Korean drama has gained immense popularity among a broad audience because of its unique and captivating storyline. Some Korean dramas are based on culturally rooted myths, which make them unique. The drama puts some Korean tales or characters with a modern touch. We will look at ten Korean actors whose role or character is somehow based on Korean myths.
1. Gong Yoo As Goblin (Goblin: The Lonely And Great God)
The legendary K-drama of all time was Goblin. Goblin drama gained popularity among national and international viewers. Gong Yoo's portrayal as "Goblin" incorporates elements of Korean mythology. It primarily draws inspiration from the mythical figure known as “Dokkaebi." In Korean mythology, “Dokkeabi” is a supernatural being with magical powers. These creatures are known for their mischievous nature and their ability to grant wishes to those who can pull out a magic sword embedded in their chest.
2. Lee Dong-Wook As Grim Reaper (Goblin: The Lonely And Great God)
Grim Reaper, which is known as the death god, is prevalent in all folklore and Korea is no exception. In Korea, the Grim Reaper is known as Jeoseung saja. The Grim Reaper's attire traditionally included a black Hanbok and a black hat. However, in the drama 'Goblin,' the reaper is portrayed in a black outfit representing death. According to Korean mythology, the sole purpose of Jeoseung saja is only to guide the soul to the afterlife, it cannot punish the soul. In the drama, Lee Dong-wook represented the grim reaper. The duo of Goblin and Grim Reaper in the drama became the best duo in K-drama history.
3. Moon Chae-Won As Fairy (Mama Fairy And The Woodcutter)
"Tale of Gyeryong Fairy," also known as "Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter," is a Korean drama that is based on the popular Korean folktale known as "The Tale of Janghwa and Hongryeon." This folktale has several variations and adaptations in Korean culture and is sometimes called "Janghwa Hongryeon jeon" or "The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon." The folktale tells the story of two sisters, Janghwa and Hongryeon, who face various trials and hardships but ultimately find love and happiness. In the drama adaptation, "Tale of Gyeryong Fairy," the narrative is modernized and reimagined, with a fairy character at the center of the story. In the drama, the fairy character, played by Moon Chae-won, loses her wings and takes on a human form and the character also includes a woodcutter, played by Yoon Hyun-min.
4. Lee Seung-Gi As Monkey King (A Korean Odyssey)
"A Korean Odyssey" also known as "Hwayugi," is a popular Korean drama that draws its inspiration from the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West" (also known as "Monkey" or "The Monkey King") rather than a specific Korean myth. While the source material is Chinese origin, the drama incorporates elements from the novel and infuses them with Korean cultural references and a modern setting. The Chinese novel "Journey to the West" tells the epic adventures of the monk Xuanzang (Tang Sanzang in Chinese) and his companions, including the mischievous Monkey King Sun Wukong, who possesses extraordinary powers. In "A Korean Odyssey," the story is reimagined and set in modern-day South Korea, featuring characters inspired by novel's iconic figures.
5. Nam Joo-Hyuk As Water God (The Bride Of Habaek)
"The Bride of Habaek or Water God" is a Korean drama that draws inspiration from various elements of Korean mythology and folklore. In Korean folklore, there are numerous myths and stories related to water gods and spirits, often associated with rivers, lakes, and the sea. These water deities are believed to possess supernatural powers and play essential roles in the balance of nature. In "Bride of the Water God," the story centers around a young woman named So-ah, played by Shin Se-kyung, who becomes entangled with the Water God Ha-baek, portrayed by Nam Joo-hyuk.
6. Shin Min-ah As Arang (Arang And The Magistrate)
"Arang and the Magistrate" is a South Korean historical fantasy drama that draws its inspiration from various elements of Korean folklore and mythology. The drama is primarily based on the legend of "Arang,'' a well-known ghost story in Korean culture. Arang and her tragic story are one of the most well- known ghost stories in Korea and they have built a shrine "The Shrine of Arang,'' in Miryang to venerate her spirit. The central myth revolves around the character of Arang, a young woman who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. After her death, Arang's spirit returns as a vengeful ghost to seek revenge. In the drama, Arang's character is portrayed by Shin Min-ah to seek justice and resolve the mystery of her death.
7. Kim Jae-Wook As A Priest (The Guest)
The Guest," is a South Korean drama series, based on elements of Korean shamanism, exorcism, and supernatural folklore rather than a single specific Korean myth. The drama searches into the dark and mysterious world of exorcism and spiritual possession, drawing inspiration from various aspects of Korean culture and superstition related to evil spirits and shamanistic practices. The central plot of "The Guest" follows a psychic, a Catholic priest, and a detective who join forces to combat evil spirits and solve crimes linked to paranormal occurrences. "The Guest" weaves together elements of shamanistic rituals, ghostly legends, and supernatural beliefs that are deeply rooted in Korean culture.
8. Shin Min- ah As Gumiho (My Girlfriend Is A Gumiho)
My girlfriend is a Gumiho, showed the korean myth about the mythological creature nine-tailed fox also known as kumiho or Gumiho. In Korean mythology, Gumiho is a Mythical creature that is often depicted as a nine-tailed fox with the ability to transform into a woman. They can transform into the appearance of a young woman to seduce and deceive human beings. Some tales depicted them as malicious creatures that consume the human heart or liver to gain human-like attributes. There are various K-dramas that show the character of Gumiho, like "Tale of Nine Tailed," "My roommate is a Gumiho" and "The Gu Family."
9. Jung Il-Woo As King (Haechi)
Haechi is a historical drama that draws inspiration from the Korean mythology of “Haechi". Haechi is a legendary animal of ancient korean mythology which is said to ward off disaster and bring good fortune. The creature is supposed to be a dog with the face of lion and wings. In the series, the prince's character is played by Jung Jung Il- Woo, who possesses the abilities and characteristics of a Heachi.
10. Jun Ji-Hyun As Mermaid (The Legend Of The Blue Sea )
The Legend of the Blue Sea is a popular Korean drama where the storyline depicts the love between a mermaid and a human. Although there is no particular folklore that shows myth about mermaids in korean myth, there are stories about "haegeumgang” or “haesinnyeo," which are known as mermaids or sea maidens. The women of Jeju Island possess the quality that they can remain underwater for more than 3 minutes without oxygen. The series doesn’t follow any particular myth; it is based on the concept of a mermaid in Korean folklore with a touch of fantasy followed by romantic comedy. These myths have been passed through generations and inspire various dramas and movies to enhance their creative storytelling. These ten actors have portrayed characters inspired by Korean legends and contributed to the success of the drama both in Korea and internationally.