10 of the Most Famous Korean-American Celebrities

10 Well-Known Korean-American Celebrities
Table of Contents

Korea gained the greatest prominence after the emergence of different KPOP groups in the late 1990s and early 2000s, giving birth to more at the current time. Their movies and series also became well-known to others, called “K-Drama.” Then people start to adapt to the Korean culture, from trying different dishes to adapting the fashion style and visiting various tourist spots.

But that doesn’t stop there. In Hollywood, most individuals, especially those not Americans by birth, find it challenging to step in. However, these artists managed to make a name in the industry. The following list below includes ten actors/actresses who have exceptional talent and stand out for their outstanding work as Korean-Americans:

#10 John Cho

John Cho
John Yohan Cho, best known as John Cho, is an American actor best known for his portrayal of Harold Lee in the Harold & Kumar movies and Hikaru Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek film series.

John Cho’s Early Life

John Cho was born on June 16, 1972, in Seoul, South Korea, and later on relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he grew up. Before settling in Los Angeles, his family lived in Houston, Seattle, Daly, California, and Monterey Park, California.
Meanwhile, his father was originally from North Korea and is a minister in the Church of Christ. Additionally, throughout her childhood, Cho grew up with his only younger brother.
Besides that, Cho was able to graduate in 1990 from Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, California. Furthermore, around 1994, Cho attended college at the University of California, Berkely.
During college, he traveled nationwide for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s stage version of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. And soon, in 1996, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

John Cho’s Early Roles

John Yohan Cho was a former English teacher and literature student who fell in love with acting in college. He worked his way up from a minor actor to a major support role in movies and television.
John Cho began his screen acting career with minor roles in different projects. For instance, in Wag the Dog in 1997, Bowfinger in 1999, and in 2002, he took part in the critical favorite, which is Better Luck Tomorrow.

In 1999, his breakthrough finally came when he made an appearance in teen romance comedy American Pie and helped coin the phrase “MILF.” He went on to play other roles and became a hit in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, a slacker comedy in 2004.

Cho earned top billing and a great deal of fan appreciation as one half of the hapless stoner pair in “Harold and Kumar” and its 2008 sequel, becoming a go-to for laughs in both film and television.

Assuming one of science fiction’s most prominent roles in “Star Trek,” which aimed to tell the legendary franchise’s genesis tale, he found himself in the spotlight once more in 2009.

Cho is one of the celebrities that is a more versatile and appealing actor in the film industry, thanks to his ability to switch between wide humor and high drama.

#9 Sung Kang

Sung Kang, also known as Kang Sung-Ho, is a Korean-American producer from Clarkston, Georgia, and an actor who plays his first major role as Han Lue in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. The role he played was a mentor to Sean Boswell, which is the main character of the film.

Sung Kang’s Early Life

Kang Sung-Ho was born on April 8, 1972, in Gainesville, Georgia, to immigrants from South Korea. However, he spent his adolescence in California.
Sung Kang attended college at the University of California, Riverside. During college, he met his parent’s disappointment when he chose acting over law school.
The lack of Asian representation on American screens and the lack of career opportunities are the reasons why his parents disapprove of him choosing acting over law school.

Sung Kang’s Early Roles

As aforementioned, Sung Kang got his first major role when he played Han Lue in the series of the movie Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift and Better Luck Tomorrow.
Kang claims that he was unfamiliar with the Japanese drifting subculture prior to being cast as Han in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. He didn’t realize how well-liked a sport drifting is across the world until he started doing research for the role.
However, before getting his first major role, he first started his acting career in his movie debut, Mystery Man, in 1999. During the movie, he worked alongside Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and William H. Macy.
His career continued, and he acted in his second movie Better Luck Tomorrow, which was released in 2002. Better Luck Tomorrow is an American crime drama about Asian American overachievers who is dissatisfied with their lives and start engaging in minor crime and materialism.
In the film Forbidden Warrior, he also starred as an FBI agent in Jet Li’s movie War and as Doran, a son of Genghis Khan. In addition, he was an international-style goalkeeper for the Suwon Blue Wings of South Korea, making multiple penalties saves in the final five minutes of games.

