There was a time when split personalities was a Korean drama plot trend. With such a plot, an actor or an actress played two or more different characters in a single drama. It was around 2015 when Kill Me, Heal Me and Hyde, Jekyll, Me were released, and the dissociative identity disorder (previously referred to as multiple personality disorder) became a hot idea for K-drama storylines. Both dramas even competed for ratings, as they were aired on the same days and time slot.
One notable thing about the Korean entertainment industry is that when a drama becomes a hit, another one with a similar concept is sure to follow. While it sure is entertaining to watch a celebrity take on the challenge of playing different roles in one film/series, these projects aim to shed light on the realities of people with this condition. Below are eight actors and actresses who did a good job in portraying dual/multiple roles in K-dramas.
Ji Sung – Kill Me, Heal Me (2015)
Some stars consider the one actor, two roles a challenging task, but wait until you meet one fictional character with seven different, complicated persons living inside of him. Kill Me, Heal Me revolves around a third-generation chaebol heir who develops dissociative identity disorder as a result of several life-threatening incidents in his past. His six other personalities emerge according to his emotions. Vehement and tough Shin Se-gi appears whenever he experiences violence; 40-year-old Perry Park with an affinity for fishing and building bombs comes out whenever he misses his father; smart but suicidal Ahn Yeo-seob takes over whenever he’s having suicidal tendencies; free-spirited and mischievous Ahn Yo-na (Yeo-seob’s twin sister) surfaces whenever he’s dealing with great pain and needs to let loose; and seven-year-old Na-na, who embodies his childhood fears, and a certain mysterious Mr. X, who is later revealed to be Na-na’s father, also turn up. But when he’s feeling just himself, Ji Sung (Doctor John) can easily switch up to the plain old, warmhearted Cha Do-hyun (Cha Joon-young) who loves to help people.
Hyun Bin – Hyde, Jekyll, Me (2015)
Burdened with dissociative identity disorder that resulted from a traumatic incident 15 years ago, a chaebol heir will do everything just to keep his “other self” from resurfacing, even if it means shutting himself out from the world. Hyun Bin‘s (Crash Landing on You) comeback to the TV screen after his military enlistment is a character with dual personalities: one is the cold, ruthless, and indifferent Seo-jin, and the other one is the gentle, fun Robin with a savior complex, who comes out every time Seo-jin’s heart rate exceeds 150. Hyun Bin easily transitions from an insensitive jerk to a complete gentleman, without a trace of the other personality. It was like switching from day mode to night mode, and Hyun Bin did a good job portraying both characters.
Yang Se-jong – Duel (2017)
When a detective’s (Jung Jae-young) daughter is kidnapped, he tracks down the suspect with the only clue he has—two men with the same faces. Yang Se-jong (My Country: The New Age) plays both the kind, innocent but amnesiac Sung-joon and the spiteful kidnapper Sung-hoon. He can look very pitiful at one moment, making you feel bad for him, and then smile creepily the next second, like he’s about to do something you won’t like. Yang Se-jong nailed both roles. Both characters may feel like only one person (as it is in reality), but Yang Se-jong’s portrayals of their completely different personalities and mannerisms made it so convincing that there are actually two entirely separate people.
Kyung Soo-jin – Meloholic (2017)
Meloholic follows a man (Jung Yun-ho) with a supernatural ability to read women’s thoughts by touching them, which makes it difficult for him to date a woman. He meets another woman, played by Kyung Soo-jin (Joseon Survival), who actually says whatever she is thinking. But she turns out to have another personality inside her. Kyung Soo-jin swaps her personalities from an honest, struggling student to a sexy, scheming seductress who likes to torture men. Imagine a switch from an unattractive college student wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans to a full-blown bombshell in a sinful red dress, a full 180-degree transformation by Kyung Soo-jin. Aside from the split personalities, the series also features a mystery murder.
Sung Hyuk – A Korean Odyssey (2017–2018)
A Korean Odyssey tells the story of an imprisoned powerful spirit who tricks a young girl into releasing him, only to realize 25 years later she has what he needs. Sung Hyuk (King Maker: The Change of Destiny) plays the roles of both General Frost (male) and Fairy Ha (female), the twin spirits who inhabit the same body. Kind and cold General Frost sells ice cream by day, and at night, warm and friendly Fairy Ha takes over the body and manages a bar. Although different personalities, they’re both good spirits. General Frost gives advice to Son Oh-gong (Lee Seung-gi) while Fairy Ha provides a listening ear to those in conflict, including Sam-jang/Jin Seon-mi (Oh Yeon-seo).
Seo Kang-joon – Are You Human? (2018)
I can’t imagine any other actor playing Nam Shin in this sci-fi romance. Not only is Seo Kang-joon (When the Weather Is Fine) playing two different characters, he’s also playing a non-human one. Are You Human? tells the story of a chaebol heir who slips into a coma. To protect his position and the family business, his mother (Kim Sung-ryung), a renowned scientist, replaces him with a robot who is the exact replica of Nam Shin and calls him Nam Shin III. Seo Kang-joon can switch from a serious, stoic heir to a smiling, clueless but adorable robot.
Seo Yi-sook – Hotel del Luna (2019)
Hotel del Luna is a magical hotel bridging the world of the living and the world of the dead. The establishment provides comfort and solace to souls before they pass on to the afterlife. The owner is a thousand-year-old vengeful spirit (Lee Ji-eun/IU) who is tied to the hotel because of a grave sin she committed in her past. Seo Yi-sook (The World of the Married) plays not one but several deity characters. She switches from the kind deity who guides souls into the hotel, to the spiteful deity of death, a drunken deity of misfortune, an elegant deity of wealth and good luck, a deity of fate, and a quiet deity who makes herbs and medicines.
Woo Do-hwan – The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
It’s undeniable how Woo Do-hwan‘s (My Country: The New Age) dual characters in the recently concluded The King: Eternal Monarch easily became a crowd favorite. The series is set in parallel universes, where one world features a democratic Korea and the other one a monarchical Korea. The king of the latter world (Lee Min-ho) takes on a time-travelling mission to seal the gates between both worlds. Woo Do-hwan plays both the stoic, uptight but fiercely loyal Captain Jo Yeong, the head of the Royal Guards, and the cheery, playful and free-spirited Jo Eun-seob, who couldn’t wait to get discharged from his mandatory military services. Not only is Woo Do-hwan playing polar opposite personalities, both characters also have different accents. But the actor perfectly nailed both roles, making him one of the highlights of the show.