In just a short amount of time, K-pop has taken the world by storm — but the unknown history behind its catchy hooks and glitzy visuals is something many people don’t talk about.
by taylor “teapi” tran
The Hallyu wave started just a few of years ago, and by the looks of it, it’s not leaving the spotlight any time soon — and no one is complaining. In just a short amount of time, K-pop has taken the world by storm — but the unknown history behind its catchy hooks and glitzy visuals is something many people don’t talk about. Here are some of the most defining and historical moments of the fan-loved musical genre.
1. Rock’s early Western influence on the Korean music scene.
Shin Jung-hyeon, often regarded as Korea’s Godfather of Rock, brought the psychedelic pop/rock culture to Korea in the 1960s, and he pioneered Western influence on Korean music. His own music was impacted by performing for U.S. army bases in Korea.
2. K-pop as we know it today is defined.
Seo Taiji and Boys debuted on MBC’s talent show on April 11, 1992. The trio are credited with reshaping contemporary Korean music — they incorporated aspects of American rap, rock, and techno in their music — creating music that, at the time, had not been done yet in Korea, and setting a precedent for future music groups. Seo Taiji would go on to seek a solo career and Yang Hyun-Suk would start YG Entertainment.
3. The biggest K-pop company is founded.
Before founding S.M Entetainment, Lee Soo-man had his own singing career, which he put on hold to study in the U.S. Through the company, he developed the familiar idol formula that contributed to many popular groups’ success. It is home to today’s most popular K-pop acts, such as Exo, Girls’ Generation, f(x), TVXQ, and many others.
4. K-pop Enters the global market for the first time.
BoA debuted her first Japanese album, Listen to My Heart, on March 13, 2002. It was the first Korean album to debut at the top of the Oricon charts. This opened the door for other Korean artists to successfully release their music into the Japanese market. Some say this was the start of the Hallyu wave, as it was the beginning of K-pop’s expansions outside of Korea.
5. The Tokyo Dome hosts its first Korean artist.
Rain becomes the first Korean artist to take stage at the Tokyo Dome, which had previously hosted superstars Mariah Carey, Ayumi Hamasaki, and the like. He performed in front of a crowd of nearly 40,000 fans.
6. K-pop gains international recognition.
In 2011, BigBang won the award for Best WorldWide Act at the European Music Awards, beating out competition from Britney Spears. In 2012, they were also the first K-pop group to enter the Billboard Top 200 charts with their album, Alive.
7. Psy tops the charts.
Everyone knows this one. In 2012, Psy‘s viral video for the song Gangnam Style went viral and became the most viewed video on YouTube, as well as the first video to reach one billion views. The song also topped charts across Europe, in the UK, and Canada — it peaked at number 2 in the U.S.
8. The industry pays respect.
The devastating 2014 sinking of the MV Sewol shocked the country. The entire music industry went on hiatus, as many artists pushed back their comebacks and concerts to pay their respects to the families of the missing and deceased.
9. Fan conventions grow.
KCON expanded to the New York Area, Japan, and Korea in 2015 — marking growing fan bases and greater international K-Pop communities than ever before. In 2016, KCON also made its way to Abu Dhabi and Paris.
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