Written by Helga

CNN Indonesia

Anyone who has been watching K-dramas for quite some time must have known Jo In Sung and could fairly tell why his name is synonymous to excellence. Sure enough, he is one of the few who have withstood the test of time in the world of Hallyu for over a couple of decades.

His humble beginnings can be traced back to his modelling days before he eventually carved his name among the brightest stars South Korea has ever seen. His candid, humble and generous personality endeared him to so many fans and fellow actors alike.

He is known to be a great friend and mentor to popular actors who are his juniors, like Song Joong Ki, Lee Kwang Soo and D.O. just to mention a few. Thus, his stature and reputation have been the standard to refer to by some of the youngbloods in the Korean entertainment industry.

But more than just having great looks, his success is greatly attributed to his in-depth portrayal of characters which leaves a realistic impression to the viewers. As a critically acclaimed artist, he is one of the few who is very keen and careful with the projects that he chooses to work on. No wonder all of his TV and film endeavors were high-yielding in terms of recognition and awards. Add up the fact that as third highest paid actor in South Korea speaks volume about his worth in Hallyu.

So let’s take a look at five of his best roles in both drama series and films.

1. Park Tae Soo (The King)


Playing the role of Park Tae Soo, Jo In Sung characterized a man who rose from poverty which was rooted upon his sturdy ambition to become a prosecutor in order to elevate his status in society. For him, prosecutors are like gods who have the capability to grasp the law into their hands and circumvent it if need be.

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So, he tried mightily to get into the very prestigious Seoul National University law school and worked hard to pass the bar exams in order to realize his dream. Armed with skills and fresh idealism, he was ready to take on the world only to be ruined by the the authority that held him under in a corrupt environment.

The King is a legal and political satire exposing the dark side of power struggle within the government and the legal world. This movie details how dark ambitions can destroy one’s principles and integrity especially if the stakes are high. Talk about power and money.

2. Hong-Rim (A Frozen Flower)

IBTimes.sg via SBS

This was, by far, his most daring and provocative, not to mention controversial role that he played as an actor. His artistry was put to the test with this unconventional role that challenged the conservative Korean culture.

In this historical film, Jo In Sung played the character of Hong-rim, a man groomed by the king to be the general of his army. Having developed a close relationship with the king for being his right hand, he eventually became the king’s lover.

Because of the deep affection towards Hong-rim, the king was unable to bring himself to sleep with his queen and so he faced the dilemma of producing an heir. With his full trust on Hong-rim, the king secretly ordered him to sleep with the queen to impregnate her. Out of loyalty and sense of duty, Hong-rim did as what he was ordered to do which eventually led him and the queen falling mutually in love and thus breaking his loyalty towards the king.

3. Jung Jae-Min (What Happened In Bali)


Jo In Sung took the role of a young heir to a big company whose personality couldn’t be more arrogant and childish given his well-off upbringing. He fell in love with the tourist guide he met in Bali, Lee Soo-joong (Ha Ji Won), but he eventually found himself in a complicated love triangle involving Kang In- wook (So Ji Sub) as his bitter rival.

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The character itself was so complex to portray as he had to transition from being the carefree, irresponsible guy to someone who became so engrossed with love to the point of obsession. To further extent, he crossed the line of death out of desperation. His performance had defied the culture of predictability in terms of acting performance.

So exquisite was the character portrayal that he bagged the highly coveted Baeksang Best Actor Award in 2004 at the age of 22 besting older and more experienced actors for that recognition. After which, he started to become one of the most sought-after leading men banking on the acting prowess he had shown in that series. What Happened In Bali was released by SBS in 2004 and has catapulted Jo In Sung to stardom.

Working alongside his equally excellent contemporaries, Ha Ji Won and So Ji Sub, What Happened In Bali became a beloved classic K-drama whose storyline has set the bar high for tragic melodrama-themed series.

4. Oh Soo (That Winter, The Wind Blows)


The powerhouse pairing of Jo In Sung and Song Hye Kyo for the series That Winter, The Wind Blows in 2013, as expected, was well-received and very much loved not only by the Korean audience, but also by the K-drama enthusiasts across Asia.

In that series, Jo In Sung played the character of Oh Soo who was a seasoned con-man-cum-gangster. His main goal was to deceive a blind heiress, Oh Young (Song Hye Kyo), as he pretends to be her long lost brother all for the sake of money. Having mastered the art of conning people, he thought the job was too easy to accomplish only to fall victim to his own trap when he unexpectedly fell in love with her.

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His performance in this drama series was beyond impressive that he garnerned several accolades from different award-giving bodies. 

5. Jang Jae-Yeol(It’s Okay, That’s Love)

The fan girl verdict via SBS

This is arguably his best performance earning him a Daesang award for his characterization of a man with an undiagnosed schizophrenia.

In It’s Okay, That’s Love, Jo In Sung played the role of a best-selling author of mystery novels as well as a well-loved DJ who was scarred by his traumatic childhood experiences. He thought that, all the while, he had already liberated himself from the pangs of his dark past. But the unhealed wounds that he tried so hard to suppress had manifested in a different form.

Just like what he did in A Frozen Flower, Jo In Sung took the audience in an uncharted territory through his acting performance- that is exploring the world of someone who suffers from schizophrenia. He allowed the viewers to not just see what a patient with mental illness goes through on a superficial level, but more importantly, his performance gave the audience raw feels about the kind of reality they live in as well as how they perceive the world as told and expressed through the patient’s point of view.

In many respects, his portrayal is a huge help in educating people to better understand those who suffer from any form of mental illness. Hence, prejudices and stigma can be avoided.

With so much depth and substance in all of his projects, Jo In Sung has just proven time and again that quality and content are his foremost considerations in his craft as an artist.

He is a rare kind indeed with his stunning looks, unparalleled talent and good-natured personality. He may not be that visible in the small screen for quite a while, yet his star continues to burn bright. 

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6 thoughts on “A closer look at Jo In Sung’s career-defining roles

  1. You did a great write up of Jo In Sung and his dramas. I am a big fan of this star, and I have watched his you tube videos and dramas many times over. I miss his acting and good looking face. I think he should be seen more often by his fans.

  2. One of the best Jo In Sung 🙂 hope he’ll do a comeback drama soon 🙂 missing him in the dramaland He is missed by many in the small screen hoping and looking forward for his comeback drama after 6 yrs the soonest

  3. Nice writing, thanks. I also think that Jo In-sung also acted really well at A Dirty Carnival, directed by Yoo Ha (the director of A Frozen Flower). There is something unique about his eyes beside his courage to choose the roles. I fell in love with Jo In-sung when watching The Classic. And I stay in love.

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