South Korean singer, songwriter and actor, Lee Ji-eun, aka IU, became a household name in the country after her debut in 2008. From ruling the music industry to sweeping accolades for her multiple acting chops, IU has established herself as one of the most successful Korean stars of the era. Here we take an up-close and personal look at K-pop idol IU and her life beyond the camera.
IU, who has been included in Forbes Korea‘s Power Celebrity 40 list for five consecutive years, from 2012 to 2016, has delivered some of the most popular K-pop songs over the years. Some of her hit tracks include “Strawberry Moon”, “Lilac”, “eight”, “Celebrity”, “Boo” and “Hey (Rock Ver.)”.
Additionally, her collaboration with BTS member Suga for “People Pt.2”, earned her a #1 on the Billboard Digital Song Sales in 2023. Meanwhile, her 2024 single “Love Wins All” broke records on Korean music charts by debuting at #1 on Melon — a feat only achieved by BTS with their track “Yet to Come.”
IU also has to her credit an array of hit Korean movies and TV shows. These include Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016), My Mister (2018), Hotel Del Luna (2019), Shades of the Heart (2021) and Broker (2022).
Her April 2023 release Dream became the first Korean movie to top the box office within 50 days of its release since The Devil’s Deal in March 2023, according to the Korean Film Council. Not to forget her most-awaited acting project When Life Gives You Tangerines, co-starring Korean heartthrob Park Bo-gum. The K-drama is all set to arrive on Netflix in 2024.
Interesting facts to know about popular South Korean singer IU
A Taurus born in the Year of the Rooster
South Korean singer IU was born on 16 May 1993. She is a Taurus and, according to the Chinese zodiac, she was born in the Year of the Rooster.
The rooster occupies the 10th position in the Chinese zodiac, and people belonging to this year are deemed loyal, confident, hardworking, organised and passionate. They are also owners of great wealth.
IU was born in Seoul
Born Lee Ji-eun to parents Lee Jin-kook and Kim Mi-sam, IU belongs to the Jeonju Yi clan — the same clan as the former House of Yi which ruled the Joseon dynasty and the Korean Empire. She grew up in Songjeong-dong, Seoul, South Korea.
She graduated from Dongduk Girls’ High School in 2012.
IU decided to drop out of her post-secondary education to focus on her singing career.
She had a difficult childhood
IU’s is a rags-to-riches story to tell. The K-pop idol has shared in various interviews that as her parents were mostly away working, IU and her younger brother had to live with her grandmother in a dilapidated room. Recalling her bygone days, IU has even mentioned that she was so used to surviving amid roaches during her elementary school that she could kill one with her bare hands.
IU was conned by fake agencies before debut
Did you know K-pop idol IU was a victim of fraud like her character Lee Soon-shin from the hit 2013 K-drama You’re the Best?
In a May 2013 guest appearance on the Korean variety show Happy Together, IU revealed that she had fallen victim to fake entertainment companies while hustling to debut as a South Korean singer.
IU said, “Before I made my debut, I was actually scammed on multiple occasions. Typically, when a company asks for money, it’s a clear red flag that they’re trying to deceive you. Unfortunately, I fell prey to the tactics of three such companies before I realised what was happening. These companies could demand as much as 3 million won. If you do succumb to their high fees, they often offer you only minor roles or extra work. I ended up losing a significant amount of money to these fraudulent individuals.”
She faced multiple rejections
Every journey is challenging and even a star singer like IU had to face rejections in the entertainment industry.
One of the most successful South Korean singers of the century, IU was turned down by big entertainment companies like JYP Entertainment, around 20 times as a trainee.
At the age of 14, she finally signed with LOEN Entertainment.
Debut in music
IU was 15 years old when she debuted with her single “Lost Child” in the K-music program M Countdown on 18 September 2008.
“Lost Child” is the lead single from her first album Lost and Found, an extended play (EP) that was released on 24 September 2008. The album earned her the “Rookie of the Month” award by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in November 2008.
Her stage name
The name IU is derived from the phrase “I and You,” symbolising the fact that people can become one through music.
IU can play multiple instruments
South Korean star IU believes that learning multiple instruments can have a great impact on a singer. She can play the piano, flute, drums, electric guitar and acoustic guitar.
Her love for acting
IU was interested in the Korean entertainment industry from a young age and even attended acting classes for the same, in her junior years in school.
At the age of 14, IU performed in front of a huge gathering for her school’s sports competition, and since then, never looked back.
Singer IU made her acting debut in 2011 with the K-drama series Dream High, starring acclaimed South Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun. This was followed by her impressive performance in the 2015 K-drama The Producers, which made IU one of the nation’s most loved actors.
IU is multilingual
In addition to her native Korean, IU can speak English and Japanese. In multiple interviews, live concerts and live streams, the singer is seen flaunting her language skills.
Her popular three-step skincare routine
The Korean singer has revealed in multiple interviews that the skincare products she relies on are sunscreen, toner and facial oil.
She has a special love for facial oils. According to IU, two drops of facial oil can make her face look radiant in no time.
IU is obsessed with her pet dog
K-pop idol IU is the owner of a cute white Maltese dog named Bbugu. The singer raised the celebrity pet since Bbugu was a pup. She is often seen spoiling her paw-some canine with luxury gifts. Bbugu also accompanies IU to her sets and brand shoots.
The IU and BTS V connection
With the release of IU’s new music video “Love Wins All” featuring V of BTS, the celebrity duo has become the talk of the town.
While this was IU and V’s first collaboration, fans might be surprised to know that the Korean stars have known each other since 2013. The truth about their long-term friendship was first revealed by V during the September 2023 broadcast of the “IU’s Palette” show. The BTS singer said that it was not his first encounter with IU and that they often bond over music.
The South Korean singers first met during a 2013 Music Bank show where V was a special MC along with bandmate Jungkook, and IU was a nominee for her hit song “Red Shoes.”
IU is dating South Korean actor Lee Jong-suk
In one of their big dating reveals K-media outlet Dispatch announced K-pop idol IU and actor Lee as their 2023 New Year couple on 31 December 2022. They further reported that IU and Lee have been in a relationship for four months.
Following this, the Korean celebrity couple’s agencies released individual official statements confirming the dating news.
Lee’s agency High Zium Studio congratulated the couple and asked their fans to “cheer them on so that they can continue their beautiful relationship.”
Consequently, IU‘s agency EDAM Entertainment shared, “Lee Jong-Suk and IU have recently progressed from close colleagues into a relationship.”
Later, both IU and Lee Jong-suk shared their love story by posting personal letters on their official fan cafes.
IU, the real estate mogul
K-pop idol IU is the owner of a lavish penthouse worth USD 11.7 million in Eterno Cheongdam, Seoul.
According to Koreaboo, she also bought a studio in Gyeonggi-do for about USD 3.62 million. The “Lilac” singer also owns residences in Yangpyeong-gun, Bangbae and Gwacheon.
Owner of a staggering net worth
One of the richest K-pop idols, IU has a net worth of around USD 40-45 million, as of January 2024.
Her opulent wealth comes massively from album sales, music streams, acting projects, sold-out concerts, ads and multiple noteworthy brand endorsements.
(Hero and featured image: Courtesy IU/Instagram)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– Who is the BF of IU?
IU is dating South Korean actor Lee Jong-suk.
– Why is she called IU?
The South Korean singer’s stage name is IU, symbolising the phrase ‘you and I’.
– Is Lee Jong-suk married to IU?
Lee Jong-suk is dating IU. They are yet to get married.