Lee Min-ho is a renown Korean actor and filmmaker who has made his mark on both Korean and worldwide audiences. Lee Min-ho’s star has been on the rise, growing in popularity for many years, and that rise has made him in 2020…a king — a figurative, fictional king and symbolic real-world king as a titan in the entertainment realm. With Lee Min-ho’s commanding on-screen presence, stunning good looks, and impressive acting abilities, he is a vision to be seen in his current series The King: Eternal Monarch, and is sure to be in his films and television series that are forthcoming. Lee Min-ho is currently filming the television series Pachinko, based on the novel by Min Jin Lee, and 2021 is certain to be another year to watch what this immensely talented actor, performer, and director will be delivering for our viewing entertainment and enjoyment. [Side note, Koreans put their family name first and then their given name. Here, in America, it would be Min-ho Lee.]
Lee Min-ho started his career in 2003, which includes film, television, web series, music videos, and recently his very own filmmaking career. Lee Min-ho Film started venturing into self-created content this year, recording and producing four short films posted on YouTube. Each film is a stand-alone which have featured a variety of interests and topics, from nature to shopping to the city of Seoul, with glimpses into Lee Min-ho’s personal life and his beloved mini pinscher, Choco. His last film titled “Last Autumn” is well worth the three minutes necessary to watch the visually stimulating masterpiece. It will be exciting to see where Lee Min-ho Film goes from here and into the future. Another venture of note is that Lee Min-ho set up a website, PROMIZ2014, which continues to assist in a multiple of fund-raisers, charitable organizations, and humanitarian causes throughout the world. A couple fun facts about Lee Min-ho is that he had his wax figure added to Madame Tussaud’s Hong Kong in 2013 and he released an album, My Everything, in 2013 as well.
Lee Min-ho’s career was put on hold in 2006 after he suffered severe injuries in a car accident and was bedridden for several months during his recovery. I believe this incident gave Lee Min-ho a sense of compassion and understanding that he can bring to his characters that many actors do not have first-hand experience with. Lee Min-ho knows physical pain, mental anguish, and what it takes physically and emotionally to overcome some of life’s greatest hardships. Lee Min-ho is able to bring this personal knowledge to his roles and it is visible through the innate compassion of the characters he portrays. As a result of his car accident injuries, Lee Min-ho was unable to serve in active duty for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, compulsory military service is required of all males 18-28 years old, at a younger age, but he was finally able to complete his military training in 2018 and was discharged from public service duty in 2019.
The King: Eternal Monarch is the series that introduced me to Lee Min-ho. As this was the fourth Korean drama (k-drama) that I watched, while I had previously seen amazing acting, storytelling, cinematography, directing, editing, visual effects, stunts, fight scenes and everything magical that is put into a k-drama series, what I had not seen was the powerful performance Lee Min-ho could put into the character of Lee Gon in The King: Eternal Monarch. His portrayal of King Lee Gon, whose priorities are his country and the health, prosperity, and protection of the citizens within his country, was both powerful and believable. Because he only became King of Corea after the assignation of his father during an attempted coup by his uncle (portrayed by the talented Lee Jung-jin), Lee Gon was forced to become a king at the tender age of eight years old. Since his mother had already died, his great-uncle’s family was living in exile, and his uncle was a traitor, there were not many family members available to raise an eight-year-old boy to become a worthy king. It was only with the assistance of his great-uncle, Prince Buyeong (Jeon Moo-song) who is second-in-line to the throne and Ok-nam Noh (Kim Young-ok), the Head Court-lady of the Imperial Household, who is a mother/grandmother figure to King Lee Gon, that he became an intelligent, authoritative, and shrewd king to the Kingdom of Corea. I must take a moment to give praise to the phenomenal writing of Kim Eun-sook, who is one of the finest writing talents within Korea and throughout the world, this storyline left me reeling by all the Alice in Wonderland-inspired “rabbit holes” that I traveled down. The series itself is a masterpiece worthy of all the praise and accolades it has received.
With the Alice in Wonderland-inspired vortex that King Lee Gon’s life went through, portraying the King of Corea would be a huge role for any actor to portray — especially as the character went through many twists and turns as his life became divided between two parallel words. Watching Lee Min-ho, as this character who adapted between these vastly diverse fictional environments, was mesmerizing. Lee Min-ho portrayed the King of Corea who, literally, chased the “rabbit” with the clock — the “lost Alice” who unknowingly goes into an unrecognizable parallel world of the Republic of Korea — and introduces us to the “land with no name” that is referred to as, “It’s something between one and zero in my world and yours. A place that cannot be explained scientifically. There is no light, wind, or air here.”
The parallel worlds of Corea and the Republic of Korea are complex as they have many similarities when first encountered, but are vastly different once you start to delve more deeply into them. And if these worlds were not complicated enough, the parallel words have parallel people so you can run into someone with the same face as yourself. Lee Min-ho’s portrayal of a King who leaves his world and goes into a parallel world where he is not a king, has no identification, does not have any money, is unable to eat as he no longer has a food taster, and the people he recognizes by face, are completely different in this parallel world was a pitch-perfect performance in nuance and layers. These factors provided a challenging dynamic for the King that Lee Min-ho was able to portray convincingly and managed to bring to life on screen with an ease and finesse of a seasoned actor. Every word spoken, mannerism, and both facial and body expressions revealed a king who did not let any situation affect his unbreakable self-control as he maneuvered unknown circumstances to his benefit.
