In the entire history of K-Pop, there might be more non-Asian idols that have been in the industry than you’re aware of. Names like KAACHI and Oli London are pretty familiar to fans (and are often criticized and not actually considered idols by many), but there are likely a lot of names on this list you haven’t heard of! While some of the people on this list trained extensively in South Korea and are considered by most to be K-Pop idols despite their ethnicity, there are others that are much more controversial. Keep this in mind as you read through these names; some of the people listed are more self-proclaimed K-Pop idols than anything else!
1. Mickey Romeo (Roo’Ra)
Roo’Ra was a co-ed K-Pop group that debuted in 1994. In 1996, one of their members left to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by African-American rapper Mickey Romeo! He was only in the group for a year since they disbanded in 1997 (though eventually re-formed with the original members in 1999), but it was a huge deal to have a non-Korean idol back then.
2. Edward Brown (@)
There’s not much known about this duo, since they seem to have only released one song, but it was comprised of Edward, a European man, and Anthony Vergantino, who was assumed to be half-Korean. Anthony sang in Korean while Edward rapped in English.
This group debuted in 2006 and was made up of 3 Europeans: Julian Quintart, who was Belgian; and Philippe and Thierry Riviere, who were both French. They only released 2 songs, though Julian pursued a solo career in acting in modeling in Korea afterwards.
4. Kyle Moffat and Marco (ESQ)
ESQ was called the “first international K-Pop group”, and first debuted in 2011 with member Kyle Moffat. He eventually left, though, and was replaced with Marco, who stayed with ESQ until visa issues required him to leave. He was scouted by dance videos, and he still posts on his YouTube channel.
5. Brad Moore (Busker Busker)
Busker Busker was known as Pinky Pinky before Brad joined, and he was added to the group to replace a drummer who left for his military service. They group actually did fairly well in Korea until they disbanded in 2013.
6. Chad Future
Chad started out in an English boy group called Heart to Heart that had K-Pop styling. In 2012, he debuted what he called “A-K-Pop”, or American pop and K-Pop blended together, though many are skeptical about it since he didn’t seem to go to the effort to learn Korean. He somehow managed to collaborate with idols such as VIXX‘s Ravi, NU’EST‘s Aron, and BESTIE‘s U.Ji.
7. Olivia (The Gloss)
The Gloss was the first female K-Pop group to have a non-Korean member, with French member Olivia. Unfortunately, however, they never officially debuted and lasted less than a year together.
8. Alex Reid (BP Rania)
Alex joined Rania in 2015, though the group debuted in 2011 and had been through numerous member changes already. The treatment she received in the group was odd, being dressed and presented in bold ways that made her stand out in photos, but only performing on stage during her parts of songs. She wasn’t even allowed time to learn Korean before debut or provided translators, so she eventually left the group in 2017.
9. EXP Edition
The group consists of four members, only one of whom is half-Asian and the rest are European and American. Their creation was more of an experiment than anything else, to see if a non-Korean boy group could make it in the K-Pop industry. They weren’t received that well when they debuted in 2017, but they have had decent training that shows in their performances.
10. Coco Avenue
This is an African-American duo based in Los Angeles, though their lyrics are in Korean. Not a lot is known about them, but the quality of what they have produced is pretty good!
11. Sofia (O My Jewel)
Sofia was the first Russian K-pop idol to debut, and is a rapper in the group O My Jewel. Unfortunately they only released on single before disbanding in the same year.
Romina is a German soloist promoting in Korea, and after appearing on a KBS Gayo stage in 2014 with Lee Mija’s “Camillia Young Lady”, Miji invited her to go on tour with her. She later released her first mini album in 2018.
13. Oli London
Undoubtedly the most controversial figure on this list, most don’t even consider Oli a K-Pop idol. He’s known more for his apparent obsession with BTS‘s Jimin and his numerous plastic surgeries to look like him. He’s criticized heavily for cultural appropriation and his odd music.
When Lana debuted, many criticized the production and didn’t support her in the industry. She’s still a somewhat controversial figure, though the fact that she’s trained extensively in South Korea and speaks the language fluently is a plus to many.
UHSN isn’t actually a K-Pop group, but a project created by the TV show Foreign School Girl whose goal was to create a group of international K-Pop fans. During the 3 weeks that the chosen fans were given to go to Korea and learn about K-Pop and Korean culture, they created a song called “Popsicle”.
There likely isn’t any fan that hasn’t heard of KAACHI by now, and they’re just about as controversial as Oli London given that only one member is Korean. Their debut was met with a lot of criticism, both for the members themselves as well as the low production quality of the song. Unfortunately, they also received a lot of hate due to untrue rumors that were spread by haters.
17. Miriam and Nia (UnionWave)
UnionWave hasn’t debuted yet, but they’re already getting attention for two of their members being non-Asian (Miriam is Italian and Nia is Spanish). Their company, UnionWave Entertainment, was founded in Switzerland in 2018, but in 2020 they launched a branch in Korea with the goal to create a cultural link between the two countries.
Watch the entire history of all these non-Asian idols here: