5 oldest K-pop idols to debut in the industry

K-pop idols Yoon Ji-sung and Park So-jin (Image via Instagram/@_yoonj1sung_/@ssozi_sojin)
K-pop idols Yoon Ji-sung and Park So-jin (Image via Instagram/@_yoonj1sung_/@ssozi_sojin)

K-pop enthusiasts often find themselves amidst heated discussions when it comes to placing artists in age molds, and the “oldest K-pop idols” debate draws a lot of attention. The growing trend of young artists making their debut at a tender age has blurred the lines of the appropriate age to step into the industry.

Fans have also shown keen interest in the personal lives of their favorites, and age comes to the forefront of that interest quite often. The most recent chaos over Shohei, a SM entertainment rookie, speaks volumes about this tendency. The yet-to-debut rookie has allegedly been facing hate comments for his not-so-usual age (26) to debut.

However, K-pop fans’ quest to discover the oldest K-pop idols debuting in the industry is not new. This inquisitiveness also sparks discourse on social media, leading to false information, hate comments, and rumors. More often than not, the oldest K-pop idols to debut face constant rejections or years of incessant training before finally making their way into the K-pop world, one of the world’s most competitive music industries.

This article curates a list of some of the oldest K-pop idols who have debuted in the K-pop industry to date.

Girl’s Day Sojin, 2NE1’s Park Bom, and more: Five oldest K-pop idols to debut in the buzzing industry

1) g.o.d’s Joon Park - 29 years old

Korean-American singer, actor, and entertainer Joon Park is the oldest K-pop idol to debut. Born in 1969, he made his entry in the music industry as the leader and rapper of g.o.d in 1999, making him 30 years old at the time of debut.

Groove over Dose or g.o.d was made of five members (Joon Park, Yoon Kye-sang, Danny Ahn, Son Ho-young, Kim Tae-woo) originally and was part of what is today known as the first generation of K-pop. The group garnered much attention from the age gap between the leader and the rest of the members, especially Kim Tae-woo. Joon Park and Kim Tae-woo had an age gap of 12 years.

Joon Park and g.o.d recently reunited to hold several concerts in December last year.

2) Baby Vox’s Lee Gai - 29 years old

Another oldest K-pop idol to debut at age 29, in a way, was Lee Gai from Baby Vox, a female first-generation group. The idol was born in 1968. However, adding her to this list is a bit tricky. Also known as Lee Hee-jung, Lee Gai became recognized after debuting with Baby Vox in 1997, but at the time, she and the group’s agency had listed her 10 years younger than her actual age on her profile.

After Baby Vox’s debut, fans noticed that Lee Gai looked more mature than the rest of the group members and speculated if she really was 20 years old, as stated by their agency DR Entertainment (currently DR Music).

However, people eventually found out that Lee Gai had previously debuted in two groups - a trio called Saetorae in 1988 and a duo called TamTam in 1991. She also released two solo albums under the same company in 1993-94. The agency later came clean and apologized for hiding Lee Gai’s real age. After backlash, she was replaced by 15-year-old Yoon Eun-hye, who also featured in the hit 2007 show Coffee Prince.

3) After School’s Kahi - 28 years old

Next up on the list of the oldest k-pop idols to debut is Kahi, aka Park Jin-young, of female idol group After School. She was born in 1980 and debuted with After School as their leader in 2009 under Pledis Entertainment.

While Kahi debuted as an idol at 29 years old, she already had been working as a professional dancer and a singer. She had five years of dancing experience as she was the main dancer for the hit K-hip hop trio DJ Doc (2000), worked as a dancer for SM Entertainment’s BoA, and eventually became a dance teacher to other celebrities. She did a range of activities as part of her solo career, from being a trainer on Produce 101 to acting in the Bonnie & Clyde musical.

4) Wanna One’s Yoon Ji-sung - 26 years old

Yoon Ji-sung was 26 years old when he made his official debut as the leader of the now-disbanded boy band Wanna One in 2017. He rose to fame after his appearance on Produce 101 alongside labelmates Kang Daniel, Joo Jin-woo, Kim Jae-han, and Choi Tae-woong.

As one of the oldest K-pop idols to debut in the industry, Yoon showcased his charisma and talent throughout his career as an idol before Wanna One’s disbandment in 2019. He then cemented his reputation as a soloist and released his first extended play, Aside, on February 20, 2019. His multi-talented persona also landed him the lead role in The Days, a musical.

5) 2NE1’s Park Bom - 25 years old

2NE1’s Park Bom began auditioning for YG Entertainment in 2006. After a strong battle of over 3 years, she finally made her official debut at the age of 25, making her one of the oldest K-pop idols to debut in the history of K-pop.

Not only did she have a grand breakthrough with the success of 2NE1 but her main vocalist status garnered her immense praise as well. However, before making her official debut, she featured in singles by artists like Big Bang, Lexy, and Masta Wu.

The debut age of K-pop idols often fuels debates and discussions on social media. While a section of people unequivocally argue that debuting in the 22-28 age bracket should not be a shocking revelation and that the growing trend of inducting minors into the industry is alarming. They strongly advocate for listing adults who can handle themselves in a competitive space rather than young individuals who make their way in the industry at the cost of their childhood and the carefree life that comes with it.

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Edited by Somava
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