Even Koreans struggle with Korean names sometimes.
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Korean names may sound unusual to many unfamiliar foreigners, but some of those names even sound unusual to Koreans themselves. These eight idols all have real names that are so unique, even Korean netizens mistake them for stage names.
1. Jennie (BLACKPINK)
It’s not just BLACKPINK Jennie’s impeccable English that has people mistaking her for a foreigner—it’s also her name. Jennie is a pretty uncommon name in Korea, but it is the name she was born with.
Given that Jennie’s family moved to New Zealand when she was young, it seems her parents may have given her the name so she could live comfortably both in Korea and abroad.
2. Jeno (NCT)
On one episode of Mnet’s TMI News, NCT’s Jeno was ranked the #2 idol with the most unusual birth name. The hosts on the show were convinced Jeno was a stage name, but it’s actually his birth name.
While Jeno may sound like a Korean name to foreigners, it sounds foreign to Koreans. It does have a special meaning in Korea though—the Hanja (Chinese) characters his parents chose to spell “Jeno” mean “strong king”.
3. Momo (TWICE)
Given how refreshing TWICE’s Momo is on stage and how sweet she is in real life, the meaning of her name is perfect. In Japanese, Momo’s native language, “momo” means “peach”.
Given how cutesy her name is, many people thought it was just a stage name at first, but she was really born Hirai Momo.
4. Moonbyul (MAMAMOO)
Did you know that “byul” is the Korean word for “star”? Given this meaning and the fact that there’s also a MAMAMOO member with the stage name Solar, it’s no surprise that Koreans mistake Moonbyul for a stage name.
But this celestial moniker is actually Moonbyul’s real name—or, rather, part of it. Her full name is Moon Byulyi—what a perfect name for a true star.
5. Kang Daniel
Have you ever had trouble pronouncing an idol’s name? If so, you’re definitely not alone—even some Koreans struggle to pronounce Korean names. Just take Kang Daniel, for example.
Many Koreans think Daniel is a stage name given its use in English-speaking countries, but it’s actually his real name. The former Wanna One member changed his name to Daniel many years ago because his own family had trouble pronouncing his birth name, Kang Euigeon.
6. Sandara Park
Like Jennie, former 2NE1 member Sandara Park was once often mistaken for a foreigner born outside of Korea. She does speak English after living in the Philippines for several years, but her name is actually Korean.
The vast majority of Koreans have two-syllable names, so it’s no surprise this three-syllable name caught them off guard. Meaning “wise and clever”, the name Sandara was the childhood nickname of 7th century Korean general Kim Yu Shin.
7. Lee Elijah
Elijah is a relatively common name in English speaking countries. So, naturally, many Koreans assumed actress Lee Elijah was a foreigner at first.
However, Lee Elijah (pronounced el-lee-ya in Korean) was born in the Korean city of Changwon and grew up there her whole life. Born into a Protestant Christian family, she was named Elijah after the biblical prophet.
8. Go Soo
Around 15% of the population has a strange gene variation that makes cilantro (also known as coriander) taste like soap to them. Hopefully actor Go Soo isn’t one of them, because his name literally translates to coriander in Korean.
Like Sandara Park, Go Soo doesn’t have a two-syllable first name. His whole first name is simply Soo, but combined, his first and last names spell out the herb. “Gosoo” is also a Korean slang term used to described skilled gamers.