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Korean Pop Music

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Korean pop music (known in the West as K-pop) is an umbrella term for pop music originating from South Korea, usually similar in genre to pop in the United States. However, the material performed/produced by K-Pop artists covers a wide variety of genres, from EDM-inspired music to rock to softer ballads, and everything in between. Usually known outside the country for the numerous Idol Singers and idol Boy Bands and Girl Groups in the industry. K-pop and other Korean based entertainment such as Korean Dramas first became very popular throughout Asia in the 2000s, in a phenomenon that has been nicknamed the "Hallyu" or "Korean Wave". Like many things in South Korea, the talent agencies managing the singers are mostly based in Seoul.


Outside of South Korea, K-pop is most popular in Indochina, Central Asia and Latin America, particularly in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Peru and Argentina.

The term "K-pop" is somewhat controversial, however. Its legitimacy (since it originated in Western media) and its exact meaning are still debated to this day - in and outside of Korea. Does it refer to all Korean pop music, or just idol music? Is it a genre or an industry? Does the "K" in "K-pop" denote the Korean identity and unique aspects of Korean pop, or is it just otherizing it away from so-called "main" (that is, Western) pop? Notably, even some Korean artists are reluctant to describe it as a music genre rather than an industry or a dance/music/visuals package with a diversity of music genres. This is all complicated further by its use in Western media, with music platforms labeling Korean music of any kind as "K-pop" (even indie artists), with Minority Show Ghetto implications.


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Notable Korean Pop artists:

  • Seo Taiji and Boys: Highly influential Hip-Hop/pop/rock trio from The '90s, led by mastermind Seo Taiji. Widely considered the Trope Maker of Korean Pop music as we know it today. Massively popular and critically acclaimed, they challenged the Moral Guardians of the time by working independently from TV stations, including social critique in their lyrics, and mixing Western and Korean music genres (including, most notably, rap) in what became the Genre-Busting sound that would later characterize what we know as K-pop. Seo Taiji is still active as a solo artist after the group's disbandment, while fellow ex member YG would go on to create YG Entertainment, one of the three most powerful Korean music companies known as the Big Three.

The Big Three

The three biggest and most powerful agencies/labels in the Korean music industry (at least for part of the Turn of the Millennium and most of The New '10s).

    SM Entertainment 
Active Artists
  • aespa
  • BoA
  • EXO
  • Girls' Generation
    • Girls' Generation-TTS note 
    • Oh!GG note 
    • Taeyeon
    • Jessica note 
    • Sunny
    • Tiffany Young note 
    • Hyoyeon
    • Yuri
    • Sooyoung note 
    • Yoona
    • Seohyun note 
  • The Grace
    • The Grace - Dana & Sunday
    • Dana
    • Sunday
    • Stephanie
  • H.O.T: Considered the first Kpop idol group and Trope Codifier for the Korean idol formula.
    • Kangta
  • J-Min
  • Billlie (managed under Mystic Story Entertainment, a subsidiary label of SM Entertainment)
  • LUCY (managed under Mystic Story Entertainment, a subsidiary label of SM Entertainment)
  • NCT
    • NCT U
    • NCT 127
    • NCT Dream
    • WayV
  • Red Velvet
  • S.E.S.
  • SHINee
    • Taemin
    • Jonghyun
  • SuperM
  • Super Junior
    • Super Junior-M
      • Henry
      • Zhou Mi
    • Super Junior-T
    • Super Junior-M
    • Super Junior KRY
    • Super Junior Happy
    • Super Junior-D&E
    • Kyuhyun
    • Ryeowook
    • Yesung
    • Heechul
  • TRAX
  • TVXQ
    • Changmin
    • Yunho
    • JYJ note 

Project Groups

  • The Blue
  • Kangta & Vanness
  • S.M. The Ballad
  • M&D
  • Younique Unit
  • S.M. The Performance


    JYP Entertainment 
Active Artists Former:
  • 15&
    • Park Jimin
    • Baek Yerin
  • 2AM
    • Jo Kwon
    • Changmin
    • Seulong
    • Jinwoon
  • g.o.d
  • GOT7 (Left JYP in 2021 with members now independent soloists)
  • G.Soul
  • JOO
  • miss A
    • Jia
  • Wonder Girls (disbanded in 2017)

