For us K-pop fans, being in a girl group and maybe graduating into a soloist would be the be-all-end-all for our favorites’ careers. But as a lot of idols have proven time and again, there are enticing opportunities awaiting them in the field of acting, whether it’s on television or the movies. Yes, a good number of them have been harshly criticized because of their sub-par thespian skills, and sometimes they get called out for being hired as actors only to raise the popularity of the show they are a part of. But then, there are quite a number of female idols who have proven their acting mettle, so much so they have already successfully transitioned into focusing on their careers as actresses rather than as idols. Here are five of them:
Any K-drama fan would remember Dukseon, the most adorable picket girl for Madagascar in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and her neighborhood gang. With that one drama, Reply 1988, Hyeri became a household name. But K-pop fans would argue that Hyeri was already popular thanks to her girl group, Girl’s Day and that she had already starred in a couple of TV dramas (Jekyll, Hyde, Me and Tasty Life) before Reply 1988 started. Both are true, but it so happens that Reply 1988 just became a phenomenon. And as what Reply 1997 and 1994 did to Apink Eunji and Go Ara’s popularity respectively, Reply 1988 cemented Hyeri’s star status as well, not to mention that it became more popular than the previous Reply versions.
Alas, although the members of Girl’s Day decided not to renew their contracts with the group’s agency, Dream T Entertainment, it has been years since the group’s last comeback – I’ll Be Yours in 2017. Moreover, Hyeri hasn’t gotten involved in solo projects when it comes to music. So, suffice to say that until a Girl’s Day reunion comeback truly materializes, we may not see the return of idol Hyeri.
Last singing activity: The 2017 EP Girl’s Day Everyday #5, with the single I’ll Be Yours
Latest acting activities: KBS’ When Flowers Bloom, I Think of the Moon with Yoo Seungho and Kang Mina has finished and is slated to be released soon.
More idols like EXID’s Hani and Jeonghwa, SISTAR’s Dasom, I.O.I and Pristin’s Lim Nayoung, and AOA’s Seolhyun have expressed intentions of focusing on acting. For the first four mentioned, this means signing with new agencies as actors – Hani and Nayoung actually share an agency, Sublime Artist Agency, Jeonghwa is with J-Wide Company, and Dasom is with Story-J. As for Seolhyun, with MIna’s erratic behavior and Jimin’s departure from the entertainment industry, her group AOA’s future is most uncertain. But then again, AOA’s agency, FNC Entertainment, is quite experienced in having idols who straddle between singing and acting careers.
Now, this is one weird career shift. Seo Juhyun, known to all of us as Seohyun, Girl’s Generation‘s golden maknae and one of the group’s main vocalists (anyone still holding out hope for a TaTiSeo comeback?), has turned her back completely on singing. Which is quite weird considering other GG members who have ventured into acting still have dabbled into recording. For example, Sooyoung, famously known for saying she never considered herself the best singer after being with a better vocalist during her time with the group, still recorded a single in 2020. Yoona and Yuri, who are also more known in their careers as sub-vocalists, have still recorded singles and contributed to OSTs.
Not Seohyun, though. Her last activity related to singing was her 2017 EP Don’t Say No, and that was when she was still with SM. No promotional singles, no OST contributions, not even a single musical theater role. Not that we’re complaining about our girl’s three lead role performances on TV since 2018 and two upcoming movies, but it has to be said, not hearing our SONE maknae‘s singing voice ever again is one sad thought.
Last singing activity: 2017’s EP Don’t Say No
Latest acting activities: Two movies slated for 2022 release: Netflix’s webtoon-based Love and Leashes and Holy Night: Demon Hunters with Ma Dongseok.
While not necessarily one of the pioneers of the legendary group that during their peak was dubbed the “Pussycat Dolls of K-Pop,” Uee’s time with After School was quite remarkable. She was seen as a replacement of Soyoung, who although was still there when she joined the group, was actually the first AS member to “graduate” and pursue acting. But then, Soyoung only stayed with the group for 10 months, while Uee stayed with and was very prominent in almost all of the group’s most iconic comebacks, including Bang!, Diva, First Love, and Flashback. After eight years with the group, Pledis Entertainment announced that Uee has graduated from the group with the expiration of her contract with the company.
