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Posted : 2013-05-19 19:18
Updated : 2013-05-19 19:18

Celebrities born with silver spoons

Singer Eun Ji-won, left, applauds along with President Park Geun-hye, his aunt, during a street campaign last December. / Korea Times file


Children of elite families become entertainers amid fading Confucian values



Choi Si-won of K-pop group Super Junior
Actor Yun Tae-young
Miss Korea-turned-actress Lee Honey
Top entertainers are currently being treated as "national heroes." President Park Geun-hye recently touted Psy's rise in the global arena as a model case to explain her economic growth policies centered on creativity.

Yet it was only two or so decades ago when regardless of their popularity they were treated like "clowns" and called "ttan-tta-ra," a Korean term poking fun at entertainers.

Such a sentiment stemmed from the now faltering Confucianism which perceived jobs entertaining people as indecent. The philosophy imported from China killed the dream of many children who wished to grow up as musicians, dancers or actors. There are some entertainers who pursued their dream despite family opposition, but most of them kept their family background a secret.

This has changed entirely in recent years with the steep rise of entertainers in terms of social influence and profitability. Perhaps no family feels ashamed of having an entertainer as a member; rather it might be a great source of pride with huge potential to bolster their profile.

The trend has even galvanized the country's rich and powerful, who normally react passively to social change of any sort.

Reflecting the shift is an increasing number of entertainers born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They are never hesitant to speak about their family and some use it to promote themselves.

A case in point is actor Yun Tae-young. The 39-year-old is the only son of Yun Jong-yong, former vice chairman of Samsung Electronics. Currently the senior Yoon is chairman of the Presidential Council on Intellectual Property. In 2009, the 69-year-old was ranked second among the world's best performing chief executives officers by the Harvard Business Review. He trailed only Apple's founder Steve Jobs on the list.

According to news reports, the senior Yun wanted his son to work as a fund manager in the United States after graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University. But he caved in to the son who tenaciously tried to become actor. The junior Yun made his debut in 1996 in a TV drama; and married actress Lim Yoo-jin the following year. His wedding ceremony was attended by dozens of tycoons and politicians, including then presidential hopeful Lee Myung-bak.

Actor Kim Jong-min, left, whose stage name is Go Yoon, casts a ballot with his father Kim Moo-sung, a five-term lawmaker and right-hand man of President Park Geun -hye, at a polling station last month.


He has reportedly inherited massive wealth — approximately 45 billion won ($40.2 million) — from his father.


Singer Choi Si-won of boy band Super Junior is another entertainer with a rich family. His father Choi is former chief executive officer of the country's leading maker of baby care products. The senior Choi currently works as a business professor at Sungkonghoe University.

Actor Lee Kwang-hoon, whose stage name is Phillip Lee, is the child of another business bigwig. His father Simon S. Lee is chairman of STG Inc., a government contracting firm headquartered in Virginia. The firm employs more than 1,300 workers and takes in over $220 million in annual revenue. The junior Lee earned a bachelor's degree from Boston University and a master's degree from George Washington University.

Actor Lee Seo-jin was born into a family that wielded big influence in the country's financial services sector. His grandfather managed several major banks, while his father was chairman of a savings bank. The 42-year-old actor graduated from New York University with a bachelor's degree in business. It's reported that he faced fierce opposition from his parents before making his acting debut in 1999. His personal wealth, mostly inherited from his parents, is estimated at 60 billion won, according to news reports.

There are several entertainers born into the families of powerful politicians.

Rapper Eun Ji-won shows off, needless to say, the most powerful family background at the moment — he is a nephew of President Park Geun-hye. His grandmother was elder sister of former President Park Chung-hee, father of the incumbent head of state. The 35-year-old singer registered himself as a campaigner for his aunt during the presidential campaign last year. He currently stays low key to avoid being embroiled in any unsavory scandal that could end up hurting his aunt's political leadership.

The son of President Park's right-hand man Kim Moo-sung is an up-and-coming actor.

Kim Jong-min, whose stage name is Go Yoon, recently revealed his relations with the five-term lawmaker by standing with Kim before camera crews at a polling station in Busan. The senior Kim was elected in by-elections last month on the ticket of the ruling Saenuri Party.

Following the election, the actor said he had intentionally remained silent about his family because he wanted to succeed without family support.

Other celebrities with elite family backgrounds include Miss Korea-turned-actress Lee Honey. Her father is former vice chief of the country's spy agency, while her mother is university professor and state-recognized "gayageum" player. Gayageum is a twelve-stringed traditional Korean zither. Her uncle is Moon Hee-sang, former chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP). Actress Choi Myung-gil is wife of the incumbent DP Chairman Kim Han-gil.

Actor Song Il-gook is widely known as the son of lawmaker Kim Eul-dong and grandson of Gen. Kim Jwa-jin, who fought for Korea's independence in the 1920s.


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