What is Kpop? Here is everything you need to know

Last Updated on November 27, 2020 by 90 Day Korean
4 Kpop members waving

What is Kpop? 

Maybe you’ve heard the term and would like to know more about why it’s becoming so popular.

Or perhaps you are curious about South Korea, and want to learn more about the music.

This article will answer the question “What is Kpop?“, as well as explain everything you need to know related to this music phenomenon.

Let’s get to it!

4 Kpop members waving

What is Kpop?

Kpop is Korean popular music. It is mainstream music that originated from South Korea. Korean pop music in Korea could be thought of as similar to Taylor Swift in the United States.

You may see the Korean pop written as K-pop, K pop, Kpop, K-Pop, and KPOP.

What is Kpop music?

The term Kpop includes many different musical genres under its umbrella. Along with Korean pop, it can also include rock, hip hop, and electronic music. Kpop is considered a fairly new form of music. The type of K-Pop music that you’re listening to today was formed around the 1990s. The roots for K-Pop began from the 1950s, however, and have since then already been influenced a lot by different types of Western music and pop groups. American pop culture has especially had – and still does have – an effect on K-Pop.

What was the very first Kpop group?

Unlike other musical genres, contemporary Kpop start can be pinpointed to a certain date: April 11th of 1992, when the groups Seo Taiji and The Boys performed their music on TV for the first time. This was the driving force that also led to the formation of all your favorite idol groups, with SM Entertainment being established in 1995, JYP Entertainment in 1997, and YG Entertainment in 1998. The very first K-Pop idol group to exist was H.O.T., which debuted in 1996.

Statue of two golden hands in Seoul

What are Kpop idols?

If you’re still completely new to Kpop music, then think of pop groups such as One Direction, Little Mix, and Fifth Harmony in the West: they’re close to the concept of idols!

Kpop idols are groups and artists formed by the various entertainment companies creating catchy Korean popular music and targeting younger audiences. The music groups are formed from a group of people who are all particularly talented in at least one of the following: singing, rapping, and dancing. These idols often enter the entertainment company in their teens and then train hard for years in areas like singing, rapping, dancing, and foreign languages. Then, if they are lucky and talented enough, by the end of their teens they will be picked for an idol group.

The Kpop groups then periodically come out with music singles and albums filled with catchy tunes. Every week they’ll go to many music shows to perform their lead single, for a period of one month to two months. Although the song is important, special care and attention are always put into styling the group members, a well-synched choreography, and a high-quality music video.

This combination tells the story of the chosen style concept for each era. Some could say these entertainment companies work like manufacturers in assembling the perfect idol group outlook and style for each cycle of performing and promoting the music.

3 members of the girl group Wonder Girls

Who are some of the most successful Kpop idol groups and songs?

There are new Korean pop idol groups debuting each month and the public’s opinion on which group is the best changes accordingly. It is also typical for the idol groups to make music and promote together for up to 10 years, then move onto other careers like becoming a solo artist or an actor.

However, Some idol groups have been more successful and longer-lasting. Some groups are so famous that many different generations of Kpop listeners know them!

Who are some famous Kpop girl groups?

Girls’ Generation is a great example of this. They have had a long career as the top girl group in Kpop, with incredibly catchy songs and concepts. For example, if you listen to the song “Gee!”, you’ll have it on repeat in your head for at least a full day!

Another huge girl group is Wonder Girls. They haven’t been as active as Girls’ Generation and they don’t have as many popular songs, either, but their hit song “Nobody” is one of the biggest Kpop songs ever made.

Who are some famous Kpop boy groups?

Among boy groups, the two most famous ones in Korea have always been Dong Bang Shin Ki (also known as TVXQ) and Big Bang. Dong Bang Shin Ki once had the biggest fan club in the world and is well known on the internet.

The Korean pop group Big Bang has a unique style that is easy to get hooked on, with their music evolving to something new with each album. Now they have paved the way for newer idol groups, but their style and music will not be forgotten for a long time.

And then there is one of the most popular groups of all time, BTS. This idol group has been an even bigger smash hit in the USA and other countries than it has been in Korea.

Monster X performing in Las Vegas

How did Kpop become a worldwide phenomenon?

There have been various attempts by different music companies in Korea to break into the international music markets, especially in the United States. Some notable tries are the music groups BoA and Wonder Girls. The world only got to know Kpop when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” hit the radios all around the world in the summer of 2012. For a few years that also seemed like a fluke, but now that the world has gone crazy over BTS, we can finally call Kpop a worldwide phenomenon!

Many years ago, if you were lucky, you could maybe attend a small club concert by your favorite Kpop artist if you lived in Asia, Europe or Brazil. But now you can also see groups like Blackpink perform their music at Coachella!

Kpop in Television

Some American TV shows and movies have also begun using Korean songs in their scenes. For example, the TV show Lucifer used the popular SHINee song “Lucifer” in one of their episodes. And there is a scene in the DC Comics blockbuster movie Justice League where Blackpink’s music was played.

Why is Kpop Unique?

While Kpop with its idol groups is quite different from Western music especially, it’s easy to see why many people have become addicted to it now. The melodies are catchy, the choreographies are impressive and the group members are beautiful to the eye. There is usually a lot of effort also put into making the music videos look cool and high quality, even when it’s just the group members dancing. The groups have specific styles to help them stand out.

Korean Pop Star RainThere is a special Korean slang term called 칼군무 (kalgunmu) which means “dancing perfectly in sync”. You can use this to describe your favorite Kpop performers.

The word 칼군무 (kalgunmu) is written in Hangul, the Korean Alphabet. If you don’t know how to read it yet, you can learn using this guide in about 1 hour.

What is the Hallyu Wave and how does it relate to Kpop?

Also called the Korean Wave, Hallyu Wave means the increased popularity of South Korean culture globally, specifically in arts and cosmetics, which began in the early 1990s.

Kpop is included as one part of Hallyu Wave, but it also includes the dramas, movies, and, more recently, Korean cosmetics. The Hallyu Wave first became popular in East Asia, but today you can see it impacting present cultures, music and film and television, and the interest and behavioral habits of people all around the world.

If you enjoyed this, you may want to read about:

  1. Best KPop Groups of All Time
  2. Learn Korean with Kpop
  3. The Best Korean Dramas for Learning Korean
  4. Korean Drama Phrases
  5. Best Korean Movies for Learning Korean

Have you already listened to Kpop before? Let us know in the comments who your favorite idol and idol group are!