As the narcissistic President Gin Kew Yun Chun Yew Nee in the Korean drama spoofing “Tae Do” or “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” Sung has frequently appeared on MADtv.

Besides his acting, he also used to own a restaurant named “Saketini” with his wife. However, for an unknown reason, it was close in early 2013.

#8 Tim Kang

Yila Timothy Kang, also known professionally as Tim Kang, is a Korean-American actor best known for playing “Kimball Cho” in the film “The Mentalist.” Tim’s career achievement is admirable for a unique reason. He had a prosperous career in business before realizing his love for acting.

Tim Kang’s Early Life

Yila Timothy Kang was born on March 16, 1973, in San Francisco, California. Kang has two younger brothers.
During his college, he went to the University of California in Berkeley and eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Moreover, Tim also experienced working as a stock dealer in the now-gone “Pacific Exchange” in San Francisco. Because of how well he did his work, he was given the opportunity to be promoted.

Nevertheless, Tim soon came to the conclusion that he did not want to work in the finance industry. While walking his way to work, he found a poster offering night classes for American Conservatory Theatre.
He thus made acting his first hobby after making the decision to try it out straight immediately. He then took a Master of Fine Arts from Harvard’s Institute for Advanced Theater Training.
Additionally, Kang further studied acting at the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia.

Tim Kang’s Early Roles

Tim Kang became a well-known actor due to his portrayal of “Kimball Cho” in the film he starred “The Metalist.” Although Tim Kang has had a long and distinguished career, he is most well-known for this role.

At the young age of 26, he was given opportunities in the business and instantly began his path in a field he knew nothing about. He has participated in several intriguing projects throughout the years, which have aided his career development.

Furthermore, Tim Kang also took his first acting lesson when he was 26 years old. Then later earned an MFA from the “American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theatre,” which is part of Harvard University.

Tim performed as “Swiss Cheese” at “ART” in the Bertolt Brecht play “Mother Courage and her Children.” He performed in two additional plays under the ‘ART’ umbrella.

Moreover, Tim soon made his acting career as Dr. Harrison Wong in the crime-drama series ‘The Sopranos’ in 2002. He made his big-screen debut the same year in the romantic comedy “Two Weeks Notice,” in which he played a role of an attorney by the name of “Paul.”

#7 Daniel Dae Kim

Image: Actor Daniel Dae Kim arrives at ABC's "Lost" Live: The Final Celebration at UCLA Royce Hall in Los Angeles
Kim Dae-Hyun, professionally known as Daniel Dae Kim, is known for his portrayal of Dr. Jackson Han on The Good Doctor, in which he is also the producer. As an actor, director, and now producer, Daniel Dae Kim has built a career out of portraying diverse and stereotype-breaking roles.

Daniel Dae Kim’s Early Life

Daniel Dae Kim was born on August 4, 1968, in Busan, South Korea, being the son of Dr. Doo-Tae Kim and Jung Kim. However, he was only two years old when they relocated to the United States with his family.
He was raised in Pennsylvania, and in his hometown of Bethlehem, Daniel Dae Kim attended Freedom High School, a public institution of higher learning.
Moreover, he also received a Bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania’s Haverford College in 1990; in 1996, the Graduate Acting Program at New York University awarded him an MFA.

Daniel Dae Kim’s Early Roles

Daniel Dae Kim established himself as a well-known actor after graduating by appearing in various television productions.
He featured in episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Charmed, The Shield, Seinfeld, NYPD Blue, and ER, in addition to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as a Treasury Agent.
He has recurring parts on Angel and 24, in addition to being a regular on the short-lived Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade. In 2008 miniseries based on the renowned Michael Crichton book The Andromeda Strain, he also played Dr. Tsi Chou.
He has appeared in Crash, which won the 2005 Best Picture Academy Award, as well as a small role as a scientist working in Doctor Octavius’ laboratory in Spider-Man 2 and other movies.
Additionally, he appeared in supporting parts in movies including The Jackal, For Love of the Game, Hulk, and The Cave. And different more variety movies that take part.
For his outstanding acting work, Kim received three awards: the Multicultural Prism Award from the Korean American Coalition, the AZN Asian Excellence Award for Asian Excellence, and the Vanguard Award from the Korean American Coalition.

