We’ve seen them own the stage as idols, but now it seems they’re focusing on honing their thespian skills. Here are five K-pop celebrities who we now know more as Kpop actors:  

1. Baro

Who can ever forget the super adorable Binggrae in the second installment of the Reply Series, Reply 1994? Whether it was because we all somewhat related to his struggles of keeping a positive, cheerful appearance despite his inner struggles or because he’s just adorable, or because the character feels so far from the tough, fast-rapping image of the actor who played him when he is in his idol group, Baro’s debut as an actor was quite a success. Considering that the Reply series also successfully launched the acting careers of Apink’s Eunji and Hoya, who was then with INFINITE, it was inevitable that Baro would also fare well in his first foray into acting. 

But then, aside from having the right project, people did notice Baro’s exceptional abilities in acting, which at that time was considered special as people have been quick to classify idols who get acting jobs as undeserving. They were usually believed to be hired so that the dramas can bank on their built-in popularity to also raise the public’s awareness of the show. Moreover, there were (and actually, there are still) critics who claim that idols only serve visuals and don’t really have the skills to act. 

But with Reply 1994 under his belt, a film debut in the short film Misaeng: Prequel (that also featured an idol-actor we will talk about later) the same year, and another critically-acclaimed drama God’s Gift: 14 Days with Cho Seungwoo, Baro proved himself as a very capable actor. For God’s Gift: 14 Days, he was nominated in various award-giving bodies for the Best New Actor award. 

Aside from lending his voice to an animated movie and appearing in another short film in 2015, Baro finally appeared in a  full-length feature, the teenage horror-thriller Close Your Eyes in 2017 with Seol Inah. As for his TV roles, he booked regular acting jobs with Angry Mom, Loss: Time: Life, and The Master of Revenge before leaving WM Entertainment in 2018. Though he declined to re-sign a new contract with the agency of his idol group B1A4, he claimed that he wasn’t leaving the group and would be open to working with them in the future. 

Since leaving WM Entertainment, Baro has mostly focused on his acting career, bagging more roles in dramas like Less Than Evil in 2018 and Two Hearts, Level Up, and Melting Me Softly in 2019, which was also the year he started his conscription in the military. He only finished his mandatory service in February, and he has since then been busy with new acting projects. 

Last Kpop idol activity: 2017’s Rollin’ with B1A4

Latest Kpop acting activities: Fearsome, a horror thriller movie based on the true story of a band getting lost, and Disney+’s Grid, a mystery thriller with Seo Kangjoon to be released in 2022.  

2. Jung Jin-young

Speaking of B1A4, the group did not only “lose” Baro in 2018 as all of the members’ contracts were up for negotiation. Sandeul, CNU, and Gongchan re-signed with WM Entertainment, while Baro didn’t. But leader Jinyoung didn’t as well, although it was said that the two were open to working with the group for a reunion project in the future. Thus, B1A4 is still supposed to be five members, although the group has had two comebacks that only had the three remaining WM members. But we digress.

Jinyoung, like Baro, also started his acting career in 2013, with the tvN drama, She is Wow, where he played the troubled son of an actress who has also been struggling because she was losing roles to younger actresses. The following year, he made a splash with his movie debut in Miss Granny, where he shared the screen with industry veterans Na Moonhee, Sung Dongil, and Shim Eunkyung. He continued appearing in more TV dramas like Persevere, Goo Hae-ra (where Baro also made a cameo appearance), Warm and Cozy, and Love Detective Sherlock K. In 2016, he appeared in what has been his biggest TV drama so far, Love in the Moonlight, where he worked with Park Bogum and Kim Yoojung and won numerous awards. 

Jinyoung also started his mandatory military service in 2019 and was discharged in April 2021. He immediately went back to work, starring in Police University with Krystal Jung and Cha Taehyun. The drama ran from August to October and was considered very successful for KBS, as the drama peaked at an 8.5% audience share, whereas its predecessors were only averaging 2% audience share weekly. 

Last Kpop idol activity: Jinyoung has not been holding promotional activities as an idol since his departure from B1A4 apart from the occasional OST contributions, including a song he recorded for the webtoon Morning Kiss at Tiffany’s OST. However, he is still very active in the music industry as a songwriter and producer, having started with producing songs for B1A4. He has penned numerous songs for his former group and for other artists as well. 

Latest Kpop acting activities: No news yet of any drama or movie Jinyoung has signed up for after Police University. 

3. Seo Inguk

Here is one actor who not a lot of people know actually started out as a legit singer. Seo Inguk did not only compete in the inaugural season of Mnet’s singing competition Superstar K in 2019 – he actually won the whole thing. His subsequent albums and singles sold well and charted high, although rumors and criticism followed him as he steadily rose in popularity, including claims that he had too much plastic surgery done on his face and getting cold shoulder treatment from SBS, KBS, and MBC because he was a product of a cable TV reality competition. The rumors were downplayed though as he started his acting career with a supporting role in the KBS drama Love Rain, which has Girl’s Generation YoonA and Jang Geunseuk. 

His first starring role though was in the first Reply installment, Reply 1997, in 2012, which also had other idols – Eunji, Hoya, and Sech Kies’ Eun Jiwon. He has since appeared in dramas for the three free public channels – 2012’s The Sons and 2016’s Shopahlic King Louis for MBC, 2014’s The King’s Face and 2015’s Hello, Monster with KBS, and 2013’s Master’s Sun for SBS.  However, he is still quite known for appearing in a lot of dramas shown on tvN, such as High School King of Savvy, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, and Doom at Your Service (with Park Boyoung).

Seo Inguk was supposed to start his mandatory military service in 2017. But as he was diagnosed with Osteochondritis dissecans, a bone and cartilage condition, he was exempted from military duty. 

