Today we shine the spotlight on the youngest members of some boy groups. While the common perception of maknaes is that they are quite disposable and not really that great in anything except dispensing a lot of aegyo, these maknaes prove everyone wrong. Excited to know who they are? 

BTS’ Jungkook

Well, fine, because there’s no better way to start a list of maknaes on top without naming the youngest member of the most popular Korean musical act these days. And Jungkook rightfully deserves the reputation of being the Golden Maknae. After all, he is arguably the most talented vocalist in BTS

Scrap that.

He is actually the most talented vocalist in BTS. When it comes to writing and producing, RM and Suga definitely take the cake, but JK is no slouch, having written and produced some songs that he recorded himself. When it comes to dancing, J-Hope and Jimin take the lead, but Jungkook isn’t far behind either. And he does have some rap skills, especially when the entire group has to perform J-Hope or Suga songs in their concerts. Yep, you’ll be amazed at how Jungkook can spew those rhymes with the best of them. Finally, when it comes to visuals, he is definitely one of the members who can stand toe-to-toe with Mr. Worldwide Handsome Jin. Besides, he’s above the group’s oldest member when it comes to athletic ability, as he has displayed quite the talent in running and archery in numerous ISACs. And do we really need to mention those flashes of toned abs we get blessed with during BTS concerts? 

Especially during the start of their careers, when BTS was still wading in nugu territory, it cannot be helped that the group’s maknae was subject to some microaggressions and awkward treatment by some entertainment industry veterans when he and some of the members guested in a number of variety shows. But Jungkook never figured in controversies involving disrespecting seniors in the industry and just continued to be the well-mannered, uber-talented idol that he was.

With the group’s announcement that they will be focusing on solo activities, it is speculated that Jungkook will be releasing more solo material in the coming years.

Shinee’s Taemin

Before Jungkook (and arguably, even with Jungkook around), nobody, and I mean nobody fits the bill of being called the “Golden Maknae” better than Shinee’s multi-hyphenate member. Taemin can practically do it all – sing with the best of them (and with Jonghyun (RIP), Onew, and Key in the same group, he sure had to prove his singing mettle), exude charisma as expected of any artist from SM Entertainment, and above all, maintain his position as the ultimate dancing idol. I mean, seriously, who can even pull off unimaginable concepts such as androgyny like Taemin and still attract fans of all sorts from different generations and even sexual preferences?  His solo releases and accompanying music videos have been highly lauded and considered performance art. Seriously, you cannot watch a Taemin music video or performance video without holding your breath at the sheer beauty of the choreography and his masterful execution. He always knows how to combine the right amounts of power and gracefulness in his moves. 

Witness for yourself the brilliance of the second gen’s Golden Maknae in gems such as his first and only performance in the dance variety competition Hit the Stage, where he ranked first for his and partner Koharu Sugawara’s adaptation of his Japanese song Sayonara Hitori. Of course, there are the music vides of his hit songs Danger, Drip Drop, Press Your Number, and 2017’s Move, which has somehow become his signature song and a full manifestation of his now-popular androgynous mage. 

Taemin is currently just a year over his mandatory military service, but there was a bit of concern earlier this year when SM Entertainment announced that he has transferred from being part of the military band to being a public service officer because of depression and anxiety attacks. We wish Taemin strength for the remainder of his duty, not to mention countless Shawols who are eagerly anticipating your comeback next year! 

Super Junior’s Kyuhyun

Now, here is the embodiment of a golden and evil maknae rolled into one. From the start, Kyu  had a huge headstart in his idol career, having only trained for a few weeks before getting included in Super Junior. Members of Super Junior who were already at ease with the lineup they had for Super Junior 05 with Ryeowook (who also had a very fast road to idol-dom, having joined SJ05 only weeks after getting accepted into SM) as the maknae got a bit insecure as to why a relatively fresh recruit will now suddenly join their group at the expense of other trainees (e.g. Minho who was eventually selected for Shinee and Suho who had to wait for years before finally getting picked for EXO). But then, all it took was for them to listen to the unicorn voice of Kyuhyun, and everything’s understandable. 

Super Junior’s maknae is the perfect missing piece to complete Super Junior’s vocal line, which is perhaps one of the most well-matched vocal lines in K-pop. While in other groups, you may hear two or three very capable main vocalists, a lot of them happen to sound alike. With the three SJ vocal kings, things are mind-boggling-ly and astoundingly distinct. Yesung has the strong and husky voice, Ryeowook has the strong and high-pitched belting voice, and Kyuhyun has the strong and cool-as-a-cucumber tone. And when you combine the three, you will be convinced that perfection exists. 

Kyuhyun has had a pretty solid career as a soloist, having released a good number of solo releases and OST contributors, as he is known as the male Taeyeon, being one of the most, if not the most in-demand and successful male OST artists. He may not be known as the Super Junior’s best dancer at the level of  Eunhyuk and Shindiong, but he always champions his role as one of the front dancers during the dance break of Bonamana as proof of his dancing skills. Finally, Kyu’s biting wit and sassy humor have also allowed him to be regularly cast in talk and variety shows, his longest stint being one of the regulars of Radio Star, where he went head-to-head with the renowned unapologetic TV personality Kim Gura. For those who miss his distinctly borderline evil retorts, there’s always his KYUHYUN YouTube channel, which as of press time already has 78 videos and close to 600,000 subscribers. That’s more subscribers for lesser videos than Worldwide Star Heechul’s YouTube channel! 

