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Top 10 Korean Male Idols Who Grew Up Abroad
It is well known that to be an idol in Korea, one usually has to be Korean, or at least Asian, though there are a few notable exceptions. Many K-pop idols, Korean and foreigner, have lived overseas. Here is a ranking of the top ten male idols that spent parts of their childhoods abroad.
10. BM – KARD
KARD has jumped into the international stage with multiple world tours within their first year of activity. They released three singles before officially debuting, the third of which, “Rumor,” reached #1 in thirteen countries. Member BM, short for ‘Big Matthew’, has quickly become a fan favorite. Born and raised in LA, BM has major international appeal, though his buff look is unique in Korea where lean bodies are generally the most popular, it is possible that he is contributing to a change in perception. BM is an up and comer we should all keep our eyes on.
9. Henry – Super Junior-M
Born in Canada, Henry had planned on become a professional violinist, before being scouted by SM Entertainment in 2006. While not a member of Super Junior, Henry is an active member of the subunit Super Junior-M. The group was originally met with some backlash due to a fear that new members, including Henry, might be replacements for other members in Super Junior. Despite the early controversy, the subgroup managed to achieve success, and Henry has worked hard to make a name for himself. He has released successful solo music, and co-written popular songs for other artists and groups. He has also appeared in k-dramas and variety shows in Korea.
8. Jung Joon-young – Drug Restaurant
Drug Restaurant’s music is far from being mainstream K-pop, but front man Jung Joon-young is nonetheless very much in the public eye due to his many television appearances. Jung was born in Jakarta. He lived in Indonesia, China, France, Japan, and the Philippines before moving to South Korea to in 2007 to pursue a career in music. Jung made several appearances in catalogs and on TV, but gained his first real recognition when he competed in Superstar K4. He ultimately came in second place, but has gone on to have a successful career in music and on screen, surviving a scandal of accusations that might have ruined another’s career.
7. Vernon – Seventeen
Seventeen a large group: both in quantity of members, and in success. Vernon, a member of the group’s hip hop unit, is one of the group’s standouts. Vernon is from New York and born to a Korean father and an American mother. He spent the first five years of his life in the United States before his family made the move to South Korea. Vernon was scouted when he was in middle school and debuted with Seventeen in 2015. Throughout his life, both before and after Seventeen’s debut, Vernon has dealt with racial discrimination for being of mixed-ethnicity, but this has not stopped him from gaining significant popularity in the K-pop scene.
6. Eric Nam
Born and raise in Atlanta, Georgia, Eric Nam unsuccessfully auditioned for SM Entertainment when he was in high school, but he never give up on music. From there, he began post cover songs on YouTube. After seeing the video of his of “Lonely” by 2NE1, MBC invited Nam to Korea to compete on the show “Birth of a Great Star 2.” He placed in the top 5, and subsequently signed under B2M Entertainment and served as presenter for Arirang’s After School Club. In 2016, Nam switched agencies to CJ E&M Music and has continued to maintain a significant presence in Korean entertainment with music and screen appearances.
5. Taecyeon – 2PM
While Taecyeon was born in Seoul, and lived in Korea until he was 10 years old, he spent the following seven years living in Massachusetts before returning to Korea to pursue a music career after a successful audition with JYP Entertainment. Taecyeon participated in M net’s ‘Hot Blood Men‘ and debuted with the group 2PM. 2PM reached major attention with their second mini album, ‘2:00PM Time For Change‘. Taecyeon became popular very quickly and began to make appearances on other artists’ songs and on screen. Raising his popularity in Korea even more, in 2010 it was revealed that Taecyeon wanted to give up his American permanent resident status and serve in the South Korean military.
4. Jackson – GOT7
GOT7 is a hugely popular group in the K-pop world. As the group’s main face, Jackson has a particularly huge fan base. Born in Hong Kong to celebrity parents, Jackson has led an interesting life. He began studying fencing at the age of 10, and earned himself a scholarship to Stanford University, but turned it down as he had successfully auditioned for JYP Entertainment. He moved to Seoul in 2011 to begin his K-pop training. As a trainee, Jackson appeared on M net’s ‘WIN: Who is the Next‘, which was a survival competition reality show between YG and JYP trainees. In 2014, Jackson debuted with GOT7 and has become extremely popular ever since. He received attention for his work in the group as well as solo work and screen appearances.
3. Jay Park
Controversy seems to follow this idol, but it hasn’t kept Jay Park from making a name for himself in Korea and abroad. Jay Park was born and raised in Washington in the United States. Park joined JYP Entertainment and appeared on M net’s ‘Hot Blood Men‘, and alongside Taecyeon, debuted with 2PM in 2008 as the group’s leader. In 2009, Park left the group after the media reported disparaging remarks he had made about Korea on a personal MySpace page. Park went to on to build his own label, AOMG, and has regained a massive fan base in Korea, as well as signing with Roc Nation, a label founded by American rapper Jay-Z. Jay Park has proved time and time again that he can and will be the artist he wants to be.
Born in Seoul, Tablo spent much of his childhood living in different places. He live in Jakarta for three years, followed by Switzerland, and Hong Kong before returning to Korea when he was 6 years old. His family then moved again when he was 8, this time to Canada. Tablo began studying music and showed great promise in various fields. He wrote the lyrics to Kim Gun-mo’s “Rainy Christmas” when he was just 16 years old. Despite his parents’ opposition, Tablo pursued a career in music and has achieved great success. He debuted with Epik High in 2003, which became extremely popular. He has also released successful solo work and published a book of short stories, as well as a second book consisting of a collection of quotes by Tablo. Tablo is truly an icon in the K-pop world.
1. Lay – EXO
EXO is one of the most well known names in K-pop. The group has consistently remained in the public eye since their debut in 2012. Lay, the only remaining Chinese member of the group, has won many fans in Korea and internationally. Born in China, Lay moved to Seoul after successfully auditioning for SM Entertainment when he was 16 years old. Lay is an extremely well rounded individual, having gained attention for his incredible dancing, soft but powerful vocals, introspective acting, and noticeable charisma, as well as his songwriting and composition abilities. Besides his work with EXO, Lay has appeared in variety shows and movies, including one with Jackie Chan. Despite not participating in EXO’s ‘The War‘ album, Lay is still a member of the group, and fans are looking forward to what he’ll bring when he returns.
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Marco grew up wanting to be a musician, and when that didn’t work out, he decided to teach English in South Korea. Marco left his home in Columbus, Ohio, and has been living in Changwon for almost 2 years. He has really delved into the Korean music scene, and is ready to share it with the world.