Fantasy drama The King: Eternal Monarch (TKEM), which premiered on Netflix last year, received much love from fans. It was South Korean actor Lee Min-Ho’s comeback drama after he completed his military service, and also his reunion with renowned screenwriter Kim Eun Sook (of Descendants of the Sun, Goblin and Mr. Sunshine fame) whom he worked with on The Heirs in 2013. Min-ho’s next project, a historical epic titled Pachinko, will air on Apple TV+ this year and we can’t wait!
Whether you are a diehard fan who fell in love with him as Gu Jun-pyo in Boys Over Flowers, or only watched him act for the first time in TKEM, here are 11 things to know about this dreamy heartthrob.
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He escaped death. Twice
Min-Ho was involved in a tragic car accident in 2006 when he was 19. He was on a car trip with fellow actor Jung Il Woo and two other friends when a car from the opposite lane crashed into them head-on. The two actors were the only survivors and both of them suffered severe injuries. Min-Ho was in a coma for a month and had to stay in the hospital for nearly a year. He even had to insert a 46cm metal plate in his thigh for three years.
In 2011, he got into another car accident on the set of City Hunter. Although the front of the car was wrecked after it crashed into a stationary truck, he miraculously only sustained minor injuries and resumed filming shortly after.
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He served as a public service worker for his mandatory military service
Due to the severity of his previous injuries, Min-Ho was deemed to be unfit for combat duties after undergoing a physical examination. He was unable to serve as an active duty soldier and became a public service worker at the Suseo Social Welfare Centre in Gangnam, Seoul.
However, he was still able to wear the military uniform after going through four weeks of basic military training during his public service duty. On his final day of service, the media and hundreds of fans showed up with balloons and banners to welcome him back to civilian life.
He is big on giving back
Min-Ho has received a lot of love from the public and he makes sure to give back as well. He set up fund-raising platform PROMIZ in 2014 to raise awareness and encourage donations for humanitarian and social causes. PROMIZ is a combination of the word ‘promise’, his name, and his official fan club name ‘MINOZ’.
Working together with partners like World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and The United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF), over the years, the platform has contributed to several causes such as donating to underprivileged children, preserving endangered species, and constructing wells in Malawi.
Min-Ho also made a donation of 100 million won (approximately US$92, 400) under his fan club’s name to UNICEF’s Nepal earthquake relief fund in 2015. For his contribution to society, Min-Ho received the ‘Sharing Happiness Award’ in 2016 from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
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He once had a stage name
When he made his debut, his agency thought that his birth name was too ordinary and gave him the stage name Lee Min. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the pronunciation and characters of the name were the same as the Korean word imin or immigration and resulted in poor internet search results for him. He eventually reverted to his own name after two years.
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He once aspired to be a soccer player
Min Ho didn’t always dream of becoming a celebrity. When he was a kid, his mother wanted him to build up his physical strength and signed him up for soccer lessons with famous Korean national player, Cha Bum Kum.
During the four years of training, he displayed a talent for the sport and even thought of enrolling into a middle school where he could specialise in soccer. However, his soccer aspirations ended after he broke his arm in a match in the fifth grade of elementary school.
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He made history by becoming the first Korean celebrity to appear on China’s CCTV Lunar New Year Gala
As a testament to his immense popularity in China, in 2014, Min-Ho was invited to perform on Chinese network CCTV’s Lunar New Year Gala, the most-watched show in China during Lunar New Year.
An estimated 700 million viewers tuned in to watch Min-Ho sing the theme song of Boys Over Flowers with Taiwanese singer Harlem Yu. His performance, which had a mixture of Korean and Mandarin, marked the first time the Korean language was broadcasted on the show.
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He’s a huge gamer
Min-Ho enjoys gaming so much that he once said that he would be a pro gamer or work for a game company if he didn’t become an actor. He is known for his expertise in multiplayer online battle arena game League of Legends (LOL), which he plays regularly with Kim Hee Chul from Super Junior.
When Hee Chul was asked to name the celebrities were the best at playing LOL on talk show Radio Star, he put himself at the top and named Min-Ho as his gaming rival. He also revealed that although they tend to fight a lot when they play the game with their mics on but remains close friends.
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He adopted a miniature pinscher
Min-Ho is known for his love towards his pet, an adopted miniature pinscher named Choco. He can be seen cuddling and playing with Choco in various videos, and she makes frequent appearances on his social media dressed in adorable outfits.
He once said that thanks to his fans, Choco has more clothes than him. His fan club even gifted her a delicate pearl necklace which she has been spotted wearing.
He famously shared a kiss with Sandara Park in her music video
When former 2NE1 member Sandara Park was chosen to represent beer brand Cass 2X, the promotional activities were accompanied by a music video. Titled “Kiss”, the song was Sandara’s only solo track and it gained widespread attention for their kiss scene which became one of the most famous events in 2009.
She revealed on variety show Seoulmate 2 that they had to kiss 50 times because as a rookie, she wasn’t able to really feel the kiss when there were so many people around them.
He was the first male celebrity to have a solo cover on Cosmopolitan Korea
Min-Ho broke another record by being the first male celebrity to grace the cover of Cosmopolitan Korea magazine to commemorate their 200th issue.
Although there have been other male celebrities who have been on the cover in the past, they were usually accompanied by a female model or were in a group.
He dated actresses Park Min Young and Suzy Bae
Lee Min-Ho is one of the biggest stars South Korea has produced, so it is no surprise that his dating life with fellow popular actresses has been the talk of fans everywhere. While he has had a few relationships, you might be more familiar with these two in particular.
In 2011, during the filming of City Hunter, Lee Min-Ho and Park Min Young started dating. The couple reportedly were together for five months before calling it splits.
If you’ve been keeping up with the best dramas so far, Suzy Bae will come as no stranger to you. The actress, recently best known for her role in Vagabond, is Lee Min-Ho’s longest partner to date. The two confirmed their relationship in 2015 but maintained a low-profile despite being a powerhouse couple.
They were rumoured to have an on-off relationship but both of their agencies confirmed the split in 2019 last November.
This article first appeared on Her World.