Can’t Speak Korean? Don’t Worry About Language Barrier, Here Are the List of Korean American in K-Pop Industry
Are you, a foreigner who likes K-pop but doesn’t understand Korean, tired of always not understand the video that you watch about your favorite Korean idols that still doesn’t provide any English subtitles? Have you ever wondered to be able to talk with your Korean idols but it could be impossible because of the language barrier? Well, you shouldn’t be worried if the Korean idols that you like was born or/and raised in the States and Canada. Because we got you lists of K-pop idols who are Asian-American.
Most Korean entertainment agencies held a global audition to search for real talents outside Korea. North America is one of the stop for the global audition, including USA and Canada. You don’t have to be a Korean to pass the audition, even though mostly participants whom passed the audition was a overseas Korean who has been living in America for years. Just like the lists of idols that we’re going to discuss in this article.
But passing a global audition then becoming a trainee is not the only thing that led these Korean-Americans to become K-pop idols. There are also idols who moved to Korea before they joined in any Korean entertainment agencies as a trainee.
So, not only that these idols have talents such as singing, dancing, composing good music, etc. But they also can talk in English fluently. They usually becoming the English speaker in the group if they debuted in a group, or if they’re a solo artist, they will be their own English speaker. By that, they will gain more international fans since they can reach the non-Korean speaker fans easily. What a good way of marketing!
Anyway, let’s take a look at these Korean-American K-pop that can understand your spazzing English tweets who have debuted in a group or as a solo artist!
RED VELVET Wendy
Wendy of Red Velvet is one of the popular Korean-American among international fans. As the only English speaker in Red Velvet, Wendy helped her group to interact with fans during international activities such as world tour, interview with American media, etc.
But do you know that Wendy is not an American born?
Wendy was born with a name Son Seung-wan on February 21, 1994 in Seoul. When she was around 10 years old, or when she was in the fifth grade of elementary school, Wendg along with her family moved to Canada. Wendy and her older sister attend a school in their neighborhood in Ontario. So the stage name ‘Wendy’ is not just a stage name for her, but also an English name that she used while she was living overseas.
The start of her journer as a K-pop idol was when Wendy accompanied her friend to join SM Global audition in 2012. She who has been joining Koreaboo and Cube Entertainment competition in 2011, passed the SM Global audition after singing a song by Korean singer Kim Gun-mo, called “Moon of Seoul”. Wendy also have participated in YG audition said by Yang Hyun-suk, however she didn’t get accepted. But it was a fortunate since we wouldn’t see Wendy as a Red Velvet member if she got accepted in YG, right?
After Wendy passed the SM Global audition, she became a trainee in SM and also got introdued as one of SM Rookies earlier in 2014. On August, 2014, she debuted with Red Velvet and released a debut song called “Happiness”.
Let’s take a look at how English speaker Wendy greet international fans!
If you’re biasing Wendy and made her as one of your favorite K-pop idols, you don’t need to be worried since you can reach her by saying something in English to Wendy!
Just like Wendy, Peniel from BTOB is the only English speaker from his group that contains of 7 members. With the help of Peniel, BTOB can interact with international melodies so easily during interview, concert, or even social media. If you ever wondered how he got his stage name, it’s because Peniel was his English name. Or more like, the only name that he used since he was born and raised in Chicago. He also has a Korean name Shin Dong-geun, but only few people calling him with that name, and he is more often to address himself as Peniel Shin instead.
Now if you wondered about how Peniel got into K-pop, well, his audition story was quite entertaining. Many melodies are curious about his back story before becoming BTOB member and how they never heard any interview of Peniel about that. But finally in K-Pop Daebak podcast hosted by Eric Nam, Peniel told us his audition story and how he turned out to be K-pop idol.
Back then in his school life while he was living in Chicago, his hometown, Peniel never really been a fan of K-pop. He was just found K-pop interesting since his friends told him about it, but never really pay attention to it. One day, his friend told him about audition from JYP. Peniel who was clueless about JYP before was told by his friend that this agency is the same agency that mange 2PM, Wonder Girls, etc. And then Peniel decided to join as well even though he was never interested in dance or sing before. He chose the modeling field where he was just need to pose for three times. Although Peniel was kind of awkward and he thought that he messed up, but he ended up getting called by JYP representative few months after that.
