Singing, dancing and acting in popular Korean dramas—these multitalented idols are everywhere, and many of them have starred in your favourite recent hit shows
K-pop stars taking a segue into acting is nothing new, and there’s been a long line of music idols carving out successful careers as actors and actresses, starting with original oppa Rain and his memorable turn in Full House and other dramas and films.
While some dip their acting fingers into just one or two shows before returning to their thriving day jobs in music—such as BTS’ V—others, like Miss A’s Bae Suzy, dove into red-hot acting careers and never looked back. Then, there are unicorns like IU, who can juggle being an amazing actress and releasing new musical works simultaneously.
There’s no denying the fact that these K-popsters bring their fan following to whichever drama they’re starring in, giving these shows a big ratings boost. Here are 20 K-pop idols who have headlined the K-dramas we love.
1. Ok Taecyeon, from 2PM
Better known as pop group 2PM’s rapper Taecyeon, Ok starred in popular 2011 idol drama Dream High, which launched the acting careers of a bunch of other K-popsters. He’s since appeared in many other dramas—such as Bring It On, Ghost—and is thrilling audiences in current ratings hit Vincenzo.
2. Park Hyung-sik, from ZE:A
The singer and dancer of pop group ZE:A has carved out a great career as a charming leading man, especially in 2017’s Strong Girl Bong-soon. He was also part of the ensemble cast in Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth and Suits, the Korean remake of the hit American TV series. He was discharged from military service earlier this year and we can’t wait to see what he does next.
3. V (Kim Tae-hyung), from BTS
Kim, one-seventh of the planet’s biggest pop group, starred in 2016’s Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, his only drama, before returning to music and continuing to bless the world with his baritone vocals. Hwarang also gave us the Wooga Squad, a power celeb clique that includes Park Seo-joon, Park Hyung-sik and Parasite actor Choi Woo-shik.
4. IU (Lee Ji-eun)
A rare solo power player in an industry filled with mega pop-star groups, IU has topped her impressive singer-songwriter career and many smash hit albums with her stellar acting chops, in dramas such as Dream High, The Producers, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo and Hotel Del Luna. She sure is one awe-inspiring 27-year-old.
5. Jisoo, from Blackpink
After making a cameo in the 2019 Song Joong-ki vehicle Arthdal Chronicles, Jisoo, one-quarter of hugely popular girl group Blackpink, is ready to strike out on her own. She will star alongside popular K-drama actor Jung Hae-in in the upcoming Snowdrop, which is set against Korea’s 1987 Democracy Movement. It will be released in June this year.
6. Bae Suzy, from Miss A
While she shone as a member of now-defunct pop group Miss A, Bae found real audience love when she became an actress. From Dream High to Uncontrollably Fond and While You Were Sleeping to Vagabond, and last year’s Start Up, she has cemented her status as a K-drama hitmaker while being sought after by brands as an ambassador. She continues to make music as a solo artiste, singing on the Start Up soundtrack.
7. Seo In-guk
Seo launched his singing career after winning in the talent reality show Superstar K in 2009, and starred in 2012 K-drama hit Reply 1997. Since then, he has starred in other shows including 2018’s The Smile Has Left Your Eyes. He will next appear in the highly anticipated drama Doom at Your Service with Park Bo-young, which premieres next month.
8. Cha Eun-woo, from Astro
The looker from Astro landed his first acting lead role in 2018’s Gangnam Beauty and continued to melt hearts in 2019’s Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung, for which he won the Excellence Award for an Actor and Best Couple Award with Shin Se-Kyung at the 2019 MBC Drama Awards. His star is shining bright this year with his winning turn in True Beauty, the hit drama also starring Moon Ga-young and Hwang In-youp.
