In 2013, Song Joongki left the entertainment scene temporarily at the height of his popularity to fulfill the mandatory military service that all able-bodied South Korean males are required to do.

For K-stars, national service means a dreaded two-year absence from the fickle show business. For Joongki, his absence seems to have made fans’ hearts grow a great deal fonder.

Descendants Of The Sun, his first television drama since his military stint, has proved to be a phenomenal hit in South Korea, China and beyond after its premiere last month.

The stint was useful for his role as a romantic soldier, Captain Yoo Si Jin. Because Song began filming mere weeks after completing national service last year, he was able to switch back to military mode easily for the drama.

“I was already accustomed to the military manner of speech and had a military cut,” he said last month, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Long before his forced absence, he had made a name as an actor and as a cast member of the popular variety show Running Man.

He is a playboy in the 2010 period romp Sungkyunkwan Scandal and acts as a revenge-driven ex- boyfriend in the 2012 melodrama The Innocent Man. For the 2012 hit movie A Werewolf Boy, he plays a wild, animal-like teen who is adopted by a human family.

Joongki, who left the regular cast of Running Man in 2011, remains close friends with his former co-host Lee Kwangsoo. He inscribed a love message to Lee on a rock in Greece, where he was filming Descendants.

Fans can only hope he will at least land on their shores when he begins his fan-meet tour in Asia later this year.

Image: TPG/Click Photos
Text: The Straits Times / Gwendolyn Ng / March 2016