However, it was too bad that Peniel didn’t debut under JYP entertainment. On 2012, he debuted as one of the members of BTOB. And Peniel who once said that rapping, singing and dancing is not his style, back then in Chicago when he was younger, finally debuting as a rapper in a K-pop group. Then again, Peniel chose the right path because if he didn’t join the audition we wouldn’t meet him as the Peniel that we know. BTOB won’t be the same without Peniel, right?
And now let’s see the compilation of Peniel speaking in English, the language that he’s most comfortable talking with.
Seeing Peniel speaking in English made us relate with him and it just made him to be more likeable, don’t you think? Peniel really out here making us fall in love even just being himself.
Do you know that Jessi the rapper that participated in survival show Unpretty Rapstar, was born and raised in the United States? Jessi was born with a name Jessica Hyun-ju Ho in New York on December 17, 1988 and raised in New Jersey. She spent her childhood to teenager life in the States, and moved to the motherland where she reached the age 15. In 2003, she got accepted by one of music agency in Korea called Doremi Media and released her debut album two years later in 2005.
In high school, Jessi was a classmate of Jessica and Tiffany from SNSD as well as solo singer Stephany Kim in a school called Korea Kent Foreign School. Being raised in the States, Jessi claimed that she struggled with the Korean culture. Jessi even said that she once spent the nights in sauna dealing with the culture shock.
Not only with the Korean culture, the rapper who appeared on “Unpretty Rapstar” survival show also said that she has been facing a racism back then when she was younger. Jessi lived in a town where there aren’t many Koreans, and then there was that one boy who always disturbing her for four years. Jessi held that back for that long, but she finally stand up and fight for her right. After she fight that bully, Jessi was no longer getting disturbed.
That is one of the reason why Jessi as a rapper always talk about being real and honest. Her past has build not only that her looks and style, but also her attitude as she is right now. We really can’t find a rapper like Jessi who got that swag, talent, visual, and lots of love for her fans, Jebbies.
Let’s take a look at how cute Jessi is when she forgot about how to speak in Korean. (maybe because she was too nervous!)
Ladies Code Ashley
Unlike Jessi and Peniel, Ashley from Ladies Code was born and spent her childhood in Korea. The same case as Wendy, Ashley was born in Incheon on November 9, 1991 with a Korean name Choi Bitna. At the age of 8, Ashley’s family moved to the States. In US, Ashley the second lead vocalist in Ladies Code spent her teenage life in Queens, New York.
This making her to be fluent in both English and Korean. That is why her code name in Ladies Code is Global Code. Ashley may now be a leader of Ladies Code now, but back then in New York she was popular by doing dance cover videos on her YouTube channel since 2007 with a name ashleych0i.
After that she moved to Korea to be a trainee in Cube Entertainment. However, instead of debuting as a girl group member in Cube Entertainment, Ashley joined Polaris Entertainment and debuted as a leader in Ladies Code in 2013. Being one of Korean American idols also make her to be friends with some other Korean American idols such as Woosung of The Rose, BM of K.A.R.D, Jae of Day6, etc.
Ashley is also a radio DJ in Arirang where she speak in English for the entire program. Let’s take a listen first!
Soloist Hee-jun Han
If you watch Arirang’s TV program called “After School Club” regularly, or at least have watched one or more episodes of the show, you must be familiar with this Korean American idol that we’re talking about. It’s Hee-jun Han or Han Hee-jun, the soloist as well as MC of After School Club or ASC along with Jamie Park.
Almost similar with Ashley, Hee-jun was also born and spent his childhood in Korea. He was born in Anyang, Gyeonggi, on April 20, 1989. At the age of 12, Hee-jun and his family moved to Flushing, New York and he spent his teenager life there. Before he debuted in Korea, Hee-jun was active as a nonprofit organization from Milal Mission in New York. Hee-jun was focusing on helped the children with special needs there.
