Military service for able-bodied men in Korea is mandatory. Even high-profile people like wealthy heirs and superstars aren’t exempted from this. Those who choose not to serve in the military often become a target for trolls and insults, as the act is seen as disrespectful to the country. Fans are truly devastated to see their favorite stars temporarily (or sometimes permanently) quit showbiz for their service. While some Hallyu stars like Steve Yoo, MC Mong, Song Seung Heon, and Kim Mu Yeol didn’t return to the acting scene after their service and chose to retire, there are many stars who didn’t waste any time and jumped straight into work. These “comeback” dramas of actors hold a special place in fans’ hearts as they signified their favorite actors’ return to the industry. Below are the top 10 of Top 10 K-Dramas that marked actors' return from the military!
1. Lee Min Ho- The King: Eternal Monarch
Fan favorite star and heartthrob Lee Min Ho made his comeback with this fantasy romance. After starring in the drama The Legend of the Blue Sea, Min Ho began his mandatory military service the next year. His service came to an end in 2019, and he was cast in the SBS broadcast drama The King: Eternal Monarch. Combining the element of parallel reality and science fiction, The King tells the story of two individuals in parallel words. The drama has incredibly beautiful cinematography paired with an engaging script. The King was one of the most anticipated dramas of 2020, as it served as Min Ho’s first K-drama after his military service.
2. Kim Soo Hyun- It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
Termed as one of the best dramas of 2020, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay was one of the most talked about K-dramas of the year. Kim Soo Hyun’s last project before his military enlistment was the neo-noir action movie “Real”, which failed to generate positive reviews and commercial success. So of course fans were eager to see more of his works. The year after his enlistment was filled with cameo appearances in dramas like Hotel Del Luna and Crash Landing on You, but eventually he made his comeback with It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. Soo Hyun was praised for his acting skills and incredible on-screen chemistry with co-star Seo Yea Ji. The drama showcases the romance between a children’s book writer suffering from a personality disorder and a psychiatric hospital employee.
3. Song Joong Ki- Descendants Of The Sun
Descendants of the Sun (DOTS) is one K-drama that helped the Hallyu wave gain traction internationally. This drama was Song Joong Ki’s breakthrough role as an international star after starring in domestically known projects. He enlisted in the military in 2013 and was discharged after roughly two years of service. Song’s role as a charismatic and jovial military officer in the drama earned him glowing reviews and popularity outside Korea. DOTS was his first drama after enlistment and brought an endless amount of recognition and popularity.
4. Go Kyung Pyo- Private Lives
Most recently, Go Kyung Pyo was in the news because of the drama Love in Contract, in which he co-starred alongside Park Min Young. Kyung Pyo has starred in dramas such as Jealousy Incarnate, Don’t Dare to Dream, and Reply 1988. After starring in the 2018 drama “Cross”, the actor took a two-year hiatus due to his military enlistment. He returned to the small screen in 2020 with the drama Private Lives. In Private Lives, Kyung Pyo plays the role of Lee Jeong Hwan, a manager at a conglomerate. His character has a layered personality and teams with a swindler named Cha Jun Eoon (played by Seohyun) to take down the conglomerate where Jeong Hwan works.
5. Yoon Shi Yoon- Mirror Of The Witch
Usually, celebrities who enlist in the military are placed in social work or as officers, so it came as a surprise when Yoon Shi Yoon joined the Marines in 2014 as part of his military service. After getting discharged two years later, he immediately became a cast member of the historical show Mirror of the Witch. The series’ central theme is political intrigue, and the plot revolves around a princess who has been kept away from the palace and must take back her rightful place. Shi Yoon plays the role of a scholar named Heo Jun, who aids the princess in getting her birthright back.
6. Lee Seung Gi- The Korean Odyssey
Lee Seung Gi was at the height of his career when he had to enlist in the military. Prior to it he had done many successful K-dramas, acted as the emcee and host of various reality T.V. and variety shows, and had a booming music career as well. His mandatory service began in 2016 and ended in the later part of 2017. He was the first choice for the role of Son Oh Gong in The Korean Odyssey, but he rejected it. Later, owing to no cast look, he accepted the offer and joined the cast. The Korean Odyssey, also known by its alternative name Hwayugi, is a modern take on the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West, published in the 16th century.
7. Joo Win- Alice
Joo Won shot to fame playing the antagonist in the 2010 drama King of Baking, Kim Tagyu. Since then he has had many successful projects under his belt like Ojakgyo Family, Bridal Mask, and Good Doctor. Won enlisted in the military right after the drama My Sassy Girl finished. He was assigned the infantry division and was discharged in 2019. He starred alongside Kim Hee Sun in the 2020 drama Alice, his first after being discharged. Alice is a time-travel drama with science-fiction elements. Joo Won plays the role of a detective named Park Jin Hyum, who meets a woman from the future. Soon, Jin Hyum realizes that their meeting is fated.
8. Kang Ha Neul- When The Camellia Blooms
Kang Ha Neul is a fan favorite and has a loyal fanbase. His fans were extremely miserable when he enlisted in the military as it meant that his acting career would be put on hold. Fans rejoiced when some time after his discharge from service, he returned to the screen with the romance drama When The Camellia Blooms. “When the Camellia Blooms” is the drama to watch if you want a more mature (in terms of characters) portrayal of love.
9. Jo In Sung- That Winter The Wind Blows
Jo In Sung has a pretty long-standing acting career. He has been continuously active in the industry since his debut in 2000. A Frozen Flower was his last film before he started his mandatory military service in the Air Force. Unlike some actors in this list, In Sung didn’t immediately went back to work after his service. His comeback drama was the 2013 drama That Winter, The Wind Blows, in which he starred alongside actress Song Hye Kyo.
10. Ji Chang Wook- Melting Me Softly
Ji Chang Wook did his mandatory military service from 2017 to 2019 at the Korean Army’s Artillery Brigade. He didn’t waste any time jumping back on the acting scene and joined the cast of the romantic comedy Melting Me Softly the same year he got discharged. His role in the drama was that of a producer who after being frozen in ice for 20 years, tries to come to terms with his new life.