As Crash Landing on You and Secret Garden star Hyun Bin, we look back on the most memorable milestones in the K-drama actor’s career – from exemplary military service to his breakout roles in Bodyguard and My Lovely Sam Soon, and his eventual transformation from amateur actor to one of Korea’s most bankable talents.

A starring role on superhit Netflix show Crash Landing on You made Hyun Bin famous, and the K-drama actor boasts a legion of diehard fans, thanks to the various roles he has portrayed on film and television, his candid demeanor off-screen, and his dashing looks (which only seem to get better with age). As the actor born Kim Tae-pyung turns 38 on September 25, we look back at his career’s most defining moments and find out why he ranks among Korea’s top stars (and is one of the best-paid actors in K-drama).

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1. In 2003, Hyun started out portraying strikingly unusual roles: a stalker and a bodyguard

In the 2003 drama Bodyguard, Hyun played the role of the main character’s stalker, a minor part that showcased his acting chops nonetheless.

The following year, he joined the cast of Ireland, playing the role of a bodyguard who develops romantic feelings for an adult film star. It won him best new actor at the MBC Drama Awards in 2004.

2. His role in My Lovely Sam Soon solidified his status from a rookie actor to a top star

At the height of Korea‘s hallyu wave, Hyun became a household name after the success of My Name Is Kim Sam-soon (also known in English as My Lovely Sam Soon). He took on the role of a dashing restaurant owner who eventually falls for Kim Sam-soon, a talented pastry chef who is insecure about her name, which she considers old-fashioned, and her body.

The romcom drama, which achieved a domestic average viewership rating of up to 37 per cent of viewer share, with its finale peaking at 50 per cent, also won Hyun acting recognition.

3. In 2011, Hyun starred in Secret Garden, a massive hit, and sang for its official soundtrack, which topped the charts

Secret Garden was responsible for many music and fashion trends at that time, as well as the actor‘s skyrocketing success.

Hyun perfectly portrayed an arrogant, heartless department store CEO, who breaks down his walls for the woman he unexpectedly falls for. His performance led to what is called the “Hyun Bin syndrome”, where he became a household name and the face of several advertorial endorsements.

>>>See more: Hyun Bin Comes Back With Visual Makes Sisters’ Hearts Tired, Sharing Thoughts About The Most Beautiful Woman

4. At the height of his career, Hyun decided to serve in the military

Hyun’s decision to complete compulsory military service when he was at the zenith of his career shocked fans, but the actor eventually made them proud by completing the spell with compliments from his military superiors.

The actor joined the toughest branch in Korean military, the Marine Corps, and was discharged with a citation for being an exemplary soldier. He was assigned to islands near the Northern Limit Line, the border between South and North Korea.

5. His 2020 drama, Crash Landing On You revived his career

Hyun worked hard to bulk up for the runaway Netflix hit Crash Landing on You, and played the role of Captain Ri, a North Korean soldier who takes it upon himself to Yoon Se Rii, portrayed by Son Ye Jin. Hyun Bin brought a warm, emotional side to his role.

Crash Landing On You definitely expanded Hyun’s popularity, taking the actor by surprise and attracting a phalanx of new fans, thanks to Netflix, social media and, of course, his chemistry with co-star Son Ye-jin.