He went on to peddle himself to various artiste management companies but all rejected him because his mug was deemed “too ugly”.
“I’ve never thought about plastic surgery,” he says of the seemingly easy solution – something a few of these companies had advised.
In fact, he rates his own looks a respectable “70 points”, and his best assets, his eyes.
One person, at least, saw past the unremarkable face. When Rain was 18, he auditioned and got accepted to JYP Academy, a performing arts school run by hip-hop performer and impresario Park Jin Young who had groomed popular boyband GOD.
Park said in previous interviews that when he first met Rain, he felt there was something sad about the boy.
He quickly learnt that his new student went hungry sometimes because he didn’t have money to eat. He lived with his mother and younger sister in a dilapidated single room in Seoul. His father, who was working in a bakery in a town three hours away, wasn’t making much.
Rain’s mother was also suffering from diabetes and the family had no money for her treatment. She died a year before Rain’s 2002 singing debut – something that hit him quite hard, but which also spurred him to succeed.
“My mum always taught me: Work hard, be humble, and be patient. That has become my motto.”
To this day, the introverted, once poverty-stricken teenager still lives like a monk. He doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs or drive a car. His idea of fun is hanging out at his management office, watching DVDs and listening to music.