Being a K-Pop idol and being a K-Drama actor/actress is certain does not mutually exclusive. Many entertainment companies in South Korea are acting agencies as well as music companies, and in the great movement that is the South Korean entertainment industry and the Korean wave, a talented individual can be both.
And for the multi-talented stars who have the acting bug, there’s more than one path to the transition from music superstar to screen star. Some idols choose to start appearing in K-Drama while their group is still active – while others wait for the disbandment or general dwindling of their group schedules before stepping onto set. What is certain is that there are many examples of people who have shone in both careers becoming household names in both music and television.
Here’s your guide to some of the most famous and beloved idol actors (complete with K-Drama commercials, of course)!
Lee Jieun (IU, soloist)
One of the most successful female soloists currently active, Lee Jieun, stage name IU, is a much-loved celebrity throughout her home country, Asia and the world beyond. So it’s no surprise that she also has a brilliant acting career behind her – one that she pursues alongside her musical work.
The latter began in 2008 when IU was only fifteen and debuted under LOEN Entertainment (after being rejected by JYP Entertainment) with the EP Lost and found. Her acting debut happened a few years later, in 2010, with a supporting role in the drama Dream big.
Among her ten-ish roles, you should definitely check out Moon Hotel-where she plays Jang Manwol, the millennia-old owner of a hotel that only caters to ghosts. And funnily enough, Moon Hotel has two other idols-turned-actors in its cast – Kang Mina, a former member of both Gugudan and IOI, and Pyo Jihoon, known as PO, one of the rappers in the boy group BLOCK B. You can stream it on Netflix.
Bae Suji (Suzy, Miss A)
Nicknamed “The Nation’s First Love”, Bae Suji – more commonly known as Bae Suzy – debuted in 2010 with Miss A under JYP Entertainment – one of the most popular girl groups of the second generation of K-Pop. Her fame skyrocketed when she made her film debut with the 2012 film Architecture 101-where she played the younger version of the main character.
Since then, Suzy re-debuted as a solo artist in 2017 and continued to grow her acting career. Her filmography has expanded to include nearly twenty titles between films and dramas. I especially recommend seeing her in action in 2017 fantasy romance While you were sleeping and the 2019 thriller Tramp— the former is on Viki, while the latter is on Netflix.
Kim Jisoo (Jisoo, BLACKPINK)
Jisoo is the lead vocalist and visual of the global sensation BLACKPINK, the actually most popular K-Pop girl group – especially on the international scene. Unlike the other three members of the group who joined YG Entertainment with the specific goal of debuting as idols, Jisoo originally joined to pursue a career in acting – something that became a reality in 2021 when she starred in the historical romance drama Snowflake (which you can watch on Disney+ in certain regions or on Viki).
Jisoo’s performance was very well received, although the drama itself was subject to controversy both before and after its release (for how it handled the particular moment of South Korean history it was set in).
Kim Taehyung (V, BTS)
BTS needs no introduction, and neither does Taehyung – stage name V – one of the group’s most popular members and so far the only one out of the seven to debut as an actor – although who knows what the future holds now that the group is on official hiatus.
Taehyung’s acting debut was in 2016 when he played a supporting role in the star-studded drama Hwarang: Poet Warrior Youth– the story of how the Hwarang, an elite group of warriors in the Kingdom of Silla in the 6th century AD, was formed. You can catch K-Drama on Netflix.
Taehyung was one of the youngest in the cast, and he has formed a famously strong friendship with his “Hwarang hyungs” – something that the rest of BTS, funnily enough, has always been very jealous of. One of these Hwarang hyungs is another idol/actor, Choi Minho – the main rapper and visual of the beloved second generation boy group SHINee.
Lee Dongmin (Cha Eunwoo, ASTRO)
Lee Dongmin is much better known by his stage name, Cha Eunwoo, which he debuted in 2016 as the vocalist, visual and face of the group Astro. While his acting debut technically happened before that, with the 2014 film My brilliant lifehis breakthrough came when he was cast as the male lead in the 2018 drama Gangnam beauty-which saw his popularity skyrocket immediately after it first aired.
His filmography includes about ten titles between movies and dramas, and you definitely can’t miss the period piece Rookie historian Goo Hae-Ryung —which you can catch on Netflix—and especially the blockbuster modern romance True beauty. An adaptation of the webtoon of the same name, it was the drama of 2020 – you can stream it on Viki and decide which one of the two male leads you’re looking for.
Park Jinyoung (Jinyoung, GOT7)
Last but certainly not least, there is Park Jinyoung – known as Jinyoung, the center and face of the group of GOT7. He actually debuted as an actor first – in 2011 with the drama Dream High 2– and then like an idol – in 2014 with the EP Understood?.
Jinyoung has had and continues to have a very successful career as a member of GOT7 – even now that the group has collectively left his debut label, JYP Entertainment – and he has also starred in several K-Dramas. Among the titles in his discography, definitely check out the much-loved fantasy romance The legend of the blue sea and psychological romance Yumi’s cells— You can find the former on Viki and the latter on Netflix.
Who would you add to this list? And what is your favorite K-Drama starring a K-Pop idol?
(Featured Image: tvN)
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