Reel and real-life couples. There’s a scandal practically every day. Well, that’s how it seems to me in the Korean celebrity world.
But what constitutes a “scandal”? In Korean showbiz, it is a sensational story or reportage that spans controversial issues like sex, drugs, financial wrongdoings, illegal and immoral actions, even something like bullying. But their scandals also include celebrity romance or secret couples that are not really scandalous, unless a morality line has been crossed. Korean celebrities are ultra-private about their dating, and it is like a treasure hunt for media to discover the most current “it” couples. I guess this appeals to fans who like to “ship” their idols. To “ship,” in fandom speak, means to root for a romantic relationship of famous people. However, when are the romance scandal stories the actual truth? There are numerous “shipping” media reports, especially if there is an ongoing K-drama or movie. Is it just a marketing tactic to fake a “reel” couple for fans to swoon over, and devotedly watch their series?
Recently, stars of the ongoing hit K-drama King the Land were swept up in romance rumors. There were reports that co-stars Lee Jun-ho and Yoona were a real-life couple. It sent kilig vibes through its viewers because they looked good together. It was debunked a few hours later by their management agencies. K netizens have even speculated that it was a publicity stunt. It was simply not true. There are many similar reports where co-stars were linked to each other when promoting a drama or movie (what we call here a “love team”). These news stories were never confirmed or, over time, proved to be wrong. There’s Park Seo-jun and Park Min-young during What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?; or Song Kang and Han So-hee, because they had so much onscreen chemistry in Nevertheless. Jung Hae-in and Jisoo of BLACKPINK were also deep into dating rumors because of Snowdrop. There are many examples.
Dispatch, a media publication in South Korea, is notorious for exposing real-life showbiz couples, mostly on New Year’s Day each year. Sometimes, the public gets so outraged by their stalking methods and disrespect of the stars’ private lives. Despite this, the publication continues to reveal real-life celebrity couples. They have had some hits and some misses, though.
Here are some Dispatch reports that turned out to be true—and were hits.
Rain and Kim Tae Hee were discovered to have been dating in 2013. Rain is a world-famous singer, while Kim Tae-hee is considered to be “one of the country’s most beautiful actresses.” What a perfect pairing. While still in the military, Rain was photographed taking time off to go on dates with the lovely actress. There were multiple photos of them wearing hoodies and acting stealthy. Twelve hours after Dispatch revealed their dating photos, Kim Tae Hee admitted their romance through her agency. In 2017, they got married in a simple ceremony, and are now proud parents of two daughters. They still keep a low profile when it comes to their personal life.
In 2015, stories about Lee Min-ho and Suzy Bae dating blew up. At first, Dispatch grabbed a photo of them stepping out of a bar, and driving around Seoul. The tabloid went further and created a dating report, where they followed the couple all the way to Europe and snapped photos of them in London. The superstars went separately but couldn’t avoid the sleuthing of the reporters. Their agencies had to admit that, indeed, the couple was dating with such proof released. Suzy was even asked about their date in Europe by the media: “Our photoshoot schedules overlapped, so we ended up meeting in London. We didn’t do anything special in London. We went for a drive, ate food, and just spent time together like ordinary people.” The relationship didn’t last, but the truth of it surfaced.
The relationship outing of Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin crash-landed on the news. Their romance was long suspected, but denied numerous times. The dating rumors started in 2018 when they filmed Negotiation. They had palpable chemistry onscreen and fans wished that they truly were together. A year after, photos of the couple in a grocery in LA surfaced. They claimed that they coincidentally were in the same city, and met up with friends. When Crash Landing on You exploded globally in 2019 and 2020, fans who “shipped” the stars largely grew. Following this, a media report claimed that the couple was heard to be headed for the altar. Then, Dispatch dropped the bomb on Jan. 1, 2021, complete with paparazzi photos of the couple going to a golf course together. After this, their respective agencies confirmed the relationship. Son Ye Jin even posted a flower bouquet on her Instagram claiming to have found a “good man,” referring to Hyun Bin. This sent fans into a frenzy and “ship” heaven. Last year, the famous actor and actress got married in a fairytale-like ceremony. Now, they are parents of a baby boy. The truth has a way of revealing itself. It may take time, though.
The latest outed couple this year is mega star IU and actor/model Lee Jong-suk. On Dec. 31, 2022, Dispatch reported that the two stars had been dating for approximately four months. According to the tabloid, the two met on Inkigayo (a popular Korean music program) 10 years ago, and over time, their friendship evolved into romance. They traveled to Japan and met up with family for the holidays and were photographed in the airport. Hooded and masked, and on separate flights, they were still recognized. To the surprise of many, their agencies admitted that, indeed, IU and Lee Jong-suk were a couple. The celebrities even penned letters to their fans about their dating. IU wrote: “As you would have read in the articles, I am in a relationship. I am cautious because I know how surprised you would be when you are always worried about my well-being and whereabouts, but yes... it is true! I am growing heart with someone who has been my long-time colleague, leaning on each other.” And just like that, directly from the celebrity herself, the truth came out.