It's not new in the K-pop industry to have a group with at least one or two members who are also on top of their game as soloists. Some idols have different ways of expressing themselves when they're in the group and when they're just alone. Whether it's their acting career or their budding business empire, K-pop idols are truly talented in a lot of areas! And these K-pop idols proved that being successful alone in your chosen field doesn't necesarrily mean that you should break away from where you actually started!
1. G-DRAGON of BIGBANG
Before G-DRAGON became the idol of the idols, he made his debut as the leader of the BIGBANG a.k.a. the "Kings of K-pop" back in 2006. He was mostly the one in charge with everything including the writing and producing of their hit songs like "Fantastic Baby" and "Bang Bang Bang." It was in 2009 when he made his solo debut with single "Heartbreaker" which sold over 4 million records during its release. And since then, every song that he released has always topped the charts that even huge shows like Weekly Idol begged him to be a guest on their show. He has also become friends with huge personalities like Justin Bieber, Missy Elliott, and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld.
2. Lay of EXO
It's known in the industry that boy group EXO is one of the most popular K-pop groups in China. But since Chinese member Lay launched his personal studio back in 2015, things started escalating in his solo career as he sold more than a million copies of his albums there. Fans can even attest that Lay is currently the most popular K-pop idol in China, probably more popular than EXO as a group. In 2017, it was announced that he came in the 20th spot in the Forbes China's Celebrity 100 list with his estimated earnings of 120 million yuan. Now, he's a mentor in the Chinese reality show Idol Producer, promoting his most recent single "Sheep," and has made his first US appearance with Alan Walker at Lollapalooza.
3. Yoona of SNSD
Yoona Kim is known for being SNSD's face which is why almost every show has described her as one of the most beautiful idol in the industry with huge stars like Jay Park and BIGBANG's Daesung choosing her as their ideal type. Yoona began her acting career back in 2007, the same year her group SNSD debuted. With her popularity growing more, she reached massive success as an idol and as an actress starring in popular dramas like Cinderella Man, Love Rain, and The K2. It's no surprise that a lot of actors love working with her becaause of her humble and hardworking attitude.
4. Suzy of Miss A
From being Miss A's lead vocalist to being South Korea's most sought-after actress, Suzy Bae is definitely at the top of her game. Taking on her first lead role Go Hye Mi in the popular Korean drama Dream High opened a lot of doors for her to the point that she was instantly casted as a regular in the hit variety show Invincible Youth 2. Screenwriters are so in love with her that they start writing a character with her in mind. Directors also know that every character she plays easily captivate the audience that's why Suzy is always the one they want to portray as the protagonist. She's so popular that she had to turn down numerous major roles in dramas including Cheese In The Trap and The Girl Who Sees Smells!
5. Hyuna of 4Minute
Before Hyuna became one of the most successful soloists in the industry, she had first debuted as part of Wonder Girls but left shortly in 2007. After doing so, she signed under Cube Entertainment joining 4Minute in 2009, then started her solo career a year later with her debut single "Change" which sold 2 million copies during its release. With her first EP "Bubble Pop," she claimed the title as the first female K-pop solo artist to reach 100M views for an MV. But it was her appearance in PSY's "Gangnam Style" that gave her the worldwide recognition that she deserves. She was also a part of two successful co-ed units Trouble Maker and Triple H. This year, the gorgeous soloist released another top-charting track entitled "Babe."
6. Sungjae of BTOB
Yook Sungjae started to receive a lot of recognition when he landed his first leading role in the hit teen drama Who Are You: School 2015. His rise in popularity landed him numerous endorsement deals and awards like Best Male Newcomer Award at the MBC Entertainment Awards and New Star Award at the SBS Drama Awards. It was his appearance in the fourth season of the reality show We Got Married with Red Velvet's Joy that gave him worldwide recognition because international fans loved their tandem so much. In 2018, he became one of Viu Philippines' inspiring idols in their first K-pop idol competition show Hello K-Idol.
7. Lisa of BLACKPINK
BLACKPINK's danching machine Lalisa Manoban a.k.a. Lisa has always been the talk of the town even before the group debuted back in 2016. From their dance practice video, Lisa already stood out with her dancing skills. That's why it's no surprise that she's currently the most popular member of BLACKPINK internationally. Huge brands like Moonshot, NONA9ON, and Shopee also noticed her popularity and made her their brand ambassador with her traveling around Southeast Asia alone for fan meetings that are always jam-packed with her supporters. In just two months of creating her account, she had become the most followed BLACKPINK member on Instagram. Now, her fans could expect her solo appearance in MBC's reality variety show Real Men 300.
8. Sunmi of Wonder Girls
Debuting under one of the industry's most legendary girl groups Wonder Girls back in 2006, Lee Sunmi made her solo debut in 2013 with her two singles "Full Moon" and "24 Hours" which reached top two in the Korean music charts. It was when Wonder Girls disbanded in 2017 that Sunmi signed with Makeus Entertainment and released her first breakthrough song "Gashina" which gained instant success because of its catchy choreography and sold almost 600,000 copies during its release! It was also popular to a lot of idols as it was covered by groups like TWICE, BLACKPINK, Super Junior, and Pristin.
These successful idols took necessary steps when they started their solo journey. We can just imagine how they worked hard for their own group and their own career, making them well-deserving of all their achievements. We wish them more success in the coming years!
ALSO READ: In Focus: K-Pop Idols Who Embody Girl Power
Banner Photography from SM Entertainment