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Lee Jae-wook turns 25: A look back on his milestones as actor

by Joanna Deala

With all these spoilers of a hyped Korean drama spreading on our social media feed, you have probably seen South Korean actor Lee Jae-wook as a man who’s always in a dark-colored robe, and carrying a sword. The kind of appearance that would give someone an ominous vibe, just by looking at his eyes that are as cold as ice. That is Jae-wook in his cold-blooded and ruthless Jang Uk era in the second season of Netflix’s “Alchemy of Souls.”

When I actually first learned about Jae-wook, he was Baek Kyung, an arrogant student (his arrogance went through the roof here) in K-drama “Extraordinary You.” He still did catch my attention, tho (you can’t blame me). 

The South Korean actor met his Filipino fans for the first time as he held a fan meeting last March at the New Frontier Theater, where he interacted with them through playing games and answering questions.

Contrary to his characters in “Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow” and “Extraordinary You,” Jae-wook in real life has goofy and adorable sides that fans couldn’t get enough of. Video edits of these moments are all over Twitter as fans poured in their heartfelt wishes for the birthday boy who now turns 25.

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In celebration of his level up day, let’s look back on milestones that shaped him to be the actor he is today.

First acting stint

Jae-wook first stepped into the world of acting, giving life to the character of Marco Han, a messy-looking programmer and hacker, in “Memories of the Alhambra.” His character is affiliated with Jung Se-joo, portrayed by EXO’s Park Chanyeol. Se-joo is the younger brother of Park Shin-hye’s character, Jung Hee-joo, a former guitarist and owner of a hostel in Spain, who gets entangled in strange events with a CEO of an investment company, You Jin-woo, played by Hyun Bin. 

Jae-wook shared in an interview with Esquire Korea in 2020 that he went to the audition as a first-year Theater and Film student and unlike him, other auditionees came with a manager. He bared that he even told the director to not get him for the role but gladly, he ended up being cast as Marco. 

Best new actor

From unexpectedly getting his first role, Jae-wook took home the Best New Actor award at the 2019 MBC Drama Awards for his role as Baek Kyung in “Extraordinary You.” His character in the series got caught in a love triangle with Kim Hye-Yoon’s character, Eun Dan-oh, and Ha-ru, portrayed by SF9’s Ro Woon. Baek Kyung is in an arranged marriage with Dan-oh but changes in that plan begin when the latter found out that she’s actually a supporting character in a webtoon, leading her to meet Ha-ru as she finds answers.

In the following year, Jae-wook got nominated again for the same role in the same category at the Baeksang Arts Awards.

First lead role

Different from his bad boy aura in “Extraordinary You,” Jae-wook’s first leading role is a ray of hope both for his leading lady, Goo Ra-ra, played by Go Ara, and for me. This Kdrama was released in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic where everything is taking a toll on everyone and we just wanted to have a glimpse of hope. Jae-wook as Sunwoo Joon in “Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol” came right on time. In the series, Sunwoo Joon, despite his quiet and mysterious persona, becomes the support system of Ra-ra, a pianist who continues to have a bright personality even after losing her dad and their wealth.

Jae-wook did not only snatch his first leading role, but also the Excellence Award for his acting in the series at the KBS Drama Awards in 2020. Also in the same year, he got the Rookie of the Year award at the Asia Artist Awards.

His first lead role was then followed by another one when he got chosen to play as Jang Uk in the “Alchemy of Souls” and “Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow” aired on Netflix. For his performance in the first season of the series, Jae-wook won the Best Actor award at the Asia Artist Awards, Asia Special award from the Asia Model Awards, and Global Excellence award from the Korea Drama Awards, all given to him in 2022.
After the success of the “Alchemy of Souls,” fans may now be wondering what will be in the pipeline for the 25-year-old actor. Just last month, it was reported that Jae-wook may star alongside Jo Bo Ah in a new historical drama, “Tangeum,” based on the novel of the same name. Their agencies have received the offer, and all we have to do now is to wait for further confirmation.

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