Sandara Park (Korean: 박산다라; born 12 November 1984), also known by her stage name Dara (Korean: 다라), is a South Korean singer, actress and television presenter. She rose to fame in the Philippines as a contestant on the talent show Star Circle Quest in 2004, after which she had a successful acting and singing career before returning to South Korea in 2007. She made her South Korean debut in 2009 as a member of the K-pop group 2NE1, which went on to become one of the best-selling girl groups of all time before their disbandment in 2016.
Park is one of the most popular South Korean celebrities in the Philippines, where she is known by fans as the Pambansang Krung-Krung (National Crazy Personality). She is considered an influential figure in the Korean Wave, and has been called the “BoA of the Philippines,” in reference to South Korean singer BoA who also experienced great success abroad.
In 2004, Park released her first EP, Sandara, which sold over 100,000 physical copies, making it the only album by a South Korean artist to be certified platinum by the Philippine Association of the Record Industry. She acted in several Philippine films between 2004 and 2007, including Bcuz of U, for which she won the award for Best New Actress the 21st PMPC Star Award for Movies.
In 2009, Park debuted as a member of 2NE1 with the single “Fire,” which immediately catapulted the group to fame. co-hosting the South Korean variety show Two Yoo Project Sugar Man, and appearing as a judge on the Philippine talent show Pinoy Boyband Superstar. She also acted in several web series, including 2016’s Dr. Ian, for which she won Best Actress at a Korean web festival.
Following 2NE1’s break-up at the end of 2016, Park renewed her contract with YG Entertainment.
Sandara Park was born on 12 November 1984, in Busan, South Korea. Her unusual three-syllable given name means “wise and clever” and is based on the childhood nickname of 7th century general Kim Yu-sin. She has two siblings: Thunder, who is a former member of K-pop boy group MBLAQ, and a younger sister named Durami.
Park’s family moved to Daegu in 1993. However, Park’s father was unable to make ends meet, and the family moved to the Philippines in hopes of rebuilding his career in 1994. According to Park, she was initially lonely in the Philippines because she wasn’t fluent in Filipino and her pronunciation of the language was not good. She later said she worked hard to correct her pronunciation in hopes of one day becoming a celebrity, which was a dream she had harbored since hearing K-pop boy band Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992.
In 2004, Park met Filipina actress Pauleen Luna, who encouraged Park to audition for Star Circle Quest, a talent search television program on ABS-CBN. Over the course of the season, Park escaped elimination several times, and reached the final ten contestants. During the last elimination round, Park received approximately half a million text votes and finished in second place behind Hero Angeles.
After the show, Park signed a contract with ABS-CBN subsidiary, Star Magic. In 2004, she starred in her first film, the romantic comedy Bcuz of U, opposite Hero Angeles. For her performance, Park won Best New Actress at the 21st PMPC Star Award for Movies. In the same year, her fourth and last movie, Super Noypi, was shown in December and was an official entry in the 32nd Metro Manila Film Festival.
Park also embarked on a music career in the Philippines that led to the release of her self-titled six-track album, Sandara, which included the novelty dance hit “In or Out,” a song that parodied her experiences on Star Circle Quest. The album ultimately sold over 100,000 physical copies, making it the only album by a South Korean artist to be certified platinum by the Philippine Association of the Record Industry.
Park left Philippine show business and returned to South Korea with her family in 2007. Shortly after, she signed a contract with YG Entertainment, whose CEO Yang Hyun-suk had scouted her back in 2004 after she appeared on a KBS documentary.
Park took on the stage name Dara, and together with Bom, CL and Minzy, debuted as K-pop girl group 2NE1 in 2009. The group collaborated with label-mates Big Bang for the promotional single “Lollipop,” before officially debuting with their first single “Fire.” That same year, the group released its first EP, 2NE1, and achieved significant success with the hit single “I Don’t Care,” which won the Song of the Year award at the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards.
Park also made her solo Korean debut in 2009. She was featured on the single “Hello” from Big Bang member G-Dragon’s album Heartbreaker, and later released her first solo single, “Kiss,” which featured fellow 2NE1 member CL as a rapper. The song was used in a video promoting Cass Beer, which Park starred in alongside actor Lee Min-ho. The video became popular for a kissing scene between the two performers, and the single topped South Korean music charts. Park again teamed up with a Big Bang member in 2010, when she made an appearance as the female lead in Taeyang’s “I Need A Girl” music video.
