Every idol has a tough road to success, but some have suffered even bigger hardships during their lives. These K-Pop stars, for example, were adopted as children, overcoming difficult times to find the love of a family as well as fame and fortune.

Hangyul (H&D, X1)

Some may know Lee Hangyul as a former member of X1 and inactive member of IM, while others know him best as part of duo H&D. But when he first became known to the public in 2017, he revealed that his childhood was even more difficult than his path to stardom.

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| @lee_gyul_gyul/Instagram

While participating in The Unit, Hangyul was asked what drives him to succeed. Like many other aspiring stars, he told the hosts that he wants to become successful to repay his parents. However, the difference between him and other idols is that Hangyul didn’t always have parents.

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When he was just a newborn baby, Hangyul was abandoned by his birth parents. He then spent the first seven years of his childhood living in an orphanage.

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Hangyul as a child

Thankfully, Hangyul’s charms captured the heart of one of the social workers at the orphanage. When he was in first grade, the social worker decided to adopt him, becoming the first mother he’d ever known.

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Hangyul as a child

Hangyul’s adoptive family were on the older side; his father is now over 60 years old, while his older brothers are 35 and 36 years old. Despite that, they provided him with all the love and care he never received as a young child.

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Hangyul as a child

While knowing you were abandoned by your birth parents must be hard to deal with, Hangyul compassionately confessed that he knows they must have had their reasons to give him up, likely falling on hard times.

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| @lee_gyul_gyul/Instagram

Since his adoptive parents gave him everything and looked after him well, Hangyul said he works hard to he can pay them back. Luckily, Hangyul’s hard work paid off, leading him to debut in multiple groups and rise to stardom.

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| @lee_gyul_gyul/Instagram

 

I just want to pay everything back to the people who looked after me. That’s the reason why I work hard. I’ll do my best.

— Hangyul

Jaejoong (TVXQ, JYJ)

These days Kim Jaejoong is one of K-Pop’s most successful singer-songwriters, actors, and directors, known to most for his time spent with TVXQ and subsequent trio JYJ. As a child, however, Jaejoong went through something unimaginably sad.

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| @jj_1986_jj/Instagram

Jaejoong was originally born Han Jaejoon on January 26, 1986. For the first three years of his life, he lived with his biological mother and father in a city called Gongju. But when he was around three years old, his parents split up—and everything went south.

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Jaejoong as a child

In an interview, Jaejoong’s biological mother revealed that she got a divorce from her husband in 1989 after he lost all his money to fraud. She had to work 13 hours a day to make ends meet and had no time to take care of Jaejoong. She even found herself feeding him leftovers from the restaurant she worked at just to keep his belly full.

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Jaejoong as a child

Eventually, an acquaintance of the family made a heartbreaking proposal: give Jaejoong to another family. The acquaintance’s brother had a big family who would take care of Jaejoong as their youngest child well.

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Jaejoong as a child

So, Jaejoong’s mother made the difficult decision to give her three-year-old son up. However, she later revealed in an 2013 interview with TV Chosun that she didn’t realize she was putting her son up for adoption at the time.

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Jaejoong as a child

Over the years, Jaejoong developed a dream of being an idol, moving to Seoul by himself to join SM Entertainment while working odd jobs to make ends meet just as his biological mother had. As Jaejoong was so young when he was adopted, he grew up believing his adoptive parents were his birth parents—until his debut with TVXQ.

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In 2004, the year after TVXQ debuted, Jaejoong’s biological mother became aware of her son’s newfound success and decided to reach out. It was then that he learned of his family history, and that he actually had two sets of parents. He even discovered that his birthday, which he previously thought of February 4, had been wrong his whole life.

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| @jj_1986_jj/Instagram

The adoption caused him some trouble when he tried to enlist for military duty, as he legally had two sets of parents. The family found themselves embroiled in a court case (which thankfully remained peaceful) as Jaejoong’s biological mother and adoptive parents both had to prove their parentage rights.

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| @jj_1986_jj/Instagram

Despite all that, however, Jaejoong took it in his stride and said he wanted his biological and adoptive parents to be part of his life harmoniously.

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| @jj_1986_jj/Instagram

I wish to continue living as Kim Jaejoong, as I always have. I also want my biological and adoptive families to continue understanding and loving each other.

— Jaejoong

After becoming known to the public as “Jaejoong’s birth mom”, his biological mother revealed the malicious comments from netizens drove her to attempt suicide. Thankfully, however, her life did turn around. After finally meeting Jaejoong as an adult, she completed a business course in Beijing and became a professor of business administration in China.