot of beanies didn't like TWY, but it's a favorite for me.

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Yesss to Tomorrow With You. So underrated.

I can't even believe that was used an example for good impression. But okay.

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*bad impression

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I also liked Tomorrow With You. It was my intro to heavenly Lee Je Hoon. Shin Mina was unlikeable in first few eps but she shone in middle and end.

I actually like most of Shin Mina dramas , including GF is Gumiho, Arang and Oh My Venus. She’s not a favorite but always decent.

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Meanwhile I’m that one person who loved Shin Min-a in all three of her dramas you mentioned. It’s fascinating to see how opinions differ from person to person.

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I didn't finish oh my Venus, but it's not because of her. It was the story.

Love her in all the other dramas mentioned.

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I'm the same. She's funny and imo a clever actor. All her roles are enjoyable.

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I agree that actors have roles they shine in and roles they don't shine in. It explains why some actors work better in non-lead roles because lead roles are limited to certain character traits. Also, it's on the casting directors to make sure there is a good match between actor and role even if the actor is already incredibly talented.

I loved Shin Mina in Tomorrow with You. She didn't have as much to do as in MGIAG or Arang, but her chemistry with Lee Je Hoon was off the charts.

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Oh my, @missvictrix.... I enjoyed so much reading your article😍. I have felt the same many times with both male and female artists.
Felt totally identified with Hyun bin and Lee Min hoto, except that my reaction to him was your opposite, because of BOF, I hated him totally. And while I watched him in some other dramas, I.e. "personal taste" or partially in "the heirs"... those roles only increase my dislike toward him. My sister told mage he was cool in the "legend of the blue", but I haven't had the occasion to watch that one.
Also, when I watch "crash landing on you", I hope soon... maybe also my Hyun bin's opinion will improve.... who knows.
UEE, yeah, I hated her totally in "You're beautiful", because she made the character to be hated, but then I loved her to bits in "Marriage contract".
Shin Sung rok, I hated him in "my love from another star", but I started to like him in "three dads and one mom", which I happened to watch later. And then I loved him crazily in "perfume".
And yes, so on, and so on...
The list is long.
But hey, by the way, sometimes I have watched an actor playing whatever secondary non important role that is not relevant and even when he makes me laugh or whatever, I forget totally about him/her, so that next time he is in a better role and I think, wow, awesome this is the first time watching this actor. When I read his filmography I am surprised he was in a drama I watched before, and I just cannot remember him at all.
It used to happen to me a lot at the beginning because for me most Korean faces were the same, but after watching more than 100 dramas, I can recognize better this or that one and where did I see him/her before, LOL😂😂. I am proud of myself. 😛

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Oh, first impressions... you are so right! My most amazing worst impression was Son Ye Jin. I watched her in Personal Taste and I didn't like her at all (as you said, not her acting but her dull role), and Noona didn't help much. I was about to skip CLOY because of her, but I decided to give it a try and I can't be happier. CLOY is not the best drama ever, but I enjoyed it a lot and made me fall in love with her.

My most famous case of first love at first sight is Seo Kang Joon. The minute I saw him in Cheese in the Trap I knew it would be forever love. I even liked Entourage!

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I agree about SYJ! I couldn't shake off my haggard, bland impression of her after Personal Taste and avoided her other works for years.

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It so funny how our opinions are complete opposites. I actually enjoyed Personal Taste a lot back in the day and absolutely loved Son Yejin and Lee Minho in it. On the other hand, I could not stand Seo Kangjoon’s character and performance in Cheese in the Trap. I’ve been avoiding his work ever since. I’m slowly trying to convince myself to give him another chance because I really want to watch When the Weather is Fine (his drama with Park Minyoung).

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Ikr? If you watch When the weather is fine you will love SKJ. Eun Seob is one of the best ML in dramaland. Weather is on my top 10 dramas.

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i think due to lack of access and experience at the time, i dont have a bad memory of PT. i don't even remember SYJ was the FL. and that was perhaps the only drama of LMH i chose to watch, cos i didn't know who he was. I saw TKEM cos i wanted to join Beanies on the wall with their rave/rants 😆

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What a nice topic! I never thought about K-actors this way, but there's definitely some truth to that.

First impressions definitely last. I have to agree about Son Seung-Hun, he was dreamy in Autumn in My Heart and Summer Scent, so I always have a soft spot for him even though I did not like his subsequent works.

