They may have riches and fame now, but they grew up in poverty, often paying off family debts. Here are K-pop and K-drama celebs who were dirt-poor when they were young

At the opposite end of Korean celebs who were born in the lap of luxury are those who worked their way up from impoverished beginnings. Their stories are amazing ones of grit and perseverance, of never giving up despite great hardships. You would absolutely be inspired.

See also: 14 Korean Celebrities Who Were Born Rich

1. BTS’ V

Born Kim Tae-hyung to a poor farming family in Daegu in South Korea, V has said that if not for a chance audition which he followed his friends to, he would be pulling weeds on a farm with his grandmother. As a child, his parents were busy working, and he was raised by his beloved grandma, and he has said that he thought it was his destiny to be a farmer, as he grew up in a farming village and never really wished for much else. Thank goodness he discovered a love for music and aced that audition, or the world would never have known V’s rich baritone voice or his adorable presence in the most popular boy band in the world.

See also: McDonald’s x BTS: 15 Creative Ways Fans Have Repurposed the Packaging

2. IU

Lee Ji-eun’s rags to riches tale is one of the great success stories of K-pop. Her parents fell heavily into debt while she was growing up and little IU and her brother were shunted around to different relatives while her parents worked, and lived part of her early life with her grandma in a one-room apartment crawling with cockroaches, and not having enough to eat. After training hard, failing 20 auditions and finally debuting as a singer at the tender age of 15, IU’s meteoric rise meant that she was able to pay off her parents’ debt just a few years later. Now, as one of Korea’s most famous pop stars and K-drama actresses, IU’s life couldn’t be more different than when she was growing up.

3. Seo In-guk

The Doom At Your Service actor grew up in poverty, with his mother collecting cardboard boxes off the street to recycle them to make money for the family’s basic needs. He trained as a wrestler and saw his fortunes turn after he tried out music and joined singing competition Superstar K, eventually winning it. These days, he’s charming audiences in K-dramas and enjoying huge popularity and probably riches.

See also: Seo In-Guk: 5 Things to Know About the ‘Doom At Your Service’ Actor

4. Hyeri

The Girl’s Day member and Reply 1988 and My Roommate is a Gumiho actress, well-loved for her cutesy aegyo image, grew up in poverty, living with her sister and grandmother in the countryside while her mother worked in a factory.

5. Park Bo-gum

Meanwhile, Hyeri’s co-star in Reply 1988 Park Bo-gum suffered financial hardship as well. The Love in the Moonlight and Record of Youth good-looker, who’s currently doing his military service, had to file for bankruptcy early on in his career in 2014, thanks to signing on as a co-guarantor for a loan his father took in 2008. When his dad was unable to repay the 30 million won (S$34,800) sum, Park was forced to take on the debt, except that it had ballooned to 800 million won (S$928,000). Thankfully, most of it was written off, and he managed to pay off the debt in full within six months.

See also: 5 Park Bo-gum Movies and Shows to Binge-Watch in 2021

6. BTS’ Suga

Born Min Yoon-gi in Daegu to a poor family, BTS’ rapper is valued in the millions now, but there was once a time when he was so short of money, he had to choose between eating and taking a bus. If he bought a US$2 bowl of noodles, he would then have to walk home. He struggled to achieve his dream of being a musician, working part-time at a recording studio and writing songs at 13 years old, which he would then sell.

See also: The Best of BTS Suga: Listen to the Rapper's Solo Songs and Musical Collaborations

7. Han So-hee

The 26-year-old actress may be enjoying her moment in the spotlight now, but life wasn’t always easy for the The World of the Married and Nevertheless star. She came to Seoul with precious little cash in order to pursue her acting dream, and worked long hours at a bar to make ends meet. That sacrifice has definitely paid off for the talented So-hee.

See also: Exclusive: Han So Hee On Portraying Yu Na Bi In ‘Nevertheless’

8. Park Shin-hye

She’s one of South Korea’s most well-known actresses now, but Park and her family struggled with financial troubles when she was young. The Sisyphus: The Myth, The Heirs and Memories of the Alhambra star has said she wanted to be a police officer, after her mother was robbed when she was a kid.

See also: 5 Essential Park Shin-Hye Shows to Binge-Watch After Sisyphus: The Myth

9. Rain

Born Jung Ji-hoon in Seosan in South Korea, Rain and his family were left in poverty after the 1997 Korean financial crisis, which caused his father to declare bankruptcy and move to Brazil to make money. The family was so poor, Rain said that he once starved for many days as there was nothing to eat at home. His mother, a food seller, sadly passed away from diabetes soon after his debut as an entertainer in 2000, as the family couldn’t afford medicine for her. Today, Rain is one of the richest celebs in Korea, and he and his actress wife Kim Tae-hee are one of K-entertainment’s most powerful couples.

See also: 5 Rich Korean Celebrity Power Couples in 2021

10. Sandara Park

The 2NE1 pop diva and subsequent solo artiste, born in Busan, had a tough time growing up, as her father’s business went bankrupt when she was eight. They became so poor, she didn’t have money to take the bus, and as the oldest child, Park had to stay home to look after her younger siblings. The family moved to the Philippines to try to restart her father’s business, and she struggled to fit in. She eventually became a successful actress there, but her father controlled her money and wiped out her savings thanks to his gambling addiction. She eventually returned to Korea to debut with 2NE1, one of the biggest girl groups in K-pop history.   

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.