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Growth in the K-pop Industry

By Monica Huynh

KDA Internship

K-pop in particular has become increasingly visible to global audiences in the past five to 10 years. South Korean artists have hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart at least eight times since the Wonder Girls first cracked it in 2009 with their hit “Nobody”

K-pop in particular has become increasingly visible to global audiences in the past five to ten years. 2003, TVXQ and BoA started a new generation of K-pop idols that broke the music genre into the neighboring Japanese market and continue to popularize K-pop internationally today.

The first K-pop artist to grow very famous abroad was PSY with his song Oppa Gangnam Style. His music video was the first ever music video to reach billions of views. The most famous idols nowadays are BTS, EXO, NCT, Twice and Blackpink.

Big Entertainment Companies in Korea

● SM

- SM is South Korea’s largest entertainment company which was founded in 1995 by Lee Soo Man. SM is known for having led the global K-pop phenomenon, with early overseas success such as BoA and H.O.T.

- The label has also produced numerous famous artists such as EXO, NCT, SNSD, Etc.

1. EXO

- EXO (Korean: 엑소; stylized in all caps) is a South Korean-Chinese boy band based in Seoul, consisting of nine members: Xiumin, Suho, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, Sehun, Kris, Tao and Luhan. The band was formed by SM Entertainment in 2011 and debuted in 2012. However Kris, Tao and Luhan departed from the group in 2014 and 2015.

- The group ranked as one of the top five most influential celebrities on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list from 2014 to 2018 and have been labeled "Kings of K-pop" and the "Biggest boyband in the world" by various media outlets.

- Exo won Song of the Year at the Melon Music Awards for "Growl".

- In 2020 the members decided to focus on their solo career as 4 of their members decided to go for military enlistment.

2. NCT

- NCT (Korean: 엔시티) is a South Korean boy group formed by SM Entertainment. Their name stands for Neo Culture Technology, a term coined by their producer and SM founder Lee Soo-man to describe the group's concept of having an unlimited number of members divided into multiple sub-units based in various cities worldwide. The group now consists of 23 members as of 2020 ranging from their late-teens to mid-twenties and participating in a total of four different sub-units.

- On April 4, 2016, SM Entertainment announced NCT's first unit, NCT U (the "U" standing for United), which at the time consisted of six members: Taeil, Taeyong, Doyoung, Ten, Jaehyun, and Mark.

- On July 1, SM announced NCT's second unit, NCT 127. The unit is based in Seoul, with the number "127" representing the longitude coordinate of Seoul. The unit debuted with seven members: Taeil, Taeyong, Yuta, Jaehyun, Winwin, Mark, and Haechan.

- On August 18, SM announced that NCT's third unit would be called NCT Dream. The unit debuted with seven members: Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung.

- On December 31, 2018, SM Entertainment announced NCT's fourth unit, WayV . The unit is based in China and consists of 7 members: Kun, Winwin, Ten, Lucas, Hendery, Xiaojun, and Yangyang. WayV is managed under Label V, a Chinese label collaborating with SM's production.

- On November 30, SM announced that NCT will release a new single titled "Resonance" which marks the finale of their second full album. This single combines "Make a Wish (Birthday Song)," "90's Love," "Work It," and "Raise the Roof" from their second full-length album into one song. The single features all the 23 members of the NCT 2020 project. The song was released on December 4.


- Girls' Generation (Korean: 소녀시대; RR: Sonyeo Sidae), also known as SNSD, is a South Korean girl group formed by SM Entertainment. The group is composed of eight members: Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun. Originally a nine-piece group, Jessica left the group in September 2014. One of the prominent figures of the Korean Wave, the group has earned numerous accolades and the honorific nickname "The Nation's Girl Group" in their home country.

- The group rose to fame in 2009 with the single "Gee", which claimed the top spot on KBS's Music Bank for a record-breaking nine consecutive weeks and was Melon's most popular song of the 2000s decade.

- They are the first Asian girl group to achieve five music videos with over 100 million views on YouTube with "Gee", "I Got a Boy", "The Boys", "Mr. Taxi", and "Oh!". In Japan, they became the first non-Japanese girl group to have three number-one albums on the Oricon Albums Chart with their eponymous album, Love & Peace, and The Best, and their three Japanese

● YG

- YG Entertainment Inc. (Korean: YG 엔터테인먼트) is a South Korean entertainment company established in 1996 by Yang Hyun-suk. The company operates as a record label, talent agency, music production company, event management and concert production company, and music publishing house.

- 2012 brought YG international recognition when Psy's "Gangnam Style" gained worldwide popularity as a viral video. On August 21, it charted at number one on the iTunes Music Video Charts. This feat was a first for a South Korean artist. By November 24, "Gangnam Style" had become the most viewed video in YouTube history, and the first video to surpass a billion views. The song was credited as the main reason for YG Entertainment's share prices increasing by more than 60 per cent, with the record label subsequently filing its first annual report in 2012 with profits of over 50%after going public on the KOSDAQ the year before.


- JYP is a multinational entertainment company founded by JYP in 1997. It is one of Korea’s largest entertainment companies

- Rain who was signed as a trainee made his debut as a korean global solo artist and he got famous out of Korea

- In May 2006, Wonder Girls debuted and became the first group ever to enter the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009 when their song "Nobody" charted at No. 76.

- In January 2014, Got7 made their debut and they got famous worldwide - In 2015, they formed 2 groups, twice which the members were chosen from the competitive reality show, “sixteen” and Day6. Twice became one of the most famous girl groups worldwide.

- On January 21, JYP Entertainment announced they would be debuting a new girl group named Itzy. On the same day, the group's official YouTube account was created and the label's official channel shared a video trailer unveiling the five members. On February 12, the group released their debut single album, It'z Different, with its lead single "Dalla Dalla". The group's commercial success has led to them earning several new artist of the year awards, including Rookie of the Year at the 34th Golden Disc Awards and Best New Female artist at the 2019 Melon Music Awards and the 2019 Mnet Asian Music Awards.

● Bighit

- Bighit was established by Bang Si Hyuk in 2005. The company has multiple subsidiaries, including Source Music, Pledis Entertainment, Belift Lab and KOZ Entertainment, collectively known as Big Hit Labels.

1. BTS

- BTS , also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member South Korean boy band that began formation in 2010 and debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. The group composed of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook—co-writes and co-produces much of their own output.

- The group's second Korean studio album, Wings (2016), was their first to sell one million copies in South Korea. Leading the Korean Wave into the United States and breaking numerous sales records. They became the first Korean group to receive a certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for their single "Mic Drop", as well as the first Korean act to top the US Billboard 200 chart

- BTS became the first artist to have multiple top Billboard's recently created global singles

2. TXT

- Tomorrow X Together, commonly known as TXT, is a five-member South Korean boy group formed by Big Hit Entertainment. The group consists of five members Soobin, Yeonjun, Beomgyu, Taehyun and HueningKai.

- They debuted on March 4, 2019 with the EP The Dream Chapter: Star. The album debuted and peaked at number one on the Gaon Album Chart and Billboard World Albums Chart and entered the US Billboard 200 at number 140, at the time becoming the highest-charting debut album by any male K-pop group.

3. Enhypen

- In 2020, they had a competitive reality show, “I-Land”. This created the group Enhypen which consists of 7 members : Heeseung, Jay, Jake, Jungwoon, Sunghoon, Sunwoo and Niki. They debuted with the extended play (EP) Border: Day One.

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