During this era, 2NE1 continued to release hit albums and songs, including 2011’s “I Am the Best,” which topped charts in South Korea and made the group only the second South Korean artists after Psy to top the U.S. Billboard World Digital Songs chart.
As a result of 2NE1’s growing fame, Park’s earlier Philippine movies Bcuz of U, Can This Be Love, and D’ Lucky Ones were screened in South Korea in 2012.
In May 2014, ABS-CBN announced that Park would be a guest on Pinoy Big Brother, which set off a social media frenzy, dominating both the Philippines and worldwide Twitter trending topics. She guest starred on the show on 15 May, and later appeared as a celebrity house-guest in the telecast, All In Über, during its live episode. Park also appeared on Gandang Gabi, Vice!, one of the most popular talk shows in the Philippines hosted by Vice Ganda.
Back in South Korea, Park replaced close friend Yoo In-na as a DJ for her Let’s Crank Up the Volume radio program from May to June due to scheduling clashes. Later in the year, Park made a surprise cameo appearance as a top actress in the last episode of the highly rated Korean drama My Love from the Star.
On 12 November, BeFunny Studios made an unannounced release of a 3-part mini web series starring The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun and Park titled What’s eating Steven Yeun. Park played the role of Steven Yeun’s American girlfriend who is left behind as her boyfriend pursues a career in “Mokbang”, a popular Korean internet broadcast where generally attractive people eat in front of a webcam and get paid for it. The comedy sketch went viral and reached over a million views in the few days after release.
In 2015, seven years after her last acting role, Park returned to the small screen through the web-drama Dr. Ian, starring alongside Kim Young-kwang. Expectations were high as the series featured Park in her first leading role since moving back to South Korea, coupled with the involvement of director Kwon Hyeok-chan (Secret Garden, Master’s Sun). The series enjoyed global popularity, not only in Korea but also in the United States, Taiwan, and Thailand, surpassing 500,000 views within three days of its broadcasting. Park became the first actress to win the “Best Actress” award at the K-web festival for her performance.
The same month, Park featured in label-mate Jinusean’s stage for their single “Tell Me” on You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook. Her natural performance impressed the group which led to a second collaboration, where Park featured on their “Tell Me One More Time” comeback stage in place of the original singer, Jang Hana, on KBS2’s Music Bank on 1 May.
Park then took on her second leading role in We Broke Up, a web-drama based upon a web-toon of the same name. She played the role of Noh Woori, an optimistic and bright girl preparing to get a job. Premiering in June, the series was a success, becoming the fourth most watched web-drama on Naver with 16 million views. Due to the positive reception, the cast held a personal ‘mini concert’ on 17 August. Park also made cameo appearances in the television series The Producers, playing a fictional 2 Days & 1 Night variety program cast member alongside her We Broke Up co-star Kang Seung-yoon.
On 15 September, Park was cast opposite Goong star Kim Jeong-hoon in Missing Korea, a romantic-comedy set in the fictional year of 2020, in which the North and South are working towards unification through non-governmental exchanges and economic cooperation, leading to the first-ever ‘North-South Joint Miss Korea Pageant’. Though not as successful on the global market as her previous web-dramas, Park received acting recognition and earned her another nomination for “Best Actress” in the 2016 K-web festival, making her the first idol-turned-actress to be nominated for the award in succeeding years.
Park later joined JTBC variety show Sugar Man from 2015 to 2016, alongside Yoo Jae-suk, You Hee-yeol, and Kim Eana as a co-host. The first episode was officially broadcast on 20 October. The production team stated, “We think that Sandara Park has a unique strength that encompasses the emotions of the younger generation and the memories of the older generation. We predict she will actively radiate new, never-before-seen charms.” Through her involvement as YG Entertainment’s public relations director, artists such as Akmu, Winner, iKON, and Lee Hi were able to perform on the show, and during an episode for which she wasn’t present, friend and fellow actress Yoo In-na replaced her.
