The 10 top breakout K-drama actresses of 2021, from Jung Ho-yeon of Netflix's Squid Game – of course – to My Name and Nevertheless' Han So-hee and Vincenzo's Jeon Yeo-bin

Asia's Tech News Daily

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Never before has the Hallyu Wave swept the globe as strongly as this year thanks to thrilling hits like Squid Game, Vincenzo and Beyond Evil, just to name a few. It has largely resulted in many new young names who could be the next Song Hye-kyo, Jun Ji-hyun or Son Ye-jin.

Interestingly, most of them started off as models, then surprised audiences with their acting skills to gain popularity after just a few projects. If they weren’t already models, they became the fresh faces of fashion and beauty brands not long afterwards through their new-found stardom and millions of followers.

So who are these new faces exactly?

Jung Ho-yeon

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Jung Ho-yeon rose to fame overnight from her first ever acting gig. Photo: @hoooooyeony/Instagram

Jung Ho-yeon is no doubt the year’s brightest new star, gaining global fame overnight with her very first TV series, the megahit Squid Game. Before that, she had only walked on the runway for brands like Chanel, Fendi and Louis Vuitton, which signed her as brand ambassador, as per Elle, in October. Her portrayal of badass player No 67, Kang Sae-byeok, an aloof North Korean defector determined to reunite her family, garnered attention for the rookie’s impressive acting chops.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Jung Ho-yeon in Squid Game. Photo: Netflix

So popular did she become that the 27-year-old star’s Instagram following rose from 400,000 to 23.7 million, making her the eighth most followed celebrity in South Korea, per AllKpop. She is the “wanted” face of brands like Adidas and Calvin Klein, besides being Louis Vuitton’s newest Global House Ambassador.

Han So-hee

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Han So-hee rose to stardom thanks to Nevertheless and My Name. Photo: @xeesoxee/Instagram

Another model-turned-actress, Han So-hee first caught viewers’ eyes on TV series The World of the Married (2020). Then, in two top-rated series this year, Nevertheless and Netflix’s My Name, she showed her acting range, from the naive and careless Yu Na-bi in an uncertain romantic tryst, to the vengeful Yoon Ji-woo on the trail of her father’s killer, a role that let her exhibit her skills in martial arts and stunts. Her next project is thriller drama K Project alongside another breakout star of the year, Wi Ha-joon.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Han So-hee in a still from My Name. Photo: Handout

With 7.2 million Instagram followers, the 27-year-old actress has been L’Oréal Paris’ global ambassador for hair products; she is also signed with Lanvin, Gucci, Celine, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, and Stonehenge, per Metro.

Jeon Yeo-bin

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Jeon Yeo-bin starred in the hit drama Vincenzo. Photo: @jeon.yeobeen/Instagram

Jeon Yeo-bin made her acting debut in 2015, but it wasn’t until the smash hit Vincenzo this year that the 32-year-old actress stole the limelight, thanks to her performance as the sharp-tongued lawyer, Hong Cha-young, alongside leading man Song Joong-ki.

“I’m still not a very familiar face among the public, so it would be nice if she [Hong Cha-young] could be so memorable that people would say, ‘Oh, that’s Hong Cha-young!’ when they see me,” Jeon said in a press conference.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Jeon Yeo-bin in Vincenzo. Photo: TVN

Jeon gets top billing in the upcoming Netflix mystery thriller Glitch. She also became a new face of the 2021 spring/summer collection of Discovery Expedition and Giorgio Armani Beauty. She has 1.4 million Instagram followers.

Han Ji-hyun

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Han Ji-hyun started off as a model. Photo: @hanjiji54/Instagram

Han Ji-hyun started her career as a model when she was studying in middle school before pursuing theatre projects in high school, per K Profiles. Appearing in some films since 2017, she rose to popularity internationally with TV drama The Penthouse (2020-2021). Her evil character Ju Seok-gyeong, who would do anything to rise to the top, was hated very much … and brought her new-found fame. The 25-year-old actress takes on her first main role in new romantic drama Cheer Up as Do Hae-yi, a new member of the university cheering squad, Pinkvilla reports.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Han Ji-hyun in The Penthouse. Photo: @hanjiji54/Instagram

Her Instagram following rose from 1,500 before Penthouse to 2.2 million so far. In June, Han was chosen as the brand ambassador for South Korea’s Celltrion Skincure.

