While K-pop originated in South Korea, not all idols that established themselves in the industry are 100 percent Korean. In fact, some of them come from a mixed ethnic background. Some of these memorable artists that come to mind are Yoon Mirae, who is Korean-American, or Dok2, who is Spanish Filipino-Korean.
Currently, a new generation of multiracial talent is making a name for itself. Here are eight talented mixed-race artists you should know about:
1. Phantom’s Kiggen
Lee Kiwon was born in Japan to a Korean father and a Japanese immigrant mother, and moved to Korea to build his musical career. He started as an underground producer and composer, and went solo in 2010 under the name “HybReFine.” He later became the leader of hip hop band “Phantom” and has been promoting with fellow members Sanchez and Hanhae ever since.
The track “Playback” is one of the pre-released singles from his last solo album.
2. Shannon Williams
Born in the United Kingdom to a Korean mother and a Welsh father, Shannon made her first media appearances on television shows “Star King” and “Hidden Singer 2.” She made her music debut in 2015, and in 2016 she took part in the reality TV show “K-Pop Star Season 6.” She was able to advance to the top four before being eliminated.
In July 2017, Shannon made her comeback with a second extended play, for which “Hello” served as the title track.
3. PRISTIN’s Kyla
PRISTIN’s precious maknae was born in the state of Louisiana to a Korean mother and a white American father, and she grew up in California. In 2010, she joined Pledis Entertainment as a trainee, and featured as a backup dancer in Orange Caramel’s “My Copycat” MV. She officially debuted in 2017 as PRISTIN’s lead rapper and one of the vocalists.
Alongside her members, Kyla contributes to the music-making process by writing lyrics. “You’re My Boy” is one of the songs that she helped co-write.
4. Lee Michelle
Born to a Korean mother and a Black American father, Michelle was born and raised in South Korea. She initiated her first career move by participating in the very first season of “K-Pop Star” in 2011, and she earned herself a contract under YG Entertainment to be part of a potential girl group. However, her contract was nullified after the girl group project was abolished, which made her eventually sign with DIMA Entertainment.
Michelle made her solo debut in 2014, and she primarily writes her own music. As a contestant in “Tribe Of Hip Hop 2,” she made it to the finals and ranked second.
“Without You” is Lee Michelle’s debut song where she candidly expressed her feelings.
5. MOMOLAND’s Nancy
Nancy is the daughter of a Korean mother and an American father of Irish decent. Back in 2011, she participated in “Korea’s Got Talent” as part of a dance crew called “Cutie pies,” and she joined the survival show “Finding Momoland” in 2016. Her outstanding talent and charisma won the judges’ hearts, allowing her to debut as MOMOLAND’s lead vocalist and visual.
Catch Nancy in MOMOLAND’s latest MV “Freeze”:
6. SEVENTEEN’s Vernon
Vernon may not be the first mixed-race idol to debut, but he definitely marked the K-pop scene. Born to a Korean father and a white American mother, he debuted in 2015 as SEVENTEEN’s main rapper and a member of the group’s hip hop unit. Ever since his debut, he has been helping his members with the composition and production of both the music and choreography.
Vernon’s first solo collaboration was with Don Mills and Dok2. Recently, he released a song that he composed with Pledis Girlz’s Eunwoo.
7. Jeon Somi
Somi’s career has been taking roots in the Korean industry since 2015, when she participated in the reality girl group survival show “Sixteen” alongside her fellow JYP trainees. Born to a Dutch-Canadian father and a Korean mother, her popularity went through the roof when she finished in first place on another girl group survival show “Produce 101,” which allowed her to debut as a member of project girl group I.O.I.
Somi’s 2017 activities included her joining “Sister’s Slam Dunk Season 2,” and “Idol Drama Operation Team” afterwards. Many songs were released in both variety shows, and Somi was credited as the lyricist for the rap verse she wrote in the song “Right?”
Earlier this year, Somi also collaborated with Eric Nam for their single “You, Who?”
Samuel is not new to the K-pop scene. In fact, he has been in the industry for a long time. Born in the United States to a Korean mother and a Mexican father, he made his first television appearance in 2013 on the “Seventeen TV” online program, but was eliminated in the middle of the third season. After leaving Pledis Entertainment for Brave Entertainment, he soon debuted as part of a hip hop duo named 1PUNCH, which eventually dissolved with fellow member One’s departure.
In 2017, Samuel joined “Produce 101 Season 2,” and although he didn’t make Wanna One’s final lineup, his company made sure to give him his long-awaited debut three months after the show ended.
As Samuel’s solo career kickstarted, his recent comeback with “Candy” portrayed the rising artist in a remarkably mature image.
Which talented idol is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Esmee L. is a Moroccan lively dreamer, writer, and Hallyu enthusiast.