Beast / Highlight’s Dongwoon

Even with the original lineup of six members, a closer look at them and you won’t suspect who the maknae is. Chances are, people would usually pick the main vocal Yeoseob as the maknae, with his petite stature and literally small face. But once everyone’s birthday is revealed, it is quite surprising that the group’s tallest and most mature-looking member, Dongwoon also happens to be the youngest. As he was born on June 6, 1991, that puts him a year and three months younger than the next youngest Highlight (and Beast) member, Gikwang, who was born in March 1990. 

But because of his height and movie star looks, Dongwoon has not really been considered the group’s maknae ever since, although his off-stage behavior is more playful and less serious compared to the group’s former main rapper Jonghyun and leader Doojoon. But then, his gentle giant demeanor actually makes him closer to the group’s fake maknae Yeoseob, while his fitness obsession has identified him as close to the group’s beastly member Gikwang. Until he deactivated his Instagram account before he entered the military and before Jonghyun got embroiled in the illegal video scandal, Dongwoon treated followers to photos and videos of his gym activity, which really made people doubt if he was the youngest in the group because of his well-developed physique. 

Take note though, that even if Dongwoon’s visuals are the most inclined in the group to star in television dramas, it has been Doojoon (who can forget the iconic Let’s Eat series) and Gikwang (as early as 2009 in High Kick Through the Roof) who have acted. It wasn’t until 2021 when Dongwoon finally had his first web series lead role in The Guys I Want to Catch with Teen Top’s Neil, Pentagon’s Wooseok, and Victon’s Sejun. He is set to appear on SBS’ Today’s Webtoon, which starts one of the hottest idol actresses to date, Kim Sejeong. 

BtoB’s Sungjae

Unlike their former seniors in Cube Entertainment, the maknae of BtoB also does look like the youngest. But then, with even one idol (ex-Sechskies member Sunghoon) commenting that everyone in BtoB is ugly, this couldn’t be more true. With Minhyuk making it his business to be on the cover of Men’s Health every opportunity he gets and Peniel proving that bald is hot, the group has proven its staying power, with military duties finishes and lineup changes after the departure of Ilhoon. After receiving a relatively lukewarm reception for their dance tracks like Thriller, Insane, and Beep Beep at the start of their career, the group eventually found a niche they cornered with ballads that showcased the strengths of their vocalists while still allowing Ilhoon, Min-hyuk, and Peniel to still establish their credibility as rappers. Thus, hits such as Missing You, Way Back Home, Remember When, and Beautiful Pain cemented the group’s reputation as vocal kings.  

Besides, the group’s maknae, Sungjae, has been working triple time to maintain the group’s high profile. In a group dominated by extremely talented vocalists such as Changsub, Hyunsik, and Eunkwang who are well-known for their high notes, vocal runs, and ad-libs, Sungjaw supplies a very solid lower register but also doesn’t shy away from the high notes when needed. His dancing skills aren’t that bad as well, and most importantly, contrary to what that senior idol said, Sungjae’s visuals have also allowed him to appear on TV in some high-profile dramas. After getting recognized by K-drama fans all over the world for his breakout role as a chaebol heir in the Gong Yoo-headlined Goblin, he has also since been the main protagonist of the drama Mystic Pop-Up Bar

Since ending his military conscription late last year, Sungjae has been busy releasing and promoting new music with BtoB and is set to lead the drama Golden Spoon with DIA’s Chaeyeon and former Momoland member Yeonwoo, which is expected to be released before the end of 2022. Not bad at all for the maknae of a group considered to be a visual black hole, yes?   

Seventeen’s Dino

When you are the maknae of a group with thirteen members, it may seem that you couldn’t catch a break. After all, you would need to deal with twelve hyungs, which means giving way to twelve other people whom you are expected to respect (at least publicly), be understanding with twelve different temperaments and personalities while having to deal with your own issues. After all, the life of an idol is no walk in the park. 

Such is the case of Lee Chan, aka Dino of the thirteen-member mega-group Seventeen. Imagine having to deal with twelve other members, two of which are Chinese and one who grew up in the US? Five main vocalists, four main rappers, and including you, four main dance performers. But then, just like Super Junior maknae who has had to deal with so many hyungs in his idol career, Dino is no docile slouch. He is classified as one of the members of the Performance sub-unit, he has also rapped in some Seventeen tracks, and otherwise, has sung most of his parts. Which makes Dino the ultimate triple threat – vocalist, rapper, and dancer. And to be recognized as great in those three areas where you have Hoshi who shares the responsibility of choreographing for thirteen people, DK and Seungkwan who are expected to do high notes and vocal run ad-libs in every song, and SCoups and Vernon who are recognized in the industry as legit rappers is really something.

Also, in all variety shows including their own produced Go Seventeen, Dino is not one of those maknaes that shy away from exposure. Maybe through the years of having to deal with twelve hyungs, he has grown a thick skin and is definitely not one to refuse to promote himself. Even with the constant teasing of his members, Dino is often seen speaking his mind and standing up for himself, particularly when it comes to interacting with the more outspoken members, most especially Seungkwan. Just when you think that Seungkwan takes the case as the Seventeen member with the sharpest tongue, you have to watch Dino-Seungkwan interactions in Go Seventeen, as their banter is half bickering, half sermon (at least in Seungkwan’s part to remind Dino who’s older between them) and 100% entertainment. 

And those are just six! We haven’t even elaborated on ASTRO’s Sanha, known in the industry as the bossiest maknae around, or Pentagon’s Wooseok and Monsta X’s IM who, like Highlight’s Dongwon, doesn’t look like maknaes of their respective groups at all. Stay tuned for more maknae countdowns!

Featured Image:  Jungkook from BTS. Picture from BTS official Twitter account.