What’s in a Name? Discover the Real Names of Your Favorite K-Pop Group Idols
K-pop idols have some of the most colorful names in music, and it will come as no surprise to many to hear that quite a few of our favorite stars do not actually go by the monikers they were born with. Many K-pop fans with an eye for trivia know facts like Rain’s real name is Jung Ji Hoon and that IU was originally Lee Ji Eun. But do you know what your favorite idol group stars are really called? Which group has the most varied stage names? Is there an idol group whose members all go by pseudonyms?
See if your favorite idol group star makes the list, and join in the discussion in the comments below if you think we have left out any good ‘uns.
Any opinion expressed in this column is from the writer only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Soompi Editorial Team and its management.
1.G-Dragon of BIGBANG; Real Name: Kwon Ji Yong
The creative mastermind behind YG Entertainment’s flagship boy band, G-Dragon could be a contender if awards were ever given out for coolest stage name. He might also win if there was a prize for most logical pseudonym, too, as “yong” literally means “dragon” in Korean. Add that to the “G” being used as phonetic version of the first syllable of his real name and you have a pseudonym that makes perfect sense.
It is hard to say if the same also applies to band mates T.O.P (real name Choi Seung Hyun) or Taeyang (Dong Young Bae), although Daesung goes by his birth name. Although Seungri’s name sounds like it might be his real moniker, it is actually also a nickname. His real name is actually the same as T.O.P’s (Seung Hyun), and Seungri means “victory.”
The boys will be hoping for another chart “victory” when they make their long-awaited full-group comeback later this year.
2.Jessica and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation; Real Names: Jung Soo Yeon and Hwang Mi Young
Jessica and Tiffany received their English names long before they made their entry onto the K-pop scene as part of Girls’ Generation. Both originate from San Francisco, California. In fact, the two were born in the same hospital, though their paths did not really cross until they ended up at the same foreign school in Korea.
Jessica’s name was actually given to her by her parents (though she also has a Korean name: Jung Soo Yeon). Tiffany’s name has a different story, however. Her parents actually originally registered her name as Stephanie Hwang, known in Korean as Hwang Mi Young.
Another former California resident is Sunny, whose real name is Lee Soon Kyu, and member Seohyun’s name is actually a nifty amalgamation of her surname and the last part of her first name – her full name is Seo Joo Hyun.
3. L of Infinite; Real Name: Kim Myung Soo
L could possibly win the award for shortest pseudonym in K-pop, though he might have to share the prize with veteran solo singer J, Wonder Boyz’ star K, VIXX’s N and possibly one or two others out there. Certainly his stage name is a lot easier to remember (and to pronounce) for non-Korean speakers. In fact, it seems that not everyone in the Korean entertainment industry knows that L is just a stage name, as this clip from SBS reality show “Running Man” proves.
But L is not the only member of Infinite who goes by a name he was not born with. Group mate Hoya has a very Latin-sounding moniker, but is actually named Lee Ho Won.
4. CL of 2NE1; Real Name: Lee Chae Lin
Another very logical pseudonym – CL simply goes by the two anglicized initials of her real name, Chae Lin. In fact, a lot of Korean celebrities find it easier to go by their initials, including golf stars KE Choi and YE Yang.
But despite the cool and catchy names that the rest of the members of the group have, none of these are stage names. Yes, Minzy’s real name is Gong Min Ji, Park Bom was born Park Bom, and Dara is just a shortening of Sandara Park. So perhaps the 2NE1 girls were lucky enough to be born with ultra-cool pop star names – or maybe they were all just destined for success!
5. D.O of EXO; Real Name: Do Kyoung Soo
D.O takes a slightly different tack when it comes to adopting a stage name. It seems that he decided to put a dot between the two letters of his surname and capitalize the whole thing – which is very cool indeed. But D.O has some pretty stiff competition from within EXO if he ever decides to challenge his band mates to a game of “who has the coolest stage name?”
Lay’s real name is Zhang Yixing (quite a mouthful if you are not a Chinese speaker), Tao is a shorter form of Huang Zitao, Chen is Kim Jong Dae, and Kai is Kim Jong In. And in case you are wondering, former member Kris was born with the name Li Jiaheng.
6. Euaerin of Nine Muses; Real Name: Lee Hye Min
Despite having a very elegant (and quite difficult to spell) moniker, Euaerin is actually a stage name. This is just a guess – correct me if I am wrong, MINEs – but I would venture that the girls and their talent agency Star Empire Entertainment decided to give Euaerin a different name because of member Hyemi. Perhaps they did not want to have two members whose names sounded so similar.
