Five Years Of Dreamcatcher: Handong’s Inspirational Quest For K-Pop Success

K-Pop Special — Five Years Of Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher’s foreign-born member has both talents and a career path that have evolved and grown from debut until now.

Handong from 2017–2021. Source: Dream Catcher

Anyone who is into K-Pop for a while will likely hear about stories about the industry, whether it’s from ex-idols, or from stories that have a varying degree of credibility, or from the artists themselves through interviews. As such, they’ll hear about how being in the K-Pop industry is fraught with stories of trials, tribulations, and all kinds of talk about failures and successes. Even then, such insights are uncommon, and don’t always tell the whole story of how the industry works. It’s even rarer to see a journey of an artist’s attempts to succeed unfold right in front of us, especially if they’re in a group, where there are plenty of other members with their own stories to hear about.

This is kind of why Dreamcatcher’s Handong, the group’s resident foreign-born member, has such an inspiring and interesting career arc to have followed over the past five years. Handong came over from her native China to go to school in South Korea, and ended up through one audition to become a member of Dreamcatcher, a decision that was to her seemingly “lucky” but which may have been destined.

Put on a trajectory that would see her deal with the simultaneous challenge of being in another country and also being in the highly visible and competitive K-Pop industry, fans have watched Handong go through an immense amount of growth and evolution, culminating in a 2021 that I believe has been very much her “coming out” party as far as establishing a more solid identity in front of the camera. What has taken some Dreamcatcher fans a little bit to notice about Handong, however, are things that her fellow members have very much known since the beginning about her. Those traits include being sometimes effortlessly funny, blunt to the point of savage honesty, having a low-toned, rich voice that has lent itself to many Dreamcatcher B-sides and title tracks, and more. But most of all, Dreamcatcher members (and now fans) have always known Handong’s work in Dreamcatcher as an inspirational story, one that takes courage and dedication to succeed.

Here’s five thoughts on Handong’s sometimes-winding, but always climbing, path to being an integral part of Dreamcatcher.

Handong has always been a core portion of Dreamcatcher’s success with the group, providing more dimension to their music with her vocal talent.

At first glance, you might think that Handong’s contributions early on in Dreamcatcher’s life may have been limited. While she played her part well in their first set of title tracks, on the surface it may have seemed like opportunities to shine may have been fewer for the group’s Chinese-born member. But looking deeper at the discography and of the parts that she’s played, it’s clear that Handong has always been a necessary portion of the group’s unique sound. A lower register, ability to sing in clear English, and richer vocal tone have given Handong a bevy of opportunities to add to Dreamcatcher’s appeal, such as in 2019 B-side “Daydream” or 2018 track and frequent fan-favorite “July 7th”.

As such, despite being officially tasked with the sub-vocalist role, Handong has always contributed significantly in her own way to the color and depth of Dreamcatcher’s songs. It’s something that when she took the time to develop her skills in China from late 2019 to late 2020, producer LEEZ stated was missing, and was glad to get back.

Because of all this, I subscribe to the notion that being concerned with “line distribution” in K-Pop songs, and being worried about equality in singing time isn’t really the correct mentality. Producers decide the best way to utilize each member’s talent in the group from a vocal standpoint, and position them appropriately. As such, it isn’t the number of lines you get but how you deliver them, and Handong has done so in spades, whether it was “Emergency Emergency” (“PIRI”), “I Don’t Wanna Tick Tock” (“Good Night”), “However Long The Night Tonight” (“Daydream”) and the always-iconic “And Now, I’m Holding This Pain” (“Deja Vu”), or many more memorable snippets. These instances show that Handong has ever been a necessary part of Dreamcatcher songs being so interesting and intriguing to fans, and it’s become even more noticeable in recent, more prominent portions she’s sung in tracks such as “Odd Eye” and “BEcause”.

Handong’s solo moments have revealed a highly expressive performer and vocalist with multi-lingual talent.


Continuing a bit from my last point, when Handong has been given an opportunity to get the spotlight in a solo manner, what we’ve seen is someone who has chosen and performs tracks with an emotion and expressiveness that grabs and takes hold of fans. It’s possible this might come from her first thought that if she got into music, she’d be doing musicals instead of pop, where conveying emotion through expression is as important as singing well. In Special Clips and other content primarily featuring her, this is a trend and is part of her appeal as an artist.


