What is k-pop?

K-pop (or Korean pop) is a popular music genre originating in South Korea and it uses a mix of electronic, hip hop, pop, rock, and R&B music.

The genre has had a solid fan base ever since the 1990s when the music was included on Korean dramas such as First Love. The Korean dramas have been an important vehicle for spreading the interest in Korean culture.

K-pop entered the Japanese market at the turn of the 21st century and rapidly grew into a subculture among teenagers and young adults of East and Southeast Asia. With Facebook fan pages, social networking, and music videos on YouTube, K-pop is becoming popular in many other countries around the world.


Flashy music videos

K-pop choreographyK-pop music videos usually are extremely flashy. They contain vivid visual elements, multiple outfit changes and group members dance in sync. Choreography often contains a key dance move that fans can replicate. Some fans even participate in cover dance groups and upload their dance videos online.

Artist training

Korean pop stars go through an extensive training process also called idolization where the entertainment companies invest a lot of money and effort to nurture and promote artists to be of the highest standard. Most idols apply at a young age, usually 14 or 15, and they need to take language, vocal and dancing lessons, and are taught everything they might need to know. The pressure for becoming an idol is high, and can often result in some trainees altering their appearance and even going through plastic surgery.

Big groups

K-pop groupK-pop groups often contain a large amount of members. For example, Topp Dogg currently has 13 members and Girls’ Generation, also known as SNSD, has an 8 person crew. Every additional member is a person the fans will love and adds more opportunity for labels to sell t-shirts, posters and other branded products.

It is also not uncommon that subgroups or sub-units of the original group are created. Subgroups usually consist of a few members of the original group. It is done to capitalize on the popularity of specific members and give fans a chance to see their idols in a new light. For example, there are 12 members in EXO, and they are split into EXO-K who perform in Korean and EXO-M who perform in Mandarin. Girls’ Generation also has a subgroup called  Girls’ Generation-TTS.


Artists and groups are often formed through an audition process under a record company. The major record labels in South Korea are SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.

The K-pop industry is worth billions and the most popular groups earn a lot of money. According to FORBES, Big Bang took home $44 million in pretax earnings over 2015. However, idols have to share a huge chunk of their earnings with their agencies and split the rest among their group members.


K-pop fansWhen talking about K-pop one must mention the immense amount of fans.

Social media has been instrumental in the global reach of K-pop, particularly video-sharing site YouTube. Of the 2.28 billion worldwide K-pop YouTube views in 2011, 240 million came from the United States and this number is only growing.

K-pop is increasingly making appearances on Western music charts. Many fans travel overseas to see their idols on tour, and tourists commonly visit South Korea from all over the world to see K-pop concerts.

Groups commonly have dedicated fan clubs with a collective name and sometimes an assigned color. A unique feature of K-pop fandom is the ‘fan chant’. When an idol group releases a new song, fan clubs will organise a fan chant and learn it so that they can chant parts of the song or idols’ names during live performances.


In K-pop a lot of genre specific terminology is used. Here are a few examples:

  • Aegyo: Acting overly cute and innocent to charm fans.
  • All-kill: A song that reaches the top spot on all the major music charts.
  • Maknae: The youngest member of a K-pop group.
  • Sasaeng: An obsessive fan who goes way over the top (stalking, breaking into houses etc.)


Popular music videos

To better understand K-pop you should definitely take a look at a couple of music videos. Here is a list of a few popular ones:

  • PSY – Gangnam Style

  • Big Bang – Fantastic Baby

  • Girls’ Generation – I Got A Boy

  • 2NE1 – I Am the Best

  • BTS – Dope


If you would like to find out the latest news about K-pop, you might want to explore these sites:

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