And in 2005, Kim was recognized as one of the “Sexiest Men Alive” by People Magazine.

#6 Arden Cho

Arden Cho_o

Arden Lim Cho, also known as Arden Cho, is a Korean-American renowned TV actress, singer, and model. She gained the most notoriety for her portrayal of Kira Yukimura in the MTV supernatural teen drama “Teen Wolf.”

Arden Cho’s Early Life

Arden Cho was born on August 16, 1985, in Amarillo, Texas, to a Korean-American parent. However, she spent most of her early years in Texas until moving to Minnesota in her late teens.
Sadly, like any other few kids, Arden Cho regularly endured physical abuse and bullying when she was younger. Cho also admitted that she was hospitalized when she was a child, experiencing two different disturbing incidents.
Additionally, she said that she never had good memories of high school or college. Furthermore, in high school, she attended Apple Valley, Minnesota.
While attending Apple Valley High School, Cho was highly involved in almost every other kind of art, including martial arts, dance, music, and painting. She then majored in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Arden Cho’s Early Roles

After she graduated, Arden Cho then received professional training in theatrical studies and developed a passion for a career in performing.

In 2004, Cho began her modeling career and was crowned “Miss Korea Chicago.” It ultimately gave her another opportunity to take part in the Miss Korea pageant in Seoul.

In 2010, Arden Cho began her modeling career for the cosmetics company Clinique for a campaign in Asia. In addition, Cho is a successful entrepreneur who co-founded Leonard & Church and currently holds the CEO position.
Aside from being an entrepreneur and model, she started her acting career when she relocated to Los Angeles.

She appeared in guest spots on “Mad TV” and “CSI: NY.” She was enlisted to portray Sarah in the online series “KTown Cowboys” in 2010.

In 2011, Arden Cho made her acting debut as Pru, Lindsey Shaw’s close friend, in the ABC drama series Pretty Little Liars.

However, In her acting career journey, Arden Cho already made an uncredited appearance in the film “The Break-Up” in 2006. And then she also appeared in other short movies, such as “Spy Games,” “Forgotten,” and “Layover, on the Shore.”

Additionally, in 2009, Arden Cho played the supporting role of Gahee Paik in the CBS television series CSI: NY. Later, Arden Cho played the character of Hyori in the 2008 short film My First Crush, which Rocky Jo directed.
She then decided to relocate to Los Angeles and start an acting career. The stunning and gifted artist has captivated everyone with her acting skills.

#5 Amy Anderson

Amy Anderson

Amy Anderson is an American comedienne, writer, and actress. She has been singing, playing the piano, and the guitar for many years as a classically-trained musician. She was compared to “a slim Margaret Cho” and “a heterosexual, Asian Ellen.”

Amy Anderson’s Early Life

Amy Anderson was born on September 1, 1972, in Seoul, South Korea. She was raised primarily in Minnesota after being adopted by an American couple when she was a little child.
Amy had a talent for singing and classical music at a very young age, which encouraged her to choose a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Westminster Choir College.
Amy Anderson, however, made the decision to look into a range of job alternatives once she had her degree from college, such as managing a coffee shop, caring for pets, and working with autistic people.
She eventually developed a deep interest in developing comedy and acting scenes in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul twin towns. She made the decision to try her luck at the renowned Illusion theater.

Amy Anderson’s Early Roles

Amy made the decision to go to Los Angeles in pursuit of greater chances after spending nearly six years honing her skills and bouncing between diverse genres, including comedy, sketch writing, improv, and theater in Minnesota.

She participated in the “Fresh Ink Series,” a venue for aspiring artists to display their work. Amy established the monthly “ChopSchtick Comedy” event at the Hollywood Laugh Factory and Hollywood Improv venues, and it was a smashing hit.

Amy was confident in her artistic abilities. Since then, the comedian has continued to rise in the comedy world while also acting in a few well-known American dramas and sitcoms, such, to name a few, “The Newsroom,” “Modern Family,” and “Raising Hope.”