As he has a talented soothing voice, the people from his organization asked him to join American Idol. Luckily, he got accepted as he auditioned on the eleventh season of “American Idol” in 2012. He performed a song called “How Am I Supposed to Life Without You” and successfully wowed Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. On American Idol, Hee-jun made to the Top 9 contestants before he got eliminated.
After American Idol, Hee-jun has been invited as a guest or to sing in some shows such as “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “The 700 Club”, etc.
In 2013, Hee-jun went back to Korea to participated in a show called “K-pop Star Season 3”. He was on the same show as Bernard Park, Sam Kim, etc. There, Hee-jun made to the Top 10 and signed with Polaris Entertainment, the same agency as Ashley as well as Ladies Code. After that, Hee-jun started his journey as a K-pop soloist and has released many songs such as “Starry Night” and “Q&A” with Tiffany Young.
Soloist Eric Nam
Eric Nam was born and raised in the States as he was born in Atlanta on November 17, 1988. Although he used the name Eric Nam since he was born, he has a Korean name called Nam Yoon-do. He also has two younger brothers called Eddie and Brian Nam who is a part of his label, EN Management and Dive Studios.
Before moved to Korea, Eric spent his life in Atlanta, Georgia and pursuing a study in Boston College. During his study, Eric went to a study abroad program for a year in Peking University. This making him not only fluent in English and Korean, but also conversational Mandarin. Since he learned Spanish in school, he also can speak Spanish at highly proficient level.
After he graduated from the university in 2011, Eric focused to post videos in YouTube and shared his amazing vocal by covering some songs. He started his K-pop career in 2012 after his YouTube video went viral. He got contacted by MBC and participated in a X-Factor kind of show called “Star Audition:Birth of a Great Star 2”. After that, he made a contract with B2M Entertainment.
Eric has released so many songs including “Heaven’s Door”, “Ooh-ooh”, “You, Who”, “Spring Love”, etc. Eric also participated in We Got Maried with his virtual wife, Solar from MAMAMOO, and just like Hee-jun, he was one of the MCs of After School Club along with Jamie Park and Kevin Woo until 2015. He also has his own podcast on Dive Studios called “K-pop Daebak” and “I Think You’re Dope”.
Another Korean American idol is Ailee, the female soloist who made a debut in 2012. Ailee was born with a name Amy Lee in Denver, Colorado. Just like Eric Nam, even though Ailee was born and raised in the States, she still has a Korean name which was Lee Ye-jin. Ailee moved to New Jersey and grew up there. Due to her love for music, Ailee take down her college life for pursuing her music career. She joined an indie agency called Muzo Entertainment which based in New York and New Jersey. Ailee also active in her YouTube channel with a name “mzamyx3” and “aileemusic”.
In 2010, Ailee got auditioned for a label in Korea, YMC Entertainment and got accepted. She became a trainee for several years and had a chance to be featured in the soloist Wheesung’s song, “They Are Coming” in October 2011. Later in 2012, Ailee finally made a debut with a song called “Heaven”. She also appeared in a Korean drama called “Dream High 2” along with Kang So-ra, Hyorin, etc.
As of today, Ailee still active to promote in Korea. She has been realising a lot of songs and has been made a collaboration with a lot of artists.
NCT Mark and Johnny
Another Canadian American came from the same agency as Wendy who spent her teenage life in Canada, Mark Lee from NCT is a Canadian American who was born and raised in Canada. Mark was born in Toronto on August 2, 1999 and raised in Vancouver as his family moved there after he was born. Mark has a Korean name which was Lee Min-hyung, but he is more popular with his English name, Mark Lee as he used it for his stage name.
Mark passed the global audition of SM Entertainment in Canada, and moved to his motherland in 2012 to became a trainee there. While he was a trainee, Mark often participated in some SM Rookies project such as Disney Clubhouse along with other SM Rookies boys and girls, Exo 90:2014, etc.
After spent some years as a trainee, Mark debuted as a member of NCT as he featured in NCT 127 and released a song called “Fire Truck”. He also participated in another sub unit of NCT which was NCT Dream in 2016. After he became a legal adult, Mark graduated from NCT Dream that made him no longer part of the subunit. On 2019, Mark debuted in Super M and promoting in the States. Mark was one of the English speakers in the group along with Ten.
