I had a great time compiling my top five female kdrama villains last week, so I figured I should further indulge my evil side by making a comparable list of male villains. In no particular order, here are the five who made the cut:
#1 – Min Joon-gook from I Hear Your Voice
Usually villains have a signature style, a preferred way of doing things, but Min Joon-gook liked to branch out. He started off with a car crash + bludgeoning, escalated to bludgeoning + arson, and rounded out his body count with a staged drunk driving incident. That’s not to mention his propensity for charming his victims before killing them, kidnapping, violent rages, and trying to ruin the hero’s very soul. He was equal parts fascinating and terrifying, and the show made sure to reveal the tragedies in his background—while still condemning the choices that made him into a villain.
#2 – Lee Jin-pyo from City Hunter
Lee Jin-pyo was the first actually scary kdrama villain I ever countered, and he’s still one of my favorites. A soldier who watched his country murder his comrades and swore revenge would have been an amazing origin story for a hero—but Jin-pyo took it to the next level by stealing his dead friend’s newborn son and raising him with the sole purpose of murdering the five betrayers. The twisted father-son relationship between Jin-pyo and his son ramped up the tension even more than most of the other on-screen conflicts, and everything culminated in a terrifying but perfect showdown.
#3 – Kim Moon-shik from Healer
One of the best things about Healer was the story about the parents’ generation, including the fall of Moon-shik from heroic rebel to villain. Moon-shik is a cautionary tale about the compromises one makes and how easy it can be to turn into the very sort of oppressive force one used to fight against. His one-sided devotion to his best friend’s widow (now wife) quickly became a thing of nightmares when the audience realized just how far he had gone to isolate her. Moon-shik’s money and his connection to a shadowy and powerful organization made him a dangerous, capable foe.
#4 – Han Jung-ho from Heard It Through the Grapevine
I didn’t expect the rich dad in a dark comedy/satire to be a great villain, but in between over-the-top pearl-clutching moments and his complete inability to understand why anyone in his family would want something other than what he dictated for them, Jung-ho left a strong impression. His evil was revealed slowly, in layers, and the way he could jump from parody-levels of comedy to being determined to ruin someone’s life was chilling. Jung-ho’s inflexibility, corruption, greed, and classism fueled his well-deserved downfall: one where he believed he had won but was still left in a giant, empty house, filled with his riches and strangers who didn’t care about him at all.
#5 – Lee Tae-joon from Punch
Tae-joon had a penchant for ridiculous metaphors and an insatiable hunger for power, and he was one of major forces to be reckoned with in the show. If only he had been able to reward his closest friend with loyalty instead of a knife in the back—but that’s what unchecked ambition does for you. His drive to ascend to the highest levels of government, no matter the cost, made him a ruthless and relentless antagonist. He was well-armed in the battle of wits and politics against an ever-changing and ever-evolving array of enemies. I took great delight in watching him out-maneuver others—and in cheering when justice finally caught up with him.
So who are your favorite male villains? Let me know in the comments!