Adding onto this is the fact that Handong is of course a multi-lingual singer. Fellow member Yoohyeon gets some of the praise for being able to sing in different languages, but her appeal in this regard (that is, making her more relatable to fans) is different from Handong’s. When you combine the fact that Handong tends towards more expressive, emotionally-heavy tracks with her being able to sing them well in multiple languages, what you get is a vocalist who can turn heads of fans both global and domestic, who can make you feel the mood of the song when you hear her sing and watch her perform.

Music, no matter what language the lyrics are in, has always relied on being a medium to elicit ideas through expression of the singer, and no matter the language she uses (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or English) Handong has proven herself to be more than capable of showing that off. Her “Rainy Day” cover from 2021 is perhaps the best example of this, using her native language, a video that shows her expressing a wistful mood while doing art, and her singing to convey the heaviness of the song. I’m always on the lookout for more Handong moments in this regard as they are wonderful to listen to and watch.

Handong on many levels, serves as Dreamcatcher’s bridge, both to other members and to the fandom at-large.

As the “middle” member age-wise in Dreamcatcher’s seven-member group, Handong already natively bridges the older members of the group with the younger ones, but that isn’t the only way that she does so. The most obvious example is through her native China and the Chinese fandom, through multi-lingual covers such as the ones I just linked as well as through her Weibo social media account, sporting over a million followers as of this writing. And of course one of the best examples is her presence in Dreamcatcher’s “Catch” series that is targeted towards the group’s Chinese fanbase, talking about both Chinese-language insights as well as Chinese cultural aspects, such as the above linked episode focusing on Handong’s favorite snacks. With eldest member JiU and younger member Yoohyeon, the episode serves as a nice little microcosm of how Handong plays an important role in fandom outreach and unifying various Dreamcatcher members in doing so.

From a performance standpoint, we’ve seen Handong frequently be a member standing between the older and younger members of Dreamcatcher, helping connect everyone in a way that provides some of the group’s most memorable and fun videos and stage songs. Whether it’s with Main Vocalist Siyeon and youngest member/Lead Rapper Gahyeon to perform a well-known ballad, or pairing with Main Dancer SuA and Gahyeon for a recent, unforgettable subunit concert performance of SNSD subunit TTS’s “Twinkle”, Handong has been a big part of Dreamcatcher member performances that combine talent from across the group, keeping them glued together with unique synergy.


Last, but not least, on a personal level, we’ve seen Handong connect to Dreamcatcher and other people in the K-Pop industry on a variety of levels, creating all kinds of memories and nice moments on-camera. Whether it be in a vlog with roommate Gahyeon, on a vLive welcoming her back to South Korea with Siyeon and Yoohyeon, or with fellow Chinese K-Pop idols in an outing, Handong has a great deal of connectivity with her fellow members, the company, and her peers/friends in the industry as a whole. It’s certainly a testament to the fact that Handong has been able to adapt and thrive even as she’s had to do so outside of her native China, and is an interesting, reassuring aspect of her career/personal life in South Korea.

Handong’s courage and (sometimes savage) fearlessness have proven to be a large part of her appeal, whether off-stage or on-stage in her career.

On an appearance on After School Club, Handong honestly and comedically recounts how she thinks fans would react when seeing them — by drooling. Source: Arirang K-Pop

Fans have known and gotten the sense that Handong has been quite courageous and fearless throughout the five years they’ve been able to get to know Dreamcatcher’s foreign-born member. To be honest, the mere fact that Handong decided, against her parents’ initial wishes, to pursue a career in K-Pop, far from her home country where she’d have to put up with learning a new language and culture, is evidence enough. But there’s also a kind of charming, and often-called savage, honesty that has resulted in Handong being perceived as somewhat fearless. Whether it’s rather frankly putting forth that she thinks fans would drool if they saw them on the street, telling SuA that she looks three months pregnant after she was full from a meal, treating an arm-wrestling match with Yoohyeon like it’s basically stress-and-effort-free and many more examples, Handong has taken the opportunity, when she can, to communicate exactly how she feels.

Additionally, Handong’s fellow members have also recounted, with affection, some of Handong’s earlier stumbles with the nuances of Korean language and pronunciation, but all of these, given her improvement in this regard, are just testament to how fearless you’d have to be in order to go down the path she has in the first place. As such, Handong’s initial impression of being shy on-camera has really just seemed to be her being careful that she was communicating correctly in Korean — but the results have often been a somewhat-endearing brutality to some of her comments.