    YG Entertainment 
  • 2NE1 (disbanded in 2016)
    • Bom
    • CL
    • Dara
    • Minzy (former; left the company in 2016)
  • Akdong Musician
    • Hi Suhyun
  • Big Bang
    • GD & TOP
    • G-Dragon
    • Taeyang
    • T.O.P
    • Daesung
    • Seungri (former)
  • Blackpink
    • Jennie
    • Rosé
    • Lisa
  • Epik High (former; they left the company in 2018)
    • Tablo
  • iKON
    • Bobby
  • Lee Hi (former; left the company in 2020)
  • PSY (former; left the company in 2018)
    • Mino
    • MOBB

The Black Label (subsidiary)

  • SOMI
  • Zion.T

Other Labels

    HYBE Labels 
BIGHIT MUSIC (formerly known as BigHit Entertainment until March 2021.)
  • 8eight (inactive)
  • BTS
    • RM
    • SUGA (also known as Agust D)
    • j-hope
  • GLAM (disbanded in 2014)
  • Homme (officially disbanded in 2018)
  • Lee Hyun
  • TXT
  • Le Sserafim

SOURCE MUSIC (subsidiary since 2019)

  • GFRIEND (former; disbanded and left in May 2021)
    • VIVIZ
    • Yuju
    • Yerin
    • Kim Sojung (Sowon)

PLEDIS Entertainment (subsidiary since 2020)

  • After School (inactive)
    • After School REDnote 
    • After School BLUEnote 
    • Orange Caramelnote 
    • EYOKANnote 
    • Raina
    • Lizzy
    • NANA
  • Fromis_9
  • NU'EST
    • NU'EST-M
    • NU'EST-W
  • Pristin (disbanded in 2019)
    • Pristin Vnote 
    • Kyulkyung
    • Yehana
    • Sungyeon
    • Kyla
  • Seventeen

KOZ ENTERTAINMENT(subsidiary since 2020)

  • Zico
  • Dvwn

BELIFT LAB (founded jointly with CJ ENM in 2020)

  • Hanbin (former; left the company in 2021)


  • Unnamed group (to debut in 2021-2022)
    • K
    • Nicholas
    • EJ
    • Kyungmin (left the company before debut)
    • Taki

    Cube Entertainment 
  • 4minute (disbanded in 2016)
    • HyunA (former; left the company in 2018)
    • 2YOON
  • B2ST
    • Hyunseung
  • BTOB
  • CLC
  • (G)I-DLE
    • Soyeon
    • Yuqi
  • Pentagon

    RBW (Rainbow Bridge World) 
  • Mamamoo
    • Hwasa
    • Moonbyul
    • Solar
    • Wheein
  • Onewe
  • Purple Kiss
  • Vromance

WM Entertainment (subsidiary since 2021)

    Kakao M (formerly LOEN Entertainment) 


  • IU

Play M Entertainment

Cre.ker Entertainment

High Up Entertainment


    Starship Entertainment 
  • Boyfriend
  • WJSN (Cosmic Girls)
    • WJSN The Black
    • WJSN Chocome
  • Cravity
  • Giriboy
  • #Gun
  • Ive
  • K.Will
  • Mad Clown
  • Monsta X
  • Sistar (disbanded in 2017)
    • Sistar19
    • Hyolyn (former; left the company)
    • Soyou (former; left the company)

    FNC Entertainment 
  • AOA (Ace of Angels)
    • AOA Black
    • AOA Dance Unit
    • AOA White
    • AOA Cream
  • Cherry Bullet
  • CN Blue
    • Jung Yonghwa
  • FT Island
    • FT Triple
    • Lee Hongki
  • N.Flying
  • P1Harmony
  • SF9
  • Honeyst

    Jellyfish Entertainment 

    Woollim Entertainment 
  • Drippin
  • Eunbi
  • Golden Child
    • Infinite F
    • Infinite H
    • Sunggyu
    • Woohyun
  • Lovelyz
    • Jin
    • Jiae
  • Rocket Punch