Park started the year 2016 with a special appearance in the MBC drama One More Happy Ending. as a beloved but spoiled star of a popular girl group. The producer of the drama expressed the difficulty of casting an actress who could play the role, as the character’s beauty was meant to overshadow characters played by actresses like Yoo In-na, Jang Na-ra, Yoo Da-in, and Seo In-young. It was because of In-na, who was close friends with Park, that they came in contact and the matter was resolved. Park also participated in the promotional single “Loving U” as part of the drama’s soundtrack. Park was officially promoted from being YG Entertainment’s public relations head to director.
Park then joined the judging panel of ABS-CBN’s reality singing competition show Pinoy Boyband Superstar, alongside Filipino top stars Yeng Constantino, Vice Ganda, and Aga Muhlach. The show is based on the format created by Simon Cowell and was first shown in United States through La Banda. The show premiered on 10 September, and became the most watched weekend program, and the second highest program in television viewership nationwide. As the show was still filming on the day after 2NE1 announced the official disbandment, Park became the first former member to respond after the event by way of handing a handwritten letter in English to fans on 26 November 2016, and allowed them to upload the contents on her behalf. YG also revealed that Park and CL has signed a solo contract, hinting at the departure of Park Bom from the company.
In 2017, Park became the host of OnStyle’s beauty program Get It Beauty, alongside Honey Lee and Gugudan’s Kim Se-jeong. Park then starred alongside Han Jae-suk in her domestic debut film One Step. Billed as the Korean remake of Begin Again, she portrayed Si-hyun, a convenience store part-timer who seeks out a mysterious melody she hears every night in her dreams, and meets the producer of an Internet broadcasting program who tries to help her find out the music. The film premiered in South Korea on 6 April 2017, and opened on 10 May in the Philippines. She received acting praise from its director, Jeon Jae Hong, who noted that she only had one retake during the filming process due to her professionalism. Following an announcement that she was cast in the film adaptation of the popular webtoon Cheese in the Trap as the heroine’s best friend Jang Bo-ra, it was also revealed that Park would star in OnStyle’s new television program titled Relationship Appeal where she will review trending topics and travel to popular tourist spots. In June, it was reported and then confirmed by director Lee Won Jun, that Park was cast in a Vampire action film called 107th Year of Night.
Controversy arose when rude remarks directed at Park was made during MBC’s SeMoBang: All Broadcasting in the World collaboration segment with Piki Pictures mobile variety team ‘This is Real’. The concept was for the MCs to ‘overhear’ the constructive criticism of everyday netizens (picked by the ‘This is Real’ team) by separating the two groups with a thin wall. Viewers who watched the program criticized the teams selection and expressed discomfort with the remarks as they were believed to be personal attacks made in a subjective way. Piki Pictures issued an apology soon after and MBC deleted the video featuring the incident.
In December 2017, a year after the disbandment of 2NE1, Park performed the defunct band’s hits all by herself in a solo headlining concert.
Sandara Park is credited as one of the leading figures in the ‘Reverse-Hallyu’ Wave. She is dubbed the ‘BoA of the Philippines’ by Korean fans due to the similar success between the two, as BoA was the first Korean artist to break through the Japanese market. She holds the national title of ‘Pambansang Krung Krung ng Pilipinas’ (The Philippines’ national crazy or unique personality) given to her by her Filipino fans, and her popularity in the region is likened to comedian Yoo Jae-suk’s fame in South Korea.
In popular culture, Sandara is the icon of “baby-face” amongst celebrities and the public, which is a term used to describe an individual who looks younger than their years. Despite being born in the early 80s, Sandara is known to top and beat other competitors in surveys, often with a large gap between their ages, thus earning herself the nickname “vampire” for her youthful skin and look. She is noted for having the ideal facial proportions, called “the golden ratio” by plastic surgeons. Attesting to the quality of her skin, she was described to be a popular choice for both advertisers and consumers, who would be drawn to her clear and seemingly poreless face. In 2012, she was announced to be one of the most beautiful women of her time (1980s).
Park features some of the most iconic and memorable styles in the Korean Industry, ranging from her signature tail lilt eye make-up, to her bold hair styles and clothing. Labeled a pioneer of unconventional trends, her first appearance in Lollipop sporting her ‘palm-tree’ hairstyle became the most famous and widely parodied style in 2009 and remains an iconic piece in K-pop. In particular, her 2012 look, for which she had shaved a portion of her trademark locks for the promotional single “I Love You”, attracted massive media attention and initially garnered mixed reactions, but was nonetheless praised for its shock factor and contradictory styling to the typical girl-group ‘look’. The style is considered to be her most noteworthy transformation.