Not only Mark, NCT also has another English speaker member. It’s Johnny Suh or also known as Johnny. If you’re a fan of NCT or also called as NCTzen, you must be familiar with the Chicago boy, Johnny who is also the English speaker of the group alongside Mark.
Johnny was born in Chicago on 9 February, 1995. Johnny has a Korean name, Seo Young-ho, but is popular with his English name instead. He is an only child on his family, and was born and raised in the States. Johnny has been a trainee in SM Entertainment ever since he was 12 years old. In 2007, Johnny passed the SM Global Audition in Chicago and he became a trainee there. But instead of being a full trainee, Johnny only came for summer vacation since he was still in the middle school back then. After Johnny graduated, he moved to Korea and continued to train while he was pursuing his study.
So even though he has been trained for so long, his accumulative training period wasn’t that long since Johnny still lived in the USA back then. However, being a trainee since he was so you made him familiar with some other trainees in SM Entertainment such as EXO members. In fact, there was a rumor saying that Johnny was supposed to debut along with EXO members. But it could be because his training period was not enough yet, Johnny needed to wait.
But still, it’s good to have Johnny as a NCT member, though. Don’t you agree?
Jung Sister, Jessica and Krystal
Another Korean American coming from SM Entertainment. But this time come in pairs, can you guess who are they? Of course, it’s none other than the Jung sis, Jessica and Krystal.
Although Jessica has left SM Entertainment in 2014, but then again, SM Entertainment was one of the reasons that made her name to become this big. Before Jessica trained and debut as one of SNSD, she spent her childhood and teenage years in San Francisco, California. She was born and raised there on April 18, 1989.
As for Krystal, she was born in San Francisco, California on October 25, 1994.
While enjoying vacation in Korea in the year 2000, Jessica alongside Krystal scouted by SM Entertainment staffs. The beauty of the two sisters has caught the SM staffs’ attention even though both Jessica and Krystal were still so young back then. However, Jessica and Krystal’s parents didn’t let the two of them to join SM Entertainment as a trainee, instead, only Jessica allowed to be a trainee since Krystal was too young to became one.
And by that, Jessica became a trainee for SM Entertainment that later on debuted as one of Girls Generation or SNSD members in 200. As for Krystal, she joined the company years later when she was 14 years old, through an audition. On 2009, Krystal debuted as one of f(x) members.
The two of them often made a conversation in English since they were raised in the States. Let’s take a look at how sassy the Jung sis, Jessica and Krystal when they’re speaking in English.
Soloist and Former U-Kiss Member, Kevin Woo
Did you know that one of the members of second gen Kpop group called U-Kiss, Kevin Woo, was born and raised in the States? Kevin was born and raised in Danville, California on November 25, 1991. As a Korean American, Kevin doesn’t only have an English name, he has a Korean name called Woo Sunghyeon. However, he used his English name as his stage name.
Kevin moved to the motherland, South Korea, after he graduated from high school. He became a trainee for four years in NH Media before Kevin and the rest of the boys debuted as a U-Kiss members. Thankfully, in U-Kiss, there weren’t only Kevin who speak English, so he could speak his native language with Eli, Alexander and AJ. But still, since Kevin was born and raised in the States, Kevin still had to struggles to learn Korean.
He even claimed that while he was learning Korean, he sometimes got into troubles because he unintentionally speak informally to older people. As you see, speaking informally to the older one in Korean is considered to be rude. Kevin who was still new to Korean culture had troubles because of that.
As a native English speaker, Kevin once became an MC of After School Club along with Eric Nam, Jimin Park, and also Jae of Day6 from 2014 until 2018. Let’s take a look at Kevin while he was talking in English in some clips of him in ASC.
Kevin has departure from U-Kiss in 2017 and decided to choose a solo career after that. In 2018, Kevin signed with Japan Music Entertainment label and Coridel Entertainment label as for promoting in Korea. He also released some full English musics for his solo career. Let’s check out and tell us what you think!
