Kim Soo-hyun (Korean: 김수현; Hanja: 金秀賢; born February 16, 1988) is a South Korean actor. One of the highest-paid actors in South Korea, his accolades include four Baeksang Arts Awards, two Grand Bell Awards and one Blue Dragon Film Award.

Early life and education

Born on February 16, 1988, Kim’s father is Kim Chung-hoon and was the lead singer of the 80’s band “Seven Dolphins”.

Kim’s mother encouraged him to take acting classes during his school years to help him overcome his shy and introverted personality. His aspirations to be an actor really took off between his middle school and high school. His first major acting was in a stage play of Shakespeare‘s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream delivering the role of Puck. His later work in the theatre includes the role of Kenickie and Hamlet in the musical Grease and tragedy Hamlet.

By 2006, Kim completed elementary, middle and high school in GangnamSeoul and debuted as a TV actor in 2007 after auditions. He enrolled at Chung-Ang University‘s Film and Theater Department in 2009.


2007–2010: Television career beginnings

Kim made his television debut with a supporting role in the 2007 family sitcom Kimchi Cheese Smile, and in 2008, landed a lead role in KBS’s critically acclaimed youth drama, Jungle Fish. Based on a true story, it tackles the serious issues of school cheating, competitive academic standards, and interactive blogging in a fresh way. The drama won a number of awards, including the US Peabody Award.

For the latter half of the year, Kim appeared in the food-based variety show Delicious Quiz (also known as The Taste of Life) as one of the hosts and in the short film Cherry Blossom.

In 2009, Kim acted in the short film Worst Friends by Namkoong Sun, which won the Best Film in Social Drama award at the Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival and the well-received SBS drama special Father’s House where he acted alongside veteran actor Choi Min-soo He also co-hosted Mnet’s Boys & Girls Music Countdown along with Kara’s Han Seung-yeon in 2009.

In January 2010, KeyEast signed an exclusive contract with Kim becoming his management company.

Kim raised his profile through memorable turns as the younger version of the male lead characters in Will It Snow for Christmas?  and Giant, the latter winning him the Best New Actor award at the SBS Drama Awards.

2011–2013: Rising popularity and breakthrough

Kim became a household name in 2011 after starring in teen musical drama Dream High. He plays a country bumpkin who turned out to be a musical genius. The drama brought in high domestic ratings and was also popular overseas, winning several international awards. As the only young actor in a cast of idols, Kim studied song and dance for three months at JYP Entertainment to pull off the required scenes in the drama. He recorded two songs for the drama’s soundtrack, his solo “Dreaming” as well as the title track “Dream High” with the rest of the cast.

Kim’s popularity skyrocketed when he starred in the hit period drama Moon Embracing the Sun as the King Leehwon. The drama recorded a peak rating of 42.2 percent, thereby earning the “national drama” status and was exported to locales across Asia, making it one of the most profitable exports in the drama genre. Kim contributed his vocals to the soundtrack with the traditional ballad “Only You” and the more modern composition “Another Way”.

Due to his popularity, he set a new record in product endorsements for being the face of 17 products simultaneously. He also won the Best Actor (TV) award at the 48th Baeksang Arts Awards. Beating out heavyweight veterans such as Han Suk-kyu, Shin Ha-kyun and Cha Seung-won, Kim said “I am very grateful for this moment, but I am ashamed as well. It’s like getting a lot of homework. I’ll keep trying to become a better actor in order to remain worthy of this award”.

Kim made his big-screen debut in the star-studded heist film The Thieves, touted by the press as the Korean version of Ocean’s Eleven. With over 12.9 million ticket sales, the film became the second highest-grossing movie in Korean film history.

In 2013, Kim was cast to play the role of a North Korean spy who infiltrated South Korea as a village idiot in the movie Secretly, Greatly, an adaptation of the popular webtoon series Covertness by Hun. The film broke several records and was one of the most successful box office hits of the year drawing an audience of 7 million. Kim won Best New Actor (Film) awards at the 50th Grand Bell Awards and the 50th Baeksang Arts Awards.

