Key (entertainer)

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Key at the SMTown Coex Artium on January 2015.jpg
Key at the SMTown Coex Artium in January 2015
Native name 김기범
Born Kim Ki-bum
(1991-09-23) September 23, 1991 (age 25)
Daegu, South Korea[1]
Residence Seoul, South Korea
Education Woosuk University
Musical career
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2008–present
Labels S.M. Entertainment
Associated acts
Key's Signature.png
Stage name
Revised Romanization Ki
McCune–Reischauer K'i
Birth name
Hangul 김기범
Revised Romanization Gim Gi-beom
McCune–Reischauer Kim Ki-pŏm

Kim Ki-bum (born September 23, 1991), better known by his stage name Key, is a South Korean singer, actor, fashion designer and television presenter. Born and raised in Daegu, South Korea, he later travelled to Seoul after a successful audition at the S.M. National Tour Audition Casting. In 2008, Key debuted as a member of South Korean boy group Shinee, who later went on to become one of the best-selling artists in Korea. Key is widely recognised as a singer, but he had also ventured into different careers notably as an actor and fashion designer.

As a singer, he had done many collaborations with various artists, and debuted in the sub-unit Toheart with Woo-hyun of Infinite. Key had also vastly contributed in songwriting, which were produced in Shinee’ and Toheart’s albums. As an actor, he was cast in multiple musicals, such as Bonnie & Clyde (2013), Zorro (2014), and Chess (2015). He has since widened his field as an actor by taking part in several television drama roles, like Drinking Solo (2016) and The Guardians (2017).

In 2015, Key progressed to become a fashion designer and took part in numerous projects. For instance, collaborating with Bridge Shop House to design Shinee concert outfits, and worked with model Irene and the brand Charm's to design fashion apparels. Due to the successes of his works, Key was later appointed as fashion director of the group. In 2016, he became a model for the American fashion brand, Jill Stuarts.

Life and career[edit]

1991–2011: Early life and career beginnings[edit]

Key was born on September 23, 1991 in Daegu, South Korea.[1][2] At the age of 14, he represented Dae Gu Yeong Shin Middle School as a water-skier and competed in water-skiing competitions.[3][4] In 2006, he joined S.M. Entertainment after a successful audition at the SM National Tour Audition Casting.[5] One year later, he appeared as a background dancer in the film Super Junior, Attack on the Pin-Up Boys. Key continued his training under S.M. Entertainment and debuted as a member of Shinee at the age of 16.

In 2008, he was chosen as a member of the group Shinee.[6] The group released their first mini-album, Replay on May 22 debuting at #10 and reached the #8 position on the charts.[7] The first television presentation of the group occurred on May 25, 2008 in the program SBS's Inkigayo.[8]

Shorty after debut, Key has appeared on television shows such as Idol Maknae Rebellion as a guest star alongside his Shinee group mates Taemin, Onew, and Jonghyun, for two episodes. Together with other idol group members: Dongho from U-KISS, Shorry J from Mighty Mouth, Jinwoon from 2AM, Yunhwa from T-Max, Seunghyun from F.T. Island and in the later part, Mir from MBLAQ. Key was also part of the cast of the show Raising Idol along with Dongho from U-KISS and Thunder from MBLAQ.[9] Key was also featured in label-mate Xiah's solo performance of "Xiahtic" in TVXQ's concert, 2009: The 3rd Asia Tour Mirotic, in Seoul.[10] In 2010, he was featured in the song "치유 (Healing)" on TRAX's mini album "Trax Mini Album Volume 1",[11] and in Girls' Generation's song "Hwaseongin Virus (Boys & Girls)" (Korean: "화성인 바이러스 (Boys & Girls)") for their second studio album Oh!.[12] In 2011, Key collaborated with Leeteuk of Super Junior on a song called "Bravo" for the drama History of a Salaryman. He also took part in EXO's song "Two Moons" on their debut mini album MAMA[13] and BoA's song "One Dream" as the theme song for SBS "K-pop Star" with label-mate Henry of Super Junior-M.[14]

2012–15: Toheart and theatrical debut[edit]

Key and Dana at the Bonnie & Clyde Press Conference in 2013

In 2012, Key was cast as Frank Abagnale Jr., rotating with Um Ki-joon, Kim Jeong-hoon, Park Gwang-hyun and label-mates Super Junior's Kyuhyun with Girls' Generation Sunny and The Grace's Dana, in the Korean production of Broadway musical "Catch Me If You Can", marking his theatrical debut. The musical ran from March 28 to June 10 at the Blue Square, Samsung Card Hall, in Hannam-dong, Seoul. On October 24, 2012 it was announced that Key would be participating in the return of the Korean adaption of the broadway musical Catch Me If You Can. The production started on December 14, 2012 and continued until February 9, 2013 at the Opera House in the Seongnam Arts Center.[15] Key also did a cameo in SBS Sitcom "Salamander Guru and The Shadows" in episode 4.[16]