    DSP Media 
  • April
  • Fin K.L.
    • Lee Hyori
  • KARA (disbanded in 2016)
    • Gyuri
    • Hara
    • Nicole
    • Youngji
  • KARD
  • Sechs Kies
  • SS501
  • Rainbow
    • Rainbow Pixie
    • Rainbow Blaxx

  • Astro
  • Hello Venus
  • Ong Seongwoo
  • Weki Meki

    MBK Entertainment (formerly Core Content Media) 
  • BAE173
  • Coed School
    • Speed
    • F-ve Dolls
  • DIA
    • BinChaenHyunSeuS
    • L.U.B
  • T-ara (former; left the company in 2018)
    • T-ara N4
    • QBS
    • Jiyeon
    • Hyomin
    • Elsie
  • Shannon Williams

    B2M Entertainment 
  • Davichi
  • Eric Nam
  • SG Wannabe
  • Spica
    • SpicaS

    P Nation 
  • PSY
  • Crush
  • DAWN
  • Heize
  • HyunA
  • Jessi

  • Jay Park
  • Simon Dominic
  • Gray
  • Lee Hi

    TS Entertainment 
  • B.A.P
    • Bang Yongguk
  • Secret
    • Hyosung
    • Jieun
  • Sonamoo

    Star Empire Entertainment 
  • Imfact
  • Nine Muses
    • Nine Muses A
    • Sera
    • Moon Hyuna
    • Kyungri
  • ZE:A (Children of Empire)
    • ZE:A J
    • ZE:A 4U
    • ZE:A Five

    TOP Media 
  • Teen Top
  • 100%
  • MCND
  • Up10tion

    KQ Entertainment 

Seven Seasons (subsidiary)

    Happy Face Entertainment 
Dreamcatcher Company

    MNH Entertainment 

    Dream T Entertainment 

    YMC Entertainment 

    NH Media 

  • 24K
  • AA (Double A)
  • AB6IX
  • ACE
  • Ailee
  • A.Kor
    • A.Kor Black
    • Kemy
  • AleXa
  • BBde Girl
  • Berry Good
  • BESTie
  • Bonus Baby
  • Boohwal
  • The Boss (aka DGNA)
  • Brown Eyed Girls
    • Narsha
    • Jea
    • Gain
    • Miryo
  • Bulldok
    • Kimi
  • Chocolat
  • Clazziquai Project
  • Cocosori
    • Coco
    • Sori
  • Craxy
  • Crayon Pop
    • Strawberry Milk
  • D-Unit
  • Dean
  • Everglow
  • EvoL
    • Jucy
    • SAAY
    • Yull
  • EXID
    • DASONI (aka SoljiHani)
    • LE
    • Hani
    • Solji
  • Fiestar
    • Yezi
  • Geeks
  • G.NA
  • GI (Global Icon)
  • Girls Girls
    • MiSo
  • Holland
  • Honey Popcorn
  • H.U.B.
  • Ivy
  • IZ
  • IZ*ONE
  • JBJ
  • Jewelry
  • JJCC
  • Juniel
  • Kahi
  • Kang Daniel
  • Kep1er
  • Kim Beom-Soo
  • Kim Gun Mo
  • Kiss&Cry
    • Dia
  • Ladies' Code
    • Ashley
    • Sojung
  • LedT (aka LED Apple)
  • Lee Jung Hyun
  • Lee Sora
  • Lim Kim
    • LOONA 1/3
    • yyxy
  • MIXX
  • Momoland
  • MyB
  • MyName
  • My-Q
  • NC.A
  • Norazo
    • Lee Hyuk
  • NS Yoon-G
  • Oh Hyuk
  • Only-One-Of
  • Park Jung-Hyun
  • PIXY
  • Purfles
  • Rain
  • RaNia
    • BP Rania
    • BlackSwan
    • Cosmic Girl
    • Ela8te
    • Alex Reid
  • Rolling Quartz
  • Se7en
  • Secret Number
  • Shinhwa
  • Sinawe
  • Son Dam Bi
  • Spectrum
  • Stellar
  • Sunny Hill
  • Supernova
  • Tahiti
  • Tasty
    • Niel
  • The Rose
  • Tiny-G
    • Mint
  • XENO-T (aka Topp Dogg)
  • Turbo
    • Kim Jong-Kook
  • Ulala Session
  • Wa$$up
    • Nada
  • Weki Meki
  • Winterplay
  • Wonder Boyz
  • YB
  • Youha
  • Younha
  • X1

Positions and roles assigned to idols in the Kpop scene:

Most Kpop groups tend to have assigned positions and roles for their members. These positions often come with a main and a lead, based on their skills and abilities.

