Throughout the years, Hallyu, the Korean Wave, has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global culture seen in Korean dramas in Netflix to the popularization of Korean skincare. And at the heart of Hallyu is the rising popularity of K-pop, in short for Korean pop music.
Roots of K-pop can be traced all the way back to 1885, when a missionary named Henry Appenzeller began to teach American and British folk songs to school children and replaced the original English lyrics with the Korean language known as changga. Over time, American pop culture gradually become more accepted, and “trot” music, the oldest type of Korean pop music derived from the old changga songs, started to take a distinctly Americanized form. The first Korean pop stars appeared such as: The Kim Sisters, Cho Yong-pil, and Lee Gwang-jo. At this time as well came the rise of the first K-pop groups such as: Seo Taiji & Boys, H.O.T., S.E.S and Fin.K.L, to name a few.
Towards the beginning of the 21st century, K-pop started spreading towards its neighboring Asian countries. Names in the industry like BoA and Rain became more popular especially in Japan were Rain became the first K-pop artist to perform in the Tokyo Dome and BoA who sold millions of copies of three of her albums. The rise of label talent agencies began when Lee Soo-man started Sm Entertainment in 1995 and became part of the infamous ‘Big Three’ alongside YG by Yang Hyun-suk and JYP by Park Jin-young who were established in later years.
The industry became a male dominated where groups like TVXQ, Super Junior and Big Bang were the most popular groups until the girl group Girls Generation debuted in 2007 with ‘Into the New World’ but became significantly popular for hit single ‘Gee’ which was dubbed as the most popular song of the decade, their popularity in South Korea grew and earned the titles ‘The Nation’s Girls’ and ‘The Nation’s Girl Group’ which later they became the standard of girl groups as most idols nowadays look up to them as their role models. In 2009, Wonder Girls released the worldwide hit ‘Nobody’ that was released in different languages including English. 2NE1 is Big Bang who is considered ‘One of the Biggest Boyband in the World’ released smash hits such as ‘Fantastic Baby’, ‘Lie’, ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and more.
In 2012 Kpop became a huge hit when PSY released ‘Gangnam Style’ which became a worldwide hit and broke records not to mention the first video in YouTube who gained more than 1 Billion views. In 2013 the boy group, EXO, became the 1st million seller on physical album with ‘XOXO’ after 18 years of not having a million seller, they later had the title ‘Quadruple Million Seller’ for selling 4 albums that garnered more than 1 million sales, which later the Korean Tourism Organization awarded them as ‘Nation’s Pick’.
Kpop nowadays has been a worldwide sensation and became a $5 billion dollar industry. Some of the most famous groups today are: BTS, who started from a small company , BigHit, which is one of the most well-known boy bands in the industry that many Western artist would like to collaborate with them as well as they’re influence around the world has reached to many individuals with different music tastes, some of their most famous songs are ‘DNA’, ‘Mic Drop’, ‘I Need U’ and, ‘Boy With Luv’. BLACKPINK, the famous girl group had already garnered attention since their debut for having a girl crush concept but broke records since their songs ‘As If Its Your Last’ and ‘DDU DDU DU’ which is the most viewed music video by an idol group, they also were one of the performers in Coachella 2019 which made so many news being they were the first female kpop group to perform in the said event, they also have all of their music videos over 200 million views. Lastly, Red Velvet is most known as the 3rd Generation’s ‘Queen of Concepts’ for having a versatile group and for not repeating the same concept twice, their name signifies the two main concepts of the group ‘Red’ for their bubbly, vivid and fun side while ‘Velvet’ for their classy, mature and tone-downed side, some of the most famous songs of the group are ‘Red Flavor’, ‘Bad Boy’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘Power Up’. Some other groups that are popular nowadays are: TWICE, Seventeen, Stray Kids, ITZY, Got7, NCT, Mamamoo, IZ*ONE, iKon and (G) I-DLE.
KPOP is now one of the most prominent industries of all time and represents not only South Korea but also Asia as a whole to the Western market which we see nowadays as it continues to spread their horizons and spread their influence to the whole world. This industry may not be perfect as some continue to struggle to make a hit in the industry as well as the training process is also a struggle as some trained for almost 10 years just to debut. Nonetheless, KPOP has grown from the late 90’s to today, as kpop groups and soloists nowadays bring something new to the table to give. It’s now one of Asia’s pride to show to the world what their music sounds like and brings a message at the same time as it continually evolves through the years to come.