How many of these top K-celebs have you heard of? Do you know them by face or by name only? Quiz yourself and join the K-pop frenzy. The rankings are based on their search rankings, M/V views, Twitter followers among other metrics. The rule in general was to exclude members of boy groups and girl groups since there is a separate list for them. (See Top 9 Most Popular K-pop Groups of 2018.) However, a few exceptions were made if they are also known for their individual works.
1. G-Dragon (지드래곤) - Singer
Untitled, 2014 M/V (2017)
Kwon Ji-yong (권지용), better known as G-Dragon or GD, is a well-known K-pop star. He is almost as popular as his own band, perhaps even more popular. Not only is GD the main singer and composer of BigBang, but he also releases his own albums. In many ways, GD is what John Lennon was to the Beatles. No wonder people call him the "King of K-pop."
2. BoA (보아) - Singer/Actress
Camo M/V (2017)
It is hard to believe BoA is still in her early 30s after all these years. She began her career in fall of 2000 when she was only 13 years old. Her almost instant success overseas, especially in Japan, has created an endless number of opportunities for other K-pop celebrities since then. Recently, she picked up another career in acting. So don't be surprised when you see BoA in Korean dramas.
3. Psy (싸이) - Singer
Love (feat. Taeyang) M/V (2017)
It has been almost six years since Gangnam Style (강남스타일) was released for the first time on the Internet. The music video on YouTube now has over three billion views and counting. There is no question Psy is the most popular Korean ajeossi in the world. However, it is hard to rank him as the No. 1 K-pop star in 2018. He is still the funniest one, though.
4. IU (아이유) - Singer/Actress
Palette (feat. G-Dragon) M/V (2017)
Perhaps not a global name yet, but IU is currently one of the most popular singers in South Korea. In an era of dancing boy groups and girl groups, IU flies solo and attracts fans purely with her singing. Not a dancer she isn't, but Lee Ji-eun (IU's real name) does compose her own songs and plays the guitar, too. She also makes appearances in Korean dramas from time to time.
5. Gong Yoo (공유) - Actor
Making of Train to Busan (2016)
Gong Yoo has always been well-liked by many people, but his popularity really took off with the 2016 movie called Train to Busan (부산행). Since then, ladies from all over the world are claiming to be Gong Yoo's wife. (Interestingly, his name means "share" in Korean.)
6. Sunmi (선미) - Singer
Gashina M/V (2017)
A long time ago, Wonder Girls was on top of K-pop, thanks to popular members such as Sohee and Sunye. Sunmi, on the other hand, was not a household name. Well, all of that has changed now. Gasina (가시나), Sunmi's single from late 2017, has already gathered near 50 million views on YouTube. As a former member of Wonder Girls, Sunmi decided to break away from the group's previous cute and naive qualities and go wild on her own. And people are finally starting to notice her for once.
7. Suzy (수지) - Singer/Actress
Architecture 101 Trailer (2012)
Who in the K-pop world has a pretty face and can also sing, dance, and act? OK, there is BoA. But is there anyone else? I'm not sure about others, but Suzy can certainly make the list. She was part of a very famous girl group called Miss A until they dissolved in late 2017. (Does anyone remember "Bad Girl, Good Girl" from 2010?) But Suzy will be just fine going forward, especially as an actor. In 2012, Suzy's Architecture 101 (건축학개론) was highly-praised as one of the best Korean films of the year.
8. Hyuna (현아) - Singer
Red M/V (2018)
Hyuna was a member of 4Minute from 2009 to 2016 right after her brief stay with Wonder Girls in 2007. Then she made an appearance in Psy's Gangnam Style, subsequently releasing her own version of the music video. You can credit her success to many different factors, but her dancing is probably what separates her from the competition.
9. Yoo Jae-suk (유재석) - Comedian/Entertainer
Gangnam Style M/V (2012)
You may or may not have heard "MC Yoo," but Mr. Yoo is considered one of the most-liked celebrities in South Korea of all time. He is a member of a very famous TV show called Infinite Challenge (무한도전). Thanks to its popularity and reputation, the show was able to invite special guests such as Paris Hilton, Manny Pacquiao, Jack Black, MC Hammer, Stephen Curry, and Maria Sharapova.
Oh, by the way, did you know that Yoo Jae-suk is the "Yellow Guy" from Psy's Gangnam Style? Well, here is the music video in case you want to watch it again. (His appearance begins at 1:42.)