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2022-08-24
School Cast Members Who Made It Big

School (학교) is a long-running Korean anthology series produced by KBS, first airing in 1999. It currently has eight seasons which tell different school stories around real social issues such as corruption and violence. The show was considered a lucky charm of sorts for up-and-coming actors and actresses, serving as a steppingstone for many prominent names of today. 

  

In this article, AboutKorea lists some of the now big names who were cast in the School franchise, covering cast members from Season 1 to School 2017. 

Bae Doona (배두나)

Actress Bae Doona is known for her roles in Bong Joon-ho’s The Host and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Air Doll. Yet before she rose to the spotlight, she was scouted as a fashion model. She modeled for a catalog of the clothing brand COOLDOG which allowed her to win more assignments. By 1999, she was cast in the first season of School where she plays a minor role of a rebellious girl. It was also in that year that she gained recognition for playing the ghost Park Eun-suh in The Ring Virus, Korea’s remake of the Japanese classic horror film The Ring.  

 

Bae has not limited herself to projects within South Korea. She went on to take roles in foreign movies and shows including Linda Linda Linda, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, and Sense8. Despite gaining international popularity, she still strives to land some roles within Korea as she seeks a balance between both.

Ha Ji-won (하지원)

Another well-known actress cast in School is Ha Ji-won. She started as a supporting character for various shows and eventually gained fame when she took on the role of troubled teen Jang Se-jin in School 2. 

 

Some of the genres Ha later took on ranged from horror to period dramas, showing how versatile she can be. She would often go the extra mile by doing activities such as jiu-jitsu, swimming, and ballet to be able to perform her own stunts. Through the dedication she puts into every role, audiences cannot help admiring and recognizing her as a great actress.

Lee Dong-wook (이동욱)

Although he is best known for his role as the grim reaper in Goblin, Lee Dong-wook first gained recognition through two seasons of the School franchise, before rising to stardom through the hit drama series, My Girl. His popularity soared not only in Korea but also around the world, especially in Asia.  

 

Besides being an actor, Lee is also a model, MC, and all-round entertainer. From 2012 to 2013, he hosted the popular SBS talk show Strong Heart along with comedian Shin Dong-yup. In 2019, he also hosted the fourth season of the MNET music survival reality show Produce X 101.

Zo In-sung (조인성)

Zo In-sung (his surname is also spelled “Jo” or “Cho”) is one of the top actors in South Korea. Just like many others, he first started as a model before venturing into acting. School was one of his first few shows alongside MBC sitcom New Nonstop. In the third season of School, Zo plays Kim Seok-joo, one of the students who go through issues in their school, family, and friends.  

 

Outside of work, Zo is beloved for his humble and unpretentious attitude despite being a popular actor. He also mentors and befriends many of his juniors which adds to his positive reputation among many rising acts.

Im Soo-jung (임수정)

Considered the icon of baby-faced beauty, next on the list is Im Soo-jung. Her television acting career started on the fourth season of School where she played the character Oh Hye-ra back in 2001. By 2003, she took on the lead role as Bae Su-mi in the psychological horror film A Tale of Two Sisters. She gained much public acclaim for this role, winning Best New Actress at the 24th Blue Dragon Film Awards and the 2nd Korean Film Awards, among others 

 

Im constantly defies her “baby-faced” image by challenging herself to take on unique roles. As of August 2022, she has worked on a total of five television series, with Melancholia being her most recent work.

Gong Yoo (공유)

From a coffee shop owner to a mythical being, Gong Yoo has taken up various roles that are loved by many. His acting career first started through the fourth season of School where he plays the student Hwang Tae-young. More roles followed, but it was in 2007 that he got his breakout role through the hit drama Coffee Prince. There he played Choi Han-kyul, who manages the titular coffee shop. By 2016, his popularity soared even higher after playing troubled father Seok-woo in Train to Busan and immortal Kim Shin in Goblin 

 

As of today, Gong has won about 15 awards. It just proves how great of an actor he is and thanks to that, he has gained fans both young and old alike.

Lee Jong-suk (이종석)

After a decade on hiatus, the School franchise returned with a new installment, School 2013. One of its debuting cast members who made it big was Lee Jong-suk. He plays a bullied student who usually keeps to himself. This show is considered his acting breakthrough as the public loved his performance alongside Kim Woo-bin. Thanks to School, he won Best New Actor at the KBS Drama Awards and gained more leading roles in shows like I Can Hear Your Voice, Doctor Stranger, and Pinocchio 

 

Prior to being an actor, Lee was supposed to debut as a rapper in a K-pop group but realized it was not what he really wanted to do. He also went to work as a model and won accolades at the Asia Model Festival Awards, SMART Model Contest, and the Style Icon Awards. 

Nam Joo-hyuk (남주혁)

Nam Joo-hyuk first appeared on screen in Akdong Musician’s music videos for their songs 200% and Give Love. It was in 2015 when he first landed a lead role as star swimmer Han Yi-an in Who Are You: School 2015. His popularity slowly climbed as he gained more roles in popular shows like Cheese in the Trap, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo. As of 2022, he has been nominated for almost 30 awards.

Kim Se-jeong (김세정)

Kim Se-jeong is the female lead for School 2017, where she played the enthusiastic webtoon aspirant student, Ra Eun-ho. She would have no shortage of leading roles after that, with Business Proposal being the most popular as of today. It was through that series that people started to recognize her as an actress 

 

Sejeong, as she is popularly known, also joined the hit K-pop idol survival show, Produce 101, and won a position in the project group, I.O.I. She, along with co-I.O.I member Kang Mi-na, also debuted as the center and main vocalist in another girl group, Gugudan. As both groups have now disbanded, Sejeong is focused on her career as an actress.

Rowoon (로운)

Best known as the center and lead vocalist of K-pop boy group SF9, Rowoon (real name Kim Seok-woo) is another idol who ventures into acting. His acting career started through the seventh season of the School series, School 2017, alongside Kim Jung-hyun and Kim Se-jeong. He plays Kang Hyun-il, a transfer student who is also a member of the fictional boy group Cherry on Top. Later, his role in the romance melodrama Where Stars Land got him his first acting award nomination.  

 

His first leading role was in the 2019 webtoon-based drama, Extraordinary You. There he played Haru, a character who keeps saving the female lead from dangerous situations and eventually falls in love with her. Through this show, he captured more audiences than before, turning him into one of the fastest rising young actors.

School may be considered a lucky charm, yet it is undeniable that what pushed these actors and actresses to success are their own hard work and efforts. Seeing how they challenge themselves to take on new roles keeps us all in anticipation of what other characters they can bring to life.  

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube Channels (Star Fun Facts, KBS World TV, TODAYonline)

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