Euaerin also goes by a shortened version of her stage name, “Erin.” She currently has the honor of being the only member of Nine Muses with a stage name, after the departure of leader Lee Sem (born as Lee Hyun Joo) earlier this year, though all that could change soon, as Star Empire has announced that up to two new members could join the girl group when they make their long-awaited comeback.
7. Zelo of B.A.P; Real Name: Choi Jun Hong
Instead of going by his birth name, Zelo chose a moniker that derives from the Greek god Zelus. According to Greek legend, Zelus and his band of brothers and sisters, Nike, Kratos and Bia, were a group of tough bodyguard types who protected Zeus, the king of the gods. Zelus was famous for his dedication and competitive spirit, and the word “zeal” dervies from his name. He also had wings, which is extremely cool.
Instead of following suit with other mythology-based pseudonyms, however, the rest of B.A.P decided to stick with the names their mothers and fathers gave them.
8. Raina and Nana of After School; Real Names: Oh Hye Rin and Im Jin Ah
In possibly the most successful K-pop idol group member change ever, Peldis Entertainment decided to replace the departing Soyoung with two new recruits: Im Jin Ah and Oh Hye Rin, better known as Nana and Reina in 2009. Since then, the group has never looked back, and After School’s popularity has soared. Nana has been named Number 2 on The Independent Critics List of 100 Most Beautiful Faces of 2013 at tccandler.com, has become a regular on reality TV shows like “Roommate” and was even invited to be part of female supergroup Dazzling Red.
Raina has also shot to fame since she joined After School. Her duet release with rapper San E, “A Midsummer Night’s Sweetness,” rocketed to the top of the charts, and she has become established as the lead vocalist in After School.
Although it seems hard to discover how the two stars got their stage names, “nana” is used in several languages to mean “grandmother” (something the star might not be pleased to hear), and is a slang term for “girl” in French. Raina sounds similar to the Spanish word “reina,” which means “queen,” a fact that the singer could be happy to learn.
After School also boasts a few more interesting pseudonyms: Fellow Orange Caramel subunit member Lizzy was born Park Soo Young, Uee is Kim Yu Jin, and former leader and solo star Kahi is actually Park Ji Young.
9. Zico of Block B;Real Name: Woo Ji Ho
If you type “Zico” into a search engine, you might just as easily end up looking at photographs of a 1970s-80s Brazilian soccer star instead of the creative power of hip-hop/K-pop sensation Block B. The Brazilian Zico was not born with his name either. He was actually called Arthur Antunes Coimbra, but decided to go with something a little easier to say. Block B rapper Zico’s stage name actually comes from his time spent in Japan, where his classmates called him by the “cute” nickname “JiKo,” which later became stylized as “Zico.”
But unlike Zelo of B.A.P, Zico is not alone in choosing to go by a stage name in his group. In case you had not guessed, B-Bomb is not a real name (he is actually called Lee Min Hyuk). P.O (aka Pyo Ji Hoon) has taken the D.O of EXO route to finding a stage name. If you pronounce P.O’s name phonetically, you will say “Pyo,” this member’s surname.
10. All of Crayon Pop; Real Names: Heo Min Jin, Heo Min Seon, Baek Bo Ram, Park Hye Kyeong and Kim Min Young
Five-piece sensation Crayon Pop has managed to gather a full set of stage-named members, and they are one of the few K-pop idol groups who have totally done away with their real names in favor of catchy nicknames, which many K-pop fans can recall easily as they have (helpfully) emblazoned their stage outfits with them.
Despite having fairly typical-sounding Korean girls’ names, Gummi and Soyul are actually Baek Bo Ram and Park Hye Kyeong, while Ellin is Kim Min Young. Twins ChoA and Way are Heo Min Jin and Heo Min Seon. Perhaps the girls chose these easy monikers because there was not enough space on their shirts for their real names!
William Shakespeare said “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and it is hard to argue with the bard. After all, we would almost undoubtedly love our favorite idol stars whatever they chose to call themselves, wouldn’t we?
So now it is over to you, Soompiers! Who do you think has the best stage name in K-pop? Do you know any good stories about how other idol stars got their pseudonyms? Join in the debate in the comments below!
timmydee is a self-confessed music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electonica and a hankering for hip-hop. When he isn’t writing for Soompi, he is remixing your favorite K-pop tracks – with sometimes astounding (but often catastrophic) results.