Last Kpop idol activity: Seo Inguk’s last album was released in 2014, after which he has released a single every year until 2017. The song Distant Fate for the Doom at Your Service OST was his first music-related activity in three years. 

Latest Kpop acting activities: After his latest series Doom at Your Service premiered on May 10, his latest movie Pipeline also opened in theaters on May 26 up in June. His next movie is Wolf Hunting with School 2017 star Jang Dong Yoon, which has yet to have a release date. Rumors in June claimed that has also been offered a role in a TV adaptation of the webtoon ‘Minamdang: Case Note’ (literal title), but nothing has been confirmed yet.  

4. Im Siwan

Siwan’s road to acting was quite long, as he had to train for three years after getting recruited by a talent scout of entertainment company Star Empire. After those three long years as a trainee, he finally debited with eight fellow members that would make up his group, ZE:A in 2010. After debuting with his group, it took another four years before he would be tapped as an actor. For those two years, he had a number of cameo appearances in a couple of dramas before finally appearing in a more substantial role. But his debut television role happened to be the young Master Ho Yeom in the historical drama Moon Embracing the Sun (which also starred Kin Soohyun, Han Gain, Kim Minseo, and Yeo Jingoo)  that up to now still holds records for audience share, ratings, and viewership, making it one of the country’s most popular dramas in history. Thus, while ZE:A may not have become one of the country’s most popular groups, but Siwan’s participation in Moon Embracing the Sun did propel his celebrity to household name status almost overnight. 

Siwan’s impressive TV debut was followed up with another career highlight in Man from the Equator, which premiered the week after Moon Embracing the Sun’s final episode. Siwan’s second drama was also his second appearance as the teenage version of one of the show’s main character, as this time, he played the teenage version of the eventual antagonist of the drama. Unlike Moon Embracing the Sun, though, Man from the Equator started out a bit weak in the ratings and generated less buzz compared to its competitors Rooftop Prince and The King 2 Hearts (which replaced Moon Embracing the Sun on its Wednesday – Thursday 9:55 timeslot), although through good word of mouth, it eventually beat the competition in some weeks throughout its run.

Siwan’s film debut was also as impressive the following year. He first movie was The Attorney, a contemporary historical drama inspired by the Burm Case of the 1980s starring Song Kangho and Oh Dalsu. This high-profile debut actually won Siwan a number of New Actor awards, cementing him as an actor so effectively that a lot of people tended to forget that he was still actually promoting with ZE:A. 

Siwan has not looked back on his successful acting career, even if his activities as an idol have altogether stopped since 2015. He still continues to sing by contributing songs on his dramas’ OSTs once in a while. 

Last Kpop idol activity: Singing I and You, a song part of the Run On OST, while his last activity with ZE:A was in 2016 with the compilation album Continue.

Latest Kpop acting activities: Siwan’s latest movie project, Emergency Declaration, which stars Song Kangho, Jeon Doyeon, and Lee Byunghun, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival last July. TV-wise, his last drama was Run On with Girl’s Generations Sooyoung, which ran from December 2020 to February this year, and the soon-to-be-released Tracer with Ko Ahsung. 

5. Park Hyungsik

Another ZE:A member who has also been bitten by the acting bug is the group’s other visual, Hyungsik.  Actually, like the rest of ZE:A (something which we failed to mention earlier with Siwan, the entire group had their film “debut” with the movie Ronin Pop, a Korean and Japanese collaboration project which revolves around the power struggle between youths in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Well, I bet most, if not all members of ZE:A, are not particularly proud of this movie, as most of them would attribute their acting debuts with other projects. In the case of Hyungsik, the SBS drama special I Remember You in 2012 is commonly referred to as his acting debut. This was followed months later by a supporting role in another SBS drama, Dummy Mommy, which starred Ha Heera and Kim Hyunjoo. Many more acting roles followed for Hyunsik, such as tvN’s Nine, SBS’ The Heirs, and KBS’ What’s With This Family

There has been no stopping Hyungsik with his TV career then, as he has bagged leading roles in dramas such as High Society (which also starred idol-actress Uee), the idol-filled Hwarang with Shinee’s Minho, and his fellow Wooga Squad members BTS’ V plus Park Seojun,  Strong Girl Bong-soon with Jisoo and Park Boyoung, and the Korean adaptation of the US drama Suits with Jang Donggun. 

As for movies, aside from the very forgettable ROnin Pop, Hyungsik has done voice roles for animated features like Justin and the Knights of Valor and Trolls before starring in the short film Two Lights: Relumino and finally, his first major film role in 2019’s Juror 8

As for his idol career, he has also contributed to OSTs of some of the shows he has starred in, but he hasn’t debuted as a solo artist like his bandmate Siwan. Come to think of it, the only ZE:A member who has had an active career as a soloist is Dongjun, who also happens to be the third member who has also established an acting career. 

Last Kpop idol activity: Two Lights, part of the OST to his short film Two Light: Relumino and Because of You, a song he sang for the OST of Strong Girl Bong-soon and charted in the Gaon Download Charts. 

Latest Kpop acting activities: Happiness, an apocalyptic thriller on tvN that marks Hyungsik’s return to TV since his military discharge on January 4 and premiered on November 5. In support of his bandmate, Siwan brought a coffee cart to the drama’s filming location.  

Of course, there are still idols who are successfully balancing their singing and acting careers. But for these five, here’s hoping we can see them on stage again in the near future. 

Featured image: Kpop idol turned Kpop actor Park Hyung Sik with fellow Wooga Squad members V and Park Seo Joon. Photo: 씩꾸릿Kharictye/YouTube.