10 K-Drama Actors That We Almost Forgot Were Idols First

K-pop idols who try their hand at acting tend to get a really bad rep. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to believe someone so insanely attractive could be good at both music and drama. C’mon, that’s just not fair!

Yes, there are a few terrible idol-actors out there who should’ve stuck to their day jobs. But we also know plenty of idols who have turned out to be amazing actors. When we watch them act, we get so immersed that we soon forget they usually belt out songs in sparkly costumes. And then there are those idols who realize that acting actually suits them better, so their days on stage become a thing of the past. But don’t worry you guys, Soompi remembers! Here’s our round-up of 10 current and former K-pop idols who you might know better as K-drama actors.

1. ZE:A’s Im Siwan

Im Siwan’s most iconic role is still Jang Geu Rae in “Incomplete Life (Misaeng),” where he had us all rooting hard for him to overcome his painful daily office grind. It’s strange that someone so beautiful could be so relatable, but Siwan sells the hell out of it. He’s proven he can take on any type of role, from a charmingly arrogant prince in “The King Loves” to a ruthlessly badass gangster in the movie “The Merciless.” But did you know about his other role as vocalist and visual for idol group ZE:A? ZE:A has been on hiatus for several years but have definitely not disbanded, so we might even see him on stage again sometime *crosses fingers*.

Check out the first episode of Im Siwan’s drama, “Incomplete Life”:

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2. IU

When “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo” came out in 2016, it seemed like no one could forget that IU was an idol. The poor girl received a lot of flack from the general public for her performance as time-traveling heroine Hae Soo. Luckily, she had an army of fans to defend her from biased criticism. Those fans could see what everyone now can: IU is a wonderful actress. She was almost unrecognizable in last year’s critically acclaimed drama, “My Ahjussi,” where she played the tough, tight-lipped but achingly vulnerable Lee Ji An. Despite her acting success, music is never on the back burner for IU, who keeps blessing our ears with comebacks and cool new concepts when we least expect it.

Check out the first episode of IU’s drama, “The Producers”:

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3. EXO’s D.O.

As a beloved member of one of the world’s biggest boy groups, you might be wondering, “what the hell is D.O. doing on this list?” Despite his instant name recognition as an idol, Mr. Do Kyung Soo belongs here because he so completely inhabits every character he plays. As you watch the slow, terrifying smile creep over his face in “I Remember You,” you only see a psychotic teenage serial-killer – the idol side of D.O. is far from your mind. The same holds true when he’s playing a heartbreakingly optimistic victim of abuse in “It’s Okay, That’s Love” or a cold and lonely Crown Prince in “100 Days My Prince.”

Check out the first episode of D.O.’s drama, “I Remember You”: 

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4. Hello Venus’s Nara

As the lead visual and center of girl group Hello Venus, Nara has unsurprisingly always had a goddess-like image, which she cleverly toys with as an actress. She undercuts her angelic looks with a bit of bite in roles including Ji Chang Wook‘s cheating ex in “Suspicious Partner” and washed-up actress Yoo Ra in “My Ahjussi.” Now Nara’s on her first proper lead role, playing steely but warm-hearted psychiatrist Han So Geum in “Doctor Prisoner.” We’re glad she’s doing so great because sadly Hello Venus is no more. They officially disbanded just last month after a long hiatus.

Check out the first episode of Nara’s drama, “Doctor Prisoner”:

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5. 2PM’s Junho

Most 2PM members have done a bit (or a lot) of acting, but in our opinion, Junho is the most talented of a very talented bunch. Non-fans who saw him playing gluttonous sociopath Seo Yool in the hit drama “Chief Kim” would be stunned to hear his super-cutesy Japanese comeback single “Ice Cream,” which followed just three months later. Every Junho role is different, from traumatized construction worker Kang Doo in “Just Between Lovers” to quick-witted lawyer Do Hyun in “Confession.” Though 2PM is on hiatus for now, hardworking Junho is always making music. Every year he puts out a new Japanese solo album or two, with Korean comebacks now and then as an extra treat.