The personal and somewhat light-hearted elements of her fearlessness aside, however, there is no greater professional example of Handong’s courage than what she and the company agreed to do in late 2019 to late 2020. Handong went on hiatus from Dreamcatcher activities during this time period, electing to fly back to her home country of China to participate in “Youth With You”, an idol survival show. This time apart ended up being much longer than usual due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was nevertheless a bold move for the Chinese-born idol. With the support of her family but far apart from the group that she had lived and worked with for the past three years, Handong threw herself into doing the best she could in the show, making it to round 2, ending up eliminated from advancing with a rank of 56, but ranking as high as 8 internationally. During this time, we got to see Handong lend her veteran expertise to her performance team, have her show off her perseverance to improve, and generally take bold steps in both admitting her desire to get better and work hard to do so — all without being around the group she considered to be family. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it cemented my already-rising respect for Handong just for the pure risk and fearless guts it took to do so.


Even stranded for longer-than-usual, Handong kept up her courage and determination, and managed to do other things such as create vlogs, appear for an interview with a Fashion outlet, and play a (villainous) part in a Chinese pop-group’s music video, while also creating occasional Dreamcatcher-related content for fans back in Korea. A lesser person would perhaps not be able to handle the dual stress of being away from a group you’ve been with while also having to stay put, but Handong’s determination never seemed to waver. It’s a kind of courage that takes resilience to keep going, and that’s what Handong did, with barely a stumble.

Late 2020 and 2021, post-Handong’s return, have served as the culmination of Handong’s personal and professional development, leading to a deeper, more complete Dreamcatcher overall.


The result of all of Handong’s work from debut, to her hiatus in China, until now seemed to come to a very visible head once she returned to the group in late 2020. A more confident, assertive, on-camera Handong was the result, with more participation in all aspects of the group, a kind of newfound presence that augmented her already-formidable fearlessness, and a desire to show just how much she’s improved. Handong slotted back into the group with seven-member versions of songs she was not present for without issue, but I think it was during “Odd Eye” promotions and afterwards in early 2021 that this improved Handong really asserted herself. There seemed to always be moments where Handong was memorable, such as winning the Insider King title on a variety appearance and creating a fun moment during a French-YouTube sponsored concert in which she showed off the “femme fatale” acting skill she exhibited for the Oner MV, and fans certainly took notice.


And of course, the fans weren’t the only ones to take notice of this newly prominent and assertive Handong. The group centered her around one of their fun “self-made MVs” as the stereotypical object of affection with “Poison Love”, and reality show Dreamcatcher Mind featured Handong, among other moments, showing off just how strong she was by destroying the other members in a strength test in a human tug-of-war game. In this sense, both the group and the company backed the growth and evolution of Handong’s attitude and confidence on-camera, and worked around her accordingly. It was both reassuring and supportive to see that everyone around her recognized that Handong wanted to prove her improvement over the past five years (and especially between 2019 and 2020) to the world, and helped her do so.

Handong’s quest to be a successful K-Pop artist is certainly not over. Both as an individual and as a member of Dreamcatcher, she knows she has room to grow and get even better as Dreamcatcher goes into 2022 and beyond. But the history of what we’ve seen from her is truly one of those stories in the K-Pop industry that you like to hear. That story, of someone following their dreams all that way from another country, getting a shot to prove themselves, having challenges and trials adjusting and getting acclimated to new co-workers and a new culture, and then eventually making a risky move that pays off on return? That’s the kind of stuff you only really see in the movies most of the time, and for us to see that happen to Handong, given where she started and where she is now, is heartening to see.

Handong in 2021, during “Odd Eye” promotions. Source: Dream Catcher Company

It’s great to see that Handong is getting her deserved praise for her accomplishments and that her hard work has created what I call a more complete Dreamcatcher overall. Dreamcatcher, on one level, is seven members with a non-traditional arc into the K-Pop industry that have become sustainable and have improved to the level of being seen and respected by peers and companies both domestic and foreign. When you look at it that way, Handong’s successful storyline in K-Pop is all too fitting — and still being written.

Stay tuned for more Five Years of Dreamcatcher content as we roll toward their 5th anniversary in January — clap, follow, and signal boost this content to your fellow fans so that more people can read about how and why Dreamcatcher remains one of K-Pop’s most interesting and sustainable groups with a great story in the industry!

Want to read the rest of the series? Check out the rest of the members in the Five Years of Dreamcatcher series of articles!