Lee Min-ho (actor)

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Lee Min-ho
140120 Minho Lee c.jpg
Lee at the premiere of Hot Young Bloods in January 2014.
Born (1987-06-22) June 22, 1987 (age 32)
Seoul, South Korea
Alma materKonkuk University
  • Actor
  • singer
  • model
Years active2003–present
Height187 cm (6 ft 1 12 in)[1]
Korean name
Revised RomanizationI Min-ho
McCune–ReischauerYi Minho
Lee Min-ho's signature.png

Lee Min-ho (Korean이민호; Hanja李敏鎬, born June 22, 1987)[2] is a South Korean actor, singer,[3] and model. Lee has significant following worldwide, including Asia and western countries, most notably the U.S, France, Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy.[4][5][6][7] He gained widespread fame in Korea and some parts of Asia with his role as Gu Jun-pyo in Boys Over Flowers in 2009. The role won him a Best New Actor award at the 45th Baeksang Arts Awards. His notable lead roles in television series include comedy-drama Personal Taste (2010), City Hunter (2011) in which he established himself as an action hero, The Heirs (2013), Legend of the Blue Sea (2016) and The King: Eternal Monarch (2020). The success of Lee's television series internationally established him as a top Hallyu star. Hollywood magazine reported that Lee has attained "Superstar" status.[8]

Apart from his television career, Lee featured in the first lead role in the film Gangnam Blues (2015), followed by his first China-produced film Bounty Hunters (2016). In his acting career, Lee was successful in experimenting various genres such as romance, comedy, action, fantasy and science-fiction dramas.

Due to Lee's popularity, a wax figure in his image was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Shanghai.[9] He is referred as the "global actor" by media and fans.[10] International Business Times described Lee as the "heartthrob of billions".[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Lee was born in Heukseok-dong, Dongjak-gu, Seoul. As a child, Lee had hoped to become a professional football player. He was selected for the youth football class of South Korean manager and former professional player Cha Bum-Kun, but an injury during his 5th grade of elementary school put an end to his aspiration.[11] In his second year of high school, Lee turned to acting.

He completed majors in Film & Art at Konkuk University.[11]


2006–2008: Beginnings[edit]

Lee started auditioning and landed minor roles in several television dramas such as Nonstop 5 and Recipe of Love. His official debut role was in an EBS series, Secret Campus (2003).[12] Early in his career, Lee went by the stage name Lee Min because his agency thought his birth name was too ordinary. However, as his stage name was pronounced and written (Hangul) in the same way as the Korean word imin, which means "immigration", he later said it was difficult to find himself in internet search results. He eventually went back to using his original name.[13]

In 2006, his acting career was put on hold for a year following a serious car accident, while riding with fellow actor Jung Il-woo and two other friends. The actors, both 19 years old at that time, drove a car to Gangwon province with two other friends but on their way, a car coming from the opposite lane hit them head-on and the impact completely destroyed the hood and engine of their car.

It was revealed that the vehicle that hit them was running away from a “hit and run” mishap and veered off-course before crashing into Lee Min Ho and his friends’ car. Only Lee and Jung, who were seated at the back, survived the accident in a critical state whereas the two other friends, sitting at the front in the driver seat and passenger seat, died on the spot. Lee was severely injured and spent several months bedridden. He suffered from broken ribs, thigh and ankle. His knee cartilage was also torn and an operation was carried out to place metal plates on his thigh so his bones would straighten and heal.[11][14]

Upon recovery, Lee received his first leading role in the high-school drama Mackerel Run in 2007, but the series was reduced to only eight episodes due to low viewership ratings.[15] In 2008, he appeared in various roles on television (dramas Get Up and I Am Sam) and two movies, Public Enemy Returns and Our School's E.T.. During the shooting of the latter, he became good friends with actor Kim Su-ro, who later praised him on a variety show: "I recognize a star when I see one. When I was doing Our School's E.T., I knew that Lee Min-ho would become one of the top actors in the country".[16]

2009–2010: Breakthrough[edit]

Lee in 2010

Lee's breakthrough came in 2009 with the lead role of Gu Jun-pyo in KBS's Boys Over Flowers, the Korean adaptation of the popular Shōjo manga of the same name. Competition for the leading role was very intense and Lee only got to know he was cast from the newspapers.[17] The series attracted high viewership ratings and buzz throughout South Korea during its broadcast,[18] Lee's new-found popularity gained him many endorsement deals and created another Korean Wave throughout Asia which made Lee a Hallyu star.[19][20]

In 2010, Lee starred in romantic comedy Personal Taste, in which he played an ambitious perfectionist young architect who poses as a gay man to become roommates with a young woman, leading to romantic complications. When asked about why he chose the role during an interview, he responded "I think I would do a better job playing heavy and more defined roles when I am older. I think "Personal Taste" was perfect because it is bright, cheerful but you can also laugh and cry over it as well."[21]

