Korean actors and actresses who return after years of hiatus: from astounding successes to total failures

Many major Korean actors and actresses fail to make a strong return after taking a break from acting.

In the Korean acting industry, it’s often that major stars would withdraw from activities for a short while, either to focus on their family life, prepare for painstaking projects, hide from scandals, or simply because of exhaustion. Nevertheless, their returns are always highly-anticipated, but expectations don’t always go along with successes. Below are several Korean actors and actresses who halt their activities for years, and the result of their eventual comeback. 

Kim Tae Hee

kim tae hee
Compared to “Yong Pal”, Kim Tae Hee’s return in “Hi Bye Mama” performed poorly

As one of Korea’s top beauties, Kim Tae Hee took 5 years off the acting industry, after her 2015 work “Yong Pal”, and only returned in 2020 in the K-drama series “Hi Bye Mama”. Her hiatus came after her marriage with Bi Rain, and so the reason might be that the actress wanted to focus on her family life. Now that she’s a mother to 2 children, Kim Tae Hee saw a decline in her work’s success, with “Hi Bye Mama” only reporting a viewership rating of  6.519%, a huge decline from Yong Pal’s 19.6%. 

kim tae hee
However, the actress’ acting was said to have improved after 5 years

However, the actress’ acting was said to have improved after 5 years, as “Hi Bye Mama” managed to move its audience. It seems that despite losing popularity, Kim Tae Hee attained ample skills. 

Jang Dong Gun

jang dong gun
After “All About Eve”, Jang Dong Gun disappeared from the small screen for 12 years, before coming back in “A Gentleman’s Dignity”

After “All About Eve”, Jang Dong Gun disappeared from the small screen for 12 whole years, before coming back in the 2012 work “A Gentleman’s Dignity”. The series immediately drew attention from netizens, who were curious to see if Jang Dong Gun’s new work could be as big as his prime days. 

jang dong gun
“A Gentleman’s Dignity” became a major hit across Asia

The answer turned out to be yes, as “A Gentleman’s Dignity” became a major hit across Asia. Despite over a decade of hiatus in K-drama land, Jang Dong Gun never ceases to be a heart stealer, and his prestige remains the same. 

Lee Na Young 

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Actress Lee Na Young, who married famous actor Won Bin, took a 9-year break from K-dramas, starting from 2010.

Lee Na Young, who married famous actor Won Bin, took a 9-year break from 2010, before finally returning in the 2019 series “Romance Is A Bonus Book”. The K-drama, which also starred famous actor Lee Jong Suk, peaked at a rating of 6.651% – an acceptable figure for cable channels. 

lee na young
She returned in “Romance Is A Bonus Book”, which performed decently but lost out to her previous work.

However, compared to Lee Na Young’s previous series “The Fugitive: Plan B”, “Romance Is A Bonus Book” can hardly compare. In particular, the actress’ collaboration with Bi Rain recorded a highest viewership of 21.7%, which is over 3 times her latest performance.  However, Lee Na Young seems to have disappeared once again, and in 2022, she still hasn’t confirmed appearance in any new project. 

Gong Yoo 

gong yoo
Compared to Lee Na Young, Gong Yoo’s situation is a complete contrast

Compared to Lee Na Young, Gong Yoo’s situation is a complete contrast. Previously, he starred in the 2012 series “Big” alongside Lee Min Jung, which was considered a failure despite its cast. 

gong yoo goblin
Gong Yoo faced failure before his hiatus, only to make a super strong comeback.

Meanwhile, Gong Yoo’s first K-drama comeback after 4 years is the 2016 series “Goblin”, which not only recorded ratings as high as 18.68%, but also won Gong Yoo the Best Leading Actor title at Baeksang Arts Award. Since then, Gong Yoo has appeared on the Netflix sci-fi series “The Silent Sea”, and is recently confirmed as a cast member of “Squid Game” season 2. 

Han Hyo Joo

han hyo joo

Although Han Hyo Joo’s latest drama comeback after 5 years since “W: Two Worlds” with “Happiness” only recorded the highest domestic rating of 4,185%, social media buzz and international performance of “Happiness” was sufficiently outstanding. The believable chemistry between Han Hyo Joo and younger male co-star Park Hyung Sik contributed greatly to the drama’s popularity. 


Lee Byung Hun

Lee Byung Hun went on a break from filming dramas for 9 years between “Iris” and “Mr. Sunshine”, and it took the top actor another 4 years to return to the small screen again in “Our Blues”. However, the wait was always worth it, because every time Lee Byung Hun starred in a drama again, he made sure he picked a well-written script. 

mr sunshine

It looks like a drama’s commercial success is always guaranteed when Lee Byung Hun is part of the main cast, as his three most recent dramas all earned two-digit highest ratings, 39.9% – 18.129% – 14.597%, for “Iris”, “Mr. Sunshine” and “Our Blues”, respectively. Lee Byung Hun also proved his sublime acting skills by winning Best Actor at the Baeksang Arts Awards for his performance in both “Iris” and “Mr. Sunshine”.

Kim Tae Ri

Mr Sunshine

Lee Byung Hun’s co-star in “Mr. Sunshine” Kim Tae Ri has only debuted for 6 years but has quickly established herself as one of the most trustworthy actors of the Korean screen. First time she led a drama, “Mr. Sunshine” became a hit, recording the 6th highest ratings in the history of cable dramas. Four years later, she made a comeback with “Twenty Five, Twenty One” and once again made waves with her flawless acting and overflowing charm. Not only is it Kim Tae Ri’s second drama with double-digit ratings, “Twenty Five, Twenty One” also generated much buzz internationally. 

Kim Tae-ri
Kim Tae-ri in this year blockbuster “Twenty Five, Twenty One”

Thanks to her acting in “Twenty Five, Twenty One”, Kim Tae Ri was crowned Best Actress at the 2022 Baeksang Arts Awards, setting the record as the first star born in the 1990s to win this title in the history of Baeksang. 

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