The Story Of A Little Korean Boy Who Dreamed Of Becoming A Ballerina And Became A Top Idol Instead

His family convinced him to become an idol with a Nintendo Game Boy.

EXO‘s Kai went from being a relatively normal boy who dreamt of one day becoming ballerino to becoming one of Korea’s greatest artists. This is his story:


1. Kai was born

Kim Jongin was born in Suncheon, Jeolla South Province on January 14, 1994. He was the youngest of the family with two older sisters.


2. Kai fell in love with dance as little boy

When he was in grade 3, his family took him to see The Nutcracker and he fell in love with ballet. His sister, who was a Shinhwa fan, also exposed Kai to their performance of “T.O.P”, which was inspired by the famous Swan Lake ballet by TchaikovskyAfter seeing Shinhwa, Kai decided he wanted to become an idol too.


3. Kai became a trainee

His family moved to Seoul and convinced young Jongin to audition for S.M. Entertainment in exchange for a Nintendo Game Boy. Luckily, he passed the audition and became an S.M. Entertainment trainee at the age of 13. There he would become friends with future EXO members as well as SHINee‘s Taemin and HOTSHOT‘S Timoteo.


4. Kai debuted as part of EXO

On April 8, 2012, Kim Jongin debuted as EXO’s Kai. Known for having many pre-debut teasers, he received much love from the start. He’s been praised by ballet teachers to industry sunbaes for his skill and charisma on stage.


5. From Rookie Awards to Grand Awards

EXO rose to the top, scooping up rookie awards and music show awards until they won their first daesang in 2013. Since then, they have won 22 daesangs with Kai at the center of it all.


6. Kai debuted as an actor

Kai’s first jump into acting was in 2016 with the web dramas Choco Bank and First Seven Kisses. He took on his first lead in a TV drama with KBS’s Andante, and his first Japanese drama, Spring Has Come, has just begun broadcasting.


7. Kai – The model citizen and top idol

Kai’s first solo photo shoot for a magazine was back in April 2012 for GQ. Since then, he’s participated in 27 solo photoshoots. Perhaps the most meaningful one of them all was his December 2017 cover for “The Big Issue”—a magazine known for helping the homeless. Kai donated his entire casting fee back to the cause.