Check out the first episode of Junho’s drama, “Just Between Lovers”:

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6. Apink’s Jung Eun Ji

If it wasn’t for Eun Ji, would the “Reply” series ever have become such a monster hit? Her starring turn as H.O.T. megafan Shi Won won the hearts of a nation – or maybe several nations. As a member of girl group Apink, nobody really expected Eun Ji to do such an amazing job, but she shoved her idol image to one side when she took on the role. Sung Shi Won is totally unafraid of pratfalls and wailing breakdowns but never becomes cartoonish, no matter how singsong her native Busan accent gets. Eun Ji has since taken on meaty roles in a variety of dramas. We can’t wait for her starring turn in upcoming horror movie “0.0MHz,” which premieres at the end of this month!

Check out the first episode of Jung Eun Ji’s drama, “Reply 1997”:

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7. ZE:A’s Park Hyung Sik

Like Siwan, above, Hyung Sik is a ZE:A member who also happens to be an incredibly talented actor. It’s lucky we have the two of them because Siwan just got discharged from the military while Hyung Sik is just about to enlist! We’re really going to miss the rebellious puppy vibes he brings to a lot of his roles. In “Hwarang,” “Suits” and “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon,” Hyung Sik throws out witty one-liners left, right, and center, adopting a devil-may-care persona. But underneath it all, there’s an air of vulnerability that grounds his characters and makes us want to hug them so hard. Plus this guy can do romance better than anyone, trust.

Check out the first episode of Park Hyung Sik’s drama, “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”:

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8. Seo In Guk

Guess who won the first season of Mnet’s singing contest, “Superstar K”? Yep, Seo In Guk himself! The insanely talented actor started out as a solo singer, and he still considers music to be just as important in his life as acting. He has a string of singles and albums to his name, including many self-composed songs. He even features on the OST of “Tomorrow With You,” a drama he doesn’t star in! But most of us know Seo In Guk as an extremely versatile actor first and foremost. One minute he’s all sunshine and smiles in “Shopping King Louie,” the next he’s twisted and tortured in “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.”

Check out the first episode of Seo In Guk’s drama, “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”:

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9. Jung Ryeo Won

Some people on this list have worked hard to make us forget they’re idols, but when we found out Jung Ryeo Won used to be an idol we were genuinely shocked! Her group Chakra disbanded way back in 2006, but Ryeo Won had already left in 2004 so she could focus on acting. She has said she was never happy as an idol, so we’re happy for her that she found fame as an actress pretty quick. She soon became many a drama lover’s girl-crush, thanks to her second lead role in classic K-drama “My Name Is Kim Sam Soon.” Ryeo Won brings a quirky, feisty quality to all her roles, from radio producer Haeng Ah in “Bubblegum” to take-all-the-prisoners prosecutor Yi Deum in “Witch’s Court.”

Check out the first episode of Jung Ryeo Won’s drama, “Witch’s Court”:

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10. BTOB’s Yook Sungjae

A lot of us first met BTOB’s maknae as spoiled-but-sweet maybe-deity Deok Hwa in “Goblin.” Many others were already nursing Second Lead Syndrome after his irresistible turn as Tae Kwang in “Who Are You: School 2015.” Sungjae is one of only a few younger idols who consistently receive praise for their acting performances. He channels his trademark cheeky charm into all his roles, but you can always rely on Sungjae to bring depth and gravitas when he needs to. If you’ve only seen that cheeky charm in dramas, do yourself a favor and look up BTOB for the no-holds-barred version. Who knew that one man alone could master so many derp faces?

Check out the first episode of Yook Sungjae’s drama, “Goblin”:

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Which idol-turned-actor do you love the most? Let us know in the comments below!

Azra_A spends most of her waking hours waiting patiently for 2PM’s next comeback (roll on 2021!). She relies on sheet masks and weird ice cream flavors to help her endure (cucumber is great, ceylon is better). When she’s not watching the comeback clock, you’ll find her on Instagram.

Currently watching: “Confession,” “Kill It,” “Her Private Life
All-time favorite dramas:My Love From the Star,” “Healer
Looking forward to: “Abyss,” “Absolute Boyfriend

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