2014–2017: International fame

From 2013 to early 2014, Kim starred in SBS fantasy romance series My Love from the Star alongside Jun Ji-hyun. He also released two singles for the drama’s soundtrack, titled “In Front of Your House” and “Promise”. It became massively popular across Asia, especially in China; it had over 14.5 billion hits as of February 2014 on the online video platform iQIYI and also sparked trends in fashion, make-up and restaurants.

Kim experienced explosive growth in popularity throughout Asia topping various popularity polls and became one of the most in-demand endorsers with 35 product endorsements. He won the Daesang (or “Grand Prize”), the highest award for television, at the 7th Korea Drama Awards and Most Popular Actor (TV) at 50th Baeksang Arts Awards.

In 2015, Kim starred in KBS variety drama The Producers, written by My Love From the Star writer Park Ji-eun. The drama drew solid domestic ratings domestically, and was also sold to several countries internationally. Kim became one of the South Korea’s favorite leading faces on TV according to the Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation. Kim once again won the Daesang (or “Grand Prize”) at the 8th Korea Drama Awards,  4th APAN Star Awards and the 2015 KBS Drama Awards for his acting performance.

Kim’s wax figure made in his image were displaced at Madame Tussauds, Hong Kong and Musée Grévin, Seoul in 2015. In the following year, he was listed under Forbes “30 Under 30 Asia list” which comprises 30 influential people under 30 years of age who have made substantial effect in their fields.

Kim then starred in the action-noir film Real, directed by his cousin Lee Sa-rang, which premiered in June 2017. The film tanked at the box office and received negative reviews from the critics for its direction, storyline, characters’ information; saying that only Kim saved the movie with his acting to some extent.

On contrast, the film received favourable response after its arrival in Taiwan‘s cinema. Expat Korean Movie Critic/Blogger Pierce Conran included Real in his list of top 15 Korean Movies of 2017 for its uniqueness and originality.

Kim temporarily left his venture into acting and enlisted to complete his obligatory military service of 21 months.

2017–2019: Military enlistment and discharge

Kim began his mandatory military service on October 23, 2017. He was supposed to work in public service duty instead of active duty as he previously underwent a surgery related to his heart.However, he voluntarily went for re-examinations and was eventually cleared for the combat. He entered a military camp in Paju, Gyeonggi Province to complete his basic training.

In late November 2017, Kim’s agency announced that he had completed his five weeks of basic training, placing fourth as an outstanding trainee. He was rewarded with a vacation by the division commander and received a self deployment to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion to continue his duty.

In February 2019, Kim received an early promotion as a Sergeant for his exceptional conduct in the military. Kim was discharged on July 1, 2019.

2019–present: Comeback from military

Kim made headlines in newspapers when he stepped back into his acting career through his cameo appearances on dramas Hotel del Luna and Crash Landing on You.

In December 2019, reports surfaced that Kim would be leaving KeyEast to form a new agency with his cousin. In January 2020, Kim signed with newly formed entertainment agency Gold Medalist along with actresses Kim Sae-ron and Seo Yea-ji.

In 2020, Kim took on the role of Moon Gang-tae, an orphaned psychiatric aide in the tvN and Netflix broadcast romance drama It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. The series was Kim’s first small screen appearance in a lead role after a five-year gap. In comparison to his earlier dramas the series lacked lustre in terms of TV viewership ratings. However, it was the most popular show of 2020 on Netflix in South Korea in romance genre.

The New York Times named It’s Okay to Not Be Okay one of “The Best International Shows of 2020,” while La Tercera called it “one of the most popular Asian dramas” of 2020. S. Poorvaja of The Hindu said of Kim’s acting that he brought “Gang-tae alive on screen perfectly — someone whose silent world weariness slowly but steadily progressed to sparkling eyes, smiles and enthusiasm.”[He once again won the Daesang (or “Grand Prize”) at the 5th Asia Artist Awards in the television category.

Personal life

In March 2015, Kim was awarded for being a model taxpayer by the local tax office for faithfully paying taxes every Tax Day.

In July 2015, it was revealed that Kim has a paternal half-sister named Kim Ju-na, a singer.


A bowling enthusiast, Kim applied to become a professional bowler in October 2016. He ranked 10th out of the 114 participants on his first try-out tournament but failed to make the cut on the second, falling short of the 200 points needed to qualify with only 192.3. Kim showcased his bowling skills on his guest appearance on MBC‘s Infinite Challenge.

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