The comedian is presently seeking a career in both comedy and television while residing in Southern California.

#4 James Kyson Lee

A Korean-American actor named James Kyson is most known for playing Ando Masahashi on the NBC television program “Heroes.” He has also made cameos on shows like Hawaii Five-0, NCIS: Los Angeles, Sleepy Hollow, Elementary, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.

James Kyson Lee’s Early Life

James Kyson Lee, also known as James Kyson, was born on December 13, 1975, in Seoul, South Korea.
At age 10, Lee’s family relocated to New York City, where he eventually enrolled at the Bronx High School of Science. He pursued a communications degree at the New England Institute of Art and Boston University.
He relocated to Los Angeles in the summer of 2001. He started his acting, musical theater, and jazz singing studies there. In Los Angeles, at the Upright Citizen Brigade, he performed improv and sketch comedy.
In his first T.V. show, he has been a working actor ever since he won in an audition for a guest-starring role on the CBS television show JAG.
Moreover, Lee also made an appearance at the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico City, where he was mistakenly introduced as a Japanese American instead of Korean American.

James Kyson Lee’s Early Roles

James Kyson Lee’s most notable performance was as “Ando” in the Heroes cast, for which he was recognized in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006 edition in the category of “People Who Mattered.”

On CBS’s JAG, Kyson made his acting debut. Since then, he has had appearances on CSI, The West Wing, Daybreak, Hawaii Five-O, and the upcoming School of Rock.
Kyson has appeared in movies, including The Livingston Gardener and Shutter, in addition to television series.
His journey into the entertainment industry began with a university hip-hop rap group, followed by an attempt at improv comedy, all before coming to Los Angeles and starting his training in music, dancing, and acting.

Furthermore, he participated in improv with L.A., founded the Asian-American improv group “Room To Improv,” and he has studied comedy at The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, and I.O. Los Angeles’s west side.

James, one of today’s most exciting and versatile actors, was recently featured in the Netflix film Yes Day and Lovecraft County HBO series. James was selected by Buzzfeed as a Top 10 Asian-American Leading Man and by T.V. Guide as “Hollywood’s 25 Hottest.”

#3 Steven Yeun

Steven Yeun

Steven Yeun, also known as Yeun Sang-Yeop, is a Korean-American actor. He is well-known for portraying the roles of Glenn Rhee and Sebastian on the TV series comedy “The Big Bang Theory” and horror drama “The Walking Dead.”

Steven Yeun’s Early Life

Yeun Sang-Yeop, professionally known as Steven Yeun, was born on December 21, 1983, in Seoul, South Korea, and was raised in Troy, Michigan, in a Christian household. His parent’s name is June and Je Yeun, and he has a brother named Brian.

After meeting an American doctor with the same name, his parents decided to change his name to “Steven.” Before relocating to the United States, his family initially traveled to Canada, where they resided for a year.

In 2005, he studied Bachelor of Science in Psychology, concentration in neuroscience from Kalamazoo. He was initially supposed to go to medical school; however, Yeun soon realized he loved acting, so he switched to the theater.

He first met Jordan Klepper in Kalamazoo through Klepper’s sister; then, he followed him to Chicago to join Second City.

Steven Yeun’s Early Roles

He started acting while attending Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he majored in psychology. He originally intended to attend medical school, but after realizing how much he loved performing, he switched to the theatre.
He was a performer in the Asian-American sketch comedy troupe Stir Friday Night as well as the Second City comedy group in Chicago.

In addition to “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Walking Dead,” Yeun has appeared in several movies and short films, including “My Name Is Jerry,” “Blowout Sale,” “Mayhem,” and “Okja,” to name just a few.

Furthermore, the exceptional actor has performed in numerous advertisements for prestigious brands and businesses, including Apple, Milky Way, and Best Buy.
Yeun has voiced over cartoons and video games as well. The South Korean-American actor, Yeun has dedicated a lot of effort to developing a successful career and a large fan following.

#2 Will Yun Lee

Will Yun Lee
Will Yun Lee, also known as William Yun Lee, is a Korean-American actor and martial artist. He is best known for his roles as Danny Woo in the supernatural drama series Witchblade and Jae Kim in the science fiction drama series Bionic Woman.

