[OPINION] History of Kpop Boy Groups From 1990s

Kpop has come a long way over the years to become globally recognized in 2019. Looking back from the first generation of idols from the 1990s to now, Kpop idols have always had the burden of being adventurous and trend-setting icons.


With the current trend of older Kpop idol groups making a comeback to the Kpop scene, a lot has changed over the decades. In the 1990s when the first Kpop idol groups started emerging like H.O.T, Sechs Kies, Shinhwa and G.O.D, these idol groups experienced much criticism and love for their music while trying to solidify the upcoming genre, Kpop.

Taking a trip down memory lane towards one’s youth or childhood, there are some groups that can NOT be forgotten! The first generation of idol boy groups who not only created what is today’s Kpop fandom culture but also the foundation for the Hallyu wave! While there are many idols that deserve to be considered legends for each decade (1990s, 2000s, 2010s), these specific groups mentioned in this article were selected based on hours of research, personal memory, today’s popularity/activities and such! As a result, many may not agree with the listing or feel some idol groups should have been mentioned. Please note this is solely the opinion of the writer who may be biased with childhood memories of watching these groups in variety shows like SBS’s X-Men (2003-2007), SBS’s Love Letter (2004-2006) etc!

First generation of Kpop boy groups (1990s)

H.O.T (1996-2001, 2018-present)


Finding anyone who doesn’t know H.O.T would be rare in the Kpop scene. H.O.T is considered the first ever Kpop idol group that was formed by SM Entertainment. Even TVN’s hit drama series ‘Reply 1997’ (2012) has many references to H.O.T where the female lead is a die-hard fan of H.O.T’s Tony.


To signify how much importance H.O.T has in Korean culture, H.O.T had their reunion in 2018 through the famous variety show, MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ (2005-2018).



After H.O.T made their comeback in 17 years on ‘Infinity Challenge’, H.O.T went on to hold their comeback concert in Seoul where fans and idols took a trip back to their youth in the 90s.

Secks Kies (1997-2000, 2016-present)


The second idol group in Kpop history, aka H.O.T’s rival, played an important role for shaping Kpop fandom. The power of Kpop fans gave rise to allowing artists to venture into other fields within the entertainment industry. Secks Kies was the first idol group to film their own movie, perform in a musical and perform at the Blue House for the president serving during that time.

Clip of H.O.T vs. Sech Kies fan war from Reply 1997 Kdrama


Secks Kiss also made their comeback in 2016 as guests on MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ through a guerrilla concert. It was reported news of Secks Kies’s reunion was shared only 5 hours before the concert, which still managed to gather 6000 fans.


To really get an idea for what it was like in the 1990s during the reign of H.O.T and Sechs Kies, I HIGHLY recommend watching TVN’s Reply 1997. It is pretty accurate in depicting how severe or passionate Kpop fandom culture already was back then. Not to mention, this drama in addition to the rest of the Reply series (1997, 1994, 1988) are really great dramas to watch whether to understand Korean culture or to reminisce about your past.

Shinhwa (1998-present)


The role model of many idols, the longest active boy group in Kpop history, Shinhwa is the idol group who showed versatility to be possible for Kpop idols. It is common for idol groups to keep to their “color” or “style” but Shinhwa has proven the key to longevity to be due to the constant rebranding and continuous creativity among other things. Shinhwa formed their own company Shinhwa Company with Minwoo and Eric as co-CEOs managing their activities as a group confirming the brotherhood among the members.


Shinhwa members are well known for their talents in various areas in the entertainment industry. Not only are they immensely popular for their appearances on variety shows, each member has successfully proven their talents in various areas like dramas, movies, musicals, producing and much more!


Shinhwa is extremely talented and everyone has such a great relationship, it is no wonder the group has made history by being the longest active Kpop idol group! They spend infinite amounts of time and effort for fans, one of the most noteworthy would be that they have a concert every year. In 2019, it will be their 21st anniversary since debut.

G.O.D (1999-present)


JYP’s first idol group G.O.D has never disbanded, however they were previously on an extended hiatus as each member pursed their solo careers. G.O.D is known for their iconic songs that really reflected Korean culture in the early 2000s amassing fans from various age groups. Labeled as the “nation’s idols” that used lyrics described as  “storytelling,” many of their songs are still remembered as iconic Korean songs.



G.O.D is considered to be part of the legendary first generation Kpop idol groups among H.O.T, Seck’s Kiss and Shinhwa.


G.O.D’s songs are one of the best songs to sing in karaoke regardless of how old the songs are. The songs are still relatable and relevant amidst the 4th industrial revolution, simply “classic songs.”