2011-2013: International fame[edit]

In 2011, he played the titular character in action drama City Hunter, which was loosely based on Tsukasa Hojo's popular manga.[22] The drama was a commercial success[23] across Asia,[24] and contributed to Lee's growing popularity, most notably in Japan, Philippines, China,[25][26][27] and parts of Europe.[28] He participated in a popular Chinese variety show Happy Camp in December 2011.[29]

In 2012, Lee starred in historical-medical drama, Faith with Kim Hee-sun.[30] Although the drama garnered viewership ratings around the 10% range, it was a commercial flop due to its high budget.[31]

In April 2013, Lee's wax figure was unveiled at the Madame Tussauds in Shanghai.[32] He then released his first album "My Everything" in May 2013 and went on a fan meeting tour in Asia.[33][34]

Lee also announced his return to television with a new drama titled The Heirs, a teen drama written by Kim Eun-sook.[35] On why he decided to take on the role of a chaebol heir in high school four years after playing one in Boys Over Flowers, he answered "Before I grew past my 20s, I wanted to play a more upbeat character, one that would allow me to return to that feeling of simple, uncomplicated innocence that I had when I was younger."[35] Premiering on October 9, 2013, The Heirs enjoyed immense popularity both locally, with a peak rating of 28.6%, and internationally, having over one billion hits on the Chinese streaming website iQiyi.[36][37] Lee experienced an increase in his popularity, particularly in China.[38][39][40]

2014-present: Rising fandom[edit]

Lee at a LG launch event in 2014
"Perhaps the stars will take your sadness away. Perhaps the flowers will fill your heart with their beauty. Perhaps, hope will always wipe away your tears. And more than anything else, silence will make you strong." and then, he wrote “Thank you fans for celebrating my 14th debut anniversary. I really appreciate that you have supported me in every step of my career. I am also cheering on in your own lives. Stay happy.”

-Lee Min-ho's poem and message to fans globally for celebrating his 14th debut anniversary in 2020.[41]

On January 30, 2014, Lee became the first Korean celebrity to perform on China's CCTV Lunar New Year gala.[42][43] He sang a song with Harlem Yu, the original singer of the theme song of Meteor Garden, the Taiwanese version of Boys Over Flowers.[44][45] He was also invited to the third conference of the South Korean Presidential Committee for Cultural Enrichment as the representative for the entertainment industry, to share and contribute to the discussion of issues related to developing Korea's cultural content.[46] Lee received the "Prime Minister Award" at the 5th Korean Popular Culture & Arts Award for his contribution to Hallyu.[47]

Lee subsequently recorded and released his second EP Song for You in October 2014 under Universal Music. As with his previous album, he stated that the tracks were recorded for his fans and that he had no ambition to pursue a singing career.[48][49] The album release coincided with the start of his RE:MINHO fan meeting tour which spanned various Asian cities.[50][51][52]

He then took on a starring role Yoo Ha's noir action film Gangnam Blues (2015), set in the 1970s when the real estate development boom swept across Gangnam area. The movie, which co-stars Kim Rae-won, marks Lee's first leading role in a feature film.[53][54]

In 2016, Lee starred in the action comedy Bounty Hunters, directed by Shin Terra.[55] The film topped box office charts on its release date and went on to gross US$29 million in China.[56][57] Later in the year, Lee made his small-screen comeback in the fantasy romance drama Legend of the Blue Sea alongside actress Jun Ji-hyun, which was a hit.[58][59]

In 2019, Lee was cast alongside Kim Go-eun in the Netflix global distributed science-fiction drama The King: Eternal Monarch written by The Heirs writer Kim Eun-sook.[60] It is rated at #19 on the list of The Most Popular/ Viewed TV Shows in the World, 2020 on Netflix, being the only South-Korean TV show to make it onto the list. [61]

Personal life[edit]

Lee has an elder sister, Lee Yong-jung, who is the CEO of his current agency MYM Entertainment.[13][62][63]

Military enlistment[edit]

Lee Min-ho began his mandatory military service on May 12, 2017 at Suseo Social Welfare Centre in Gangnam District Office as a public service officer.[64] Lee was unable to serve as an active duty soldier due to a car accident that took place in August 2006 with fellow actor Jung Il-woo, which caused him to be bedridden for months as he had suffered serious leg injuries. He suffered another car accident in 2011 while filming City Hunter.[65][66]

On March 15, 2018 Lee entered his military training at the Korea Army Training Centre in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province. He returned to his public service duty after four weeks of basic military training.[67] He was discharged on April 25, 2019.[68]



Year Title Original title Role Ref.
2008 Public Enemy Returns 강철중: 공공의 적 1-1 Jung Ha-yeon [16]
Our School's E.T. 울학교 이티 Oh Sang-hoon [16][69]
2015 Gangnam Blues 강남 1970 Kim Jong-dae [70]
2016 Bounty Hunters 바운티 헌터스 Yi San [71]

