An actor’s stage name is a pretty huge deal. As a celebrity in the public eye, a name is part of your image, a part of your brand. So it follows that coming to a decision on your brand name for the rest of your career is kind of like getting a tattoo. It’s permanent, and if you want to change it, you have to erase it and start over. Here are 15 Korean celebrities with sometimes whimsical, sometimes strange, unique, or moving stories behind their stage names.
Uhm Hong Sik -> Yoo Ah In
Yoo Ah In’s original name is Uhm Hong Sik. Asked why he uses a stage name, Yoo Ah In said his original name is a bit too country, and he chose his name Ah In based on the German word for one – eins.
Kim Bo Suk (jewel) -> Kim Ji Suk
Kim Ji Suk might seem like the actor’s real name because it’s so ordinary, but Kim Ji Suk’s actual name is Kim Bo Suk, which means ‘jewel.’ It turns out, the actor’s entire family has unusual names, given by their grandfather, based on the places that they were born: Kim Buk Kyung (Beijing), Kim Sin Sa (Sinsa-dong, also means ‘gentleman’), etc.
Because his mother thought Kim Ji Suk and his older brother Sin Sa might get made fun of, their names were changed to Kim Ban Suk (which incidentally means foundation) and Kim Bo Suk (jewel).
Kim Tae Ho -> Choi Jin Hyuk
While Kim Tae Ho wasn’t a bad name for an actor, the “Infinity Challenge” producer is also named Kim Tae Ho, and any internet search of the name brought up the producer’s name first. So the actor switched to Choi Jin Hyuk. SEO is everything.
Kim Ji Eun -> Kang Ye Won
Kang Ye Won first acted under her real name, Kim Ji Eun. However, following a 2002 film in which she took on a role that required a lot of skin exposure, she decided to throw away the name and start over with the name Kang Ye Won. Her name carries the corresponding Chinese characters for strength, art, and core.
Do Yi Sung -> In Kyo Jin
While In Kyo Jin acted under his stage name Do Yi Sung for 10 years after his 2000 debut, he was unable to make a hit, and with a changing of agencies, he changed his name as well, returning to his birth name.
Im Hak Chul -> Kim Yeon Woo
At the time of his debut, Kim Yeon Woo – who was revealed last week as Cleopatra on “King of Mask Singer” – was trying to think of a stage name with musician Yoo Hee Yeol. There happened to be a cafe that they frequented called Yeon Woo, which has a somewhat sweet connotation, so they decided on that for his stage name, a perfect pair for his sweet voice.
Park Ji Woong -> Park Hyun Bin
The main singer at Park Hyun Bin’s label was Jang Yoon Jung, so the agency asked her who the most popular actor was at the time. When she named Hyun Bin, the agency decided to give Park Ji Woong the name Park Hyun Bin, so he would become as popular a singer as Hyun Bin is an actor.
Jung Ji Hoon -> Rain
When Rain was recording his debut track, it was raining a lot, so Park Jin Young gave Jung Ji Hoon the name ‘Rain.’
Lee Seung Hwan -> Seo Kang Joon
Seo Kang Joon took the name of Ha Jung Woo‘s manager at the time.
Jung Yong Joon -> Jang Hyuk
Jang Hyuk also took the name of a very well-known manager.
Jun Hye Rim -> Ha Ji Won
Prior to her debut, Ha Ji Won was trying to think of a stage name, and in the end, she went with a name her manager gave her. But it wasn’t just any name! It was the name of the manager’s first – and unrequited – love.
Kim Sung Hoon -> Ha Jung Woo
Ha Jung Woo was actually a stage name considered by actor Kim Sung Soo, who in the end decided not to take the name because a director thought it sounded like a ’90s porn actor’s name. Later, label mate Kim Sung Hoon (Ha Jung Woo) took up the name.
Lee Dong Suk -> Ma Dong Suk
Ma Dong Suk’s nickname during his school years was ‘devil’ Dong Suk (ak-ma Dong Suk), because he’d always playfully throw punches at his friends, an act that later gave birth to the name Ma Dong Suk. Nowadays, apparently even his mother calls him Ma Dong Suk.
Gong Ji Chul -> Gong Yoo
Gong Yoo said at the beginning of his career when receiving a ‘new star’ award, “My actual name is Gong Ji Chul, but I’m acting under the name Gong Yoo, taking the surnames of both of my parents.” He went on to say that he would become an actor that doesn’t become a burden on his parents’ names.
Jo Won Joon -> Jo Jin Woong
Jo Jin Woong also honors a parent with his stage name, which is simply the name of his father. Jo Jin Woong was originally active under his own name Jo Won Joon while a play actor, but ended up later taking his father’s, in order to place upon himself a higher level of responsibility and give himself encouragement to work harder and do well by his father’s name. Joking, Jo Jin Woong’s father told him, “You’re even going to borrow my name? Pay a fee if you want to use it.”