The Fangirls’ End of Year Countdown – Breakout Performances of 2018

With so many of our favorite actors going off to the military, there was a ton of room for new talent to catch our eye.  We also were blessed with a ton of new leading ladies to take the spotlight.  Which means we felt it was apt to create a new End of Year catagory of best Breakout Performance! 


Song Ha Yoon

Actress Sung Ha Yoon l has been in other dramas before 2018.  But mostly as as a secondary lead (Fight My Way) or short web dramas (Touching You).  So 2018 is really where I consider her to break into mainstream leading lady status.  Her performance in Devilish Joy was so enjoyable.  I look forward to her next project and hope that her chemistry with her co-stars continues to wow.

Shin Sung Rok

Yes, I know that everyone knows who Shin Sung Rok is.  His performance in My Love From Another Star had shot him to the top tier of drama bad guys.  However, I think that we have to give the actor credit for being in not one, but two dramas where his brand of crazy bad guy has eclipsed his co-stars.  To the point where I would actually consider his character the lead and not the other way around.  I know that I tune into The Last Empress for his over the top crazy.  The same can be said about Return earlier this year.  He is one of those few stars who has made it as a leading man without having to actually play a nice person.  Which is why I consider him a breakout star of 2018.

Arthur Chen & Ireine Song

No one can watch Ever Night and not be aware of the charisma Arthur Chen & co-star Ireine Song have.  While there acting is still a bit green, their ability to keep my eyes glued to the screen has me choosing them for my breakout actor list. 

Lee Kyu Hyung

I challenge anyone who says that Lee Kyu Hyung didn’t steal the show as Loony on Prison Playbook.  I can’t remember the last time I got so emotionally attached to a character, so much so that it took days to finish the drama after a dramatic turn of events with his character.  To this day I have feels whenever I see him pop on screen.  Now if the rest of the Dramaworld will get on board and realize what a gem of an actor this man is.

Karie the Maknae

I feel like there were several significant breakout performances this year, so my list is lengthy. It’s also the reason my favorite actresses list is short — three of my favorites really came into their own in this year’s dramas.

Jang Ki Yong

First, we have Jang Ki Yong (older Na Moo in Come and Hug Me). He captured the extraordinary range of emotion that was absolutely necessary to bring Na Moo to life. I could see where, in another actor’s hands, Na Moo could have been as wooden as his namesake, but Jang Ki Yong portrayed both the strong-yet-terrified broken boy on the edge and the fierce protector brilliantly. And when his eyes would fill with tears, I would find myself almost tearing up along with him. I cannot say enough about his acting, except that I will be watching everything he’s in from now on.

Jung In Sun

Next up is Jung In Sun, who played the leading lady (Go Ae Rin) in Terius Behind MeI didn’t watch Eulachacha Waikiki, so I can’t comment on her ability there, but I was impressed with her portrayal of a smart young widowed mother of two. For someone as young as she is to have the firm loving hand that she had with her twins, then to be able to turn around and keep up with the experienced spy next door, and to still be handling her grief over her husband’s unexpected death,  and make it all believable…I was impressed. She never faltered. I may have to go against my “no sitcoms” rule and watch Waikikijust because I loved her so much in Terius.

Song Ha Yoon

I first saw Song Ha Yoon  in Fight My Way, where her second lead character was serviceable, but didn’t stand out. A large part of this was due to how the character was written, of course, and Kim Byul did a great job with her character. She really stood out at Gi Bbeum in Devilish Joy, in my opinion. Taking on the role of spoiled actress who must become the fiesty lower-class heroine required some depth, and Kim Byul did a great job. She was more than capable of keeping up with Choi Jin Hyuk and brought a great sense of depth to Gi Bbeum’s character, who could have just been a reversed Cinderella but ended up being a girl who learned to stand on her own two feet and overcome the mountainous obstacles in front of her.

Shin Hye Sun

Shin Hye Sun surprised me. I’ve seen her as a high school student and a catty co-worker, but her turn as the whimsical and gentle Woo Seo Ri in Still 17 was SO well-done. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again — in the hands of an actress other than Shin Hye Sun, Seo Ri’s character could have been silly and screechy. Instead, she was marvelously innocent, determined, and courteous in a way that made it obvious why everyone loved her. I look forward to watching her in other dramas.

Kim Kyung Nam

I’ve saved the best for last. Kim Kyung Nam has had an outstanding year. He played the bestie prison guard’s little brother in Prison Playbook, and was equal parts silly and competent, with a sardonic sense of humor that made me notice him, even though he wasn’t a huge part of the drama. Then came his phenomenal turn in Come and Hug Me as the devastatingly broken older brother, Hyun Moo. His character arc is one of those that will stay in my mind for a long, long time, and it’s because of Kim Kyung Nam’s ability to show both sides to Hyun Moo–his hostility and jealousy towards Na Moo, and his hidden need to protect the family that loves him. I may have to go back and watch that drama again and focus on his character–he was THAT good. Lastly was his role as Oh Dae Gi in Where Stars Land. The story may have been a hot mess, but Kim Kyung Nam did such a superb job with the role he was given that I have become a fangirl for life. I can’t wait to see where his career takes him.


I’m going to agree with the Maknae on all of these. I especially loved Kim Byul and felt like she really did well as a leading lady. I also want to talk about how much Kim Kyung Nam impressed me. I always get so mad when they give the bad guy a redemption arc because it’s typically unbelievable. In Come and Hug Me, Hyun Moo actually made me cry. Like beside myself sobs where I needed to put a cold washcloth over my face to get the swelling down. I wanted him to have a good life and I think that’s a testament to not just good writing, but an actor who was able to convey so much emotion and make me love him. 


I have a couple of favorite newbies this year. First is Won Jin Ah who started out at the top with a lead role in Just Between Lovers. But I can’t forget Jang Dong Yoon who played Min Ho in A Poem a Day, the younger guy who fell for the main lead female and was the subject of some pretty funny shipping wars.

Drama Geek

The Maknae licked my cookies and waxed poetic about them, and I’m not sure I can top that, so I will choose new ones.

Jin Ki Joo

Jin Ki Joo turned a lot of heads in Misty as the anchorwoman who was trying to take Go Hye Ran’s job. She eventually joined forces (who wouldn’t?) with the leading lady and took down the bad guys. When she was cast in Come and Hug Me I was pleasantly surprised and very happy that she brought a beautifully vulnerable feel to Nak Won and made me fall for her. I am very excited to see her in future works.

Tomita Miu

Tomita Miu moved into a lead role with Switched. She’s been in several Japanese dramas that I’ve seen, and she rocked her role as a popular girl stuck in a bigger girl’s body. This drama could have handled this so poorly (employing body suits) but I’m so happy they cast her. I hope that the industry will make room for more roles like this one. Her beautiful face and sweet acting style really made me a fan.

This concludes the list of actors we will be searching out in the future.  Who was your breakout actor/actress of the year?  Tell us in our comments and be sure to check back over the next five weeks as we release our End of the Year lists.

Til next time,

The Fangirls

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

6 thoughts on “The Fangirls’ End of Year Countdown – Breakout Performances of 2018

  1. Totally agree on Jang ki Yong, Kim Kyung Nam, Won Jin ah and Lee kyu hyung. These actors have a bright future ahead. They are all versatile and poused actors. I cannot even pick afavorite from them.

  2. I have a hard time buying Jung In Sun’s acting…could feel her romance on Waikiki, which was one of the best comedies of the year; however, she was the weak link. Also in Terrius, she comes across as a dishrag, but got better half way through.

Leave a Reply