Yoo Ah-In's Real Name, Plus Other Fun Facts About the Hellbound Actor
Even though Netflix is a US-based streaming service, its biggest shows of this year have come out of South Korea: Squid Game broke the platform's record for most viewers in its first 28 days worldwide. Just a few months later, Hellbound made a big splash on the streaming giant. Yoo Ah-In stars in the new supernatural series as cult leader Jeong Jin-soo — and he brings nearly two decades of on-screen experience with him to Hellbound.
Yoo burst onto the scene as a teen heartthrob on Korean TV, but he's shown over the years that he can take on any kind of role. Many audiences outside of Korea are just now meeting Yoo for the first time. If that's you, read on to learn more about the talented young actor.
Yoo Ah-In Is His Stage Name
Audiences around the world know him as Yoo Ah-In, but that's actually the 28-year-old actor's stage name. In a 2013 interview with SBS Radio, Ah-In recounted how his first manager wanted to create a stage name fit for a Korean idol, and that his government name, Uhm Hong-sik, was considered to be old-fashioned and not befitting of a young new star. "The stage name 'Yoo Ah-in' was coined together with my manager," he said. "[Ein] means 'one' in German." Even though his stage name is Yoo Ah-In, you can still find him on Instagram as "Hong-sick."
He Was Discovered on the Street Outside His School
It's not every day a new star is discovered on the street, but it happened to Ah-In. During his first year of high school in Daegu, Korea (where he majored in fine arts), a casting agent spotted him outside of his school and encouraged him to try his hand at acting. He ended up going to Seoul by himself to audition for roles and eventually turned his focus to acting full time.
He Dropped Out of High School to Become an Actor
As a teenager, Ah-In didn't necessarily follow the path that his parents had planned for him. He dropped out of high school and chose to pursue acting — a decision that ultimately turned out to be the right move. "I was close with my parents, and we talked a lot about this and that. But then I became rebellious and I came to Seoul," the actor shared on his talk show Do-ol Ah-in Going All Directions in 2019. "Suddenly I changed my career plans and told them I would become an actor. They didn't give their consent or protest; instead they just firmly asked about my personal opinion and then let me be free."
"I think of it as lucky that I had the will to quit school early," he added. "I had the courage to try planning another life and just recklessly threw myself into it. Because I did that, I was able to turn every moment that I've come up against in my life into an opportunity for my personal education."
He Made His Acting Debut in an Instant Noodle Commercial
Ah-In made his on-screen debut as a teenager in 2003. But it wasn't in a big-time movie or TV show; it was in a commercial for instant noodles — an experience he chuckled about when speaking with SBS Radio. That same year, he earned a starring role in the Korean teen drama Sharp and quickly became TV's newest heartthrob.
He Was Exempted From Mandatory Military Service
In South Korea, all men over the age of 18 are required to serve in the military for a minimum of 18 months by the age of 28. But in 2017, Ah-In was determined to be unfit for service (despite him wanting to serve his country as an active-duty soldier). In addition to having a benign bone tumor, Ah-In had sustained injuries after rupturing his shoulder muscle twice while filming the action flicks Tough as Iron and Veteran.
He's a Proud Cat Dad — but Never Touched a Cat Until He Got His Own
Ah-In is currently single, but that doesn't mean he doesn't stay busy at home: the actor is a single father to two Sphynx cats named Dobi and Jangbi. But before he got them, he had never even touched a cat in his life.
"I never touched a cat before I started raising them," he admitted on the reality show I Live Alone. What happened was a friend of a friend came over with them one day, and they loved the house — and Ah-In — so much that they ended up staying. "Things just turned out this way," he laughed.