The Best of Nam Joohyuk
Okay, confession time: I’ve been enamored with Nam Joohyuk since he first shouted the endearing nickname “Doong!” in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo. But the fact of the matter is, I’m definitely not the only one that experienced this fate. The model-turned-actor has been captivating audiences since even his early, non-lead appearances. Today, we’ll look at the best of his career thus far.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo is what started the Nam Joohyuk obsession for most of us. The actor portrayed college swimmer Jung Joonhyung, an outgoing and bubbly student known for being playful and mischievous. Joonhyung was a childhood friend of our heroine Kim Bokjoo (Lee Sungkyung), and upon realizing that they had once again crossed paths, Joonhyung begins to cling to Bokjoo and eventually develops feelings for her.
The playful teasing that Joonhyung showers upon Bokjoo is more than endearing, and it immediately causes the viewer to fall in love with the bright boy. As the story develops, Joonhyung’s strong emotional trauma is revealed as his relationship with Bokjoo deepens. The most memorable part of Joohyuk’s performance in this series is his stunning ability to silently radiate affection toward our heroine, complete with stealing glances and longing looks. While this drama didn’t have memorable ratings during its run, the drama is considered a fan favorite online and one that shouldn’t be missed by any drama fan.
The Light in your Eyes
Joohyuk’s latest work, The Light in your Eyes, is a more serious melodrama with a fantasy twist that is currently airing on Viki. He plays the male counterpart to lead female Kim Hyeja (Han Jimin), an aspiring announcer who ends up with a watch to turn back time. The catch of this watch is that Hyeja grows older the more she uses it, so she stows it away in order to avoid the consequences of the power. She meets Joohyuk’s character Lee Joonha at a class reunion, where Joonha tags along as a friend of her former crush. Joonha immediately takes interest in her, which is communicated via his gaze, and the two end up crossing paths time and again.
Building a tentative friendship, the two commiserate on their failures in life over many sleepless nights filled with bottomless soju. While the relationship between the two develops, a major tragedy strikes Hyeja’s life that causes her to take out and use the watch in desperation, turning time back over and over again in order to prevent this tragedy from happening. Once she succeeds, she wakes up to find herself 70 years old and unrecognizable. Still, she remains near Joonha, learning that he’s thrown away his promising life and become a dishonest, misguided youth.
Joohyuk’s character is very different from the type of roles we’ve seen him in before, and contrasts directly with the playful vibe of Joonhyung in Weightlifting Fairy. Joonha is a quiet and shy kid that has a cold streak in him with a heavy, horrible past that he eventually allows to consume his character. With the drama only eight episodes in, we still don’t know how it will resolve.
The Great Battle
While not technically a K-Drama, The Great Battle deserves to be mentioned on this list due to the critical acclaim Joohyuk received for his acting in the film. In another twist on his previous works, this is a historical action film that portrays the siege of Ansi Fortress and the 88-day battle that the Goguryeo troops faced as the Tang dynasty invaded. Joohyuk played a main role as Samul and won the award for “Best New Actor” at the 38th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards, the 2nd The Seoul Awards, and the 39th Blue Dragon Film Awards. After struggling to gain recognition as an actor in his early works, the 2018 film marks the breakout moment in his acting career.
While it’s a little controversial on whether or not his acting in School 2015 was considered one of his better works, Joohyuk still won “Best New Actor” at the 4th APAN Star Awards and was nominated for the same category in the 8th Korean Drama Awards and KBS Drama Awards. A lot of the backlash was likely due to a general dislike of his character rather than the acting itself. In the drama, Joohyuk plays Han Yian, a close childhood friend of Go Eunbyul (Kim Sohyun) who had a crush on her. He questions the identity of Eunbyul’s twin, Eunbi, but later develops feelings for her. He is the star swimmer of the high school, and has a good reputation as a hard worker and supporter of his father. This was Joohyuk’s first starring role that eventually led to his future success.