Park is one of the most in-demand faces in both the Philippines and South Korea, having appeared in many TV commercials and print ads over the course of her career. Park’s huge popularity led to her instantly signing many Philippine and foreign endorsement deals ranging from personal care and food products to everyday items at the end of the competition. Her first endorsement was for Dong-A pens. Along with other Star Circle Quest finalists, Park modeled for and endorsed BNY Jeans in 2004. She served as the face for Tekki Asian Classic Noodles, and helped promote Canon, a Japanese camera brand looking to solidify their power in the Philippines. She endorsed Confident feminine napkins, and Rejoice shampoo as well. In addition to the shampoo’s advertisements, Park also contributed a single to go along with the brand. Park also campaigned for Maxi-Peel with Kristine Hermosa. Following the revival of her career as a member of 2NE1, Sandara endorsed high-profile local brands without the group. In 2009, she became the endorsement model for Oriental Brewery’s Cass beer series, one of Korea’s most famous alcoholic beverages, alongside actor Lee Min-ho. To help promote the beer, an accompanying music video and song was released to nationwide attention.
While promoting alongside 2NE1 for an endorsement deal with Mitsubishi’s subsidiary Nikon Corporation, Park was solely chosen to become their main model for their new product Nikon Coolpix p300 camera. Dongkook Kim, brand manager of Nikon Korea, stated that signing her would increase their products “attractiveness”, and motivate buyers to purchase their items. After her campaign debuted, the company reported a massive increase in sales that put them only behind Samsung, the largest business conglomerate in South Korea, for the year of 2012. The company named the camera after her, going by the official name of “Sandara Digicam”. Park is also well known for endorsing makeup brands. Despite having already worked with Etude House in 2010 alongside her group, the makeup brand sought to continue with her for an additional two years with the belief that her image would be a “good influence” to potential buyers. Over the course of her endorsement with Etude, the brand was able to compete with popular local makeup companies and were launched to international success. An umbrella called Sweet Bunny was made available online and in stores to be given to buyers who paid for a certain number of items. A representative described the reactions of the public as “surprising”. The makeup brand won several web awards for their achievements in marketing, services and makeup as well.
In 2013, Sandara became the new makeup model for Clio, a well-established makeup company founded in 1993. Clio then closed the year with four awards, three of which were modeled by Park.
In 2015, Park joined the likes of supermodels Cara Delevingne, Sean O’Pry, and fashion model/TV personality Kendall Jenner as Penshoppe’s ambassador. The following year, Park and G-Dragon was chosen as exclusive models for the cosmetic brand Moonshot launched previously by YG Plus in 2014, a subsidiary company of YG Entertainment. Days after launching products released in their namesake, the product was sold out and required immediate restocking. A representative of Moonshot noted that it was the first time their products left stores at such a high rate and that the overall reservations had gone up substantially. In June, Park became the new endorser for American shampoo brand Head & Shoulders.
Aside from her solo endorsements, Park has endorsed Adidas, 11st, Intel, Baskin Robbins, Italian sports brand Fila, Samsung, Yamaha, Bean Pole, and Nintendo Wii with her group.
Park regularly volunteers for label-mate Sean’s annual briquette charity event every New Year’s Eve.
In November 2013, Dara and her brother lent their support for the campaign effort “WEGENERATION” to help the devastated survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. Having long considered the Philippines their second home after spending their childhood there, the Park siblings responded to the desperate situation by collaborating with both “WEGENERATION” and charity organization “World Share” to launch an online emergency aid fundraising system. In order to repay contributors, they exchanged their personal items as thanks for the donations.
In 2016, she provided her services to Purme Foundation Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital and donated gifts given to her by fans over the years to the children.
Park is trilingual. Aside from speaking native Korean, she is also fluent in Filipino and English languages due to her residency in the Philippines.
During a promotional visit with 2NE1, Park was caught in the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011. They were included in Fuse’s list of ’14 Female Friendships In Music’ because of the story.