Being an idol in the Korean industry is very difficult. And even after going through rigorous training to debut, you still have to fight for a position in the industry that is overly saturated with many other Kpop idols who share a similar dream.
As said by idols themselves, its very difficult to grow a successful career outside of their groups, however, the list of idols we’re about to go through are success stories of idols who might have struggled to find their footing in the idol industry but managed to grow a dedicated following once they switched to acting.
Note: this list doesn’t include idols from immensely successful kpop groups for obvious reasons. It focuses on success stories of idols from lesser-known groups in lesser-known agencies.
Former Hello Venus member Nara
Kwon Nara debuted as a part of Hello Venus in 2012, the group was a joint venture between Pledis and Fantagio. Despite their amazing visuals and great skills, the group went mostly unnoticed and couldn’t generate enough attention to save them from disbandment which happened in 2019 when the group’s contract expired.
Kwon Nara has been active as an actress for a while now, she played her first major acting role in the hot SBS rom-com “Suspicious Partner,” people finally took note of her amazing acting skills and visuals.
Since then she appeared in many hit kdramas including the recently concluded JTBC hit drama “Itaewon Class” that gained her lots of new fans. She’s currently active as an actress full time, many people are surprised once they find out she was originally an idol.
ZE:A Im Siwan
ZE:A is considered a veteran boy group, they debuted in 2010 to moderate success in South Korea. The 9-member boy group is considered one of the most criminally underrated boy groups. The group hasn’t officially disbanded yet but each member is focusing on solo activities for now.
Im Siwan is considered one of the lesser known members of ZE:A that was until he showed his amazing acting chops during a couple of appearances on different hit drama projects. Im Siwan first gained recognition when he played the young version of Heo Yeon in “The Moon Embracing The Sun.” The drama surpassed 40% in ratings and was dubbed the ‘nation’s drama’ launching its entire cast to instant fame.
Im Siwan followed that with another hit drama “Misaeng” that is described as a ‘cultural phenomenon.’ He also appeared in several box office hit movies throughout the years. He managed to establish a successful acting career for himself outside the group.
ZE:A Park Hyung Sik
ZE:A has also become known for being Park Hyung Sik’s group over the years.
Despite his amazing visuals, Park Hyung Sik was not considered the face of the group and was among the lesser known members. However, all of that would drastically change when he started acting a couple of years after his group’s debut.
He’s been in many hit dramas including “The Heirs,” “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon” and “Suits.” He’s dubbed one of the best idol actors alongside Im Siwan and is constantly praised for his visuals, fun personality and amazing acting chops.
After his group’s contract expired in 2017, he was able to sign in the very exclusive prestigious acting agency UAA (United Artist Agency) joining Yoo Ah In and Song Hye Kyo. He previously gushed about how excited and happy he was to join this agency.
Girls Day Minah
While Girls Day is considered one of the popular girl groups, Minah was obviously not the first name that would come to mind when you want to name an idol from this group. However, Minah has become an actress who’s recognized for her acting chops in the industry.
She’s been in many dramas including “Beautiful Gongshim” and most recently “My Absolute Boyfriend.”
Known for her amazing vocals, no one would’ve expected Eunji to be such a great actress until the hit tvN drama “Reply 1997” aired.
Eunji became an instant sensation after “Reply 1997” aired. The drama is not only a massive success but also critically acclaimed. People couldn’t get enough of Eunji. Since then, she appeared in many other dramas including “Sassy Go Go” and “untouchable.”
He might disappear behind those drums but Minhyuk is a talented actor. While CNBLUE did enjoy massive success when they debuted, Minhyuk was not as recognizable as Jung Yonghwa or Jonghyun per se, but he went on to lead a successful acting career entirely separate from his role as the drummer of CNBLUE.
His latest drama “Hospital Ship” was a success that put him on the map as one of the best idol-actors. He has been recently discharged; fans can’t wait to see him back on the small screen again.
Seo In Guk
Very few people remember that Seo In Guk debuted as a singer initially. He found moderate success as a singer but his career took off with the massive success of “Reply 1997.” Since then, his career shifted towards acting mostly and he’s been in many hit dramas throughout the years including “Hello Monster,” “Shopping King Louis” and most recently “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.”
He’s known for being a versatile actor who can pull off serious and comedic roles perfectly, its difficult to believe that he originally debuted as a singer.
So this is the list. What do you guys think of it? Is there any idol you’d like to add to the list?