Kpop 4 Generations Breakdown

Kpop 4 Generations Breakdown 2023 | All About Kpop History

Kpop has existed for longer than you think! Here is the complete Kpop 4 generations breakdown to help you track Kpop’s history in South Korea.

If you think you know everything about Korean Pop’s history, it’s time for you to think again!

In 2020, one of the longest-running webzines of Korean Pop critic- IDOLOGY published an article that had a detailed description of the various generations of K-pop. 

It has just been a little over two decades that Korean Pop or K-pop has become a mainstream culture in Korea, and a little around a decade that the whole world has embraced the culture and is crazy mad about it. 

So, Idology magazine has taken up the whole Korean Pop culture from its beginning and then has divided these decades into four different generations, followed by highlighted characteristics of each generation. 

Every fandom over the decades has its own distinct history connected with the same Korean pop culture roots. 

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So, if you too are eager to know about the breakdown of K-pop into four generations, stick with me for an exciting ride. 

Also, before I take you any further, I want to add the statement the magazine Idology has issued along with the whole generational category in a rephrased yet apt way. 

The webzine has said that their attempt to create the K-pop generation has no intention to create a dispute. Rather it is more like a road map of the genre that might help everyone to progress further in the same genre. 

Adding further, they have stated that these subdivisions have no intention to create division or line; instead, they want to help people understand the evolution the K-pop culture has gone through and will continue to. 

So, let’s take a clear trip to the memory lanes to understand what has changed or better evolved in these past decades. 

Kpop 4 Generations Breakdown 

Here’s how the Idology magazine has broken down the whole Korean Pop culture;

First Generation

Beginning and end year of the era- 

From 1996 to 2004

The Representative Artists-

Girl Groups-

  • Baby V.O.X
  • S.E.S
  • Fin.K.L.
  • Sugar
  • Diva, and many more

Boy Groups-

  • Two Two
  • H.O.T.
  • Drunken Tiger
  • Seo Taiji and Boys, and more 

The very first generation of K-pop groups began after Seo Taiji and Boys, a three-member group, retired and disbanded. 

Then following that, in 1996, SM Entertainment got massively inspired by the Seo Taiji and Boys group, Japanese idol production, and American boy bands and the result of that was our very first Korean Pop idol group H.O.T. 

That’s how we got our favorite genre and culture nearly two decades ago. Following H.O.T., new groups like Shinwa, Baby V.O.X, and Fin.K.L were created. 

Also, I would like you to realize that during that time, there was no internet facility available, so they had a totally different fandom culture than we have heard and seen ever.  

Basically, whenever their favorite band played on tv, they would record them using their video cameras, and even to buy the tickets for their concerts, they had to line up in front of a particular bank. 

Kpop 4 Generations Breakdown
Source: Instagram@k.pop.sunbaes

Yes, you read that right, these banks used to buy the tickets of the concerts exclusively in those times, and the lines would usually be over a day long. It is really easy that we are in quite a modern world!

Also, as the times were old, people could hear their favorite idols from their albums, so the lines again for buying them used to be super long. As a result, the music at the time was quite active. 

The legendary band H.O.T. at that time used to make sales in millions every they released their music. 

Second Generation

Beginning and end year of the era- 

From 2005 to 2012

Early Representative Artists-

Girl Groups-

  • KARA 
  • Girl’s Generation 
  • Wonder Girls

Boy Groups-

  • Big Bang
  • SS501
  • 2PM
  • TVXQ

Late Representative groups-

Girl Groups-

  • 2NE1
  • Sistar
  • 4minute
  • Apink

Boy Groups-

  • Beast (now Highlight)
  • B1A4

The transition from the first generation of K-Pop idols to the second was quite apparent. In the early 2000s, almost all the bands leading the first generation had disbanded. 

The generation came amid an economic crisis that was going on in Korea, yet the Korean pop culture was commercialized so well that it was one of the most profiting industries of the time. 

So, following that, SM Entertainments debuted a new band having five members and paved the way for the upcoming second generation. They came up with TVXQ, a boy band of five members. 

