Female Idols Who Have Relaunched Their Careers As Actresses
In an entertainment industry as competitive as South Korea’s, it helps to have more than one talent to your name.
These women all started their careers as idols (defined here specifically as singers that were part of a girl group), with varying degrees of success, but reinvented their image to launch a second wave of their career as actors.
Seo Hyun Jin
Did you know Seo Hyun Jin debuted in 2001 as part of the girl group M.I.L.K? The group disbanded in 2003, forcing Seo Hyun Jin into a long hiatus. In 2006 she launched her acting career, but her big break came in 2016 with “Another Oh Hae Young.”
Now she is one of the rom-com queens of the Korean drama industry, appearing in hit projects like “Romantic Doctor Kim” and “Degree of Love.” She is currently starring in JTBC’s “The Beauty Inside.”
Jung Ryeo Won
Jung Ryeo Won began her entertainment career in the girl group Chakra before leaving the group in 2004. Her transition into acting was not an easy one, by her own admission, failing 11 auditions before appearing in the hit rom-com “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon.”
Now she is known as a versatile actress able to portray a variety of characters through her roles in “Witch’s Court” and most recently “Wok of Love.”
Most people think of Suzy when they think of idols-turned-actresses. She made her debut in the successful girl group miss A before capturing hearts around the world with her roles in “Dream High” and the movie “Architecture 101.”
Even before miss A officially disbanded, Suzy had begun to focus on her acting career. These days, she continues to build up her melodrama credentials with roles in high-profile dramas like “Uncontrollably Fond” and “While You Were Sleeping.”
Dasom debuted in 2010 as part of the hit girl group SISTAR and promoted steadily for seven years with the group. She first tried her hand at acting in 2012, but made her leading role debut in 2015 with “The Virtual Bride.”
She has now made a name for herself in weekend dramas like “Sister Is Alive” and also took on her first film role in 2015 in “Like a French Film.”
Unlike the previous actresses mentioned on this list, Hyeri is still active as both an idol and actress. Girl’s Day debuted in 2010 and renewed their contract with their agency in 2015, extending it to 2019.
Hyeri also had a rocky transition to acting, receiving criticism for one of her earliest roles in “Seonam Girls’ High School Investigators,” but she spectacularly proved her critics wrong in the cultural phenomenon “Reply 1988.” She quickly became a sought-after lead actress and played opposite veteran actors in dramas like “Entertainer” and “Two Cops.”
Yoon Eun Hye
This actress has come a long way from her days in Baby V.O.X, which she joined in 1999. She became popular through her appearances on the variety show “X-Man,” but it was her leading role in “Goong” that launched her to Hallyu stardom.
In 2007, she took on another hit role in “Coffee Prince” and continued to act more or less steadily until 2013. In 2015, she became involved in a controversy after appearing on a Chinese fashion design show and took an extended hiatus before returning to the small screen in 2018 with “Love Alert.”
Hwang Jung Eum
Now better known as a rom-com queen, Hwang Jung Eum originally debuted in 2001 with the girl group Sugar. She left the group in 2004 and appeared on variety shows before making her acting debut in 2007. Her role in “High Kick Through the Roof” launched her acting career in earnest, but she found herself riding a new wave post-2015 with the projects “Kill Me, Heal Me,” “She Was Pretty,” “Lucky Romance,” and “The Undateables.”
Uee had a rocky start to the entertainment industry in general. Although originally dreaming of being an actress, she debuted as part of a failed girl group before getting her big break in After School. She made her acting debut in the historical drama “The Great Queen Seon Deok” and continued to act throughout her singing career.
However, she also found a new wave in 2015 with her roles in “Fool’s Love” and “High Society.” Since then, she has also made a name for herself in weekend dramas with “Marriage Contract,” “My Husband, Mr. Oh!“, and most recently “My Only One.”
Jung Eun Ji
Hyeri is not the only idol-turned-actress to make her name in a “Reply” series – Apink’s Jung Eun Ji’s success in “Reply 1997” not only launched her own acting career but the entire series as a whole, which would eventually lead up to “Reply 1988.”
After “Reply 1997,” she took on leading roles in “Trot Lovers,” “Sassy Go Go,” and most recently “Untouchable,” but has most recently focused on her singing career, both with Apink and as a solo artist.
The nation’s girl group has, despite their popularity, never been afraid to reinvent themselves. Seohyun and Sooyoung have both left SM Entertainment (but not the group) to better focus on their acting careers, which they have stepped up in the last few years. Seohyun played a supporting role in historical drama “Scarlet Heart: Ryeo” and lead roles in “Time” and “Bad Thief, Good Thief,” while Sooyoung has appeared in “Squad 38” and “Man Who Sets the Table.”
Yuri has also taken on a variety of projects from “Gogh, The Starry Night,” “Defendant,” and most recently “Jang Geum, Oh My Grandma.” YoonA has acted in both South Korea and China, appearing in rom-coms like “Prime Minister and I” and “Love Rain” before turning to more serious roles in “The K2” and “The King Loves.”
Krystal debuted as part of the girl group f(x), but cemented her career as an actress in the hit drama “Heirs.” She quickly landed lead roles in dramas like “My Lovely Girl” as well as continuing to play second female lead in dramas like “Bride of the Water God.” She received acclaim for her appearance in “Prison Playbook” and is currently appearing in “The Player.”
Although many people remember the start of AOA’s Seolhyun’s acting career to be the drama “Orange Marmalade,” Seolhyun has found more success as a movie actress. She has appeared in three hit films in the past three years, from “Gangnam Blues” to “Memoir of a Murderer” to most recently “The Great Battle.”
Son Na Eun
Quite a few Apink members, including the aforementioned Jung Eun Ji, have turned to acting in the later half of their girl group careers. Son Na Eun made her acting debut in 2012, but garnered attention with her roles in “Twenty Again” and “Cinderella and the Four Knights.” She recently took on a leading role in the horror film “Woman’s Wail.”
Kim Jae Kyung
Originally a key member of the girl group Rainbow, Kim Jae Kyung has stepped up her acting career after the girl group disbanded in 2016. Though she has been acting more or less since 2012, she took on two roles in 2018 alone – “Life on Mars” and “Bad Papa.”
What current idols would you like to see make their acting debut?