Shin Hye-sun

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Shin Hye-sun starred in Mr. Queen. Photo: @shinhs831/Instagram

Shin Hye-sun’s road to fame was quite a long one, taking almost a decade from 2012. From supporting roles to leads, the 32-year-old actress hit stardom this year with comedy drama Mr. Queen. Her flamboyantly energetic portrayal of a modern-day man trapped in the body of a Joseon-era queen elicited much laughter and won her fans.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Shin Hye-sun in Mr. Queen. Photo: TVN

Now, she is all set to woo us further with three films – She Died, Open the Door and Brave Citizen. In March, she was chosen as the ambassador of the mask brand, We Must M. She has 2.5 million Instagram followers.

Go Min-si

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Go Min-si has starred in a number of popular K-dramas. Photo: @gomisi/Instagram

From two Netflix hit series, Love Alarm (2019-2021) and Sweet Home (2020) to Youth of May (2021) and Jirisan (2021), model/actress/dancer/director Go Min-si is another addition to the list of global Korean stars. Her performances have gained her much love, especially as Sweet Home’s Lee Eun-yoo, a high school ballerina. It was a role for which the 26-year-old actress lost 13kg and studied ballet, according to AllKpop.

Thanks to the success of the movie and her role, Go is followed by 1.3 million Instagram users and was selected by the Korean cosmetics brand Clio as its ambassador in January, before it changed to Aespa in August, per KPopStarz.

Choi Sung-eun

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Choi Sung-eun started out as a theatre actress. Photo: @acefactory.official/Instagram

Starting in theatre in 2018, Choi Sung-eun stole the scene in her first movie, Start-Up (2019). She moved to the small screen the next year in sci-fi drama anthology SF8, in an episode called Joan’s Galaxy and shone in this year’s crime drama Beyond Evil as the fiery Manyang Butcher’s Shop owner, Yoo Jae-yi. It got her a nomination for Best New Actress at the 57th Baeksang Arts Awards, Soompi reports. The 25-year-old actress is set to appear in the forthcoming movie Gentleman and Netflix’s drama The Sound of Magic.

Park Ju-hyun

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Park Ju-hyun debuted in 2019. Photo: @charmgirl_1005/Instagram

Soon after her debut in 2019, Park Ju-hyun was praised for her first lead role as Bae Gyu-ri in Netflix series Extracurricular (2020) which addressed several sensitive topics such as teenage prostitution. The 27-year-old actress rose further in popularity this year with mystery thriller hit drama Mouse, in which she portrayed Oh Bong-yi, a tough-looking martial arts expert. She will continue to show her skills in Netflix’s action blockbuster Seoul Vibe and action thriller movie Drive. She has 461,000 Instagram followers.

Lee Ho-jung

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Lee Ho-jung stole the scene of Nevertheless. Photo: @holly608/Instagram

Nevertheless paved the way for the acting careers of more young faces. Besides Han So-hee, Lee Ho-jung also won the hearts of audiences for her supporting role of Yoon Sol, a lesbian hopelessly in love with her best friend Seo Ji-wan – which arguably eclipsed the show’s main love triangle.

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Lee Ho-jung in Nevertheless. Photo: @holly608/Instagram

She also made an impression with action thriller movie Hostage: Missing Celebrity as Saet-byeol, a rough and scary kidnapper. She beat 1,000 candidates for the role, per HanCinema. In the upcoming fantasy drama The Jinx’s Lover, she takes on a deeply emotional role as a love interest.

Before her acting debut in 2016, the 24-year-old was also a model for luxury brands like Dior and Giorgio Armani, and appeared in magazines such as Vogue Korea, Elle Korea, Nylon, Allure and on covers of L’Officiel Singapore, according to KDramaStars. She has 1.5 million Instagram followers.

Yoon Seo-ah

many new young names, walked on the runway, most followed celebrity in South Korea, the smash hit Vincenzo, TV drama The Penthouse, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

Yoon Seo-ah impressed the audience with her performance in Nevertheless. Photo: @yoonseoah_/Instagram

The supporting role of Seo Ji-wan in Nevertheless also helped fresh face Yoon Seo-ah to get better known, thanks to her lively and natural performance. Although she made her debut in 2018 at 18, she only appeared in guest roles, including True Beauty, before her first supporting role in teen romcom series Love Revolution (2020), according to My Drama List. Her next project is the historical drama Red Single Heart where she will play the handmaid to Kang Han-na’s character. She has 478,000 Instagram followers.

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