Our favorite K-drama stars give us a roller coaster ride of emotions with their acting skills—but did you know that some of them were initially known as K-pop idols? Most of them were either in girl or boy groups, while a few were solo acts who headlined as singers.
Here are some idols-slash-actors that have become huge names in the Korean entertainment world because of their versatility:
1. Bae Suzy from miss A
If you've been watching K-dramas for a long time, you've probably seen Bae Suzy in Dream High (2011), where she played a student who aspired to be an idol. She probably applied a lot of her real-life experiences in the drama since she started as part of the group miss A, under JYP Entertainment.
One of her notable acting projects was as the lead in Uncontrollably Fond (2016) with Kim Woo Bin, While You Were Sleeping with Lee Jong Suk, and Vagabond with Lee Seung Gi. Most recently, she starred in Start-Up with her fellow labelmate, Nam Joo Hyuk.
2. Lee Hyeri from Girl's Day
Lee Hyeri debuted as the maknae (youngest member) of Girl's Day. The group was active from 2010 to 2016, took an almost two-year hiatus, made a comeback in 2017, but ended up disbanding in January 2019.
In 2012, Hyeri made her acting debut and proceeded to take on some minor roles in various TV series. Then came her big break in the drama Reply 1988 starring opposite Ryu Jun Yeol and Park Bo Gum. She was also cast in Entertainer, Two Cops, and Miss Lee. Fans of Hyeri will rejoice as she's making her small-screen comeback with the upcoming K-drama, My Roommate Is A Gumiho.
After trying out for 20 auditions (and failing all of them!) and even getting scammed by fake entertainment agencies pre-debut, IU (whose real name is Lee Ji Eun) first trained to be in a girl group. However, she eventually made a solo debut as a singer under her then agency, LOEN Entertainment.
As if her studio albums were not enough to keep her busy (she even wrote some of her own lyrics!), she starred in various dramas, too. She was in Dream High, The Producers, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, and My Mister. IU also led Hotel Del Luna, and will headline the upcoming Korean movie Dream with Park Seo Joon.
4. The girls from SNSD
The members of SNSD (or Girls' Generation) had diverse roots before becoming SM Entertainment trainees and talents. But all of them were talented and determined to break through Hallyu with their singing and dancing skills. Eventually, they formed a group that would be one of the biggest acts in South Korea.
Their international concerts, Korean and Japanese album recordings, reality shows, and guest appearances were enough to keep the girls busy. But some members still pursued their passion for acting. This includes Yoona (Love Rain, The K2, Hush), Sooyoung (Dating Agency: Cyrano, Man In The Kitchen, Run On), Seohyun (Bad Thief, Good Thief, Time, Private Lives), and Yuri (Fashion King, Innocent Defendant, The Sound Of Your Heart).
5. Seo In Guk
This mysterious-looking guy's claim to fame was when he won the first season of Superstar K, a singing contest on cable TV music channel, Mnet. After that, Seo In Guk recorded local chart-topping singles and released multiple albums.
In 2012, he made his acting debut with a supporting role and later on starred in the first installment of the nostalgic hit series, Reply 1997. After that, he appeared in various dramas like Master's Sun, Hello Monster, Squad 38, and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.
6. Yook Sung Jae from BtoB
Did you know that this charming guy is actually the vocalist of his K-pop group? BtoB had been active in producing albums and singles under their label, Cube Entertainment. However, the military enlistment of some members forced the group to have a temporary hiatus before, and Yook Sung Jae shined in various K-drama roles.
During his early acting career, he played a minor role in Reply 1994. He got his break as the leading man in Who Are You: School 2015. If you've stuck to mainstream K-dramas, though, you probably know him as Deok Hwa, the adorable chaebol who calls Gong Yoo his samcheon in Goblin. Before he enlisted in the military, Sung Jae's last K-drama was Mystic Pop-Up Bar.
7. D.O. from EXO
It's quite impossible for a Pinoy K-pop fan not to know the boy group, EXO. Even if they're not your main idols, you've surely heard of them or their hit songs. Since they debuted in 2013, EXO has been a top talent at SM Entertainment and has become a K-pop sensation all over the world.