Same with Son Ye-jin and Jo Seung-woo in the Classic. They stole my heart there, so I will love them forever. Kim Ji-suk was so endearing in "Likeable or Not", that I've been rooting for him ever since.

At the same time, it's great having a drama come along that makes you see old actors with new eyes: Song Joong-ki was previously a flower boy and never struck me as manly or sexy, and then Vincenzo totally made me change my mind. Run-on was a great drama. I was indifferent to Im Si-wan and Shin Se-kyung before, but they were perfect in their roles and in one of the most wholesome romances I've seen in K-dramas, so I'm a newly converted fan of both!

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CLOY redeemed Hyun Bin for me, now I am absolutely smitten. Ironically, I first watched him in Secret Garden and wasn't impressed or affected either way. I tried watching him again in Hyde Jekyll, Me, but with similar result. It's weird because I loved Ha Ji Won and still do, but he just didn't do it for me.

Thank God for CLOY! A total standout drama, finally, I see what the fuss is about. Glad to say that I'm eagerly waiting for what he does next!

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Kim So Hyun in moon embracing the sun and rooftop prince because her characters were evil and unlikable but she turned it around with missing you and school 2015. In retrospect her evil characters were unlikable only because she was good.

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I watched Lee Seo Jin first in Times, then Marriage Contract , the drama that inked the deal forever.
Go Hyun Jung in Queen Seondeok, Han Ye Ri in SFD, is the reason I'll watch them in anything, classic first impression. I've loved several Park Min Young dramas, but her role in Her Private Life is the deal sealer.

Wang Bit Na in She Would Never Know helped me forgive her character in RWTMR. Lee Hyun Wook in the same drama was further sealed by his character in Mine.

Talking of bad impression, my number one is Han Chae Young's Jin Bo Bae in A Man Called God. It totally ruined her for me.

First impression is really hard to overcome if its a bad one, and first impressions at times do not ink the deal, may second or third does the trick.

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Yes to Han Ye Ri in SFD. What a way to give a great first impression.

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Generally, I do not go for negative first impression at all but it builds up over the time. It is not outright hatred but more of a disinterest.
Not everyone gets better written character or have start power to choose the role. I have issues with stars that have power to choose what they want and still give out lacklustre and copy-paste performances one after other. The people who fell into category are LMH and PSH. I have never liked any of their drama roles. I will not avoid any of their drama because of them but whether to watch drama or not will depend upon other factors such as writer, director and other actors.
Opposite is true for positive impression. I quite liked Kim Hye-yoon in extraordinary you, Ji sung in Kill Me and Kill Me and whole cast of coffee prince and Forest of secrets. I tend to start watching drama solely for them but whether to stay with whole run will depend on other factors.

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I am completely in love with your comment. You said it the best.

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*The people who fell into category are LMH and PSH. I have never liked any of their drama roles. I will not avoid any of their drama because of them but whether to watch drama or not will depend upon other factors such as writer, director and other actors*

Right there with you on that. Once bitten twice shy with LMH. It was a gradual process of avoidance with him. I watched him The Heirs and didn't feel the aversion. But the more I saw of him, the more I realised I was getting the same package without variation until I found myself hating his nose. Now anything he is in would have to get stellar reviews before I'd bother. Poor PSH has one expression and I've seen it often enough to not bother much again. I'd be swung to anything they were in if the *writer, director and other actors* were good. I doubt much would change my visceral reaction to either of them.

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hating his nose is so random but understandable 😂

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It's turning out to be my litmus test. I'm feeling the same way about Na-bi in Nevertheless. I just don't like her nose. It follows therefore ....

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Hmmm I have a soft spot for Song Hye-kyo because of Worlds Within even if I do not like her other dramas. She has this very detached way of acting and delivery in general, which I think worked perfectly for her character in that drama.

On the other hand I absolutely HATED Hwang Jung-eum's performance in She Was Pretty. Thankfully Mystic Pop-up Bar sort of redeemed her for me. And she rocked the red lipstick.

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"On the other hand I absolutely HATED Hwang Jung-eum's performance in She Was Pretty. Thankfully Mystic Pop-up Bar sort of redeemed her for me. And she rocked the red lipstick." I wish it were the case for me. I cannot like her no matter what. I tried, I tried. Some dramas were saved by other factors, like Ji Sung in KMHM, but nothing could save Mystic Pop-up Bar for me....

