History of the K-Pop Industry

By Jeremy Owen

Seo Taiji and the Boys

K-pop started in 1992 with “Seo Taiji and the Boys”. They were the first to experiment with rap, techno, and generally Americanized music. This boom in Korean music, products, and media that made its way over to China was referred to as the Hallyu Wave, a Chinese term that translates to “Korean Wave.” The next group to come along was created by Yang Hyun Suk, founder of YG Entertainment. This group was “H.O.T”, a boy band based heavily on Western music standards. H.O.T disbanded in 2001 but had a reunion later in 2018. 

The next big star to come along afterward was Kwon Bo-ah, known as boA, or the Queen of K-pop. She made two debuts, one in Korea on August 25, 2000, and another in Japan on May 31, 2001. She has multiple singles and albums in English, Korean, and Japanese. She has been referred to as, “The Queen Of K-pop.” After her, the next big group to achieve stardom was “TVXQ!”, a boy group that debuted in 2003. However, controversy surrounded TVXQ! and shortly after members Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun sued SM Entertainment over the length of contract and unfair profit distribution. Japanese agency Avex tried to debut a sub-group known as “JYJ”, but SM sued Avex over trying to create JYJ, which is still active today as a duo, but Yoochun, a former member of TVXQ and JYJ, did illegal drugs and retired from the industry.

Jonghyun from Shinee pictured at his funeral.

There is also a dark side to the K-pop industry: assault, prostitution, suicide, and spycams. With recent suicides like Jonghyun of “SHINEE” in 2017 and Sulli’s suicide in 2019, this industry’s dark side has emerged more frequently. And with mixed-race K-pop stars coming about, like Yoon Mi-rae, and “TXT’s” Hueningkai, the industry is becoming more diverse. The industry still needs fixing, with racism, sexism, homophobia, and colorism extremely prevalent. And with the gay solo artist Holland coming out with his single “Neverland,” homophobia is slowly being forgotten. Although the early history of K-pop was pure, the industry has only become worse before it’s become better.