On July 18, 2013, it was announced that Key would be cast as Clyde in the Korean production of the broadway musical "Bonnie & Clyde", alongside the cast Kim Min-jong, Um Ki-joon, Dana of CSJH The Grace, and Hyungsik of ZE:A. The performance ran at the Chungmu Art Hall in Seoul from September 4 until October 27, 2013.[17] Not long after, on October 22, he was cast in another Korean adaptation of the broadway musical "The Three Musketeers" as D'Artagnan.[18]

Toheart at the 2014 Hong Kong Dome Festival.

In 2014, Key formed a duo with Woohyun from Infinite. It is a collaboration between S.M. Entertainment and Woollim Entertainment.[19] According to the members, it was their idea to form a duo since they are close friends but they weren't thinking of a musical collaboration, instead of photoshoots and similar activities.[20][21] The duo was well received, winning the Popularity Award at the 29th Golden Disk Awards.[22] Jeff Benjamin from Billboard praised the duo's vocals, and also the choreography and on-screen charisma.[23] In the same year, Key was cast as the lead role for new musical "Zorro", sharing the main role with singer Wheesung and Beast's Yoseob. "Zorro" ran from August 27 till October 26 at the Chungmu Art Hall in Seoul.[24] Key also participated in the MBC variety show "We Got Married Global Edition". His virtual wife was Arisa Yagi, a Japanese model.[25]

In March 2015, Key and CNBLUE's Jung-shin were appointed as the main presenters of Mnet's M! Countdown.[26] The same year Key collaborated with AXODUS, a duo formed by Don Spike and DJ Hanmin. Key took over the vocals for the track "Hold On," and they made a special presentation on July 25, 2015 at the Ansan Valley Rock Festival.[27] In July 2015, Key was announced to be part of the musical "In the Heights",[28] which was also performed with Japanese subtitles at Kanagawa Arts Theatre in Yokohama in 2016.[29] Key made his theatrical debut as Byeong Gu in "Save the Green Planet!", based on the 2003 film of the same name.[30] Key also had his own web show entitled "Key's Know How" produced by Mnet.[31]

2016–present: Acting roles[edit]

In September 2016, Key made his official acting debut in the tvN drama Drinking Solo which aired from September 5 to October 25. He took the role of a student who has been studying for the civil service exam for 3 years. His character has lived an easy life so far but he's currently experiencing a life with no income.[32][33] Even though this was Key's first time acting in a network, his acting was well received by the production team,[34] stating: "Key is someone who works hard. He prepared a lot beforehand and as an actor, he comprehensively analysed his character role. He is receiving many praise and love from the staff. Despite having no experience in dramas at the time of his audition, his acting gave off a very fresh vibe. Furthermore, his acting and his enunciation were good and so we decided to cast him."

In April 2017, Key was announced as one of the main character for the new MBC drama The Guardians.[35] In the drama, Key plays the role of Gong Kyung-soo, a skater and a hacker whose mother went missing due to a crime[36] and received positive reviews for his acting skills.[37]

Personal life[edit]

Key was raised by his grandmother from birth; his mother was sick after giving birth and his father was busy with work.[38] On October 10, 2014 Kibum announced on his Instagram account that his grandmother died on September 23, 2014. Furthermore, he stated that he wanted to announce it on his own because it didn't feel right for him to announce it through his company.[39] Key graduated from Myongji University with a degree in Film and Musical.[40] He currently attends for his graduate degree in Woosuk University, majoring in "Culture and Education Contents Development". His thesis is titled "The Influence of Styling Education on Appearance Satisfaction and Self-Esteem of Korean Adolescents".[41][42]

Other ventures[edit]


"The important thing is to not be bound by style in and of itself, but one attitude when it comes to fashion. Matching a fashion item to my own style in and of itself is fun." —Key[43]

Key is one of the best fashionistas among K-idols,[44] with his peculiar and particularly appealing style often not afraid to mix colors. In media, his style is compared to fashion icon G-Dragon. Both are known not to follow trends, but instead have their own unique style, mixing elements of the new trends with outdated items.[45] Key has stated that he enjoys to try something new to look different from others and that instead of being constrained by fashion, he cares more about the attitude towards fashion.[46]