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Yes, Mystic Pop-Up Bar made me revise my opinion of Hwang Jung-eum's acting. I am so pleased that I did not realise it was her!!!! until the end. I loved it so much and she did a great job because my pre-judgement (perjudice) did not get in the way. So you nailed it @missvictrix

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Prejudice/perjudice/prejudgement

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This is so true! The amount of dramaland dross I have tolerated because I loved JCW when I first saw him in Healer 😖 Thankfully others such as Park Seo-joon, Lee Jong-suk, Park Min-young, Song Joong-ki have (mostly) lived up to my first impressions of them.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ones I absolutely cannot stand because of the first drama I saw them in - Hwang Jung-eum in She Was Pretty is definitely up there. Also poor Ahn Bo-hyun - I was so annoyed with his entitled second lead role in Her Private Life that I simply can't watch him anymore. And Itaewon Class only made it worse.

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I'll need to see Ahn Bo-hyun in something else to detox too.

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I find it easier to change my opinion, when a bad impression is followed by a good performance. I can slowly forgive Cha Eun-woo for My ID is Gangnam Beauty, where he really stood out as the worst performer in a generally stiff cast, because he followed it with Rookie Historian, which I almost did not watch because of him.

It is harder to forgive, when it goes from really good to amazingly poor. After Forest, I re-watched Bad Guys to double check that it is indeed the same Park Hae-Jin. I will skip his dramas for now.

Some actors I just like or dislike, not because of their role as either hero or unpleasant, I am not sure why that is. I simply cannot warm to Lee Min-ki and Kim Hye-Yoon (sorry to both!), but admire IU and Seo Kang-Joon. There must be other factors at play, maybe it is a voice thing. As somebody wrote once before, I would gladly listen to Han Suk Kyu reading a cook book in Korean and I would be happy!

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It's hard to separate the acting, the writing and the directing in a drama. So if I watch an actor for the time and don't like him : it can be because he's bad at acting, because he did what he could with the bad script or was asking to act like this by the PD. Or sometimes, they're good in a genre and not the others. So I will still watch him in a new drama to make an opinion. Hyeri for example, for me, she's tolerable when she can overact like in Gumiho but when the story asks for subtile acting, she's still bad. For Jang Ki-Yong, I like him when he's not the lead otherwise he's always overshadowed by the rest of the casting.

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It is a hard-to-separate-out combination of acting, writing, direction. After a couple of performances though, you start to see how flexible they are as actors. Usually when I see someone I like in a role, I'll try to watch other dramas with them in it and then I start to know if I like them or not. As a drama innocent though, I put up with performances that I would not put up with now, although once I begin a drama I'll watch it all the way through to be fair to the actors and crew and to give the writing a fair go. But none of that stops me from being unforgiving and prejudiced. I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch Han So-hee with unqualified enthusiasm, and I will never watch Song Ji-hyo in The Witch's Diner because of the impression she made on me in Was It Love? Funnily enough I first saw her in Frozen Flower and I barely noticed her. LOL

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But after a couple of performances, it's not the first impression anymore. A first bad impression won't stop to watch the next drama but after some roles, I can absolutely dislike an actor.

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True. They have to be really horrible for me to kick them to the kerb on an initial viewing.

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I felt the same about Uee. She was so hateful in You're Beautiful. But then she won me over with Ojakgyo Brothers and Marriage Contract. And someone else who comes to mind is Song Ji Hyo. I disliked her intensely because of her role in Goong that when someone recommended Running Man, I was very reluctant to watch. But I ended up watching it and it became one of my favorite shows that I have nothing but love for her now.

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For me, it was Gong Yoo. I liked him in Goblin but I'm usually not a fan of super moody, sad characters. I was more interested in Lee Dong Wook's performance in that show, especially since Sunny and Grim Reaper has to be one of my favorite side romances of all time. Also, I didn't feel the chemistry between him and Kim Go-eun in Goblin, probably partially because of the age gap which bothered me. Then I watched Coffee Prince and realized what a charming actor he was. He did so much with that role and his smiling made me smile! :) He is just so delightful in Coffee Prince. Then I watched Train to Busan and loved him as an action hero.

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Coffee Prince was the reason I love kdramas and the reason I sat through the hell(for me) that was Goblin. My eternal love for Gong Yoo stems from that drama.

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Thank you, @missvictrix for an enjoyable read!

I don't suffer from bad first impressions as much as I suffer from great first impressions that result in indelible role imprinting, forcing me to miss any subsequent dramas.

