A billboard on New York's Times Square shows Korean actor Byeon Woo-seok.  Captured from X @kdramasdiary

The romantic drama “Lovely Runner” shattered its own viewership record of 5.8 percent in the finale, Tuesday, but the popularity of actor Byeon Woo-seok, who portrayed the K-pop idol Ryu Sun-jae, appears to be skyrocketing.

Taiwanese fans took over a billboard in New York’s Times Square with photos of Byeon Woo-seok, while the song “Sudden Shower,” which he performed in the drama as a member of the fictional K-pop band Eclipse, is dominating Melon’s top 5. Additionally, his film debut, “Soulmate” (2023), is receiving a special re-release this weekend to capitalize on his rising stardom.

Reflecting on the drama that has garnered numerous fans obsessed with the so-called “Sun-jae syndrome,” the 32-year-old actor said he can only attribute his success to “luck.”

“I think there were many factors that contributed to the drama’s success. The writer’s penmanship was exceptional and the director’s editing, directing and attention to detail were immaculate. It was a complex and well-crafted 슬롯게이밍 production. All these work out so well and I can’t think of other words than sheer luck,” he said during an interview with The Korea Times at a cafe in Seoul, Wednesday.

Byeon and his co-stars joined some 1,000 fans to watch the final episode of the drama together at a CGV theater in Yongsan District, Seoul, Tuesday. Recalling the live-watching event celebrating the series’ final episode with fans, he admitted that he became very emotional.

“I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t hold back during the final episode. There were so many beautiful scenes. Those scenes were in fact the result of the lighting director setting up hours in advance and the director of photography meticulously scouting locations,” the model-turned-actor said.

“I was watching the drama in a theater with a lot of staff members and when the 16th episode ended and (staffers’) photos came up, I felt a wave of gratitude and got very emotional. I think I cried because I loved and adored Sun-jae so much and it was a complex mix of emotions.”

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