The start and end of each generation of K-Pop is an often debated topic among fans of the genre. For those unfamiliar with the broad definition of each generation, let’s take a look at each of the existing three generations of K-Pop.
1. The First Generation (Approximately 1996-2003)
The first generation of K-Pop came about as the Korean music industry moved away from a more traditional sound towards a style that resembled the current music trends in the United States.
It was the style that Seo Taiji and the Boys pioneered. This group featured Yang Hyun Suk (left), the founder of YG Entertainment.
After Seo Taiji and the Boys were finished, many groups emulated their style which essentially ushered in the first generation of K-Pop. The big fan-war of the day was between SM Entertainment’s H.O.T…
and DSP Media’s Sechs Kies who are still active to this day under YG Entertainment.
IU’s favourite childhood group g.o.d were also in the boy group mix.
This generation had plenty of girl groups as well, the most notable being SM Entertainment’s S.E.S…
and DSP Media’s Fin.KL which featured Lee Hyori (right) who is well known today for her variety show Lee Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast and her work as a soloist.
2. The Second Generation (Approximately 2004-2011)
This generation of artists is responsible for spreading K-Pop worldwide and really defining the culture and norms of the fandom.
These artists may be more familiar to fans as many are still currently active. In the boy group department, we have SM Entertainment’s Super Junior…
As well as YG Entertainment’s BigBang…
Another successful second generation boy group from SM Entertainment is TVXQ.
On the girl group front, we have the nation’s girl group SM Entertainment’s Girl’s Generation…
and JYP Entertainment’s Wonder Girls who made great strides in exposing the American market to K-Pop.
and to top off the big three companies, YG Entertainment’s 2NE1 were also a girl group force in the second generation.
3. The Third Generation (2012 – Present?)
Many of the groups above are now standing aside or members are starting their solo careers. There are many successful groups in each generation but some of the most influential groups of the current generation are listed here. Many point to the debut of EXO as the beginning of the third generation of K-Pop.
This debut was, of course, followed up by the girl group that would represent SM Entertainment into the third generation, Red Velvet.
BigHit Entertainment’s BTS would go on to be the biggest Korean act ever following their debut in 2013.
JYP Entertainment formed the group that would inherit the moniker of “the nation’s girl group” in TWICE.
And finally, YG Entertainment’s BLACKPINK are an immensely popular girl group currently.
4. The Fourth Generation?
Many fans are now speculating that with the influx of new groups debuting in 2019 this could possibly be the beginning of the fourth generation.
Though some doubt can be cast over this theory as many of the third generation groups are currently peaking in popularity and are showing no signs of slowing down.
JYP Entertainment’s new group ITZY will be juniors to TWICE. TWICE only debuted three years ago though so it’s not a fair comparison to the situation with TWICE and Wonder Girls where there was a nine-year year gap between debuts. It’s unlikely that TWICE will be taking a step back in their promotions even though their juniors are debuting.
Likewise for BigHit Entertainment’s new group Tomorrow X Together (TXT) who will be juniors to BTS. They are debuting and will be active alongside BTS but won’t take over their duties as we saw with the debuts of TWICE and Red Velvet who became active as their senior groups became inactive.
Other groups who recently debuted like Cherry Bullet and ATEEZ have helped spark this conversation.
Not to mention that YG is also planning on debuting another boy group this year:
Is this the start of the fourth generation or merely the midway point of the third generation?