Television series[edit]

Year Title Original title Role Network Ref.
2003 Sharp 성장드라마 반올림 Student KBS2 [72]
2004 Nonstop 5 논스톱 5 MC Mong MBC [73]
2005 Recipe of Love 사랑찬가 Waiter
2006 Secret Campus 비밀의 교정 Park Du-hyun EBS [74][12]
2007 Mackerel Run 달려라 고등어 Cha Gong-chan SBS [15][75]
I Am Sam 아이엠샘 Heo Mo-se KBS2 [76]
2008 Get Up 나도 잘 모르지만 Min Wook-gi MBC [77]
2009 Boys Over Flowers 꽃보다 남자 Gu Jun-pyo KBS2 [18][17]
2010 Personal Taste 개인의 취향 Jeon Jin-ho MBC [78][79][80]
2011 City Hunter 시티헌터 Lee Yoon-sung SBS [81][82]
2012 Faith 신의 (神医) Choi Young [83][84]
2013 The Heirs 왕관을 쓰려는 자, 그 무게를 견뎌라 – 상속자들 Kim Tan [85]
2016 Legend of the Blue Sea 푸른 바다의 전설 Kim Dam-ryeong / Heo Joon-jae [86]
2017 DMZ, The Wild DMZ 야생의비밀 Himself MBC [87][88]
2020 The King: Eternal Monarch 더 킹: 영원의 군주 Emperor Lee Gon SBS [89]

Web series[edit]

Year Title Original title Role Network Ref.
2011 Toyota Camry
The One and Only
원 & 온리 Joon / Kwon [90]
2012 Toyota Camry
The One and Only
원 & 온리 에필로그
Innisfree First Love Innisfree CEO [91]
2014 Line Romance 라인 로맨스 Min-ho iQiyi [92]
2015 Innisfree Summer Love 썸머 러브 Lee Min-ho YouTube Innisfree Channel, Insight TV [93]
2016 7 First Kisses 첫키스만 일곱번째 Naver TV Cast [94]

Music video[edit]

Year Title Singer Ref.
2009 "Kiss" Sandara Park [95]


  • My Everything (2013, Korean)
  • My Everything (2013, Japanese)
  • Song For You (2014)

Awards and nominations[edit]


In December 2015

Ambassador roles[edit]

  • Honorary Ambassador for UNICEF's Love Net campaign to fight malaria (2009–2010)[96]
  • PR Ambassador for Konkuk University (2010)[97]
  • Honorary Prosecutor or basically a PR ambassador for Korean Prosecutor (2012)[98]
  • PR ambassador for the Chilean campaign "Reforestemos Patagonia" organized by Minoz Chile (2013)[99]
  • Public Ambassador for 'Korean Tourism Campaign', also called as 'The Face of Korean Tourism' (July 28, 2015)[100][101]
  • Honorary Ambassador for the '2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics' (September 25, 2015)[102]
  • PR Ambassador for Visit Korea Year 2016–2018 (November 7, 2015)[103]
  • Honorary Ambassador for the King Sejong Institute Foundation (KSIF)[104]


In 2014, Lee set up the PROMIZ website, a fund-raising platform to raise awareness and encourage donation for social and humanitarian causes.[105][106] Proceeds from the sale of PROMIZ merchandise are given to the selected partners to execute the charity projects. The site has since raised US$50,000 from him and his fans to help create wells in Malawi through non-profit organisation Charity: Water.[107][108] It has also raised funds and contributed donations to several causes;[109] such as World Water Day, the "Transparent Umbrella Project" and the "Making Warm Winter for Both Bodies and Hearts" campaign.[110][111][112] In 2016, PROMIZ won the Korea Good Brand Awards.[113]

In 2015, Lee donated 100 million won to UNICEF to aid victims of a devastating earthquake in Nepal.[114] In 2016, Lee was awarded by the Ministry of Health and Welfare for his contribution to society.[115]

To mark the 10th anniversary since his debut, Lee's fans participated in several charitable causes. Lee's Chinese fans planted 510 trees in Inner Mongolia, while his Mexican fans donated to children stricken with cancer with proceeds earned from selling plastic bottle caps to recycling companies. Taiwanese and Hong Kong fans also made donations to profit organizations World Vision and UNICEF. The previous years, his Chile fan club donated to the humanitarian organization Patagonia Compassion; and also participated in several other charitable causes.[116][117]

Media influence[edit]

As of June 2018, Lee has 3 million followers on Twitter, 29 million and 17.4 million fans on Weibo and Facebook respectively.[118][119][120] In 2014 and 2015, Lee topped an online poll organised by a Chinese entertainment magazine to be crowned as the "Asian Male God".[121][122][123] In 2017, Lee was chosen as the "Most Favored Korean Actor" by fans of the Korean Wave in the United States.[124]


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