10 Years With IU: From Humble Beginnings to Unstoppable Success

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It has been 10 Years of amazing journey for singer-actress IU, who continuously expands her limitless abilities as an artist.

IU or Lee Ji Eun in real life, is one of Korea’s most successful and cherished solo artist in the K-Pop industry. But ten years to her stardom comes a bittersweet story of success. 


The Girl Who Dreams

Dubbed as “Korea’s little sister”, the soulful singer worked herself hard coming from an underprivileged background. Due to his family’s financial status that gone sour, she and her younger brother used to lived with their grandmother and cousins in a one-bedroom place for a year.

Despite her family’s poor condition, IU was able to find a silver lining to her situation, and goals to become a successful singer. She tried her luck at JYP Entertainment but failed, and was also scammed by fake entertainment agencies. 

After being rejected numerous times, she finally signed up with LOEN Entertainment, now known as kakaoM. In 2007, she debuted at a tender age of 15 after being a trainee for only 10 months. 

Exploring Her Musicality

With her first single “Lost Child”, IU received lukewarm response and her album Lost and Found did not do well commercially. 

Although her first extended play failed, she was still able to launch her first studio album Growing Up. With lead single “Boo”, she dazzled the crowd on Music Bank with her transformation projecting a more youthful image. 

She continued to awe the crowd and showed her versatility when she guested at Yoo Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook and performed  her acoustic version of Girls’ Generation’s “Gee”, Super Junior’s “Sorry, Sorry”, and Big Bang’s “Lies” which gained massive interest online. 

Her mainstream popularity catapulted in 2010 as she released her songs “Nagging”, a duet with 2PM’s Lim Seulong. But it was her smash hit track “Good Day”, that paved the way to her stardom.

Lee Ji Eun

IU continues to work on her artistry, eventually venturing to acting roles in television.  She joined the cast of variety show Heroes and landed her first acting stint in Dream High, an acclaimed youth drama with Kim Soo Hyun, Bae Suzy and 2PM’s Taecyeon.

She was the cute and chubby Kim Pil Sook,who dreams of becoming a singer. She admitted that she was lacking and not yet ready for acting, but she was able to win over her confidence when she found out that it will require for her to sing.

Her single “Someday”, which was also the OST for Dream High, made it’s way to number one spot on Gaon Digital Chart and is one of her best-selling single for a soundtrack.


(IU as Kim Pil Sook on KBS2’s Dream High)

After Dream High, she proceeds to doing various projects. She was able to do an opening act for her favorite singer Corinne Bailey Rae’s, when the latter staged a concert in Seoul, as well as, appearing on other variety shows and music videos.

She achieved another milestone to her career when she wrote her own single “Hold My Hand”. The song was used for the rom-com drama The Greatest Love, which also starred her friend, Yoo In Na. Although she admitted that she had a difficult time writing the song, it still reached the number two spot in Gaon Digital Chart.

She went on with her musical career releasing three more albums. Her albums Real and Last Fantasy, paved the way to her first solo concert tours in South Korea titled Real Fantasy. It also opened opportunities for her in Japan.

To celebrate her 20th birthday, IU released another mini album,  Spring of a Twenty Year Old, with her self-composed single “Peach”.

Shortly two years after the release of Last Fantasy, she came out with her third studio album Modern Times which showcased more mature sound and musical range for IU.


(Photo from KBS2)

Two years after her first television drama role, she continued to embark on improving her acting skills and landed her first lead role in the drama, You’re the Best, Lee Soon-shin. The audience noticed her improvement in acting and gained praises from her co-stars. The series also achieved top-rating viewership during its run.

Another two years later, she reunited with her Dream High co-star Kim Soo Hyun and joined top stars  Cha Tae Hyun, and Gong Hyo Jin in the KBS hybrid drama-variety production, The Producers.

Her role as Cindy, a diva-like singer, met stable viewers’ response, but in the last episode, it has turned around the viewership rating notching 17.7% score.

She returned to television in 2016, portraying the role of Hae Soo in the period drama — MoonLovers: Scarlet Heart RyeoDespite the low ratings received in South Korea, it reached massive success overseas.


(Photo from SBS)

She finally made her comeback in the music industry with her self-produced album Palette in 2017. Her single with the same title “Palette” was collaborated with K-Pop royalty, G-Dragon.

Following her latest album, she joined the variety show Hyori’s Homestay and showed her true self as the clumsy but charming part-timer.

In March 2018, she starred as Lee Ji An in the drama My Mister alongside Lee Sun Kyun. Her remarkable portrayal earned her the Best Actress award at 6th APAN Star Awards.

In October, aside from her announcement of her 10th year anniversary concert series, she released an anniversary gift track for her fans, the chart-topping “Bbi bbi”.

Giving Back From The Blessings She Received

With her sweet package as the endearing “nation’s little sister”, she has been setting an example as a role model. Becoming an ambassador for Korea’s National Police Agency, she was promoted as an honorary senior police officer for a two-year term. 

Known for her generous heart, IU consistently engage to various volunteer activities. She has also donated US$88,000 for Green Umbrella Children’s Fund that aids deprived children. In 2016, she put up her own scholarship program titled “IU Scholarship” at her Alma mater. 

She has been living to her stage name IU,  derived from “I and You” , as she creates beautiful connections with people through her music and artistry.


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