Debuting at the age of 33 in Black Stone (2016), Son Suk-ku has since established himself as one of Korea’s best actors with his recent work in The Roundup (2022) and My Liberation Notes (2022). With a manly charisma and a “sexy charm” that has brought his captivating acting performances to the spotlight, Son has pulled in viewers with performances that don’t need explaining. Gluing viewers to his on-screen mastery of body language, his acting has shaken up millions of people as audiences quickly fell in love with Son and his characters. From villain roles to romantic main leads, he’s covered every character prototype with an extraordinary ability to breathe life into each role. 

Wielding an unmatchable aura that had viewers sometimes reeling away in distress, yet devouring scenes on the screen, Son is the center of his own personal brand of fame—“Son Suk-ku Syndrome.” Gaining massive popularity in the past four years, many fans have grown attached to his recent role as Mr. Gu in My Liberation Notes (2022). With Son’s nomination in the “Best Actor” category for Mr. Gu in the upcoming 59th Baeksang Awards, here are five things you didn’t know about Son Suk-ku.

Not “Gucci” but “Gu-ssi” (구찌말고 구씨) On Set

“Son Suk-ku Syndrome” has largely aligned with another syndrome—“Worship Syndrome” (추앙 신드롬). Exploding over social media for the iconic phrase, “Worship Me” (날 추앙해요) in My Liberation Notes, many millenial and Gen Z (MZ) fans quickly circulated the hashtag #추앙 to express their fanship. The slice-of-life series spoke of liberation—the freedom that comes with removing shame from navigating the loneliness and difficulty of adulthood. And while largely dealing with incredibly real, raw emotions, there was a streamline of hope that expressed the inspiring continuity of life. 

The storytelling centered on Son’s portrayal of Mr. Gu (“Gu-ssi”), one of the main characters in the series. When asked what filming on set was like, Son largely claimed it to be a very free atmosphere, quoting Director Kim Seok-yoon lightly stating, “Suk-ku, I’ll enjoy your acting today. Please do your best for me.” The atmosphere on set enabled Son to largely express his creative control without much directorial input, forging Mr. Gu as he saw fit. Yet, he commented that his personality behind the set was incredibly different from his onscreen portrayal. Co-star Kim Ji-won reaffirmed this statement, claiming that “[Son] was a different person as soon as ‘cut!’ was said.”

He Didn’t Originally Plan On Becoming an Actor 

Growing up as a timid child, Son admitted to growing up with very little desire to socialize. With his parents growing concerned about his high introversion, he decided to take in a new atmosphere for a fresh start. Moving to the U.S. for a change of pace, Son continued his studies abroad since his middle school years. Spending the majority of his youth in America led him to continue his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he concentrated in documentaries. But after completing South Korea’s mandatory military service, he chose to discontinue his studies before completing his degree.

Photo courtesy of Son Suk-ku’s Instagram

Became a Sergeant in Iraq 

Photo courtesy of Son Suk-ku’s Instagram

Part of the Zaytun Unit, whose troops have helped in Korea’s largest “overseas military mission since the Vietnam War,” Son applied to be sent overseas as a Korean soldier. Having left South Korea as a private first class, he returned to Korea as a Sergeant, having spent 6 months stationed in Iraq. When asked why he applied to be sent abroad as a soldier, he admitted that he had a hard time adjusting to South Korea after having spent a long time in the U.S. With his usage of Korean faltering after his extended period of time abroad and riddled with self-doubt, he decided to challenge himself into adapting fast. Son admitted to pouring extra effort to fit in, giving his all, and signing up to go abroad. 

When asked to pick the happiest time of his life, Son unexpectedly picked his time in the military. Expressing how the military was a new start for him, especially during a time when he had a lot of thoughts and concerns, he looked fondly back at his time as a soldier. He claimed to have liked the simple soldier lifestyle, where “if you work[ed] hard, people [would] recognize you. Now, Son expressed how he had learned the value of hard work from having started from scratch alongside his fellow soldiers. 

Dreamed of Becoming a Professional Basketball Player 

Soon after being discharged from the military, Son decided to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional basketball player at the age of 26. Using the wages that he earned while stationed in Iraq, he booked a plane to Canada to try basketball. Recalling his military days when he had played basketball with fellow soldiers, he was inspired to try his hand at pursuing professional basketball. 

Going as far as finding a professional basketball player’s grandfather to coach him, Son found himself training to become part of a professional team. But when asked by the coach to show his shooting skills to gauge his skills, he recalls missing every goal and finding himself fumbling with the idea of becoming a professional player after all. With no professional work in sight and a day that ended early with basketball training, he decided to spend the rest of his time at an acting academy. But after his first performance as an actor, he found himself to be a natural, launching himself into the acting world and later establishing himself as the actor we know today. 

Gained 22 pounds for The Roundup 

When filming The Roundup, Son had to gain 10 kilograms (22 pounds) to suit the role of Kang Hae-sang, a crime lord and vicious murderer. Bulking up for a role is already a notably difficult feat for many actors; Son commented that he was stuck in a cycle of quickly gaining and losing weight as he had multiple ongoing projects. While juggling D.P (2021) and Nothing Serious (2021) alongside The Roundup, his dedication to his characters is notable and incredibly present onscreen. 

To keep up with more Son Suk-ku, make sure to follow his Instagram.

Interested in more ACT!ON K-Actor and Actresses content? Read our piece on Lee Sung-kyung here!