What makes Lee Min Ho so famous internationally even though his acting still draws controversy? 

Lee Min Ho is a globally famous A-list Korean actor, but he is more known for his looks than acting skills. 

Recently, in the report “Survey on the Hallyu Wave in 2021” published by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange (KOFICE), Lee Min Ho topped the list in the category of most loved Korean actors by international viewers. 

The 34-year-old actor received an outstanding number of votes with 9.3%, out of a total of 8,500 votes from the viewers from 18 countries and regions. Lee Min Ho surpassed many top names such as Hyun Bin (3.1%), Gong Yoo (2.8%), Song Hye Kyo (2.2%), and Song Joong Ki (2.1%). This is also the second year in a row that Lee Min Ho took first place in this category.

This achievement proves Lee Min Ho‘s huge impact in the international market, although his acting has always drawn mixed reactions. 

Lee Min Ho acting draws controversy

Lee Min Ho’s No.1 “weapon”

In 2009, “Boys Over Flowers” became a massive hit. Not only did it gain high viewership ratings in Korea, but the iconic drama was also a cultural phenomenon throughout Asia. The Korean adaptation of Japanese manga “Hana Yori Dango” is considered a pioneering work for high school romance K-dramas and a textbook example of the “Prince Charming – Cinderella” trope on the Korean small screen. Playing the male lead role in “Boys Over Flowers” brought Lee Min Ho his first big break and helped him become one of the most sought-after Korean stars. 

The handsome “prince”, wealthy chaebol son Goo Jun Pyo who falls in love with Cinderella Jan Di, is considered by most viewers Lee Min Ho‘s most successful role in his career. The actor exudes overflowing charm because of his flawless looks and rich aura. He was so perfectly cast that according to many fans, “Goo Jun Pyo was born to be played by Lee Min Ho”.

“Boys Over Flowers” is also the first series in Lee Min Ho‘s list of dramas where he plays the same rich and powerful character. 

Lee Min Ho acting draws controversy
Lee Min Ho shot to fame after “Boys Over Flowers”

However, after “Boys Over Flowers”, Lee Min Ho began to receive mixed reviews about his acting. But thanks to his popularity, dramas such as “City Hunter”, “The Heirs” and “Legend of the Blue Sea”… still achieved success in terms of ratings and media coverage. 

Many domestic viewers and the Korean media say Lee Min Ho’s acting is monotonous and he does not step out of his comfort zone. Over the years, what makes the public remember Lee Min Ho is his handsome face, outstanding figure rather than a truly memorable acting performance.

Throughout his career, more than half of the awards Lee Min Ho has received as an actor are popularity or fan-voted awards, instead of acting awards.

Lee Min Ho is ignored by the Korean audience

In 2020, the drama “The King: Eternal Monarch” starring Lee Min Ho and “muse” Kim Go Eun failed miserably in terms of ratings in the Korean market, despite being expected to become a blockbuster before airing. 

In the year when a series of Korean dramas set rating records such as “The World of Married”, “Romantic Doctor”, “Crash Landing on You”, etc., “The King: Eternal Monarch” was chosen as the worst drama of 2020 by Joynews24 magazine.

Lee Min Ho acting draws controversy
Lee Min Ho is handsome but unmemorable in “The King: Eternal Monarch”.

This is also the drama with the lowest rating of Lee Min Ho since 2009, only around 6-8%. The Korean media commented Lee Min Ho is a typical actor whose acting skill is the same through any kind of character. After many years, not only in image but also his acting ability and expressions are still as naive and narrow as when he was a newbie.

In fact, in 2015, Lee Min Ho attempted the role of a starving street boy in “Gangnam Blues 1970“. However, this was a failed test because the rich aura was so obvious on his face that he got lost in this strange image.

However, despite being ignored by the domestic audience, Lee Min Ho is still one of the most famous Korean actors in the international market. The proof is that “The King: Eternal Monarch” is always at the top of the best-selling work on streaming platforms of many countries around the world.

Why do international audiences love Lee Min Ho?

According to the Korea Times, an unnamed employee in the television industry said that the preferences of foreign audiences are very different from those of Koreans. While Korean audiences are gradually fed up with boring romantic genres and require producers to innovate in content, online platforms with mainly international fans demand the opposite.

A famous actor with attractive beauty is still a “magnet” to viewers even before the movie premieres. Therefore, this is an important criterion that foreign partners pay attention to when deciding to invest in Korean movies. They are willing to spend a lot of money to invite famous actors to participate in the movie and Lee Min Ho is one of them.

Lee Min Ho acting draws controversy
Lee Min Ho’s elegant look in “Pachinko”.

Currently, Lee Min Ho is also attracting attention when preparing to re-appear in the highly-invested movie “Pachinko“, a global project copyrighted by AppleTV+ and broadcast in the US at the end of March this year.

Lee Min Ho is introduced to be playing the first villain in his career, a Korean man who does not easily give up to fate and rises up in the difficult time of his life. The audience expects this to become Lee Min Ho’s breakthrough role.

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