Soloist Lena Park
Another female soloist who was born and raised in the States and is still active in the Korean entertainment industry is Lena Park. Compared to other K-pop idols and soloist, Lena Park is a senior in the industry and has made a debut way before them, which was in 1998. Lena Park was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, in March 23, 1976. Back then in the USA, Lena has always been active as a gospel singer and even has won some competitions when he was still a teenager.
Before Lena Park pursued career in Korean music industry, Lena who has a Korean name called Park Jung-hyun enrolled in UCLA. However, she graduated from Colombia University since she transferred there and gained magna cum laude.
In Korea, Lena Park has released a lot of studio albums and singles for over two decades since she begins her singer career. Lena also has collaborated with various musicians such as Verbal Jint, Dynamic Duo, Yoon Jong-shin, etc.
In 2017, Lena Park got married to a Korean Canadian where the wedding took place in Hawaii. Lena once told about her relationship with her husband in national TV and how she met him during the wedding of Baek Ji-young in 2013. After dating him for several years, Lena Park finally tied the knot and held the wedding privately. She also only invited family and some close friends.
Let’s take a look at how beautiful Lena Park voice singing English song!
G.O.D Joon Park
Just the same as Lena Park, this Korean American that we’re going to talk about is also a senior in Korean music industry compared to other Korean American that we talked about before. Joon Park was a member of g.o.d, a K-pop boy group that made a debut under JYP Entertainment. As one of the pioneer of K-pop as well as JYP Entertainment, Joon Park has been a successful leader and rapper who has released a lot of songs and did a tour around the nation.
Joon Park was born in South Korea on July 20, 1969. Years later, Joon Park and his family moved to the State and live in California. Joon was raised by his mother since his father has passed away since he was a child. Before he moved to Korea and became a phenomenal g.o.d member, Joon attended California State University. He also had a job in graphic design field back then before he formed g.o.d and JYP Entertainment along with JYP himself.
Joon Park intention to move to Korea was because he wanted to mix Korean music with the western culture. He tried really hard to gathered potential members for his soon-to-be group, and finally got all the five members including him.
Joon Park’s fun and easy going personality made him to be loved by so many people. He also could entertain people just by seeing his actions in front of camera, or even his natural jokes. He also popular with his Korean-American accent that sometimes became a joke by everyone. Let’s listen to his famous accent.
Even now, Joon Park still active in the entertainment industry even though he has been departed with the group. He also has a YouTube Channel called Wassup Man.
Soloist Nakjoon / Bernard Park
You may have heard about Nakjoon or Bernard Park as a Korean American singer in the K-pop music industry. The soloist who debuted under JYP Entertainment has become a Radio DJ in Arirang Radio, where the program is all in English. Just the same as Heejun, Nakjoon started his singing career in Korea with Super Star K-pop Season 3 and became a winner.
Nakjoon was born and raised in Chicago on January 29, 1993. He was born with a name Bernard Park. Unlike any other Korean America, he used to not having a Korean name before. But since he was being asked about his Korean name, Nakjoon’s parent started to create a Korean name for him. Nakjoon got to choose a name between some options, and he choose Nakjoon without thinking. That name finally became his stage name after he changed the previous stage name Bernard Park.
As a singer, Nakjoon has collaborated with a lot of musicians such as Luna former f(x) member, Suzy, Jimin Park, etc. Even though he was born and raised in the States, Nakjoon enlisted to the Korean army in 2017 as a mandatory of every Korean male.
Let’s take a look at Radio DJ Nakjoon in action while he was speaking in English!
Rapper Tiger JK
Another rapper who is a Korean American that want to mix K-pop culture with western music is Tiger JK. Although he was born in South Korea, his family moved to the States and he spent teenage life in Los Angeles, California. He wanted to do hip-hop because as a teenager back then, he became a witness of the violence in 1992 Los Angeles Riot.
Just like Lena Park, Tiger JK also attended UCLA before he pursued his singing career in South Korea. He moved to the mother land, Korea, and start his career in 1995 as he released his first album called “Enter the Tiger”. He also known as Drunken Tiger. He formed a hip-hop group and one of the member, Yoon Mirae, is now becoming his wife. They both have been dating for seven years and used to hid their relationship from public. Just like him, Yoon Mirae is also a Korean-American, and both of them has a son called Jordan.