9. Yoona, from Girls’ Generation
She’s a member of one of the biggest girl groups in Korea, and now also has a hugely successful acting career, with hits such as The K2 in 2016 and You Are My Destiny in 2008, for which she won the Best New Actress award at the Baeksang Arts Awards. Other notable works include 2020 K-drama Hush and 2017 film Confidential Assignment. Next up: Confidential Assignment 2: International, with Hyun Bin and Daniel Henney.
10. Seohyun, from Girls’ Generation
Another Girls’ Generation member who’s parlayed her fame into a successful acting career, although it hasn’t been without hiccups. She’s currently embroiled in the bullying scandal involving Seo Ye-ji and Kim Jung-hyun, as she was Kim’s female co-star in 2018’s Time, the show in which he displayed unprofessional behaviour thanks to his then-relationship with Seo. She also headlined last year’s Private Lives, and will reportedly put her music on hold to focus on acting.
11. Joy (Park Soo-young), from Red Velvet
Another member from a hugely popular girl group who ventured into acting, with 2017’s The Liar and His Lover and 2018’s Tempted. It seems like we’ll have to wait a while for her next acting project, as she remains busy with Red Velvet.
12. D.O. (Doh Kyung-soo), from Exo
We’re most excited about D.O. taking on Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou’s role in the Korean remake of Chou’s 2007 hit film Secret, his first project after being discharged from military service. Besides being one of the main vocalists of Exo, D.O. has also starred in such hit dramas as 100 Days My Prince.
13. Eunji, from Apink
Eunji made her acting debut as the lead of 2012 hit drama Reply 1997, which was one of the highest-rated Korean dramas in cable TV history and won her several awards, including a Baeksang Arts Award for Best New TV Actress. She was also in 2013’s That Winter, the Wind Blows and 2017’s Untouchable, and continues to make music.
14. Lee Hye-ri, from Girl’s Day
Another alumni of the beloved Reply series, Hye-ri starred in the most loved one of all, 2015’s Reply 1988, and continues to be a fan favourite for her down-to-earth charm and energy, and her presence on social media. She will next star in K-drama My Roommate Is a Gumiho (yes, another drama about a nine-tailed fox, after The Tale of the Nine-Tailed), which will premiere next month.
15. Kwon Nara, from Hello Venus
She burst onto the scene as part of now-defunct girl group Hello Venus, but has become popular for her roles in Suspicious Partner, Doctor Prisoner, Itaewon Class and the recently concluded historical comedy Royal Secret Agent.
16. Yook Sung-jae, from BtoB
Before he charmed audiences in Goblin (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God), he was a member of pop group BtoB. While continuing to make music, he starred in Who Are You: School 2015 and Mystic Pop-Up Bar. We await his next move after he completes his military service later this year.
17. Minho, from Shinee
He had a hugely successful career with pop group Shinee, and appears to be cementing his popularity as an actor, with roles in Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth, The Most Beautiful Goodbye and a memorable cameo in recent hit Lovestruck in the City.
18. Krystal Jung, from f(x)
From the lead vocalist of popular girl group f(x), which is currently on hiatus, to starring in hit K-dramas, such as The Heirs (2013), My Lovely Girl (2014), Prison Playbook (2017), The Bride of Habaek (2017), Player (2018) and Search (2020), Jung is one versatile star. She’s next up in Police Academy, premiering this July.
19. Choi Siwon, from Super Junior
One of the original super-group pop idols, Choi has extended his good looks, charm and talent onto the big and small screen, with roles in international films such as Hong Kong epic A Battle of Wits with Andy Lau, Dragon Blade with Jackie Chan, and To the Fore with Eddie Peng and Shawn Dou. After a popular comedic turn in K-drama She Was Pretty, he went on to star in Revolutionary Love. Last year, he appeared in Chinese drama Billion Dollar Heir.
20. Onew, from Shinee
Last but not least, here’s another SHINee member who’s been working on an acting career. Onew, one of the lead vocalists of the boy group, had a memorable role in Descendants of the Sun. He’s set to star in a new musical, and continues to make music.