15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Korean Singers Of All Time

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

K-pop culture is taking the world by storm, and everyone is paying attention. The rising trend of Korean singers becoming global megastars is a big deal. Many of these shining stars share the spotlight as part of favored groups — some sparkle as solo artists. 

But the fans are showing support in droves, proving that Korean artists are changing the game significantly. Let’s explore 15 of the most famous Korean singers that have ever graced the industry.

1. Jungkook

It’s impossible to reference famous South Korean singers without mentioning Jeon Jung-kook (known as Jungkook) and the band BTS. The group, also known as the Bangtan Boys, is the best-selling music group in South Korean history.

Jungkook is the lead singer and the band’s most famous member. Born in Busan, South Korea, he began his musical training when he was only in middle school. 

He received multiple offers after auditioning for the popular South Korean talent show “Superstar K.” He then decided to become a trainee at Big Hit Entertainment.

In 2013, Junglook debuted as a member of BTS. In addition, Jungkook released two tracks as a solo artist. He has been dubbed the “Sold Out King” for his immense influence on virtually anything he wears, eats, reads, or endorses, whether it’s intentional or not.

His popularity has been named the Top K-pop Star for 2019, 2020, and 2021. Jungkook continues to be a singing sensation up to this day as the group’s popularity grows.

2. Psy

Born Park Jae-sang in Gangnam District in Seoul, Psy is a famous South Korean singer, rapper, and producer. He is most known for his viral song “Gangnam Style,” which has over 2 billion views as of this writing.

He was born to an affluent family and was inspired by the American band Queen to learn how to play foreign music.

His career would earn over 5 million physical albums sold, outclassing other hugely popular South Korean music acts like BTS.

3. Hyuna

Born in Seoul, Kim Hyun-ah is a singer, songwriter, rapper, and model, better known by her stage name Hyuna. She debuted as a member of the K-pop girl group Wonder Girls in 2007 and later performed with 4Minute, TroubleMaker, and 4Tomorrow. 

After signing with P Nation, Hyuna launched a solo career and made waves with her songs “Bubble Pop,” “Change,” and “Ice Cream,” among many others. In 2019, however, Hyuna took a hiatus from the industry due to health issues. 

She reemerged in 2021 with “I’m Not Cool,” which received 46 million views on YouTube. Hyuna has sold over 12 million records and charted in South Korea and the US throughout her career.

4. IU

Born Lee Ji-Eun in Songjeong-dong, Seoul, IU stepped into the music industry at 14.

She, unfortunately, faced personal setbacks after numerous scams and failed music auditions. Her parent’s financial struggles also forced IU to move in with her grandmother, living in poverty. This did not hinder her success in her music career, however.

After her musical debut in 2008, IU did not begin to catch attention until her follow-up album in 2009. Her role in the K-Drama series “Dream High” also revealed her talents as an actress.

In 2011, IU’s album Last Fantasy swept the charts in South Korea. Her 2021 single, “Strawberry Fantasy,” has generated 26 million views as of this writing and peaked at #1 in South Korea’s Gaon charts. 

5. Ailee

Amy Lee, known by her stage name Ailee, was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in New Jersey. She desired a career in music and started working with artists in New York City until she decided to start a music channel on YouTube, where she gained moderate success.

In 2010, she moved to South Korea because of her uncle’s connections there and was recruited to a major label on her first audition.

She debuted as a solo artist in 2012 and rose in popularity in the digital music space, as her singles and EPs would consistently be at the top of Goan digital download charts.

6. Taeyang

Born Dong Young-bae in Uijeongbu, Taeyang is a singer, rapper, and actor who is the main vocalist for Big Band. Related to Dong Hyun Bae, a famous South Korean actor, it’s not a surprise that Taeyang and his brother are influential names in the entertainment industry.

A skilled musician, Taeyang plays the piano and is signed under YG Entertainment. He is also a polyglot, being able to speak English, Japanese, and his native Korean. Taeyang is also the brand ambassador for luxury brands Lexus and Fendi. 

Taeyang’s music has earned him recognition for Song of the Year, Best Male Artist, Best Album, and numerous other accolades since he started dominating the music scene in 2008. 

Taeyang has sold over 10 million records throughout his career, making him one of the highest-selling male artists in South Korea.

7. Kim Hyun-Joong

Born in Seoul, Kim Hyun-Joong is a singer-songwriter, best known as an actor in the TV series “Boys Over Flowers” and “Playful Kiss.”

Debuting as a singer in the popular group SS501, Kim proved that he had the looks, the skills, and the charisma to build a solid fan base as a singer. Kim is also a highly skilled musician, being able to play the guitar, piano, drums, and bass guitar.

As a child, he initially wanted to be a scientist but eventually changed course and studied Applied Music at Kongju Communication Arts University. He also served in the army from 2015 to 2017 and co-owns a chicken restaurant chain called “JakSal Chicken.”

His soulful ballads, stage presence, and passion for music have earned him multiple record sales and numerous hits. His song “Your Story” has more than 30 million YouTube views as of this writing.

Kim Hyun-Joong has sold over 1 million albums over his career, including multiple solo mini albums, full albums, and single releases.