For instance, I cannot watch Ji Chang-wook in any other role after Healer (which has saved me from some pretty stinky dramas🤪)
Other examples would be Ji Hyun woo in Queen Inhyuns Man,

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Im Siwan in Misaeng, Kim Hee ae in Secret Love Affair are a few!

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Ooooh, this is good. I also have the same problem with JCW. I love him so much in Healer, I still wish him for better dramas in the future, despite not finishing/watching his dramas after Healer. That imprinting was difficult to erase.

I don't have a problem with Im Siwan, coz he tend to pick unique roles each time. Same with Kim Hee Ae. She's amazing.

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I totally agree with the first impression of roles casting an appalling damper on possibly good actors for me.

I first saw Hyun Bin in The Millionaire's First Love...I fell for him there and never looked back. It wasn't until later that I watched Sam Soon and it couldn't lessen my love for him. I adored the stiff Cha Eun Woo in Gangnam Beauty.. was a bit turned off in Rookie Historian but revived in True Beauty. I never caught on to Lee Seung Gi (sorry fans) and Lee Jong Seuk is not doing anything for me ever since I saw him in Secret Garden.

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What a fun essay, thank you missvictrix! Even I didn’t like HB at the beginning of Sam Soon but he went on to become my number one KCrush, and Sam Soon my favorite drama of all time ❤️
You are making me rethink my habit of just avoiding future shows of actors I don’t like 🤔

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I think an actor's skill level in giving a wide range in performance is the key first impression. The one actor I have a complete negative opinion on is Park Si-hoo, who I find wooden, sleazy and dull in his roles.

On the other hand, the best first impression was Son Ye Jin in "Alone in Love." Then I saw the Classic to confirm her acting skills were above the level of the rest of the cast.

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My first Kdrama is Hotelier and Song Yoon-ah is practically the first K artist that I like. However I stopped watching other Kdramas after that because I can't stand all those ridiculous drama tropes (rich guy poor girl) at that time. I ended up watching K movies more when I have access to TVN movies and boy am I blown away by how well made K movies are. I like many movie actors/actresses but Jung Woo-sung, Son Ye-Jin & Cho Seung-woo will always be my first love. Their movies are top notch in many ways. I got back to K dramas again in 2019 mostly because of CLOY. The quality of this show changed my initial perception of K dramas and I'm glad that it happened. By the way I did not forget about Song Yoon-ah :) I guess I'm one of those people who takes first impression seriously :P

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I have to balance out my dramas with film. It's really interesting to see the cross over of actors from drama to film.

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Movies showing in cinemas took a hard hit these past 2 years due to covid so I think it's a wise move by some actors to cross over given the number of cable channels that mushrooms all over the place. It'll be interesting to watch some them in a tv drama :)

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I'm looking forward to seeing Ha Jung-woo in Suriname.

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Yes to this, him and Hwang Jung-min :)

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Yaay. My obsessions.

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SYJ in dramas was always bland and CLOY is the only time she was good but her next drama has the same bland feel as all her other ones. Her movies on the other hand are a different story.

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Yoo Seung Ho in anything and everything. Nothing about his acting has ever appealed to me and its a mystery how he has been acting for 20 years.

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For a first bad impression i might say Lee Elijah Basketball 2013,i found her sooo bad there that i really had my doubts i'd watch ever anything else with her in it and was proven wrong as she returned with great acting in quite a lot of great productions...

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yes, I felt the same about her in The Last Empress, but now I think it was her character. She was great in her last three dramas, but most of all in Chief of Staff. I'm sure now that all my impressions of her have been coloured by her roles. Surely that means she's a good actor?

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The first impressions!!!! I have this problem with a good number of korean artists. First being Oh yeon seo in Hwayugi. After a point her blank expressions and eye rolls started irking me and I eventually dropped the drama and never tried anything that she acted. Same goes with song hye kyo. The first work of hers that I watched was " That winter, the wind blows" and while I somehow completed the series, I cant stand her expressionless acting anymore. I tried descedents of the sun and burned out at episode 3. I have avoided all her dramas after that. Another heroine is Ha Ji won. I have watched her quite a few dramas and while I think she acts quite okay in tomb boy roles, she is pretty much stoic in everything else. I find Im soo hyang monotonic in acting. For every situation she has one single expression. And the recent addition to this list is Gong Hyo Jin. I first watched her in WTCB and wasn't impressed by her acting. I did give her other dramas like "Master's Sun" and " Iys okay, its love " too but dropped both because I got bored with her acting. I dont know how to explain but there is something off about her acting. I find it bland and at times she fails to convey the emotions in a particular situation to the viewer.

