Who is Son Suk-ku, tough-looking K-drama star of A Killer Paradox and My Liberation Notes who was a late bloomer as an actor?

His first screen role was a bit part in the erotic thriller Scarlet Innocence. His first big part followed in the indie film Black Stone, which he appeared in when he was 33.

Son Suk-ku in a still from A Killer Paradox. Photo: Song Kyoung Sub/Netflix
Son really caught people’s attention when he passed an audition to land a major recurring role in the second season of the American Netflix series Sense8, alongside fellow Korean star Bae Doona.

Why we love him

Son may be a late bloomer on the screen, but his experiences before he turned to acting contributed to his memorable screen charisma.

A Killer Paradox: stylish Netflix Korean thriller with a hokey twist

After returning to Korea, he began his obligatory military service, but he made the unusual decision to volunteer for the Zaytun Division, a branch of the army tasked with carrying out peacekeeping and reconstruction missions that saw him deployed to Iraq.

Son has talked about how he had a hard time readjusting to Korea upon his return after spending so much time abroad. This overseas posting felt more comfortable for him at the time.

Back in North America, Son then tried to become a basketball player in Canada, and it was during this period, while he trained during the day, that he took up acting classes in the evening.

Son Suk-ku (left) and Kim Ji-won in a still from My Liberation Notes (2022).
Even now, his ambitions are not limited to acting. In 2021, he was invited by actor Lee Je-hoon to participate as a director in the omnibus film Unframed, for which he directed the segment “Rerun”. The film debuted at the Busan International Film Festival.

Earlier this year, Son made waves for breaking ties with his management agency and setting up his own company. However, while most stars who do so go on to set up talent management companies, Son has instead founded a production company, which indicates his creative ambitions in the film and television industry.

The star-making roles

Son Suk-ku in a still from Sense8 (2015-18). Photo: Netflix.
In Sense8, a series directed by The Matrix masterminds the Wachowskis, Son plays a Korean detective who chases Bae’s character after her escape from prison, and later begins to help her.
Son partnered with Bae again on the successful romantic comedy Matrimonial Chaos, which also features Cha Tae-hyun and his future My Liberation Notes co-star Lee El. He plays a man who is popular with women but is secretly very lonely.
He next made waves as the sly army lieutenant Lim Ji-seob in the critical hit D.P., a Netflix drama that examines the hardships of South Korea’s obligatory military service.

Ji-seob is an army careerist who first seems to be an obstacle for the show’s heroes, but who later shows more complex colours.

Son Suk-ku (right) and Kim Sung-kyun in a still from D.P. season 2 (2023). Photo: Seo Ji Hyung/Netflix

Son then partnered with Jeon Jong-seo in the riotous theatrical romantic comedy Nothing Serious. The film, which presents a very sexually frank view of modern romance, was the commercial debut of indie director Jeong Ga-young.

The iconic parts

After building a very respectable filmography, Son hit the big time as the fearsome antagonist who goes head to head with Ma Dong-seok in the smash hit The Roundup, the first film to truly break out in South Korea following the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Son Suk-ku in a still from The Roundup (2022).

But Son’s most iconic role to date has been as the enigmatic Mr Goo in the critically acclaimed drama My Liberation Notes.

A closed book who seldom talks, Goo quietly works and drinks while he helps out on the farm run by the father of the show’s three other characters, including Kim Ji-won, who Goo later begins to worship.

In the sprawling Disney+ crime saga Big Bet, Son goes toe to toe with acting legend Choi Min-sik ( Oldboy), playing the Korean detective who travels to the Philippines to try to take down Choi’s expat gambling mogul.
Son Suk-ku (left) and Choi Min-sik in a still from Big Bet season 2 (2023). Photo: Disney+

The unheralded performances

Kim’s first Korean drama role is still one of his most compelling. In the show Mother, by Little Women writer Chung Seo-kyung, Son plays a violent boyfriend who abuses his girlfriend’s young daughter. It is a harrowing performance that effortlessly sets up the high dramatic stakes of the series.
Son also had a memorable supporting part as a slick prosecutor in the action thriller Hit-and-Run Squad.
Son Suk-ku in a still from Hit-and-Run Squad (2019).

Tomorrow’s turns

Son has quite a few projects on the way. First up will be the film Troll Factory, which opens in South Korean cinemas on March 27. He stars as a disgraced journalist trying to uncover an army of online commenters who manipulate public opinion.

He has a supporting role in the unreleased sci-fi drama Love Is a Virus, alongside Kim Yoon-seok and, once again, Bae Doona.

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Son is currently shooting the procedural thriller drama Nine Puzzle for director Yoon Jong-bin ( Narco-Saints), in which he co-stars with Kim Da-mi.


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