BM of K.A.R.D
He is the big man from K.A.R.D and he’s also from Los Angeles, California. BM or also known as Big Matthew, was born and raised in Los Angeles, on October 20, 1992. Originally, he didn’t has an intention to became a K-pop idol before. He just like to rap and cover dance back then when he was still in college. He even just put it as a hobby and wanted to became a counselor instead, since he was majoring in Psychology in college. But then his mother registered him for the “K-Pop Star” audition and he passed the audition, thankfully.
BM who still hasn’t good at Korean before didn’t has a confident to join the program but luckily BoA who was a judge at “K-Pop Star” at that time saved him for many times. After the competition, BM joined the company and became a trainee for around four years before he debuted with a co-ed group called K.A.R.D.
As a Korean American, BM speak more fluent in English but his Korean is even better now. He also friend with other Korean American around his age, Ashley, Woosung from The Rose and also Jae from Day6. Let’s take a look at how cool his vibe is, especially when he’s speaking in English!
Woosung of The Rose
One of the vocalist in The Rose, Woosung, is also a Korean American. Unlike some other Korean American who used their English name as their stage name, Woosung used his Korean name instead. Thus, he has an English name, Sammy, who sometimes being called by fans. Woosung was born and raised in Los Angeles, California on February 25, 1993. As well as BM, Woosung also participated in “K-pop Star”.
Before joined the band The Rose and even way before he moved to Korea, Woosung was an American football player back then in junior high school. But he injured his shoulder and it made him wanted to pursue music career instead. He even made a YouTube channel where he posted his cover songs.
If you think that Woosung’s voices is great, you must listen to his other covers with The Rose in “Super Band”!
Woosung also has participated as an MC of ASC along with Hee-jun and Jimin Park. There he hosted the program with full English and sometimes got roasted by other hosts because of his stiff behavior as an MC. Let’s take a look at the banter in English!
Woosung: *tries to be funny*
Jimin and Heejun: pic.twitter.com/blr2zGeonJ
— THE ROSE (@woosungnet) October 8, 2019
Jae of Day6
The last but definitely not least Korean American musician who is still active in the Korean entertainment industry is Jae of Day6. The electric guitarist of the band was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September 15, 1992. Jae, or also known as Jae Park or Jaehyung Park, doesn’t have an English name just like some other Korean American. However, his parents used to name him as Brian Denise Park before they changed his name to his current name.
Before moved to Los Angeles, California, Jae and his family live in Canada for around two years. As a child, he remembers that he often came to his mother land, Korea, where he pay a visit to his other relatives there. But he spent most of his life in Long Beach, California.
Jae’s first intention on music was where he found a guitar in his house and he tried to learn to play it. Later after that, he started to covers some song on YouTube around the year 2010 just like anybody does at that time. In 2011, despite of his lack of Korean, Jae joined the audition of “K-Pop Star” in Los Angeles and luckily got accepted and passed to the next round where he has to move to Korea. It made him had to say goodbye to the college life and pursuing his music career. Thankfully, he got signed under JYP Entertainment and became a trainee for around three years.
After that, he debuted as a Day6 member, also becoming the first band of the agency who usually produce a K-pop boy or girl group. Along with Day6, Jae has released three albums and three mini-albums. They also had won several awards and has reached a number 1 position at some charts with their song called “Time of Our Life”.
Along with Kevin Woo and Jimin Park, Jae became one of the three hosts in ASC starting from 2016 until 2018. He also started his own YouTube channel called Jaesix where he posted some vlog series or his personal project that he named it as “eaJ”. On March 2020, Jae officially became a host of a new podcast series of Dive Studios called “How Did I Get Here” and has reached top 5 in Music category on iTunes.
Let’s take a look at some compilation of Jae speaking in his native language, English.
That’s all the information that we can gather for you. Hopefully this information helps you to get to know better about Korean American idols in K-pop industry!