Along with Lee Min-ho expressing the faculties and steadfastness fit for a king, he was able to deliver powerfully emotional scenes as well. The awe-inspiring scene of when King Lee Gon meets Lieutenant Jeong Tae-eul, whose police badge he had in his possession while he was searching for her for 25 years, that he encounters in the parallel world of the Republic of Korea, was a scene that gave me spine-tingling chills. The intensity of his eyes when he first saw her, the physical force of his presence that had her body leaning away from him as he approached her, and his words of, “I’ve finally met you, Lieutenant Jeong Tae-eul”, followed by his grasping and hugging her, this woman he had been searching for, was powerfully emotional and made me want to weep with joy for this lost king. Lieutenant Jeong Tae-eul’s reaction was completely different, but I appreciated the intensity that Lee Min-ho put into this scene so that we could witness and almost physically feel the surprise, joy, and relief King Lee Gon felt during this first meeting. It was a scene worthy of being re-watched several times to take in all the complexities of this beautiful encounter.
The second Lee Min-ho series that I watched and was able to appreciate his broad acting range was The Legend Of The Blue Sea. Having just seen Lee Min-ho portray a mighty and selfless king, it was quite a change to see him play a brilliant, but selfish and conniving con-artist. The role of Heo Joo-jae in The Legend Of The Blue Sea proved to be just as diverse and difficult as the role of King Lee Gon as the writing threw in the added element of reincarnation. Having to play not only a modern-day con artist, Lee Min-ho also portrayed Kim Dam-ryeong, a town head and son of a magistrate during the Joseon era (the Joseon era was from 1392-1897) who fell in love with a mermaid. These star-crossed lovers met as children when the mermaid, later named Se-hwa (Jun Ji-hyun) by Kim Dam-ryeong, saved him from drowning. They then met several times over the years until Kim Dam-ryeong, who was married through an arranged marriage, ran away on his wedding night to be with Se-hwa. One of Se-hwa’s abilities as a mermaid is to erase human memories and she did that night so that Kim Dam-ryeong could continue his life on land, since she cannot go on land until she reached adulthood and then could transform her mermaid’s tail into human legs while on land.
The Legend Of The Blue Sea follows the characters of Kim Dam-ryeong and Se-hwa, who met again as adults over a hundred years later. Thus, it was fascinating watching Lee Min-ho’s portrayal of the town head during the Joseon period and his later character as a con-artist, who had many similarities to King Lee Gon in The King: Eternal Monarch — for example, a young man with the great responsibility of ruling a town in Legend of the Blue Sea versus an entire kingdom in The King: Eternal Monarch. Both characters had to grapple with evil men who wanted to kill them for selfish ambitions of their own, while still protecting those who were under their care and the women that they loved. Lee Min-ho did a superb job of representing this character from a different era with believable authenticity and a commanding presence.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lee Min-ho in the role of Kim Dam-ryeong as it provided a contrast for the character of Heo Joo-jae, the modern-day con-artist who had had a history of using people and then leaving them without a backward glance. Heo Joo-jae had suffered great disappointment and betrayal as a child when his father abandoned his mother for another woman and her son. Right after that, he lost touch with his mother through the divorce and lost respect for his father because his father put his new wife and son’s happiness before Heo Joo-jae’s. After suffering this emotional abandonment, Heo Joo-jae became a con-artist who only stole from the rich who obtained wealth through illegal ways. Lee Min-ho’s portrayal of the character Heo Joo-jae, the con-artist, was done with delightful charm and felt effortless.
In The Legend Of The Blue Sea, the characters of Se-hwa and Kim Dam-ryeong met again in modern-day Spain, though they did not remember each other from their previous lives since they have been reincarnated, through an unexpected coincidence. It was a scene full of comedic elements and it was fun to watch Lee Min-ho’s sublime comic performance throughout. Lee Min-ho has great comedic timing that he can convey through not only his dialogue, but through the expression of his body movements, facial expressions, and the cadence of his voice. He is a comedic genius on-screen and his portrayal left me laughing out loud many times watching the combination of all these talents blend together to add more comedy and laughter to his scenes. It made it believable and relatable. To be able to seamlessly transition from the autocratic leader to the comedic “jester” is a talent that I have come to appreciate about Lee Min-ho.
Finally, saving the best for last, Lee Min-ho’s portrayal of the characters who fall helplessly and rapturously in love. His diversity is not only in his acting, but the portrayal of the different facets of his character as he unveils these complex range of emotions of love for these destined-in-love female characters. The roles required that he be comical at times while interacting with these fictional lady loves, and it was a pleasure to watch the flirty, teasing, and coyishly-affectionate boyishness that Lee Min-ho could convey through his characters of King Lee Gon and Heo Joo-jae. Yet, when the scenes became more intense, when I could feel the magnetic pull of the characters with sparks almost visually visible, as I held my breath in anticipation of what was about to happen next. Lee Min-ho is, as stated previously, a stunningly handsome man. Throw in the intensity of his eyes and full focus of his body and mind and it can, simply, be overwhelming. I found myself pausing the scene to take a breath as I rewound the scene, to see the intensity again or to catch what I might have missed the first time.
From the array of Lee Min-ho Film YouTube videos and what Lee Min-ho has posted on his social media accounts, I get the impression that he is fun, enjoys life, and would be a blast to hang out with. From his work on-screen, I find Lee Mi-ho to be one of the most accomplished actors performing in film and television today. It is a pleasure to watch all the elements he puts into his acting and I am excited to see what he puts out next.