But Uee’s shift to acting did not really come all of a sudden. Long known for her beauty, she was already appearing in several dramas even as she started with the group in 2009. She debuted earlier as an actress, playing the young Mishil in MBC’s popular historical drama Queen Seondeok, which was shown in May, a clear four months before her idol debut. She regularly appeared in dramas throughout her career as a girl group idol, and when she finally left Pledis for Yuleum Entertainment in 2017, she practically focused on her acting career. She has not sung for anything since 2014 when After School was last promoted as a group. As of this year, she has again signed to a different agency, Lucky Entertainment, making her current agency her 4th in her entire career.
Last idol activity: Japanese promotion for Best, After School’s 2nd compilation album that featured a new song, Shine.
Latest acting activity: Will be seen in tvN’s Ghost Doctor, slated for a 2022 release.
Well, since we have already mentioned Uee, why not go ahead and mention the other After School actress Nana? Nana, of striking visuals and Orange Caramel fame, did not actually start acting until late in her idol career. She debuted in After School in late 2009 and started off her acting career with cameo appearances in a couple of movies, White and Fashion King in 2011 and 2014, respectively. Her first main role was in a 2015 Chinese film entitled Go Lala Go 2, which starred Taiwanese actors Ariel Lin, Vic Zhou, and Chern Bolin. Her first TV role was also in the Chinese drama Love Weaves Through a Millennium, which was shown on Hunan Television in 2015 as well.
Nana’s acting career has a number of hits and misses, with performances in the Korean remake of The Good Wife (she played the equivalent of Archie Panjabi’s role and shared screen time with Jeon Doyeon, who played the Korean version of Julianna Marguilles’ part), Justice, and Into the Ring earning her praise, while her 2021 drama Oh My Landlord is considered by media observers as the start of drama powerhouse MBC’s downfall. But not to worry, fans, as Nana will continue with her acting career, with shows such as Netflix’s Glitch with Lee Donghwi and Jeon Yeobeen. Also, unlike the idol we mentioned before her, she is still quite close with After School members and cheered them on when some of the members reunited in MMTG to perform Bang! and Diva earlier this year. Also, she is the only member of After School who hasn’t really graduated, and is still with Pledis Entertainment, which technically, is now under HYBE.
Last idol activity: Contributed a song to the OST of her own show, Into the Ring in 2020. Not promoted, so this doesn’t really count as an “idol activity”, but rather a singing one.
Latest acting activity: Netflix’s Glitch, which was slated for release in 2021, but now that it’s early 2022 with no confirmed date in sight.
Who could forget snob yet kind-hearted rich kid Lee Bona in K-drama The Heirs/Inheritors?
Here is another idol who has managed to combine her idol and acting career seamlessly, until unfortunately, one of the two sort of waned. Just like the Pledis group After School, Krystal’s group in SM, f(x), also debuted in 2009. The next year, Krystal first appeared on the small screen with a supporting role in More Charming By the Day, and since then, both her idol and acting careers flourished. But as she got more recognition for playing snobbish ice queen types on TV to perfection, f(x) activities became scant. In fact, so scant that the group’s last legitimate comeback was in 2015. They contributed a track to SM Station, All Mine, in 2016, but that wasn’t promoted at all and it was practically the group’s last activities.
Krystal’s fans were not left in the cold with the acting jobs, though, as even without her group, she has steadily been part of popular programs such as The Bride of Habaek and Prison Playbook. With the possibility of an f(x) reunion practically non-existent since all members are now with different companies (Krystal is now with H& Entertainment since her official departure from SM in October 2020), we can only hope to see Krystal go full speed ahead with her acting career.
Last singing activity: I Don’t Wanna Love You, a 2017 single
Latest acting activities: KBS’s Police University with former B1A4 Jinyoung and a Chinese film Unexpected Love, which doesn’t have a release date yet.
Well, the idol world’s loss can be TV and films’ gain and we fans can’t really complain.