In the seventies, the entertainment content of Korea was controlled by the government; so everything created was extremely patriotic and talked about loving the country. However, in 1992, Seo Taiji & Boys debuted in an iconic moment that would mark the beginning of something nowadays loved by many people that don’t even understand the language. But you know what they say, ‘music is a universal language.
Seo Taiji & Boys showed the Korean audience something they were not accustomed to, they raped, danced, and sang about things not that common at that time. In 1996, at the highest point of their career, Seo Taiji & Boys retired; but they passed into history as the first group that led the way that bands nowadays still follow.
The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis
Back in the sixties, Korea was a poor country. Only three decades later, by 1996, they were the 11th richest country in the world. When a financial crisis hit Asia, Korea’s president decided they had to destine at least 1% of the entire state’s budget to culture.
The Big Three
Lee Soo Man was the first man that saw the music industry as the next big export. In 1995, he founded his label SM Entertainment with H.O.T. as his first project. With his label, he debuted bands like Shinee, EXO, Super Junior, NCT, Red Velvet, Aespa, and Super M, all big hits.
Then in 1996, Park Jinyoung or J.Y. Park founded his label, JYP Entertainment, with bands like Wonder Girls, 2 PM, 2 AM, GOT7, Stray Kids, TWICE, and Day6.
Last but not least, Yang Hyun Suk founded YG Entertainment in 1997, Hyun Suk was a former member of Seo Taiji & Boys, managed bands like Big Bang, Blackpink, iKon, and Treasure.
These three labels set the right formula for k-pop that nowadays is still working. In Korea, they called them ‘idol groups’ because, of course, there is a certain process they have to pass to debut. There are many more labels outside the big three, for example, Big Hit Music was on the brink of bankruptcy, and his last shot was BTS, and it certainly was their best shot.
Idol Groups and how does the industry works
Music studios hold auditions and scout possible idols. Then they’re trained to sing, dance, act, model, and play instruments. Once they’ve exploded their potential, they’re carefully assembled in well-rounded groups. Each group has at least five members, often a lot more, and each one of them takes a specific role in the band according to their skills and personalities.
Songs in k-pop are pretty much musical experiments. They mix a lot of genres in one song, like ‘Cherry Bomb’ by NCT127, which has Hip-Hop, Rock, and Pop. You may see them as perfect human beings, but they go through a lot of work and preparation. They have to be very clean, not get involved in scandals that involve drugs, alcohol, or love (yes, you read right, love); basically, they’re not allowed to show themselves as they are.
BTS, Twice, Blackpink, EXO, Super Junior, Big Bang, 2NE1, Stray Kids are some of the most famous groups in the industry even though they belong to different generations. The generations are the years in which some groups debuted, in the case of EXO, BTS, TWICE, Monsta X, GOT7 are part of the third k-pop generation that covers the years from 2012 to 2018.
Visual and production music videos and content
If you give a chance to just one K-Pop video you’ll find out that they invest quite a lot in their productions. Every time they release a new song, new mini-album, or have a comeback, they arrived with a whole new concept.
You’ll never get bored if you got into any k-pop group. Let’s take GOT7 as an example; even though they are on a hiatus, when they were active they were constantly making performances. GOT even had some kind of reality shows like Real GOT, GOT7ing, Hard Carry that you can watch on V Live. In that same fashion, every group has content like this; BTS with BTS Run, Bon Voyage, and In The Soop make the fans to always have an eye on everything that’s going on with their favorite group.
In 2006, South Korea was in 26th place in the music industry; by 2016 they were in 8th place. Singles like ‘Gangnam Style’ also mark a before and after in this genre, cause this song made everyone dance around the world. You may not know it, but that’s not the only thing that PSY did before retiring from the stages. He actually has an entertainment label named ‘PNation,’ and he’s known for being such a great boss and CEO.
However, the K-Pop industry is not as good as it seems. There’s a very dark background behind these colorful videos and awesome choreographies. Actually being an idol is a demanding job that doesn’t even allow you to have your own life, giving everything to your company and your fans.