5 Korean Stars Who Overcame Severe Hardship To Succeed

Everyone has to overcome some type of adversity in their lives, though some of us have it much harder than others. Certain people are born with a huge disadvantage, whether it be from a poor financial situation, a family tragedy, or anything in between. Many people fold under that type of adversity, while others go on to become huge successes.

In Korea, there have been plenty of instances where those that became stars came from backgrounds that were filled with adversity. Here are five stories of those stars that had to go from having nothing to being some of the most recognizable people in Korea.

Choi Daniel

Choi Daniel rose to fame during the late 2000s when he made his way from being a gas station attendant to a famous actor, getting his first real work on the series “Worlds Within” in 2008. From there, Daniel has been on a long list of TV series that include “The Ghost Detective”, “High Kick Through the Roof” and “Baby Faced Beauty” just to name a few. He’s also a radio DJ that has become a household name in Korea.

When he was just five years old, Daniel’s mother passed away and he didn’t have many memories of her. Not only that, but the business that Daniel’s father was running went under and he had to declare bankruptcy. He was working simply to make ends meet and was a college dropout when he finally hit it big.


A lot of people who go on to become famous singers are from families that are wealthy and have a lot of connections. That isn’t the case for V of BTS fame. Born Kim Tae-hyung in Daegu, South Korea, V grew up in a family that had almost nothing to their name. He was raised by parents that spent almost all of their time working and was also raised by his grandmother.

V knew that he had talent as a singer, but never really got to showcase his skills. When his friends were going to an audition, V tagged along and got himself behind the microphone. He was then inserted into the boy band BTS which would take the world by storm. On top of that, V has also had solo work with a trio of singles that have been hits in Korea while also working on his degree.


K-Pop star IU (real name Lee Ji-eun) was just 15 years old when she made her music debut with the extended play “Lost and Found” in 2008. She then released a few more tracks over the next couple of years and became a megastar thanks to her song “Good Day”. Since then, IU has been one of the biggest names in the genre and has been named the most popular singer in Korea in two different years.

Though she started in her early teenage years, IU didn’t have the easiest childhood. She was raised in a family that had no money and was living in an extremely cramped apartment that was infested with cockroaches. IU knew that she wanted to get out and was taking her music seriously, leading to her auditioning and becoming a star.

Park Bo-gum

Actor Park Bo-gum has been the star of many television series and movies in Korea since the start of the 2010s. Some of his biggest roles include “Hello Monster”, “Reply 1988”, and “Love in the Moonlight”. Park grew up wanting to be an actor and showed that he was also gifted both musically and athletically as a child, but the odds were stacked against him.

Park’s mother passed away early in his childhood, and his father wasn’t around much as he had to work to support Park and his two siblings. Thankfully, Park was able to get noticed when he sent in a video of himself performing, and he landed his first on-screen role in 2011 while also releasing his first music single in 2016 titled “My Person” that reached number three on the charts.

Bong Joon-Ho

The man who became an international star thanks to directing the Academy Award-winning film “Parasite” didn’t have the harshest childhood, but it took him many years of hardship professionally before reaching the top. Bong Joon-Ho was born in Daegu and raised in Seoul where his father worked, and Bong attended multiple colleges in early adulthood.

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Bong was making less than $2,000 per year while trying to find his footing as an actor. Things got so bad that he had to borrow rice from people, but he never gave up. He finally got his big break in the mid 2000s, and went on to direct several hit films including “Snowpiercer” and “Okja”.

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