While a few of the members have made acting debuts, too, D.O. (or Do Kyung Soo) has made a name for himself as a K-drama actor. He has even been cast in the box-office hit films like Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds and My Annoying Brother! When it comes to TV dramas, he has starred in It's Okay, That's Love, Hello Monster, Be Positive, and 100 Days My Prince. After his discharge from the military, D.O. is already for two projects, namely the movie Moon and the remake of the Taiwanese film, Secret.
8. Park Hyung Sik from ZE:A
Park Hyung Sik debuted back in 2010 as part of the nine-member boy group ZE:A. During this time, his schedule was packed with both K-pop idol duties and acting stints. Although ZE:A has not officially disbanded, some members have joined different agencies already and are focusing on their solo careers.
The aegyo-filled Hyung Sik has starred in various dramas. He has played chaebol son roles in The Heirs, High Society, and—since a kingdom is like an ancient chaebol—Hwarang. Before he enlisted in the military in 2019, one of his latest projects was the Korean spinoff of Suits. Of course, his most notable role is still as cutie pie Min Min with Park Bo Young in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.
9. Cha Eun Woo from ASTRO
In 2016, it was announced that a new boy group will debut under Fantagio Entertainment, and they will be named ASTRO, the Spanish translation of the word "star." And boy, did they become big stars! They topped the charts and even made a successful debut in Japan. The six-piece K-pop group is currently gearing up for their upcoming online fan meeting.
Apart from shining bright as a K-pop idol, Cha Eun Woo is also recognized as an actor and has already led a number of K-dramas under his belt! This includes the historical series Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung where he played the role of Yi Rim. He was also cast in two beauty-themed dramas, namely My ID Is Gangnam Beauty and True Beauty! Fun fact: He recorded a song for each of the three drama's OST!
10. Krystal Jung from f(x)
If you don't know who f(x) is, you are certainly missing out. This SM Entertainment girl group has an impressive discography that will have you humming tracks 24/7! Krystal stands as the group's lead vocalist and visual, and is also their maknae. Last year, she left her agency of 10 years.
Did you watch one of the best K-dramas ever made, aka Prison Playbook? Then you will remember her as Kim Ji Ho, the girlfriend of baseball superstar, Kim Jae Hyuk! She was also cast in The Heirs, My Lovely Girl, The Bride Of Habaek, and most recently, the OCN drama, Search.
11. Kang Seung Yoon from WINNER
Seung Yoon, or more known as Yoon, trained under YG Entertainment after he joined the singing competition, Superstar K2. He made his solo debut in 2013 and soon after, he participated in Mnet's survival program, Who Is Next. Yoon eventually became the leader of the group WINNER, who, btw, made a super nakakabilib dance cover of Sarah Geronimo's "Tala" during their concert in Manila! Have you heard of their hit song "Really Really?" Not yet? REALLY?! Well, here you go:
Yoon is already an amazing singer-songwriter, record producer, and dancer, and his acting skills will also have you clapping your hands! He appeared in the TV series High Kick and The Producers, as well as the web dramas We Broke Up and Love For A Thousand More—but it was his role in Prison Playbook that cemented him as an actor we should all look forward to. His most recent acting project is in the MBC drama, Kairos.
12. Kim Sejeong from IOI/gugudan
Sejeong represented her agency, Jellyfish Entertainment, when she joined the reality survival show Produce 101, and she placed second with more than 500,000 votes. After that, she promoted as a member of I.O.I and became a part of the group gugudan. The 24-year-old also set her own solo career and performed songs for K-drama OSTs such as Crash Landing On You and Legend Of The Blue Sea.
P.S: She's called "God Sejeong" because she consistently tops the ranks in Produce 101!
If she's a familiar face to you, that's because Sejeong starred in the recent hit drama The Uncanny Counter as one of the devil slayers! She was also cast in I Wanna Hear Your Song and School 2017, and made a special cameo in The Sound Of Your Heart.