The other actresses in the list are Gong seung yeon, shin se Kyung song ji hyo and ko sung hee.

When it comes to actors I mostly avoid dramas of Lee seung gi, Song Joong ki and the recent addition song kang. I have a good number of the former's dramas and dropped each one of them before finally avoiding them completely. My impression of Song Kang was bad because of his role in Love alarm and again in the ongoing drama Nevertheless. He is a jerk in both of these and that kind of prevented me from checking his other drama " Navillera".

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My reaction to Song hye kyo is exactly the same and because of "That winter, the wind blows" too. And this *while I somehow completed the series, I cant stand her expressionless acting anymore* could not be more true. Like you I started DOTS but could not complete. Very rare for me. I gave her another chance in Encounter but came away terribly disappointed. I have apologetic fellow feeling for Gong Hyo Jin because she went to school in Australia and experienced racial prejudice as a student. But I've decided after not minding her in Master's Sun and That's OK That's Love and then seeing her in When the Camellia Blooms, she get a whining tone in her voice. It's become a default pitch and once you notice it, it begins to grate.

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I only have one actor I can't stand and that is Lee Min Hoo, I find his acting tedious and bland in everything I've ever seen him in. The only drama I've enjoyed him in was City Hunter.

But I have a great many love at first sights! Seo Kang Joon, Seo In Guk, Nam Goong-min, Kim Seul-gi , Luo Yun Xi, Wang Duo, Bai Lu, Zhao Lu Si, Ding Yu Xi. Kim Min Jae deserves honorary mentions simply for his voice. Then there's also Kim Soo Hyun who made a very strong impression on me with his movie Real, although drama wise, I find him a bit meh.

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I can't stand Lee Min Hoo in nothing, and everyone's favorite
Choi Si-won but it isn´t realy a problem with Super Junior.

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Fantastic article, @missvictrix! It’s not a topic I’ve thought too much about before, but yes, first impressions of actors do heavily colour ones opinion of them - whether deservedly or not.

For me funnily enough, I had the opposite reaction to Lee Min-ho in Boys Over Flowers - I hated him in it and that initial dislike never quite got away. For a while I thought City Hunter would be the cure, but then he followed up by the likes of The Heirs and The King: Eternal Monarch. That’s when I knew that it’d be nigh-impossible for me to form a positive opinion of his drama choices anytime soon. Another male actor whose first impression I cannot shake off is Cha Eun-woo. I always find him to be the weakest link in any ensemble he’s a part of (not an unusual situation for idol-actors), and his stiffness is unbearable to watch onscreen.

For the ladies, Shin Se-kyung was the actress who got the bad first impression. I don’t even remember which drama it exactly was, but I tried avoiding her subsequent dramas with a passion because I knew I couldn’t stand her. Thankfully, Rookie Historian and Run On improved my opinion of her significantly. An actress whose performances i still cannot stand is Jin Se-yeon. I loved Gaksital and all the powerhouse performances in it - except hers. I found her terribly boring and uninspired there, and all her future performances even worse.

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*nodding along your opinion about Lee Min-ho*
I've given up all hope for a project that would somehow change the bad impression left by Boys over Flowers.

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Both LMH and CEW - you nailed it.

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I really liked Jin Se Yeon in Flower in Prison, but all other dramas I've seen falls flat because she puts on the same face throughout , which also happens to be the same reason I'm this careful to watch anything having Go Ara's(Haechi is to blame for this), though I memorably remember her cameo in Hospital Playlist 1.

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I can find most actors and actresses very watchable - whether they be overacting or giving stiff acting, but I have a lot of trouble with Jin Se-yeon. Her line delivery grates on me, and I also feel like she's boring. I'm really hoping someone would put her in a wacky, over-the-top role - even if it's one of those shrieky Hwang Jung-eum type roles - so she could do something interesting on-screen.

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wrt SSK, was it Fashion King? that did it for me to dislike her... plus the ending, my gawd!!! but for some reason, that drama did not deter my love for Lee Je Hoon, whom i HATED in FK.....

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TRUTH!

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This is very, very relatable.

