K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop

Wanna One’s Daniel Kang: K-pop star and reality TV show survivor who isn’t afraid of hard work

Kang was overall winner of the gruelling South Korean show Produce 101 and joined K-pop group Wanna One. Raised by his mother in Busan, he was into break dancing as a teen and seized a final chance to make the big time

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2019, 3:05pm

Anyone who watches South Korean reality television shows will know that even American Idol and The Voice pale in comparison with its incredibly competitive entertainment.

Produce 101 is not only one of the toughest K-pop idol reality TV contests, it’s the most realistic in the way it depicts the difficult training and often brutal selection process the young hopefuls must go through before they finally emerge as fully fledged K-pop stars.

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Season one of the show produced the girl group AOA, while season two led to the creation of one of the most popular boy groups of 2018: Wanna One. Each of the 11 members “survived” the reality TV show and went on to earn a much-coveted spot in the group.

Among them, the group’s main dancer, supporting vocalist and rapper, Daniel Kang, has emerged a clear winner. We take a look back at his role in the group.

His early life

Born Kang Eui-geon, Daniel grew up in Busan with his mother. A long-term break dancer, he has been taking dance lessons since he was at school.

“Ever since middle school I have been a B-boy. I entered an art school based on my grades, but the tuition was so expensive that I dropped out. My mother raised me alone, so our financial situation was really difficult,” he said during an interview on the Radio Star South Korean talk show.

His role in Wanna One

Although he only turned 21 last year, Kang was already a seasoned K-pop trainee before he joined the group. He was previously a member of a planned boy band named MMO, but the group never made their debut. Instead, he took a chance and competed on Produce 101.

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“I became a part of MMO, but it didn’t seem like my preparations were going well, so I registered for a passport. I was going to run away to Canada. I was then offered a chance to appear on season two of Produce 101. This was my last chance, and it’s how I ended up here today,” he says.

His image

Due to his English name, some fans believe Kang grew up outside South Korea, but he has said he changed his name to Daniel because his given name, Eui-geon, was often difficult for people to pronounce.

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During his time on Produce 101, Kang was referred to as the “Dark Horse”. With more than 1.5 million votes cast in his favour, Kang became the “overall winner” of Produce 101, and was given the main role in his group.

His solo work

Kang only rose to fame in 2017 and has yet to star in any K-dramas or Korean films. But he has acted in his share of advertisements as an ambassador for brands including LAP Korea, Hite Beer and Bokuk, a blender and mixer product.

His lack of solo work hasn’t harmed his popularity; Kang is one of South Korea’s top idols at the moment, with very high brand recognition, according to South Korea’s Korean Corporate Reputation Research Institute.

In his words

“Fans are worried I’m being overworked, but honestly I’ve never been happier. I believe being tired and not being happy are two different things. I’m happy these days because I’m finally getting to do something I’ve always dreamed about,” he told GQ Korea last year.

“I’m only scared of two things: ghosts and bugs. I’m not afraid of taking on the challenge of new things some people find difficult, I’m still learning about the things that can be done, as long as I work hard,” he says.