Will Yun Lee’s Early Life

Will Yun Lee was born on March 22, 1971, in Arlington, Virginia, to Ja Lee and Soo Won Lee, to which his parents had just recently emigrated from Korea. He is of Chinese-Korean descent.
His mother’s name is Jing Ja Lee, and his father’s name is Soo Woong Lee, who is a Taekwondo grandmaster. Will Yun Lee was exposed to life on the harsh Bronx streets and picture-perfect Hawaiian beaches while growing up with both his immediate and extended families and moved frequently.

At the age of three, Lee started training, and during his early years, he worked as a teacher at Lee’s Tae Kwon Do, their family company in Napa, California.

Moreover, Lee received a full sports scholarship to attend UC Berkeley, where she studied political science and ethnic studies.

Will Yun Lee’s Early Roles

While still in school, Lee taught high-risk teenagers from slum areas like those he had known as a child in the Bronx at the East Bay Asian Youth Centre. His lifelong dedication to helping young people began there and has continued to play a significant part in it.
Because of it, Will Yun Lee developed a serious interest in acting around this time, and after earning a role in Nash Bridges, he relocated to Los Angeles to further his career. Lee also happened to have guest star roles in the series: Profiler and Brimstone.
Furthermore, Lee also led a role in various TV movies. Additionally, he is well-known as Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, the primary antagonist in the James Bond movie Die Another Day.

He was selected as one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 2002, which led to him landing prominent parts in “Die Another Day,” “Torque,” and “Elektra.”

He was once more honored by People in November 2007, this time as one of the 15 “Sexiest Men Alive” on their list. His most recent appearance was in the blockbuster CBS television series “Hawaii Five O” pilot as Sang Min.

#1 Ken Jeong

Ken Jeong

The Korean-American actor Ken Jeong is most recognized for his humorous portrayal of Leslie Chow in the “The Hangover” movie series. In addition, he gained considerable notoriety for his portrayal of Ben Chang in the hit comedy “Community.”

Ken Jeong’s Early Life

Kendrick Kang-Joh Jeong, professionally known as Ken Jeong, was born on July 13, 1969, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. However, his family was originally from South Korea, but he was born in Detroit and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.

His father was employed as a university professor in North Carolina. And Ken grew up in a home with two elder twin sisters.

While he was in school, he excelled in his studies and received several honors, which were his family’s top priority in their household. In later interviews, he claimed that although his father was a serious person, he had a fantastic sense of humor, which he inherited.

In addition to participating in several extracurricular activities, Ken attended Walter Hines Page High School in North Carolina.

Ken was a significant member of the student government besides playing the violin in the school orchestra and participating in quizzes.

Ken completed high school at the age of 16 and had excellent grades. He also received the title of Greensborough Youth of the Month.

In 1990, Ken completed his undergraduate degree at Duke University with the goal of becoming a doctor. His M.D. was completed when he continued his studies at Chapel Hill School of Medicine in North Carolina.

That point on. Ken Jeong was now prepared to begin a career as a doctor, but his interests lay elsewhere.

Ken Jeong’s Early Roles

After completing his internal medicine residency, Ken began working at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. He developed his stand-up comedy routines side by side.
After that, he relocated to California and earned a license to practice medicine there. But his true objective was to enter the local comedy scene.

In the “Big Easy Laff-off” in 1995, Ken took part, and the judges encouraged him to move to Los Angeles since they thought his skills were excellent. Ken became a regular at the Laugh Factory and the Improv following this victory, feeling confident.

He began working at Kaiser Permanente after moving to Los Angeles to pursue a professional comedy career. He made his acting debut in 1997 as a doctor in the television show “The Big Easy.”

However, despite pursuing his acting career, Ken remained a doctor for the first ten years of his career.

He began taking acting seriously after receiving his first significant cinematic break in 2007 with the release of “Knocked Up.” His breakthrough to national recognition came with the release of 2009’s “The Hangover,” and he hasn’t looked back since.

He has performed as an actor in movies including “Pineapple Express” and “Zookeeper.” His television roles have also aided his increasing prominence throughout the years.

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