13. Choi Siwon from Super Junior
Of course, we can't forget Siwon if we're going to talk about K-pop-idols-turned-actors! He's a member of the OG K-pop group Super Junior—you know, the ones who sang the infamous track "Sorry Sorry." After more than a decade of giving us the best stage performances, the group is one of ~the last men~ standing in the industry and is still active. In fact, a new album is in the works. Yay!
Undeniably the actor who started our second lead syndrome in She Was Pretty, Siwon made everyone's hearts flutter with his many K-dramas, which include Revolutionary Love, My Fellow Citizens!, and Poseidon to name a few. In 2011, he headlined the Taiwanese drama Skip Beat! along with his fellow SuJu member, Donghae.
14. Sandara Park from 2NE1
Who isn't familiar here with the legendary girls, 2NE1? Because if you say yes, you must be living under a rock. The group made their debut in 2009 and has since become a household name and pop culture icon with their tremendous feats, may it be in album sales, concert tickets sold, or endorsements earned. In short, they are the ~B.E.S.T~
Our pambansang krung krung Sandara Park has already been showcasing her acting chops even before she became a member of 2NE1, namely in the Pinoy movies Bcuz Of U and Can This Be Love. In South Korea, she also made it as an actress and appeared in the web dramas We Broke Up and Missing Korea. Dara also made special cameos in Dinnermate, The Producers, and My Love From The Star!
15. Ok Taecyeon from 2PM
JYP Entertainment boy group 2PM made everyone ~put their hands up~ up as one of the OG idols in the industry. In case you're wondering about the meaning behind their name, it's because 2 p.m. is the hottest time of the day, and it's when everyone is the most energetic. This is the reason why their songs are not just highly addictive, they'll make you want to dance non-stop, too! Another cute trivia: Their fandom is called "Hottest." Love it!
Taecyeon's first K-drama role was in the 2010 series Cinderella's Sister and it was followed by a string of high-rating shows, such as Dream High, Who Are You?, Bring It On Ghost, and Save Me. As of present, he's a cast member of the Song Joong Ki-led drama, Vincenzo.
Some of her K-dramas: Listen to Love
Some of his K-dramas: Full House
Joy from Red Velvet
Some of her K-dramas: The Liar and His Lover, Tempted
Uee from After School
Some of her K-dramas: My Contracted Husband, Mr. Oh
Dasom and Bora from SISTAR
Some of their K-dramas: Respectively starred in He Is Psychometric and Doctor Stranger
Eunji and Na Eun from Apink
Some of their K-dramas: Respectively starred in Reply 1997 and Cinderella with Four Knights
Baekhyun , Chanyeol, Suho, Kai, Xiumin, and Sehun from EXO
Some of their K-dramas: Respectively starred in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo, Missing Nine, The Universe's Star, Andante, Falling For Challenge, Dokgo Rewind
V from BTS
Some of his K-dramas: Hwarang
Rowoon and Chani from SF9
Some of their K-dramas: Sky Castle and Extraordinary You
Ong Seong Wu from Wanna One
Some of his K-dramas: At Eighteen, More Than Friends
Jinyoung from GOT7
Some of his K-dramas: He Is Psychometric, When My Love Blooms
Kwon Nara from Hello Venus
Some of her K-dramas: Itaewon Class, Secret Royal Inspector
Kim Myungsoo from Infinite
Some of his K-dramas: Angel's Last Mission: Love, Meow, The Secret Boy
Kang Mina from I.O.I/gugudan
Some of her K-dramas: Hotel De Luna, Tale Of Fairy
Minho, Key, and Onew from SHINee
Some of their K-dramas: Respectively starred in Hwarang, The Guardians, and Descendants of The Sun
Im Siwan from ZE:A
Some of his K-dramas: Misaeng, Run On
Kim Seolhyun from AOA
Some of her K-dramas: Orange Marmalade, Awaken
TOP from BIGBANG
Some of his K-dramas: Iris
Jisoo from BLACKPINK
Her upcoming K-drama: Snowdrop
Follow Ginyn on Instagram.