The road to becoming a successful K-pop star requires years of unpaid training starting from an early age.
But those big-hitting K-pop singers who have persevered and emerged out the other end of the high-risk, high-yield system often amass a fortune equally early in life, raking in considerable sums of money in their tender twenties. The Korea Herald has compiled a list of ways Korea’s youngest and hottest celebrities manage their wealth, from investing in real estate to opening chic cafes and even luxury resorts.
Small figures, big numbers
Han Seung-yeon (DSP Media)
Girl group Kara’s petite main vocalist Han Seung-yeon, 27 years old and standing at just 158 centimeters tall, has become the proud owner of a towering building located smack dab in one of Seoul’s most expensive plots of land, in between the Gangnam-gu Office and Cheongdam Station. The ambitious young singer made the purchase in April last year, acquiring the five-story building for 4.55 billion won ($3.9 million). The establishment is currently undergoing renovations and expected to reap sizable earnings of over 19.8 billion won ($17 million) from rent in the future.
Han, who has stood firm as the five-member girl group’s leader ever since its 2007 debut, is said to have accumulated a vast trove of wealth over the years, due to Kara’s both domestic and overseas success, most notably in Japan. Reports say that she put in 1.8 billion won ($1.4 million) of her own savings, plus a 2.7 billion won ($2.3 million) bank loan to seal the deal on the property, opting for an aggressive investment tactic in anticipation of future rent profits.
Address: 34-9 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Goo Hara (DSP Media)
Another building-owning K-pop starlet is fellow Kara member Goo Hara, who in 2012 purchased a three-story Cheongdam-dong building built in 1975. With Goo’s touch, the ancient structure was flipped into a chic, beige block dubbed “Trend N.” It now holds a fashionable cafe on its ground floor and a nail salon on the second and third stories.
Reports say that the thrifty young entertainer did not take out any loans but paid 1.2 billion ($1 million) in full to purchase the property, whose current market price is estimated at about double the original figure. It seems the 24-year-old Goo, who trained for the stage since her middle school years while crashing at her relatives’ homes, is thoroughly reaping the fruits of her labor and already set with a reliable pension plan for her post-K-pop phase.
Address: 24-3, Dosan-daero 87-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
The perfect host
Toscana Hotel (Toscana Hotel)
K-pop trio JYJ’s Kim Junsu, formerly Xia Junsu of TVXQ, opened the Jeju Toscana Hotel, a luxurious resort in Jejudo Island’s Seogwipo, in September 2014.
The seasoned 28-year-old singer invested 28.5 billion won ($24.4 million) into the sprawling 20,000-square-meter retreat, which houses 56 guest rooms, four villa houses, a cafeteria, spa, outdoor pool, concert hall and jewelry shop on its premises. The picturesque hotel was also the site for the 2015 KBS drama series “Warm and Cozy,” starring Yoo Yeon-seok and Kang So-ra.
Kim is reported to have made a pretty fortune since his 2003 debut with TVXQ and 2010 regrouping with JYJ, gaining massive popularity in China and Southeast Asia and selling out in theaters with his musical performances in Korea.
Address: 158-7 Yongheung-ro 66beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Korea
Coffee with the stars
Jay Park (Official website)
In July 2014, boy band singer-turned-rapper Jay Park opened up a branch of coffee franchise Dudart Cafe at the Apgujeong Rodeo street and is currently running the venture with his family. Fans have reported intermittent sightings of Jay’s younger brother Jaehan Park at the cashier. The cafe also hosts various events such as autograph sessions for fans, and even has a turntable booth for occasional DJ performances.
The Korean-American star has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Seattle, reports say, where he worked part-time at a tire store after his expulsion from boy band 2PM, which he debuted with. Park is now the co-CEO of label AOMG alongside rapper Simon D., representing an array of up-and-coming hiphop artists such as Loco, Gray and Ugly Duck. On a 2013 July episode of MBC talk show “Radio Star,” Park revealed that he purchased a house in Seattle for his parents to live in.
Address: 34, Apgujeong-ro 48-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Phone: (02) 545-7417
Lee Changmin (Official website)
Another K-pop cafe owner is Lee Changmin of ballad quartet 2AM and vocalist duo Homme. Named The Min’s, the cafe is also located in the Apgujeong Rodeo area and run by Lee’s parents, though bloggers write that the singer himself makes frequent visits and hands out generously sized beverages. K-pop boy band BTS is a cafe regular; its members post numerous pictures of the spot on their social media handles.
Address: 660-6, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Phone: (02) 512-1452
Poster from actor Yoo Ah-in's multipurpose gallery Studio Concrete (Studio Concrete)
Actor Yoo Ah-in, who has recently been garnering attention for his memorable roles in box office hits “Veteran” and “The Throne,” pursues additional artistic interests in his free time at Studio Concrete.
An open, multipurpose space that acts at once as a gallery, library, atelier and cafe, Studio Concrete was opened by a creative community consisting of Yoo and a handful of the actor’s close friends, including artists Kwon Ba-da, Kwon Chul-hwa and Kim Jae-hoon.
The space hosts various exhibitions, undertakes nonprofit projects and provides services including creative consulting and art design. On the naming, Yoo explained in an interview that he was drawn to the double entendre of the word “concrete,” which could either mean “substantial” or refer to the gray construction material.
Address: Hannam-dong, 162 Hannam-daero, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: (02) 792-4095
G-Dragon (Official Facebook)
Cafe Montsant de Aewol has not yet officially opened. Located on the cliffs of Jejudo Island and overlooking a breathtaking view of the sea, the establishment is still undergoing construction work on one side, while serving coffee in an adjacent makeshift area. Even so, it is already brimming with visitors who have heard that K-pop sensation G-Dragon had partaken in the venture. Referred to among locals and tourists as the “GD Cafe,” Monsant de Aewol is expected to open officially on Oct. 20, according to local reports.
Address: 56-1 Aewolbukseo-gil, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea
Phone: (064) 799-8900, 0091
Additional eateries run by K-pop big names include Big Bang member Seungri’s cafe And Here located in Daehak-ro; Mouse Rabbit, a cafe run by Super Junior’s Yesung and situated near Konkuk University Station in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul; The Street, a highbrow brunch cafe in Cheongdam-dong operated by JYP Entertainment; and Samgeori Butchers, a pork barbecue restaurant owned by YG Entertainment CEO Yang Hyun-suk in the Hongdae area. Actor Yoo Yeon-seok is expected to open a wine lounge named Lua in Itaewon this month.
By Rumy Doo (email@example.com)