It's important to note that not all groups have these positions with the same strict criteria and rules. Some groups may forgo all these roles and have a more flexible arrangement (or even start out with assigned positions only for these to lose relevance later on), while others may have well-rounded idols that can assume different roles at once.

Positions and roles commonly found in Korean idols groups are:

  • Vocalist: There are at least 2-3 vocalists in a group and the more there are members, the more vocalists they would have.
    • There are three 'levels' or types: the main vocalist, the lead vocalist, and the sub vocalist or simply a vocalist. The one in the main position has the best singing skills and technique out of all the members which is what earned them this position. They usually have the most lines and/or the hardest ones (highnotes, adlibs, etc.).
  • Dancer: Similarly, there are two levels under this position; main dancer and lead dancer.
    • Main dancers are, again, the members with the best dancing skills and technique in the group. They're often in the front of the group's formation or take the center parts, especially during dance breaks. Meanwhile, lead dancers are only a level below the main dancers in terms of dancing, basically the second best.
  • Rapper: Likewise, rappers follow this same pattern, as well. However, many groups only have one primary rapper because the genre and style of the group doesn't allow for much space for rap in their songs.
    • The majority of idols in this position get called "idol rappers" as in they don't really write their own raps and are given this role by their companies regardless of their rap skills (a.k.a not "real" rappers). However, there are countless idols who still write their own raps, particularly found within groups with a Hiphop and Trap focused sound - with some even coming from the underground rap scene before joining the group.
  • Visual: Simply put, they are the best looking member of the group.
    • Precisely speaking, however, they're the member with features that fit all or most Korean beauty standards (sharp jawline, pale skin, double eyelids, etc.). Many idols with a visual position move into acting and get offered ad deals and acting roles because of their looks (this is not to say that they solely get cast based on looks alone and not talent, however having good looks still gives them an advantage).
  • Leader: The member in charge of guiding the group. They're often the bridge between the members and the company, as well as the spokesperson of the group when promoting.
    • The way this role gets assigned varies from a group to another. Sometimes it's decided based on age — where the eldest gets the position, and sometimes it's based on experience — the one who has been in the industry the longest gets the position. Other times groups decide to not have a leader in the first place.
  • Additional roles may include:
    • The center, which as the name suggests, is the member at the center of the group during performances and formation.
    • Face of the Band: The most known member and the group's representative, who gives them exposure through appearing in variety programs and public events.

Tropes associated with the K-pop scene include:

  • Animal Motif: It's quite common for idols to have animals that represent them as motifs, with cats, bunnies, and puppies being the most popular animal motifs that either resemble the idols' look or a trait they share with the animal.
  • Bathtub Scene: Usually seen in girl groups' sexy mvs with soap foam or sometimes clothes covering their bodies.
  • Catchphrase: Every Kpop group has a unique phrase they say when they introduce themselves to the public.
  • Censorship Bureau: Due to South Korea's conservative laws, censorship reaches ridiculous heights sometimes on music programsnote . Plenty of songs and videos were initially banned by TV networks Who?  for merely using slang or vaguely referencing brand names. To solve this, most entertainment companies usually alter their artists' songs and videos and re-release them however, some agencies refuse to change their content in any way and choose to promote it in other programs instead.
    • Female artists are frequent victims, especially when they go for a sexy concept. Expect many of their dance moves, lyrics, and clips to be banned for being provocative.
  • Contractual Purity: The K-Pop scene is notoriously strict about behavior that isn't child-friendly or could ruin an idol's image. For the most part, when in public, idols can't smoke, can't swear (outside maybe their song lyrics), can't get a tattoo, and can't date.note  Not all of this is about micromanaging an idol's public image; some of it's just a question of different social norms in Korea, like a longstanding stigma against tattoosnote . This might be why most idols can openly drink and endorse alcohol; it's ingrained in the culture. While pressure comes from both the company and the public, enforcement can depend on the company and the individual circumstances. Enforcement is not universal, and some K-Pop stars will push the limits, but even then, the fans and paparazzi can be so obsessive that even if the contract allows an idol to date, they won't do it in public.
  • Cool Car: This is a must-have element or prop for any cool Kpop mv to look even cooler and trendier.
  • Crowd Chant: Numerous kpop songs are made in a way that allows fans to sing along, which is known as fanchants. Kpop fanchants can be very, very loud and enthusiastic, or used as a surprise project for the idol(s).
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: Although not obligatory (instrument-playing bands and some soloists don't incorporate dance moves in their performances), dancing is an essential element that defines Kpop. Kpop choreographies generally have three fundamental elements: intricacy, sharpness, and intensity, though again, not all choreographies are like this. Additionally, many idols incorporate incredible and elaborate dance breaks into their choreographies to show more of their talents. Plus, lots of them take great pride in dancing and join dance competitions (i.e. Hit the Stage) even after debut to showcase their talents and improve them.
  • Groupie Brigade: Nearly any time an idol goes outside without covering their faces, fans will swarm them, asking for pictures, autographs, or just wanting to be seen by them. Some fans try to defy this image by giving the idols space and being level-headed during their interactions, and even greeting them from afar.
  • Idol Singer: Well, that's what they get paid to do.
  • I Have Many Names: This is due to idols using Stage Names and nicknames given by fans or other members.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Kpop stars frequently change their hair color when a comebackExplanation  is approaching. The idols' concept may determine which hair color said idol will have during a specific promotional era.
  • Multiethnic Name: This is an inevitable phenomenon with the increasing number of racially mixed/diaspora idols in the industry. Expect an idol to have an English given name (which is also their stage name) but a Korean surname.
  • Multinational Team: Dozens of groups market themselves as multinational groups with members from all around the world. This also makes it easy for the group to promote in different countries and for companies to break into other markets like Japan's, China's, and the much favored USA by having members who speak their language.
  • Ode to Youth: A frequent topic in boy group songs more than girl groups', but several groups make songs regarding youth as it's the age range the groups themselves are typically within and to relate to their equally young audiences.
  • Paparazzi: A group of reporters tend to follow idols and wait for them in airports when they are traveling for a schedule, snapping endless photos of them at near and close distances. Korea Dispatch, an online media outlet, is infamous in the Kpop community and scene overall for having paparazzi who specialize in catching celebrities on their secret dates and reporting rumors. Korean stars sometimes make Take That! jokes about Dispatch.
  • Scatting: Lots of Kpop songs include scatting such as the frequently-used "la la la" and "na na na" and so on. See here for a prime (and humorous) example/parody.
  • Self-Empowerment Anthem: Another common topic in upbeat and feel-good Kpop songs, where idols encourage listeners to think better of themselves and remind them that they're all unique in their own way.
  • Selling the Show: Sometimes when idols go on variety programs, they are given opportunities to complain about their CEOs. So, idols will list things like how their CEOs can be intimidating, stern, stingy, Explanation  bossy, etc., but it's all in good fun and not in an insulting manner.
    • On a much serious note, some idols come out and talk about all the hardships their companies made them go through and the normal things they banned them from doing, especially after they leave these agencies and go their own separate ways.
  • Silly Love Songs: Countless Kpop songs have cheesy descriptions of falling in love and focus on teenage romance. Kpop idol music is known for being full of such silly love songs.
  • Teen Idol: Nearly all Kpop idols have started their careers as teens and have trained from an even younger age — some at the age of 12, which makes them double as Child Popstars. There's a clear preference for young and fresh faces to cater to Kpop's young demographics, and even idols ditch this image and go for a mature and serious persona, moving into the acting field as they age.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Many groups have at least two or more vocalists who trade vocals together on their songs.

Alternative Title(s): K Pop