Heard of groups such as BTS, Blackpink or EXO? Korean pop, or more commonly known as ‘K-pop’ is a  global phenomenon and global industry that is been enormously popular worldwide!

K-pop is a genre of music that started to shape in the early 1990s. It’s known for its intense choreography and its vibrant concepts.

However, modern K-pop as we know it began with Seo Taiji and Boys. Before Seo Taiji and Boys, the broadcast shows and songs were all controlled. Songs had to be patriotic and safe. Seo Taiji and Boys introduced the hip-hop culture to the music industry in Korea and talked about issues within society. They increased in popularity and changed the K-pop scene completely. This meant that more future K-pop groups were allowed to be more experimental with their music.

Then enter Lee Soo Man, who is the founder of SM Entertainment and known as the pioneer of the Korean Wave. The Korean Wave is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. At the centre of the Korean Wave was K-pop. Lee Soo Man, who had also been previously been apart of the entertainment industry decided to start up SM Entertainment who is Korea’s largest entertainment. Currently, it is home to groups such as EXO, Red Velvet and NCT.

However, years before all of those groups, SM’s first hit group was H.O.T who debuted in 1996. They are considered being one of the first K-pop idol groups and had combined singing, dancing and rapping together. Due to their success, their formula became the model for many K-pop groups till this very day. They were one of the first stars of the Korean Wave and were successful in Korea and countries such as China and Japan. Whilst this was all happening, K-pop was building up to be a brand based on quality, killer choreographies, and talent.

On the other hand, girl groups like Baby V.O.X, S.E.S and Fin.K.L were one of the most prominent first generation girl groups. They are known for their catchy lyrics, creative concepts, and refreshing visuals. Their style helped to create the foundation of girl groups and they were all at the forefront of the Korean Wave.

Fast forward to 2012 when EXO debuted. SM had already tried the idea of having a rotational concept with one of their groups called Super Junior (the rotational concept had to stop due to fan’s anger about this concept). EXO then debuted as a 12 member group that had 2 sub-units: EXO-K and EXO-M. During promotions, EXO-K would promote in South Korea whilst EXO-M would promote in China. This was a relatively new idea within idol groups and this allowed EXO is to succeed in China and South Korea. Yiting Zeng, who had witnessed EXO’s rise as a teen said: “I remember EXO being a really big thing in China at the time”. Although EXO now promotes as 1 group, they still have massive support for them internationally and South-Korea.

BTS, who is dominating charts all around the world, is definitely one of the biggest groups right now. Having attended the BMA’s and won Social Artist Award for 2 consecutive years shows how BTS is breaking records left and right. Moreover, they have performed at the AMA’s, attended the Ellen Show and scored No.1 Album on Billboard 200 further highlights BTS’s progress internationally and how they are currently making K-pop history! I’m sure BTS will continue to break their own records and continue to break K-pop stereotypes.

K-pop has changed over time. There was the beginning of modern K-pop with groups like S.E.S and Seo Taiji and Boys. Now, we have groups such as BTS, EXO and Blackpink. In addition, currently, there are a lot more agencies than before. For example, there are big agencies such as YG, JYP, SM and Bighit. We also have a new generation of groups such as Stray Kids and Loona. Who knows how K-pop will change over the next few years. There are already groups with new and interesting concepts. For example, NCT, who is under SM, represent an infinite group concept with different sub-units that promote in different countries. Red Velvet switch between a darker concept and cute concept. There are a lot more I haven't even mentioned!

Will these new groups make history? Only time will tell.