Typos and Favorite Animals: Why Idols Change Their Names

Recently, 2PM’s main vocalist and budding producer Jun.K announced via his Twitter that he would be legally changing his name from Junsu to Minjun because of a family matter and that he would now be using his producer name Jun.K as his official stage name. Although I’m glad that I will no longer have to ask if someone is talking about JYJ’s Kim Junsu or 2PM’s Kim Junsu, the announcement was quite sudden, and it will take some getting used to. Naturally, even with the lack of information and Minjun’s desire to keep it as a private and personal matter, fans immediately took to the blogosphere and speculated about what could prompt such a sudden change.


The most common guess was that his name change was related to his father’s death earlier this year, one possibility being that Minjun may be some sort of homage to his late father, whose name remains unknown to the public. Some also believe that he changed his name for auspicious reasons, citing a Buddhist belief that a person’s name can be an indicator of his fate. Therefore, if someone has encountered a lot of misfortune, he may change his name in order to attain a better future.

In light of this news, I thought I’d do some research into other K-Pop idols who have changed their names. After all, it isn’t uncommon for idols and actors to adopt stage names. Most of the time, fans can easily pick up on which names are fake (I doubt a Korean parent would name their child Zelo), and they will often refer to such celebrities with their real birth names, especially if the idol’s friends and group members call them by that name (Junhong-ah~). However, I have found a few surprises out there, so here are some idols that you may or may not have known had their names changed and the different reasons behind them.

Go Eun Ah – She’s Related to Who?

20121029_theoneshots_goeunahI knew from the get-go that Mir had to be a stage name. I quickly learned his real name after watching a few MBLAQ variety show appearances and hearing his hyungs call him Bang Cheol Yong. Besides being slightly bullied for being the wild maknae that he is, another common topic that came up in variety shows was Mir’s older sister. Often mentioned along with the fact that fellow member Thunder is 2NE1’s Sandara Park’s younger brother, it was revealed that actress Go Eun Ah is Mir’s noona. Wait a second. GO Eun Ah is BANG Cheol Yong’s older sister? Hmm, maybe there was a remarriage in the family? It turns out that it isn’t just singers who use stage names but many Korean actors and actresses use them as well. Go Eun Ah was born as Bang Hyo Jin, but when she entered the industry, her company’s CEO had a thing for actresses Go So Young and Shim Eun Ha. As a result, he combined their names together into Go Eun Ha. Unfortunately, a reporter misspelled her name in a story as Go Eun Ah, and the rest is history. Who knew a typo could determine a celebrity’s name for the rest of their career?
[divider_thin] Kim Jaejoong – Legal Matters

20121029_theoneshots_jyj_JaejoongOther than the added nicknames like U-Know and Xiah, the members of TVXQ were all known by their birth names. Or so I thought. In 2006, it was revealed that Hero Jaejoong was adopted and that his real name was actually Han Jaejun after a Mr. Han came forth with a lawsuit, claiming custody over his son. In a press release responding to the scandal, Jaejoong stated that he had actually known about his adoption for many years and had been in contact with his biological mother. He hoped to maintain good relationships with both his adoptive and biological parents while declaring that he wished to officially live as Kim Jaejoong from then on, the name given to him by his adoptive parents. Therefore, Jaejoong isn’t technically a stage name, but with the drama that came out of this, I just had to mention it.
[divider_thin] Tiffany Hwang (Hwang Miyoung) – Sorry, Your Name is Already Taken

20121029_theoneshots_snsd_tiffanyEnglish names are always tricky since they can easily be used as stage names for a Korean idol with no English background whatsoever (i.e. VIXX’s Ken and Leo). However, seeing as Tiffany of SNSD has an American upbringing, one would expect Tiffany to be her real name. Well, it turns out that Tiffany is, in fact, Stephanie. At the time that Tiffany entered SM Entertainment, there was an active group within the company called CSJH who had a member also named Stephanie. To avoid confusion when she debuted, she chose her stage name to be Tiffany. The reason? Because her mother (who unfortunately passed away two years before Tiffany entered the company) had wanted to name her Tiffany to begin with, but her father had gone with Stephanie. Aww how sweet!
[divider_thin] Im Siwan – But It Sounds Korean…

