Who started 5th gen K-pop? A guide into K-pop’s Generations

As of the moment, K-pop artists in Korea are divided into 5 generations based on each generation’s characteristics.

Recently, the term of “5th Gen K-pop” has been gaining prevalence. While many are aware of the previous 4 generations of K-pop, 5th Gen K-pop is still a rather unfamiliar term, leaving people to question who started 5th gen K-pop and what sets its apart from previous generations.

So today, let’s take a deep dive into the 5 K-pop generations, especially the new “5th gen”.

5 Generations of K-pop

Overall, most people agree that K-pop can be divided into 5 generations as below: 

  • 1st Gen K-pop (1990s – 2004): Foundation 
  • 2nd Gen K-pop (2005 – 2011): Established Training System & Branching Out of Korea 
  • 3rd Gen K-pop (2012 – 2017): Global Expansion 
  • 4th Gen K-pop (2018 – 2022): Experimentation and Digital Connectivity 
  • 5th Gen K-pop (2023 – Present): New Era

1st Gen K-pop: Started in 1992 by Seo Taiji and Boys, who paved the way for modern K-pop  by blending Western music influences with Korean lyrics, along with incorporating choreography into their performances. Later, it was the debut of H.O.T in that established what we know today as the “idol culture”.

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This 1st Gen Kpop was heavily influenced by American pop culture, leading to rather soothing music or songs heavily influenced by hip-hop. Groups also dressed similarly to their Western counterparts. 

2nd Gen K-pop: After facing a slump, the K-pop industry was revived with the introduction of TVXQ, whose debut heralded the 2nd generation of K-pop. It was during this time that the K-pop training system, alongside the industry’s “fan-targeted” marketing tactic (such as including photocards in albums) was established, 


2nd Gen K-pop artists are known to be the first to cross intercontinental borders, pioneering K-pop’s “world tours”. Additionally, idols also take up acting roles and appear on variety shows instead of simply focusing on music, and choreographies become more intricate.

Regarding style, 2nd Gen K-pop artists began to be influenced by Japan instead of the West. Big, dramatic hair and colorful clothes with heavy accessories became more popular than ever, 

3rd Gen K-pop: The popularity of social networks and streaming platforms during the 3rd generation of K-pop leads to global expansion, and fan cultures grow more serious as an emphasis is placed on streaming numbers, MV views, and online voting. 

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With BTS and BLACKPINK, K-pop also managed to spread its influence outside of Asia, and fashion endorsements also became a big thing due to BLACKPINK’s achievements in the fashion world. 

The third generation solidified K-Pop’s status as a global force to be reckoned with, with music, choreography, and fan culture becoming more polished than ever.

Additionally, storytelling through music gained prevalence during this generation, and “worldviews” and “concepts” became familiar terms with K-pop lovers. K-pop artists also diverge from Japanese and Western influences to form their own “K-pop style”.

4th Gen K-pop: Since the 3rd Gen K-pop has established grounds for many things, 4th gen K-pop amped up with experimentation, as group becomes more daring in music and approaches newer and more diverse musical genres. 

Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic taking up a huge chunk of 4th Gen Kpop’s run, technology plays a core role in the development of this era. 

Particularly, online contents (both paid and free) for individual groups become more popular, and online versions of previously offline events like concerts and fansigns have also been introduced. 

Unlike previous generations where promotion on traditional TV shows and public attention is a must, the 4th gen K-pop focuses more on establishing a stable fanbase and self-produced contents. 

Additionally, technology such as AI and NFT grows in prevalence in the context of K-pop. 

Who started 5th Gen K-pop?

The term “5th Gen K-pop” was first used in an article to introduce the debut group from Mnet’s survival show “Boys Planet” in 2023, and has since been used to refer to every group that debuted from the same year. 

So far, 5th Gen K-pop seems to have slowed down with heavy experimental music like the 4th gen, and instead opts for more soothing and public-friendly songs. Choreographies have also become more suitable for replication, instead of focusing on intricacies like in the 3rd and 4th generation. 

Since 5th Gen K-pop is first used to describe “ZEROBASEONE” (ZB1), it can be said that this group started the new generation. 

However, alongside ZB1, RIIZE is also mentioned as an era-starter, alongside other names like BOYNEXTDOOR, KISS OF LIFE, TWS, and others. 

Did 5th Gen K-pop actually start? 

While 5th Gen K-pop is often used nowadays among fans and by the media, many actually question if it has actually started. 

In particular, these people argued that 3rd and 4th generation artists are still active and highly popular, so there has not been any remarkable event that can kick-start a new generation. 

However, it is important to note that the 3rd gen K-pop started while 2nd gen K-pop artists are still actively promoting, and the same can be said for the 4th generation. 

Source: FC

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