So this is another touchy topic that I would like to touch on; the diversity WITHIN the Asian performers in K-Pop.
Let’s start off with non-native Koreans. Not too diverse. Still Korean, BUT, they weren’t raised in the same country, possibly having no idea about proper mannerisms or language.
Tony An, an LA native (born in Korea; family emigrated to US where he grew up) was scouted, originally by Brave Brothers, but ended up joining H.O.T, who debuted with their first album, “We Hate All Kinds of Violence” in 1996. His friend Andy almost made it, but his parents withdrew consent.
Which is cool though because he joined SM two years later when Shinhwa debuted in 1998 with “Resolver.”
That same year, YG Entertainment had debuted Korean-American boyband hopefuls, Teddy Park and Danny Im in their latest group, 1TYM.
Danny recounted on an episode of DFLA that he and Teddy auditioned for YG in a motel room in LA. I don’t know why I added, that, but there’s more details and it’s actually pretty funny.
When Danny first got to Korea, he didn’t know a lot of Korean, so he relied on help from his friend Teddy, who was fluent in both Korean and English.
Let’s back up…one year. In 1997 YG debuted a duo, Jinusean, both of whom hail from California in the US. Sean also lived in Guam, as did fellow YG artist Perry, who also lived in California.
All three were active in Korea between 1994 (Jinu debuted solo in 1994 with “I Was The Captain,” non YG release, Sean was a backup dancer for Seotaiji and Boys and Perry had come on to help write and produce for YG, starting with Keep6) and Jinusean’s official debut (did you guys know there was supposed to be THREE members? I didn’t).
I could go on and on and on and ON about Korean Americans in K-Pop. It still happens today. In fact, there are Korean Australians (Crazyno) and Korean [or Chinese] Canadians (G.Na, Henry of Super Junior, Kris [Wu YiFan] formerly of EXO; EXO-M, etc) and Koreans from the UK (Shannon Williams).
Now, on to non Korean artists in K-Pop. Let’s start with the very first, which would be Hangeng of Super Junior in 2005. Hangeng was the first non-Korean artist to appear officially in a K-Pop group.
In 2006, SM debuted Zhang Li-yin, a Chinese solo singer that was dubbed ‘The Chinese BoA‘ for her skills.
Vanness of F4, aka JVKV is a Taiwanese artist, and was a part of a sub-unit with Kangta of H.O.T that same year.
Kangta has acted in Chinese movies, dramas and other shows since 2005 (“Magic Touch of Fate“). He released his first Chinese mini album in 2010, “Breaka Shaka.”
In 2008 SM created Super Junior-M, their first group endeavor into the Chinese market, adding Chinese members Henry and Zhoumi to the group.
Originally, they were supposed to be added as permanent members within the ‘home’ group, but fan outcry [aka threatening to drop stocks, drop out of the fandom, etc] stopped that plan pretty quick, which is why they are still only members of Super Junior-M, aside from recent solo debuts/ventures.
Zhoumi is also a member of S.M. The Ballad, as of 2011.
Additionally in 2008, JYP Entertainment debuted the boy band 2PM, whom debuted with Thai-Chinese member, Nickhun, who is from Southern Cali.
Member Taecyeon is from Massachusetts (born in Korea, moved to US) and Jaebum (ex leader, now goes by Jay Park) is from Seattle.
That year U-KISS debuted under NH Media with Korean-American members Eli, Kevin and AJ, and Hong Kong born Korean-Macanese member, Alexander (Xander). Xander left the group in 2011.
In 2009, Korean born Filipino star Sandara Park debuted in YG in 2NE1.
Her brother, Cheondung (Thunder) debuted the same year in MBLAQ.
Also in 2009, SM debuted the girl group f(x), containing Chinese member Victoria and Taiwanese-American member Amber.
JYP Entertainment also recruited Chinese members for their girl group, miss A in 2010 with members Fei and Jia.
That same year Dalmatian debuted under IS Entermedia with Korean-Japanese member, Simon.
In 2011, SM began teasing for a dual-promoting boy band, EXO, with four Chinese members, Kris, LuHan, Tao and Lay. Kris is also from Canada, as previously mentioned.
In 2011, Chocolat debuted under Paramount Music Entertainment. They were pegged as the first girl group to consist of [several] mixed race members. *cough *cough Hee Sisters *cough *cough Uptown *cough *cough (though I assume they meant ‘first’ for ‘more than one’).
Three were of mixed race out of the five, two being of Korean-Italian/German descent and the other being of Korean-Puerto Rican/German descent.
In 2011, RaNia debuted with Thai member, Joy, (who is now a member of Thai girl group, GaiA) and Japanese member Riko.
There are actually more Thai members and idols in K-Pop than I originally thought, to be honest.
In 2012, Tiny-G debuted with Thai member, Mint. Currently, the group is promoting their sub-unit Tiny-G M in Thailand, which features members Mint and J.Min while the group is on hiatus.
That same year male Thai soloist Natthew made his Korean debut with “She’s Bad,” featuring B2ST‘s Junhyung.
[Still] in 2012, Skarf, a Singaporean-Korean girl group debuted under Alpha Entertainment. Members Tasha and Ferlyn are from Singapore. The girls are still active in the entertainment industry even though Skarf has disbanded (2014).
Also in 2012, Cross Gene debuted under Amuse Inc, with Japanese member Takuya and Chinese members Casper and J.G. (left to pursue a solo career in 2013).
In 2013, a joint venture between Cube and Xing Tian Media birthed M4M, a boy band that solely consists of Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Chinese members.
In 2014, JYP Entertainment debuted the boy band, Got7 with Chinese members Jackson Wang (born in Hong Kong, of Chinese descent) and Mark Tuan, with Thai member BamBam.
In 2015, CLC debuted under Cube Entertainment with Thai member Sorn. One of the two newest members to the group, Elkie, is from Hong Kong.
That same year, JYP Entertainment debuted Twice, their multi-national girl group. Members Hirai Momo and Minatozaki Sana are from Japan, Myoui Mina is Japanese-American, and Chou Tzuyu is Taiwanese.
There are plenty more people, I assure you, but this is just a small spectrum of the Asian diversity in K-Pop.
Why am I showing you this, you’re probably wondering? Even if you’re not I’m going to tell you anyway.
Whether it be for profit, attention or a genuine reach of representation, there are non-Korean Asians throughout K-Pop, and I thought I’d just shed a little light on the diversity within the spectrum.
From Korean-Americans to Thai, Taiwanese, Filipino and Japanese idols, there is plenty of non-native Korean and non-Korean Asian representation and diversity within K-Pop that’s been put to practice since the 90’s, and still continues today.