From Kris Wu to Lu Han: 5 millennial Chinese celebrities who found fame through K-pop

Clockwise from left: Luhan, Han Geng, Kris Wu, Huang Zitao. Centre: Song Yuqi

Thanks to its killer melodies and mesmerising choreography, K-pop has been receiving a lot of attention from millennials all over the world. With various K-pop boy bands, girl bands and albums climbing in the Billboard charts in the past year alone, here are five Chinese celebrities who found fame after training in South Korea.

Luhan (鹿晗)


Beijing native Luhan, 29, has built himself quite a reputation. The professional actor and singer first moved to South Korea as an exchange student – and he earned a certificate from the Korean Language School of Yonsei University. He enrolled in applied music at the Seoul Institute of the Arts in 2009 to explore his passion.

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Following an unsuccessful audition with JYP Entertainment in China in 2008, a chance encounter while out shopping in Myeongdong in 2010 led to Luhan auditioning for a different Korean music studio. He was successful and became a candidate training with SM Entertainment – the first company in Korean entertainment to enter foreign markets.

After two years of training, Luhan was recruited in 2012 as a member of a Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, where he debuted as a singer and dancer. While he severed his ties with the studio in 2016 – his career and fan base are still going strong, and he has acted in movies and television series such as The Great Wall (2016), Sweet Combat (2018) and Shanghai Fortress (2019).

Kris Wu (吴亦凡)


Kris Wu, 29, is now known as a Chinese-Canadian actor, singer and songwriter, originally from Guangzhou. During his younger years, he flitted between Vancouver, Canada, and China – where he returned briefly to attend middle school. Wu was recruited to join SM Entertainment through their global auditions at the age of 17, and relocated to South Korea in 2008.

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In 2012, Kris Wu made his debut in the Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, and then in the subgroup EXO-M as lead and main rapper during the China Shenzhen Music Awards Ceremony. Despite the impressive start, Wu parted ways with SM Entertainment to pursue his own path. His time in the limelight did not end there. He has expanded his repertoire in film and music with appearances in films such as Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (2017), xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017); served as a judge on The Rap of China (2018); and co-produced the hit song Deserve with American rapper Travis Scott.

In 2018, Wu released his first album, “Antares”, with Universal Music Group which debuted at No. 100 on the Billboard 200 albums charts.

Song Yuqi (宋雨琦)


Watching Song Yuqi’s career growth has been impressive. The 19-year-old Beijinger studied performing arts from a young age, learning street dance and Dai dance – a type of Chinese folk dancing – and often visited South Korea to take part in talent shows every year.

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In 2015, Song Yuqi participated in another Korean talent show where she was spotted and selected by CUBE Entertainment to become a trainee. Yuqi debuted as a member of (G) I-DLE and rose to fame with their first album “I Am”. She has also appeared as resident guest for the seventh season of the sports reality TV show, Keep Running.

Huang Zitao (黄子韬)


The 26-year-old from Qingdao, in Shandong province is a professional pop singer, actor and presenter. He took part in martial arts competitions from a young age before moving into the performing arts.

However, it wasn’t until 2010, when he participated in an MBC Star Audition – a Korean music programme looking for talent in China – that he found his feet, and joined SM Entertainment as a trainee in South Korea. Huang impressed, spending less than a year as a trainee before formally joining EXO as its third member, Tao, in 2011.

In June 2015, Huang set up a Chinese agency Z.Tao Studio. On August 24, Huang filed a lawsuit against EM Entertainment to terminate his contract, claiming the 10-year contract had unjust terms and lacked freedom. The Supreme Court dismissed Huang’s appeal in March 2018, but in China, courts dismissed a lawsuit filed by SM Entertainment against Huang’s solo activities.

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Huang’s mini-album “TAO” sold over 600,000 copies within its first week of release, and he has starred in movies Railroad Tigers (2016), Edge of Innocence (2017), TV series A Chinese Odyssey: Love You a Million Years (2017), and hosted and produced Produce 101 China (2018), a talent show in search of 11 talented artists to form a new C-pop girl group.

Han Geng (韩庚)


Han Geng is extremely versatile – and depending on the situation can be an actor, singer, dancer, businessman or a racing driver. The 35-year-old Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang native, who is often recognised for his appearance in Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), started his career by training in South Korea.

After taking part in an SM Entertainment event for their China audition castings, he was chosen to become a trainee and relocated to Korea to begin his training.

After two years of working on his singing, dancing and acting, he became the only Chinese member of Super Junior – a South Korean boy band that debuted on the Korean SBS television programme – in 2005 with 13 members. Han was one of the original members, and the group achieved much international interest with their debut album, “Twins” (2005). After three years with Super Junior, he joined subgroup Super Junior-M as captain, before leaving SM Entertainment in 2009 and returning to China.

Han has since appeared on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, earned his racing licence in Britain which enabling him to race in the China GT Championship; starred in Transformers: Age of Extinction, Looking for Rohmer (2018), and the upcoming release Dynasty Warriors.

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South Korea has provided a springboard for numerous Chinese performers hoping to make a career for themselves in the music industry