8. Sunmi

Born Lee Sun-mi Iskan, South Korea, Sunmi decided to live her dream to become a celebrity at the age of 12. When she reached college, she went on to major in Theater at the prestigious Dongguk University.

She debuted in 2006 as the fourth member of Wonder Girls with the single “Irony.” She stayed with the group on the road up to stardom as they would sell over 400,000 physical albums.

The group disbanded in 2017, and Sunmi started releasing solo work. She currently releases singles and EPs, which capture millions of views online, and many have become top 10 hits on the Goan charts.

9. Irene

Best known for her stage name Irene, Bae Joo-Hyun was born in Daegu, South Korea. She is the oldest performer and leader of the group Red Velvet.

A singer, rapper, TV host, actress, and model, Irene is one of the most recognized faces in K-pop. As a group member, Irene has worked hard to challenge the traditional cutesy school girl stereotypes that often brand Korean female groups.

Aside from her music, Irene has been the lead role in the film “Double Patty.” She also released an OST for the movie titled “A White Night.”

Irene and bandmate Seulgi became Red Velvet’s first sub-unit, and they would release the album Monster, which sold 100,000 copies in the first four days of its debut.

10. BoA

Kwon Bo-ah, more known by her stage name BoA, was born in Guri-si, South Korea. Her sheer popularity in the Korean music industry has earned her the title “Queen of K-pop.” She can also sing in Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Korean, and this talent has helped her reach worldwide fame.

She debuted with her solo album Peace B in 2000, a top 10 hit on the South Korean charts. She started venturing into a Japanese music career simultaneously as she continued to release Korean studio albums.

She is still producing records and has become a RIAJ-certified million-seller in Japan, the first Korean artist to achieve this feat. She also has multiple albums in Korea that have sold millions of copies.

11. Lim Young-Woong

Born in Pocheon, Lim Young-Woong is a trot singer who won the TV program “Mr. Trot” in 2021. He became an overnight musical sensation who now has a net worth of about $4 million as of this writing. Lim’s style is romantic, mellow, and serene during his solo artist work.

Lim was the second most-streamed artist in 2020 after BTS. He’s had two #1 singles in South Korea’s Gaon charts and has won numerous accolades across Asia.

In his first solo OST, “Drunken Confession,” he topped three different monthly charts and sold close to a million copies.

12. Jonghyun

One of his generation’s most talented K-pop stars, Jonghyun (born Kim Jong-hyun) was a singer and songwriter who wrote hit songs for many artists. He debuted in 2008 as the leader of the group SHINee.

Jonghyun launched his solo career in 2015, releasing his first EP, Base. He also hosted radio programs that gave him a platform to share his music, poetry, and stories. A prominent TV personality, Jonghyun also appeared in multiple television shows. 

His single “Lonely” was released right before his untimely death in 2017 and had 38 million views. To the grief of his fans, Jonghyun was found dead as a result of suicide.

He has sold over 570,00 albums in his solo career and over 4 million albums as a band member of SHINee.

13. Bang Chan

Born Christopher Bahng in Seoul, singer, songwriter, composer, producer, and rapper Bang Chan is the lead vocalist of the band Stray Kids.

A product of JYP Entertainment, Stray Kids consists of eight members. As the oldest of three siblings, Bang Chan is not new to being a leader in his family. 

He trained in ballet and modern dance as a child. Thanks to his dance experience, Bang Chan successfully auditioned for JYP Entertainment while living in Australia. 

After returning to South Korea, Bang Chan auditioned for a male group that was in the works with JYP Entertainment and ultimately became the group leader.

With their record-breaking album No Easy, Stray Kids proved that they did not come to play. They have racked up over 100 million views on YouTube and 2.1 billion streams on Spotify as of this writing.

14. Kai

Born Kim Jong-in in Suncheon, Kai is a singer and the main dancer in the K-pop sensation EXO. He is also a member of the group Super M, which debuted in October 2019. Signing with SM Entertainment in 2007, Kai was only 13 years old when he began training for his professional singing career.

The first of 12 members in the group, Kai was introduced to the public in a trailer teaser in December 2011. Known for his charm, dance skills, and looks, Kai was ranked 51st in the 100 Most Handsome Faces of 2018. He was also nicknamed “Asia’s First Love” for his performance “Deep Breath.”

Kai has released two mini-albums, one of which Mmmh passed 113 million views on YouTube, making him the fastest South Korean solo artist to reach this milestone.

15. G-Dragon

Born Kwon Ji-Yong in Seoul, South Korea, G-Dragon is a highly influential singer and fashion designer and hailed as the “King of K-pop.”

He debuted in 2006 as the leader of the group Big Bang, which went on to become massively popular and sell over 150 million records worldwide.

He took a break from music to enter the military and has since returned to releasing music. He was named by Forbes as the #1 most influential person under 30 in Asian entertainment and has written at least 23 different #1 songs on the Goan Digital charts.

Final Thoughts On Our List Of Great Singers In Korea

Korean music is thriving. The country’s singers have since become leaders in music, fashion, and creative artistry not just in Korea but also all over the world. 

They fuse trendy fashion statements with bold and bright colors, unique jeweled accessories, and well-thought messaging, creating a vibe that resonates with pop culture.

With this list on hand, you’ll be able to produce an eclectic playlist filled with some of the best singers that South Korea offers.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.