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Part 3: Modern K-Pop Takes Form

A look at Korean pop music from the 1990s to today.

This is the third and final part in a series. and

The mainstream of Korean pop in the 1990s was the ballad. The lyrics, as in poetry, helped broaden the fan base in Korea. Popular singers were Jin-Sub Byeon, Seung-Hun Sin, and Gun-Mo Kim, etc. Their records often sold more than a million copies. One of Gun-Mo Kim’s records sold almost three million copies, a record in Korea.

In 1992, “Tai-Ji Seo and Boys” (Joo-No Lee and Hyun Suk Yang) created a huge sensation in K-pop. The group introduced rap music to K-pop and tried a new music style that was a combination of dance music and heavy metal music. At first, some critics criticized the music, but the group was a huge success. After the group disbanded in 1996, Tai-Ji Seo continued as a solo singer. Hyun-Suk Yang, one of the group members, succeeded as CEO at one of Korea’s top entertainment management agencies.

The emergence of big entertainment management agencies was another outcome of K-pop in the 1990s. The agencies held auditions, selected and trained apprentices then debuted them as singers. The girl groups of “Fin.K.L” and “S.E.S,” and the boy groups “H.O.T.,” “Sechs Kies” (six of crystal in German) and “g.o.d.” were the first generation of idol stars from the agencies. 

The popularity of the idol groups continues in the 2000s. They are called the second generation of idols. They include “Tong Vfang Xien Qi” and “Big Bang,” among others. Around 2008, there were a lot of girl groups formed that include “Girls' Generation,” ”Wonder Girls,” “Kara,” “f(x),” etc. Boy groups appeared as well, such as “Super Junior,” “2PM,” “2AM,” and “SHINee.”

They are popular around the world, especially in Asia and Europe. A new pattern of culture called “Hallyu” (Korean Wave) was created.  This term generally refers to a collection of K-pop, Korean drama, food and clothing. Of these areas, the K-pop area grows most rapidly. Solo singers like “BoA” and “Rain” entered the music scene in Japan and the United States.  At present, the girl groups and boy groups continue to gain popularity throughout Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Hip hop and R & B music became distinctive genres in K-pop in the 2000s.    

Some people criticize current K-pop, saying it focuses too much on appearance rather than singing. Recently, K-pop singers and those who care about K-pop have made greater efforts to create better K-pop music. Audition programs have been organized to find talented new singers. While trying new genre in music, they have also tried to remake classic songs. As the K-pop market evolves, I believe K-pop music will become more successful throughout the world.

Linda Park September 20, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Fin.K.L, S.E.S and H.O.T bring back happy memories of when my husband and I first started dating. I'm not Korean, but K-Pop is so darn catchy. You don't need to be Korean to enjoy it.

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