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K-Pop History

1990s: Conception and industrialization

The debut of the group Seo Tai-ji & Boys in 1992 was a turning point for popular music in South Korea. Incorporating elements of popular musical genres in the United States such as rap rock and techno, the group had tremendous success in South Korea. Hip hop duos such as Deux also became popular in the early 1990s.

Jonghyun lead vocalist boy band SHINee popular K-pop artist.


Lee Soo Man broke K-pop barriers in 1995 with the formation of SM Entertainment, South Korea’s largest entertainment agency. Soon to follow were DSP Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment, all of which began producing highly successful artists.

The first K-pop girl groups and boy bands began appearing in the mid to late 1990s. Groups such as as Fin.K.L, g.o.d., H.O.T., Sechs Kies, and S.E.S. were hugely successful throughout Asia. The 1990s also saw a surge in the popularity of hip hop and R&B music in South Korea, with artists such as Epik High, Drunken Tiger, MC Mong, TVXQ, and 1TYM launching successful careers.

2000s: Globalization

Today, apprenticeship is the universal strategy for nurturing girl groups, boy bands, and solo artists in the K-pop industry. To guarantee the high probability of success of new talent, talent agencies fully subsidize and oversee the professional lives and careers of trainees, often spending in excess of $400,000 to train and launch a new artist. Through this practice of apprenticeship, which often lasts two years or more, trainees hone their voices, learn professional choreography, sculpt and shape their bodies through exercise, and study multiple languages all while attending school.

K-pop is gradually gaining influence in foreign markets outside of Asia, most notably in the United States, Canada and Australia. In 2010, solo artist Taeyang and girl group 2NE1 began topping various music charts throughout the United States and Canada with the release of various albums and hit songs.

In 2009, the Wonder Girls became the first Korean singers to place on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with their single, Nobody.

Kpop artists are increasingly working with talent outside of Korea in a push to further globalize the genre. In the United States, artists from Korea are touring with groups like the Jonas Brothers and collaborating with producers including Kanye West, Rodney Jerkins, and


In China, Japan, and much of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, K-pop culture has become so popular that authorities and nationalists fear that it is leading to a xenocentric preference for Korean styles and ideas.

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