Memories of Alhambra will always have that fond spot in my heart because of its capability to completely change my mind about Hyun Bin. Same as I Hear Your Voice and Lee Jong-suk.

This is why I'm glad I came to dramaland a bit late (around 2012). Because by that time, many of the currently 30-something actors has already several projects under their belt, which means the possibility of me watching them for the first time in their debut work is minimal.

I'm forever thankful I caught sight of Jung Kyung-ho in Heartless City instead of I'm Sorry I Love You (which I did watch several years later, and I shuddered imagining his Yoon as my first introduction to him). Though sometimes there are also those "magical" debut work that inspired a huge soft spot for me just like the case of Hwang Jung-eum and Shin Se-kyung in sitcom High Kick through the Roof. No matter how many times I heard people complaining about their respective overacting and depressing one-note expression issues, I still come back for their new project again and again.

And that's just the impactful impression that I remember on top of my head. I guess this is why people found projects that manage to give its actors an image makeover to be very impressive.

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For me, the actor that managed to make me do a 180 on my first impression is Song Joong Ki. I hated DOTS and wrote him off as a pretty boy / little fresh meat. Then I watched Vincenzo this year and spent half the time being dumbstruck by how good his acting was and revising my opinion. Ladies and gentleman, I was floored. The guy can ACT. Now he's atop my must-watch actors list.

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I had a kind of bland reaction to Song Joong-ki after DOTS, I remember thinking much in the same lines as you but at the same time, he has these nuances in his acting sometimes which actually enhanced my disappointment with his character. The ML of DOTS was very badly written (only the second lead characters felt real and relatable to me).
BUT THEN! Then I watched A WEREWOLF BOY and fell in love with his acting. Vincenzo, of course, cemented this.

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I almost took my little blue book to note down @missvictrix’s name after seeing Hyun bin and as the cover image and title.
But I see they have come around. I will let this one go. Strike one :)

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When it's someone I love. I'll fight to the death.

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@mayhemf Don't worry lol -- I would probably take the ToD for him if necessary!

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Mr Sunshine, as my first drama, was a work of wonder, so I’ll always be partial to Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-seok, Kim Min-jung and Byun Yo-han. I had no idea of age gaps or scandals so nothing was spoilt for me. I did wonder what the attraction was with Yoo Yeon-seok, but I’ve completely changed my mind there. No one can deny what a great actor Lee Byung-hun is, and I followed up anything I could find him in, but Kim Tae-ri, Byun Yo-han, and Yoo Yeon-seok are the ones who have made the most lasting impression. I loved Kim Tae-ri in The Handmaiden and Byun Yo-han in Misaeng: Incomplete Life and Six Flying Dragons, and I can’t wait to catch him in Book of Fish. I follow the actors irrespective of drama, film or genre. Kim Min-jung was a much more interesting character in Mr Sunshine than she is in Devil Judge. I may have gone off her.

Secret Garden was an early one for me too and when I think of it I still get the feeling of having seen something magical and also fantastic. It had chemistry and Hyun Bin's character was probably my first grumpy, stand-offish, troubled chaebol-type character, so I was enraptured. I followed him in all the dramas I could find, including Hyde Jekyll, Me and Memories. I liked him best in Negotiation.

Secret Love was another early one for me, and I found Hwang Jung-eum’s character very pitiful and brave, but she was difficult to cope with in She was Pretty (was it the perm??). Then she completely turned my impression around with Mystic Pop-Up Bar. I love it so much, due mostly to the writing, but the characters were so much fun and it was all so interesting. Ji Sung’s first impression as a very attractive and compelling actor has lasted.

Frankly I don’t care what Ji Chang-wook is in. I’ll always love him for his beautiful wide mouth and how he plays heartbreak. He is a very good actor with excellent timing. Melty was awful and he looked tired, but he really showed his acting chops in Empress Ki. I will always defend him.

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Hooray for a kindred international audience who appreciates Hyun Bin in Secret Garden. Most of the Netflix era watchers only know CLOY CLOY CLOY (I’m fond of CLOY too). His acting was so awesome he snagged not Best Actor but Grand Prize Daesang in Baeksang.

Byun Yo Han is a chameleon. I got goosebumps with his melancholic folk song in Six Flying Dragons, then amazed at his 180 degree transformation in Misaeng and Mr Sunshine.

Secret Love is guilty pleasure! Jisung is hot!

Sadly, I only loved Ji Chang Wook in Healer and Empress Ki. Suspicious Partners was somewhat ok but K2 not so much. So I started to steer clear of his drama.