2nd generation kpop girl groups list
Source: Instagram@saythename_kne_

The following year, in 2005, other K-pop groups as SS501 and Super Junior made their debut, and then in 2006, a few other groups debuted and gained success and recognition as the second generation of the culture. 

Also, it was from this generation onwards that today’s massive entertainment companies, SM, JYP, and YG Entertainment, gained recognition. 

It was also the time when not only the fandoms but the mainstream Korean media started picking up their works too. Adding to that, as the population of the 90s grew massively, the fandom of the second generation witnessed a cultural shift. 

2nd generation kpop boy groups list
Source: Instagram@saythename_kne_

The shift was major because the people born after the 90s had the internet in their hands in the forms of social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook, and being able to connect was way easier as compared to the first generation. 

Also, from this point on, collecting merchandise and albums in physical form was just a way to support the K-pop groups rather than really collecting them to hear their music. 

So, contrary to before after the release of the albums, the sales of the same acted as an indicator of the size of fandoms of each group. 

Third Generation

Beginning and end year of the era- 

From 2013 to 2019

The Representative Artists-

Girl Groups- 

  • Mamamoo
  • Red Velvet
  • AOA
  • WJSN
  • Lovelyz

Boy Groups

  • GOT7
  • VIXX
  • BTS
  • EXO
  • Seventeen
  • NU’EST
  • iKON

Following a long tenure of the second generation came the third generation in 2013. The band EXO had made music with the track’ Growl,’ and it came out as a mega-hit. However, the transition from the second to the third generation was not as apparent as it was in the case of the first and second ones. 

The reason was that the second generation idols were active in this generation as well, but still, there’s a distinction that helps us differentiate between the two. 

The very first was that the third generation of K-pop idols was producing a variety of content.

Also, the availability of the Naver V App and YouTube to the normal population helped the entertainment companies open up a new sort of market. So, basically, the rise of different digital platforms that were available to all paved a different and much better path for K-pop culture. 

Adding to that, the third generation witnessed colossal growth in the music industry. After TVXQ made a record with 100,000 sales, EXO too made it to headlines with the same number of sellouts. 

But if you see now, there are nearly 13 bands along with 3 solo artists of this generation making around 300,000 sales right from the beginning.

Adding to that, BTS is considered one of the most successful brands of this generation, and they have broken and created so many records, and even their albums get sales from 100,000 to 300,000 every time they drop something in the market. 

Fourth Generation

Beginning and end year of the era- 

From 2019 to present

The Representative Artists-

Girl Groups-

  • ITZY
  • Everglow
  • NiziU
  • aespa

Boy Groups-

  • Stray Kids 
  • The Boys 
  • Verivery

The fourth generation of K-pop idols started coming from 2019 till the present. Looking from the past generations, Kpop culture has reached new heights, literally proving that sky’s the limit, and they are still achieving new status every time some new group comes up. 

Every successful group that belongs to this generation has come from the same entertainment company as the previous ones. 

But at the same time, there are so many opinions saying that the fourth generation is to come because the third generation still has its idols at the top. 

The statement is quite true, and looking from the colossal fandoms and their undying support, it seems that the third generation is at the top and is going to stay for longer. 

4th generation kpop groups list

Yet these groups and idols are categorized in the fourth generation category as their defining Kpop moments come in 2020 and not before that.

These fourth-generation Kpop idols are coming with the goal of achieving global success, which is unlike the other generations. Because prior to this generation, every band had the aim to become successful in Korea first and then head on to the international market. 

Here’s my favorite second generation Kpop music video by Big Bang!

Wrapping Up On The Kpop 4 Generations Breakdown 

So that would be it on breaking down the Kpop culture in generations according to the Idology magazine. Although there is a lot to mention about these generations, I could not include it all in this piece because the whole generation has been spread in nearly 25 years, and just some words won’t be enough to describe them all. 

But again, being a K-pop fan from the bottom of my heart, it was really a thrilling experience for me to be able to tell you all about the history this amazing genre has. 

Adding to that, I am also very curious about how the Kpop industry will turn out in the upcoming years. 

So, if you feel the same too, stay tuned with me to know it all!

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