Years after his debut, Key has also ventured into the fashion industry. For instance, he collaborated with designer Ko Taeyong on self-designed sweatshirts depicting his dogs and sold them for charity.[47] In addition, he was also promoted to one of S.M. Entertainment's fashion directors and has been designing Shinee's concert outfits since 2015. In 2016, Key collaborated with Japanese illustrator Bridge Ship House for Shinee's fifth Korean concert tour titled SHINee World V. Key's primary goal of the costume directing is a well-balanced combination of Shinee’s identity as a group and each member’s individualities.[48][49][50] In January 2016, Key became a model for Jill Stuart Accessory.[51] A representative explained that Key was chosen for the brand because he has promoted professionally in a variety of areas such as music and broadcasting, which showed an artistic aspect that overlaps with sensual style and fashion concept of the brand.[52] Key also became a special editor for the Korean Elle, sharing his personal lifestyle in a column called 'Key Story', which is released bi-weekly by the magazine.[53] He shared tips on colour contact lenses,[54] cameras,[55] applications,[56] and more. In 2017, Key along with model Irene and fashion brand Charm's worked together to design new apparels which were sold in March.[57]


Key and his fans are known to take part in charitable events. In 2012, Key and his fans from Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and seven other countries donated 2.12 tons of rice to World Vision, which was able to feed 17,000 undernourished children and elderly among 11 cities.[58] Later on September 23, 2014, on Key’s birthday, fans raised a total of 2 million won and established a well in Cambodia and to be used as medical aid for poor children.[59] In 2015, Key posted on his Instagram account encouraging viewers to help the citizens in Nepal after its devastating earthquake, and sent moral support.[60] In the same year, Key collaborated with designer Ko Taeyong and sold sweatshirts depicting his dogs. All revenue (approximately 12.5 million won) were later donated to the Animal Freedom Union.[47] In 2016, Key along with groupmate Taemin and other artists from S.M. Entertainment took part in the "Make a Promise" campaign organised by UNICEF and Louis Vuitton; whereby 40% of the proceeds were donated through UNICEF to the children in need.[61]



Year Title Role Notes Ref
2007 Attack on the Pin-Up Boys Backup dancer Cameo
2012 I AM. Himself Documentary of SM Town [62]
2015 SMTOWN The Stage [63]
2016 Seoul Fashion Documentary; collaboration between JTBC and CeCi [64]

Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Network Notes Ref
2011 Moon Night '90 Lee Hyun-do Mnet Deux Episode [65]
2012 Salamander Guru and The Shadows Himself SBS Cameo [66]
2016 Drinking Solo Kim Ki-bum tvN Supporting Role [67]
2017 The Guardians Gong Kyung-soo MBC Main Role [68]

Variety shows[edit]

Year Title Role Network Notes Ref
2010 Raising Idol Cast Member Comedy TV with Dongho from U-KISS and Thunder from MBLAQ [9]
2014 7 Hungry Houseguests MBC Ethiopia Episode [69]
Stargazing with Kang Ho-dong [70]
We Got Married Global Edition Himself with Arisa Yagi [71]
2015 Make An Order Co-Host Olive TV with Jun Hyun-moo [72]
Key's Knowhow Himself Mnet broadcast on Mnet's Official YouTube Channel [31]
My Little Television Cast Member MBC broadcast on Lifestyle & Pet [73]
2015–17 M! Countdown Host Mnet [74]

Musical theatre[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2012 Catch Me If You Can Frank Abagnale, Jr. Korean Ver.
2013 Bonnie and Clyde Clyde Chestnut Barrow
2013-14 The Three Musketeers D'Artagnan
2014 Zorro Zorro
2015 School Oz David Hologram Musical
2015 Chess Anatoly Sergievsky Korean Ver.
2015-16 In the Heights Usnavi
2016-17 Save the Green Planet! Byeong Gu


Soundtrack albums[edit]

Title Details
School OZ – Hologram Musical OST

As featured artist[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
Gaon Chart
Billboard K-Pop

(TRAX feat. Key)
2010 Trax Mini Album Volume 1
"Boys & Girls"
(Girls' Generation feat. Key)
25 Oh!
"Barbie Girl"
(Jessica Jung feat. Key)
1st Asia Tour "Into The New World"
"One Dream"
(BoA feat. Henry Lau and Key)
2012 34 51 Only One
"Two Moons"
(EXO feat. Key)
14 Mama
"Hold On"
(Axodus feat. Key)
2015 * Non-album single
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that region.
"*" Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 was introduced in August 2011 and discontinued in July 2014.

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

Title Year Peak chart positions Album
Gaon Chart

Billboard World Digital

(with Leeteuk)
2011 History of a Salaryman OST
"Key of Secret"[79]
2016 TV Animation Magic Adventure-The Crystal of Dark OST
(with Doyoung)
281 38 Revenue Collection Unit OST
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that region.

See also[edit]


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