Former Idols Who Work Normal Jobs
The entertainment industry is difficult to thrive in; some idols, despite their impressive skills, decide to take a path away from the industry. These are some examples.
Jisoo (TAHITI) – Pilates Instructor
Jisoo (birth name Shin Ji-su) debuted in 2012 as a vocalist for the girl group TAHITI. For five years, she had a thriving career as an idol and actress, but in 2017, she was diagnosed with depression and a panic disorder. Due to her poor health, she left TAHITI later that year. Currently, she works as a pilates instructor, and is married to a non-celebrity man with a baby on the way.
Yuna (AOA) – Yoga Instructor
Jisoo isn’t the only idol to switch her path to fitness; Yuna (birth name Seo Yu-na) debuted in 2012 as a member of the popular girl group AOA. She was a vocalist and keyboardist for AOA, belonged to the sub-units AOA Black and AOA Cream, and acted in musicals and TV shows. She departed the group in 2021 when her contract with FNC Entertainment expired. Instead of renewing her contract or signing with another agency, she left the industry and now owns her own studio where she teaches yoga and pilates. However, her activities in music haven’t ceased entirely; she occasionally works as a songwriter under the name “E.NA.”
Mina (AOA) – Skincare Store Manager/Businesswoman
Similar to her AOA bandmate Yuna, Mina (birth name Kwon Mina) chose an unexpected path after her contract expired. An ulzzang in high school, she made her idol debut in 2012 as a sub-vocalist, lead rapper and bassist for AOA, and was a member of the sub-unit AOA Black. She also appeared as a MC on variety shows and acted in dramas. Once her contract with FNC Entertainment expired in 2019, she left AOA. For a while, she focused on acting, but is currently on hiatus to concentrate on business. As of January 2022, she works as the manager of a skincare clinic. She has also helped with the planning and marketing of Kaffe 345, a café in Seoul, and plans to open an online shopping mall and launch her own brand “Seoul345” in 2023.
Nakamoto Himeka (Nogizaka46) – Therapist
Nakamoto Himeka, nicknamed “Himetan,” was a first-generation member of Nogizaka46, one of the most popular idol groups in Japan. She was popular with fans for her clear vocals and her adorable and sunny disposition. She loved being an idol, but in 2017 became overwhelmed by an adjustment disorder and an eating disorder, and decided to graduate from Nogizaka46 due to poor heath. Inspired by the counseling sessions she had attended, she earned the necessary certifications in 2018 and currently works as a therapist. She also hosts her own radio show and podcast and in 2021, she published an autobiography titled Thank You, Me: Graduating from Nogizaka46 and Becoming a Psychological Counselor.
Shimada Haruka (AKB48) – Businesswoman
Shimada Haruka was a ninth-generation member of AKB48, Japan’s best-selling idols and one of the best-selling girl groups worldwide. She was Team K’s vice-captain, one of the winners of the Young Jump Gravure Competition, an actress in dramas, stage productions, and films, and made frequent appearances on variety shows, where her humor and wit made her an ideal guest. After eight years as an idol, she graduated in 2017 and left the entertainment industry. In 2021, she established her own company, Dct Inc., which helps prepare former idols to enter the workforce. She also established Clover Academy, which teaches classes on performing arts and child care to young people aiming to enter the entertainment industry, so that they’ll have a back-up career if they retire.
Takeuchi Akari (ANGERME) – Calligraphy Teacher
Takeuchi Akari was part of Hello! Project since 2008 and was part of the units Hello Pro Egg, Shin Minimoni, Harvest, and ANGERME. She was ANGERME’s longest lasting member, and their leader from 2019-2023. On June 21, 2023, she graduated to focus on calligraphy. She currently is licensed to teach calligraphy to younger students, and is aiming to be certified at the 5th rank (godan) so she can teach students of any age.
Xu Bingchao (Desert5, Idol Producer contestant) – Food Stand Owner
Xu Bingchao began his career in 2017 as a model, winning Men’s Uno male model contest only a few months later. He has since modeled for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior Men, and Zara. In 2019, he participated in the second season of Idol Producer (a.k.a Youth With You) and, ranked 26th overall, earning him a spot in the temporary unit Desert5. Since then, he released two albums and appeared in multiple dramas, before vanishing for sixth months. In March 2023, a fan discovered him on the streets of Hangzhou selling steamed buns. Bingchao returned to social media to confirm this, and invited fans to come to his stall to chat, try his buns, and listen to him sing while he worked. However, he is still signed to Ocean Butterflies Music, so future works aren’t entirely out of the question.
Lee So-eun (Solo) – Lawyer
Although not an idol, ballad singer Lee So-eun has a similar story. She was signed to Dream Factory when she was sixteen and went on to release four successful albums. Despite her success in the industry, she craved a different lifestyle, and decided to step away from music and enter law school. She currently works as a lawyer in New York and has written two books about her experiences.