I miss old recappers like HeadsNo2, Javabeans and GirlFriday. They were not simply recapping but providing critique. The comments were witty, snarky or when deserving - adoring. Nowadays I feel it’s more “straight recap”, or more often than not, a propaganda machine for broadcasters where “everything’s awesome”.

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So nice to find kindred spirits. I'm always on the lookout for critique. It's rare if it exists at all. I wonder why.

I only started watching k-drama with Mr Sunshine in 2018 and only got on Dramabeans in 2019/2020, so I missed the legendary days of Javabeans and GirlFriday. (I've never heard of HeadsNo2?) I guess if you offer critique, you are going out on a limb and not everyone is bound to follow. Fights may ensure. Group think is a thing too. Also routine panning, perhaps to avoid getting cut down.

But in spite of those reservations, I find many beanies are sophisticated critics. I tend to be enthusiastic and not very critical unless I'm riled by a clueless candy or the routine demonisation of an older woman for plot conflict purposes.

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Love the snark and silly comment. Right now, I'm just reading straight to comment section, rarely reading the recap.

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Were you around for the Start Up shipping wars? Brutal fun.

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I usually just ignore the fans war too old for that ha ha
But I had been stoned by PSH fans LOL. Scary time. Me just want to chill

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PSH fans are the scariest of all. You survived is all. Well done. Ha. Life is too short for too much agitation.

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Kim Min Jung was dweeby dorky fun in Man X Man!!! but i first saw her in The Thorn Birds and hated her character so much it passed on to her as an actress... so silly, right?

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I wish I was more like this. I feel like I give too many tries to both actors and writers. The actors usually turn it around with the exception of Lee Min Ho and writers usually have at least one work I like except Kim Eun Sook. I gave up on the both of them and have stopped bothering with their dramas. Everyone else I give it a go.

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I'll still give Kim Eun Sook a go.

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So agree on Kim Eun Sook! I still want to keep trying her dramas but I can't ever quite get into them. I think she doesn't know how to build up romances between the two lead characters. In Heirs, Goblin and Descendants of the Sun (though I couldn't finish it), the two lead characters were just suddenly super devoted to each other, without having barely spent any time together. I can't give up yet though! I'm sure I'll eventually watch more of her dramas....

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After Goblin, I was done lol. She almost ruined Gong Yoo for me and that is a cardinal sin.

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Lol! That was the first thing I saw Gong Yoo in and fortunately Goblin is so slow moving I was at least able to appreciate how he contributed to the visual beauty of the show. :) Then I saw Coffee Prince and I thought it was a crime how he wasn't given enough to do in Goblin.

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Talking about first impressions, I was not too excited about him at first. I wondered what the hype was about. I saw him in Coffee Prince first and I wasn't too disturbed about him in Goblin. The cinematography which was so beautiful in Goblin carried me all the way through. (KES gets the full works in that regard.} But GY is an actor who has grown on me. He was wonderful in Train to Busan and A Man and A Woman. I need to see him in Seo Bok with Park Bo-gum and also in Kim Ji-young: Born 1982. I would never pass up anything with him in it no matter how it is reviewed.

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Maybe because I've been watching so many dramas or maybe it is just me (I cant have long term relationship ha ha), even though I love the actor if the script and the character development don't suit me, my love can only retain my attention for so long. Enough to make me trying several first episodes but not enough to make me finishing dramas or even 120 something minutes movie. Or if I dislike the actor, when the writing of the character right, my matter of dislike, doesn't matter much. I love Kim Sunah as Kim Sam soon, but her projects after that, just.... Or Hyeri, I dont mind her in Reply, but her acting after that just annoying. There're Jung Ilwoo, Song Seunghoon, Jang hyuk, Lee jungki, etc
In the case of Hyun Bin, I think his project choices that suit me ha ha ha Not saying I watch all his projects, but somehow I always finish his dramas. I love you oppaaa

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Ahhh it was so nice of you to include Mr. Darcy's quote @missvictrix. I feel so seen with Lee Min Ho and Hyun Bin. I have a very soft spot for LMH because of BOF. I just can't dislike him. Also I watched Secret Garden and it is perhaps one of the most overrated dramas. It was enjoyable but not really worth the hype. One of the people I have a really good first impression of would be Rowoon. I loved him as Haru and now whenever I look at him, I don't see an idol but a really quiet guy.

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Thanks missvictrix for writing about enduring first bad impressions, such a fresh take on dramawatching. I'd not thpught about this before, and can't tjink of any actor/actress who gave me a bad impression... I just forget them 🙈. Talking abput good impressions though, I have a soft spot for Jung Kyungho. First saw him in time between dog n wolf, and second time was Life on Mars, which really sealed the deal, and made me watch Heartless City. For some reason I cant bring myself to watch Hospital Playlist1 and 2. I wonder why.

Second was seuregi oppa as seuregi oppa. The rest is history...

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Oh, how I hated Lee Sung-kyung in "It's Okay, That's Love" and in "Cheese in the Trap". I did not like her at all, she seemed so insufferable. I disliked her temperament and her voice. It does not happen often to me but in her case I just could not separate her from her roles in these two series. And of course I did not like her in "The Doctors". Only with "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" I started to see her as an excellent actress and finally was able to change my first impression of her. Now I finally understand she must be really talented to make me hate her in her drama roles so much. I am looking forward to her future roles and wish only the best the her!

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usually it's really hard to separate the character from the actor but LSK in Cheese was so horrible and over the top i found myself impressed with her acting..then she acted as Bokju which was a polar opposite of the crazy girl. i'd say she's got a pretty good range at least.

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When I read the title of the article I thought it was referring to something that happens to me a lot. I´m not being able to overcome the bad impression that a character gives due to his personality and way of behaving and I drop the drama unfinished; like the ML of "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo" , the main ML in "What's Wrong with Secretary Kim" and many others.

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I know that later there will be a change (or I hope so) but I can´t wait for it to happen.

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I will still check out dramas starring actors who give bad first, second, or third impressions if the storyline is interesting enough. The only exception would be if there is something about their voice that annoys me (very rare).

I always hope to see them show a different side to their acting or hope they find a likable or meaty role or hope they find a role that gels with their acting style. It's fun to "discover" the new side to them that others may be missing.

Park Shi Yeon was terrible in My Girl, but she was great in Nice Guy. She played the antagonist and she fleshed out the layers that antagonist had. Jo In-sung was pretty awkward in The Classic, especially when compared to Son Ye Jin and Jo Seung Woo. Found him sexy in That Winter the wind blows, but didn't finished. And fell in love with him in It's Okay That's Love.

Im Soo-hyang never made an impression on me until her 1-2 episode role in the korean Criminal Minds. One of the few people who shined in that dumpster fire of a drama. L as the younger version of the male lead in Master's Sun was pretty bad, but I liked him in Miss Hammurabi. It was a good match.

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To clear Park Shi Yeon's negative impression, I highly recommend Coffee House. She's so often typecast as negative second lead, in CH she played a fun, upbeat, smart character so perfectly that I'm now a huge fan. Of course, Coffee House is now tainted by Kang Ji Hwan, so there's that.

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I think i gave up trying with Kim Myung Soo,i just can't stand his acting and the way he pronunces the words,it just irks me for some reason...And i watched almost all his shows and still can't stand it becoming so much that i now can't even stand seeing him with no feelings for the real person but more his actor persona...
Irks me even more that he keeps getting leading roles when he is so bad at it...
Rant over!

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INNNNNTERESTING, I always felt so bad when I decided not to watch a drama solely because of its lead.... I have nothing against them I just don't like them? AND TURNS OUT IT'S EXACTLY THIS FIRST IMPRESSION THING (to the characters they played ofc)!

I have overcome a lot of this (Han Yeseul, Ha Jiwon, Jung Kyungho(!!!), Lee Minki, Song Kang......) but there are still a lot i mean a LOT of actors that I still can't stand up until now namely Park Seojoon (I think it's Kill Me Heal Me that makes me went nope on him), Seo Kangjoon (CAN'T STAND his character in cunning single lady), Nam Joohyuk.. (School. 2015. do i need to say more?), Seo Inguk (Reply 97... i just don't feel him idk man), and perhaps Song Kang... I avoided anything Songkang after Love Alarm... but then Navilera happened and I LOVE him, but then...... Nevertheless happened........ SO....... and sadly.... 3 of 5 of these people stars opposite Park Minyoung, who is one of my fav actress, on her last few projects.........

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Seo in guk is fantastic in almost everything he does, but.... if you want to break a prejudice against him, try to watch him in a serious role (I remember you), or a goofy role (shopping king Louie).

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