When did K-pop start? 1st Famous K-pop Groups that Bring it to the Mainstream

Nowadays, K-pop is the go-to music form for many people all over the world. But what exactly launches it to the mainstream?

A Breakdown on K-pop

K-pop, short for Korean popular music, is a form of popular music originating from South Korea. As a result, it is not a music genre, but rather encompasses all sorts of styles and genres, ranging from the classic pop to more modern ones like new rave and electropop. 


While “K-pop” can refer to all pop music from South Korea, it is often used in a narrower sense, referring to Korean music and artists associated with the entertainment and idol industry in the country, regardless of the genre. 

When did K-pop start 

Theoretically, K-pop started the moment pop music appeared in Korea. However, the modern K-pop culture, which we are familiar with today, began in the early 90s, with the appearance of hip hop boy band Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992. 

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It can be argued that by experimenting with different genres of popular Western music, Seo Taiji and Boys (Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun-suk, Lee Jun) contributed to the reshaping and modernization of Korea’s modern music scene. 

1st Famous K-pop Groups who Make K-pop Mainstream

Seo Taiji and Boys, followed by other famous groups like H.O.T, Baby V.O.X, Fin.KL, Sechs Kies, Shinhwa, g.o.d, and many others, who are now known as the “1st Gen of K-pop”, helped to establish the K-pop “idol” culture.


The K-pop market, however, entered the slump in the early 2000s, and it was the introduction of TVXQ and BoA that “revived” the industry, kick-starting what we now call the “2nd Gen of K-pop”. It was during this generation that K-pop gained prevalence in Asia – particularly in Japan, China, and Southeast Asia, helping to bring K-pop to the mainstream. 

Finally, it was the 3rd Gen of K-pop – headed by groups such as BTS, BLACKPINK, and EXO, that spread K-pop’s influence to beyond Asia. 

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As of 2019, K-pop is ranked at No.6 among the world’s Top 10 music markets, with BTS and BLACKPINK cited as leading the market growth. 

Now, the 4th Gen of K-pop – with notable artists like ITZY, NewJeans, Stray Kids, among others, are cementing the influence of K-pop in more Western-based markets. 

All in all, the 1st famous K-pop group in Korea is obviously Seo Taiji and Boys, but it was the 2nd Gen of K-pop that brought K-pop to outside Korea, the 3rd Gen that spread the influence to other continents, and the 4th Gen that cemented this foundation. 

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