20121029_theoneshots_zea_siwanKorean stage names are definitely the hardest to figure out. As a non-Korean speaker, how am I supposed to know which names sound like real Korean names? I was convinced for quite some time that Taeyang was the Big Bang member’s real name, and had I not found out that his name is in fact Youngbae, I would still remain convinced that Taeyang was not a stage name, especially after the debut of CHAOS member Park Taeyang. I thought the same of ZE:A’s cutie, Im Siwan. Siwan sounds close enough to Siwon of Super Junior, so it must be a Korean name, right? Wrong. Im Siwan’s real name is Im Woongjae. He chose Siwan himself after fellow member Junhyung looked up the English word for one of Woongjae’s favorite animals, the swan. In his eyes, a swan may look graceful from its outer appearance, but in reality, it is working real hard with its legs in the water. This idea of secretly working hard is what attracted Siwan to swans, and it is what inspired him to choose Siwan as his stage name. I guess his name isn’t so Korean after all.
[divider_thin] Kris Wu (Wu Yi Fan) – The Mystery Man

20121029_theoneshots_exom_krisPerhaps the most surprising discovery of them all is EXO-M’s leader Kris. Considering Kris’ Canadian background, I assumed from day one that Kris was, in fact, his given English name. Plus, being a member of EXO-M that is made up of four Chinese members, fans often call the members by their Chinese names. In Kris’ case, you will often hear “Wu Yi Fan” chanted amongst the crowd of fangirls, and fangirls know their stuff. However, it seems that Kris Wu was once Kevin Li, Chinese name Li Jia Heng. No official statement has been made regarding the name change, but it’s pretty much accepted as fact that a name change did occur. Of course, rumors are flying left and right as to why Kris not only changed his last name but his first name as well, both in English and Chinese. The most common explanation found in Chinese forums is that his parents divorced, and his mother had him change his last name to her maiden name. In that process, his Chinese name also changed to Wu Fan, and when he moved to Canada, he was given the English name Kris. I’m not sure how the Yi got added to his Chinese name, and I’m not sure whether we can classify Kris as a stage name. However, seeing as his name change remains hush-hush, fans have dropped the subject and continue to chant “Kris” and “Wu Yi Fan” at all events. As long as he doesn’t get confused, I’m cool with calling him whatever he wants. Although I do wonder what would happen if I called him Li Jia Heng…

These are just a few examples of some of the more interesting name changes I have found in K-Pop. Which idol names took you by surprise?

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(Jun.K’s Twitter, TV Daily, Sports KhanThe Daily Focus, Baidu)

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    • http://www.facebook.com/zimra.giri Zimra Sarah

      Siwan is from Swan? That’s incredibly endearing, the thought of grace being a result of hard work. I suppose Duck and Goose didn’t sound or look as nice or maybe they just didn’t work as hard? 😉 Siwan’s name was the only one that I was surprised at, but I am a tiny bit curious about Kris’ many names. I’ve (really really randomly) thought about changing my own name, but in the end I’d like to keep my name given by the parents who raised me, despite it’s insane commonality. :)

    • http://twitter.com/Doub861215 D

      There are also 4 stories like that on Shinhwa alone. Two with american names and 2 with Korean sounding names.

      Most people seem to think Eric and Andy are actually their real names (because the grew up in the US) but turns out they never changed their real names and Eric’s real name is Mun Chong Hyok, while Andy’s is Lee Sun Ho; now, Eric’s name in the US was obviously Eric, but Andy’s was Jason… Where does Andy come from? No idea, probably from Lee Soo Man since he liked to change SME’s idols’ names a lot back then, even if to other Korean-sounding names.
      Turns out Jun Jin’s real name is Park Choong Jae and he’s known for being Charlie Park’s son (who became famous as a singer not so long ago, but had been a known instrumentalist for years), so anyone would think he’d change the name because of his dad, right? No, Jun Jin was given to him by LSM and it means “to move forward” a weird meaning on its own, but not when you combine it with Shin Hye Sung… which means comet. Back in 1998 their first salute-chant thing ended with a play on the names making it sound something like “moving forward like a comet comes the legend” (since shinhwa means legend of myth)

      So, yeah, there’s that ONLY on Shinhwa.

      By the way, Hye Sung’s real name is Jung Pil Kyo ad he’s always teased by the members because he doesn’t like it.