Most K-pop stars debut in Korea before they set eyes on the lucrative Japan market, but sweet guitar-toting singer-songwriter Juniel did it in reverse.

Born in Korea as Choi Jun-Hee, she grew up in Japan idolizing BoA, and wrote her first song, Boy, at the age of 16. Destined for stardom, Juniel won a Japan-wide audition show while still a student. After a short stint at Good Entertainment, she became a trainee with FNC Entertainment, which is still her label today.

She debuted in Japan in April 2011, with Ready Go, and was the opening act for several established acts including F.T Island. While she gained popularity in Japan, her official Korean debut wasn’t until June 2012. Her Korean debut single illa illa was chosen to feature in popular drama A Gentleman’s Dignity, and Juniel herself made a cameo appearance in the show as a Hongdae street performer. Winning a New Rising Star award at the 2013 Golden Disk Awards, plus a string of hit EPs in both Korea and Japan has earned her a firm following of Banilas – her fanbase, named after her guitar (Bbanini) and K-debut song.

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Juniel has teamed up with labelmates CNBLUE several times: Jung Yonghwa featured on her 2012 track Fool, and Babo from her first Japanese studio album. Last December, she released a digital album with Lee Jonghyun called Romantic J.

Look out for Juniel’s comeback on 29 Sept, I Think I’m In Love.

Recommended playlist

illa illa – the Korean debut song

Bad Man

Everlasting Sunset – acoustic performance

Love Falls – the romantic duet with Lee Jonghyun

Bonus: Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

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About Author

British writer and editor living in Japan. Currently studying Japanese, Korean, K-pop dance, and the fine form of 이성종's legs.