Kyne (Oh Byung-jin) (5TION) – Businessman
Kyne (birth name Oh Byung-jin) was a founding member of 5TION. After 5TION disbanded in 2006, he decided to pursue business, and became the CEO of a shopping mall selling men’s clothing, with the help of actors Jung Woo Sung and Lee Jung Jae. He later began selling kitchenware, which was a massive success. He rejoined 5TION in 2012, but left again in 2014, and continues to focus on his businesses.
Mijung (O-24) – Reporter, English Teacher
Mijung (birth name Ahn Mi-jung) made her idol debut in 1998 as a rapper and vocalist for the girls’ hip-hop group O-24. With her beauty and elegant personality, she was arguably the most popular with fans out of the group. O-24 released two albums, but struggled with sales and unpopularity and disbanded after only two years. Afterwards, Mijung became a reporter for SBS, then later an English teacher. Although O-24 struggled in its day, it’s remembered fondly now, and is credited as the first hip-hop group in K-Pop girl group history.
Uchida Mayumi (AKB48) – Restaurant Owner
Uchida Mayumi was a 5th generation member of AKB48, active from 2007-2015. She was known for her lively performances and comedic skills. She was also the first winner of the Janken Tournament and made 805 total appearances at the AKB48 Theatre. After her graduation, she opened her own yakiniku restaurant “Yakiniku IWA” in Tokyo, where she frequently employs former idols. Although it’s hit its rough patches, her business is still thriving to this day, and earns a high amount of praise from its patrons.
Umezawa Mayuka (Baito AKB) – Restaurant Owner
Surprisingly, Mayumi isn’t AKB’s only idol-turned-restaurant-owner. Umezawa Mayuka was a member of Baito AKB during its whole run from 2014-2015. Baito AKB was a unit of part-time idols who rehearsed, performed, and attended events alongside the full-time members. Even while she was an idol, Mayuka was known for her love of ramen, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when, in 2017, she opened her own restaurant “Yagumo” in Tokyo. She currently manages four different stores, and despite the challenges, she loves her work and doesn’t regret ceasing idol activities.
Jiyong (SechsKies) – Businessman
Jiyong (birth name Ko Ji-yong) was a member of SechsKies, a boy band which began in 1997. He is a skilled singer and had many dedicated fans, but when SechsKies disbanded in 2000, he left the industry. For years, little information about him was available, and when a cable show tried to contact him for an interview in 2009, he declined, stating that he was retired and would stay away from entertainment. In 2014, he began his own business, Additive, and was its internal director until 2018. When SechsKies reunited in 2016, he didn’t rejoin. However, from 2017-2019, him and his son Seung-jae appeared on the reality show The Return of Superman. Although he is still inactive in the industry, he occasionally does appearances on variety shows.
Sunghee (KARA) – Voice Coach
Sunghee (birth name Kim Sung-hee) debuted on March 29, 2007, as a member of the girl group KARA. After less than a year with the group, she withdrew and ended her contract with DSP Media due to pressure from her parents to focus on schoolwork. Although no longer in the entertainment industry, she continues puts her incredible vocal skills to good work as a voice coach.
Azi (CHI CHI) – Real Estate Agent
Azi (birth name Baek Seo-yul), was a vocalist, lead rapper, and lead dancer for CHI CHI. After CHI CHI disbanded in 2013, she struggled to find other work in entertainment, and eventually decided to get a realtor’s license. In 2020, she appeared on the fourth episode of I Can See Your Voice 7 where she sang a duet with Apink (who debuted the same year she did) and discussed her job in real estate, mentioning that she missed being onstage.
Sugisaki Nene (Sakura Gakuin) – Nurse
Sugisaki Nene had a solid career as a talent; she was signed onto Amuse Inc. after winning the Smile Award at the 2007 Ciao Audition, and in 2010 she became a first-generation member of the idol group Sakura Gakuin and its sub-units Twinklestars, sleepiece, Mini-Pati, and Pastel Wind. In the end, she decided the industry wasn’t for her, and ended her contract with Amuse after graduating from SG in 2013. In 2021, she revealed in a blog post that she passed the examination and is currently working her dream job as a nurse, a dream she mentioned in her days at Sakura Gakuin.
Sato Natsuki (AKB48) – Manicurist
Sato Natsuki, nicknamed Nacchi, was active in entertainment from 2006-2012 as a second-generation member of AKB48. Aside from idol activies, she appeared as an actress in dramas, movies, and stage productions, frequently appeared on variety shows, and was a radio personality. She was also good friends with KARA’s Hara. After graduating from AKB48 and ending her contract, she opened a nail salon named “Cee My Nail,” and later a jewelery brand, “Cee My Jewelry.”
Made by fairymetal
Special thanks to sunniejunnie, sanasideup, luvitculture, Foreverkpop__, and Fox.
Are there any idols left off this list? Feel free to let us know in the comments! 🙂