Eli is a second-generation K-Pop idol who debuted as a member of U-KISS in 2008.
Eli was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Virginia in the United States before he started his music career in Korea. From 2008 until 2019, Eli was active as a member of U-KISS until his contract expired. U-KISS underwent various lineup changes over the eleven years as members left and joined the group.
In 2015, Eli announced that he had been married for over a year to a model named Ji Yeon Soo, who is eleven years older than him. The two dated for five years and then married on paper in 2014. Their official wedding ceremony wasn’t until 2017.
Eli also became a father to a son in 2016. The following year, he appeared in the KBS reality show Mr. House Husband, where the public saw his life as a husband and father.
In 2020, Eli announced his separation from Ji Yeon Soo; two years later, he and his former wife reunited on the second season of the TV Chosun reality show We Got Divorced, which showed the lives of divorced celebrity couples. Eli gained much attention on this show for his raw moments with his former wife and for his unconditional love for his son Kim Min Soo.
On the last episode of We Got Divorced 2, Eli was seen returning to the United States and leaving his son in Korea with Ji Yeon Soo. That was the last time Eli was in the public eye until he recently came back with U-KISS’ 15th debut anniversary comeback.
On July 3, Eli appeared on the YouTube channel 근황올림픽, which translates into “Update Olympics,” a channel that focuses on catching up with people who were famous in the past. During the interview, Eli revealed that many people recognized him in public after his appearance on We Got Divorced 2.
When I took the subway, I scanned my ticket and somebody suddenly grabbed me. I asked them, ‘Who are you?’ and this lady asked me, ‘Are you back in Korea?’
He continued to tell the story, sharing that the lady then asked him a series of questions, such as “Have you gotten back together?” and “How is your kid doing?”
Eli also shared what he did after he went to the United States on the last episode of We Got Married 2.
The last episode showed me leaving to America. I went to America, got all my stuff, and returned to Korea. I am always thinking of my child. The reason why I came back to Korea is because even if I don’t live with Min Soo, America and Korea has quite a distance. If I’m in Korea, at least I can say, ‘Min Soo, Dad is always by your side and I am in the same time zone as you. If it’s morning for you, it’s morning for Dad.’ I wanted to give my baby a sense of security by letting him know I was in the same time zone.
Eli also kept himself busy by working various jobs. He worked in delivery packaging and school lunch delivery, where from midnight to 4 a.m., he delivered meals to six or seven schools.
He also responded to the statements telling him and Ji Yeon Soo to reunite for their child. He replied that being separated could be better for their son.
Many people want me to get back together and they say that parents should put up with it, but I think this could actually be worse for my child. Min Soo’s mom and me, living separately and happily raising our child, can be better for him later on.
Although Eli said he contemplated going on We Got Divorced 2 at first because it shows him in a vulnerable state, it became an opportunity he is thankful for that helped audiences understand him better—and it helped him be able to join U-KISS’ reunion.
When asked if he has plans to return to television shows, he said he initially didn’t want to because he got hurt in the past; however, now he’s doing things without any pressure on himself, which makes everything easier for him.
I actually didn’t have thoughts to return because I got hurt so much. But after We Got Divorced 2, the responses were great and whereas before, I was in a situation where I had to do things even though I got hurt, now, after aging and maturing, I can do it without pressure. I had so much pressure in the past; I was scared of hate comments and was worried if my actions would affect my members and agency… Now, I still think this but I let go of the pressure; I do it with the weight lifted off my shoulders, and my mind is at peace.
He returned with the song “The Wonderful Escape” for U-KISS’ 15th-anniversary comeback. At the same time as preparing for his album, Eli worked at his American meat fusion restaurant, WHW, located right next to U-KISS’ current agency Tango Music—which made it easy for him to run back and forth between recording sessions.
Also, according to the singer, preparing for this comeback was much more enjoyable than in the past.
In the past when I practiced for U-KISS, I would say, ‘I don’t want to go to practice; I want to rest,” but this time, I surprise myself when I think, ‘When is practice?’ I think to myself, ‘I want to hurry up and go to rehearsal and have fun with my members.’ Winning number one on the music charts would be amazing, but I just want to stand in front of my fans and make them think, ‘U-KISS is still the same.’
U-KISS will perform in Tokyo and Osaka on July 28 and 30 to promote their new release.