Im Shi-wan debuted as a member of the South Korean boy group ZE:A a.k.a. Children of Empire in 2010 with the single album Nativity. The album’s lead single Mazeltov earned the group a Best New Male Artist nomination at the 12th Mnet Asian Music Awards. In 2011, the group released their first studio album Lovability while their second full album Spectacular was dropped the following year.

Im Shi-wan made his acting debut in the hit MBC sageuk The Moon That Embraces the Sun, which earned him nominations for Best New Actor and the Popularity Award at the MBC Drama Awards. In 2012, he took home the Best Newcomer trophy at the MBC Entertainment Awards for his work in the sitcom Standby. In 2013, he starred in the courtroom drama film The Attorney, which scored him several Best New Actor wins and nominations. In 2014, he led the high-rating tvN series Misaeng, in which he bagged numerous acting recognitions, including Best New Actor at the 51st Baeksang Arts Awards. In 2017, he acted alongside Sol Kyung-gu in the crime action film The Merciless, which was invited to the midnight category at the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Also in 2017, he was nominated for a Top Excellence Award at the MBC Drama Awards for the sageuk The King Loves.

Im Shi-wan’s given name is Im Woong-jae, but he legally changed it to his current name before his entertainment industry debut. He enlisted for his mandatory military service in July 2017 and was discharged in March 2019.