Kpop Boy Groups of the 2000s

Super Junior (2005-present)


The iconic Kpop idol group that broke the stereotype by consisting of many members even 13 at one point. Super Junior can be considered to be one of the earliest hallyu idols that paved the path for Kpop to become globally recognized. Not only are they a household name today in 2019 but their everlasting popularity in Korea and abroad is something many idols aim for.


Super Junior can be considered one of the examples of successful subgroups that has proven to create more opportunities for the idols to showcase their talents outside of their group activities. After dominating Asia, Super Junior has proven their reigning power as iconic Kpop idols by their amazing success in Latin America even releasing songs in English, Korean and Spanish!


Super Junior was one of the first idol groups with so many members creating the opportunity to market to so many different preferences. Each member had their own unique remarkable characteristics that would appeal to nearly anyone. Frankly, it was a genius move by SM and now we have idol groups that follow this strategy! (Thank you SM!)

Big Bang (2006-present)


YG’s first idol group aka “Kings of Kpop” and the MVPs for setting the Hallyu wave ablaze internationally, especially outside of Asia, Big Bang is the group who continuously redefined what ‘KPOP’ is by experimenting out of the norm while expressing their individuality.


Big Bang is renowned for writing their own songs which plays a significant role for their success.


Not only is the group incredible for having so many No.1 songs but also their success promoting as subunits and soloists unbelievable that has become something to strive for the following generation of idols. Is there anyone who doesn’t know Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips or GD’s Coup d’etat?




Just thinking of Big Bang, the concept of swag, hip, fast beats, clubs and parties come to mind. While is it sad to see that most of the members are still serving mandatory military service, it won’t be long before they will be back!

SHINee (2008-present)


The boy band of SM aka the “Princes of Kpop” who set the standard for live performances with complex dance moves, Shinee contrasts crucially with other groups of the 2000s. Not only is this group experimental with their music exploring various genres, they are also considered the “aesthetic,” “artistic,” “beautiful” group through their choreography, concepts and wardrobes.


With the sad passing of member Jonghyun (RIP) in 2017, Shinee will never be the same. However, Shinee’s songs as a quintet, Jonghyun’s legacy remains as numerous fans continue to love and cheer for Shinee.


Shinee will forever be that scarred part of my Kpop love. They have had to regroup after the unfortunate experience of losing a member, however I fervently hope that they will be able to recover not only for themselves and fans but also for the legacy of JH to not be forgotten in the future.

Kpop Boy Groups of Today (2010s)

With less than 10 months before the end of the current decade, there are so many boy groups who debuted and deserve to be listed as THE boy group of 2010s. While many would want to nominate for their favorite group, I would say based on the past 110 months (2010-2019.2), EXO and BTS are the ones who will be considered the “legends” of 2010s in Kpop history years from now.

EXO (2012-present)


BTS (2013-present)


Is there anyone in the Kpop scene who doesn’t know EXO and BTS? EXO is the 3rd generation of SM’s beloved idol boy group taking on the baton from their seniors H.O.T, Shinhwa, Super Junior and Shinee. BTS is without a doubt the “titans of Kpop” if my 90 year old grandmother knows who they are because of the Korean news. So many records were broken and so much history was made by these two idol groups during this decade, I personally would like to bet some dough on whether BTS or EXO will show up in the history or business books in the near future. Having heard that UC Berkley is offering a DeCal class on BTS from a friend attending UCB, my odds of winning are very high. 

Looking back on Kpop idols from the 1990s, Kpop itself is still pretty young with so much potential for growth. As a passionate Kpop fan who grew up with the first generation of Kpop idols on my TV screen in the 1990s and 2000s, I genuinely hope that there will be a day when Kpop music can be heard on the radio (outside of Korean radio stations) abroad.


Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

Man Files Lawsuit Against H.O.T. for Trademark Infringement

A man who holds the rights to H.O.T.’s brand name and logo is suing the group for using it without proper permission.

Image source – Salt Innovation

In an interview with a media outlet last week, the legal representative of the claimant (herein referred to as Mr. Kim) Jang Ji-won explained the reason for the lawsuit. According to Jang, Mr. Kim hold the rights to H.O.T.’s brand and logo. As such, it is within his rights to file a claim against the group should they use them without his consent.

Reportedly, Mr. Kim was part of the H.O.T. management when it was under SM Entertainment. He is also the current trademark holder of H.O.T. Notably, Mr. Kim hinted at filing a lawsuit against the group prior to their reunion concert earlier this year.

He has filed a petition with the Seoul District Court against the group and the concert organizer Salt Innovation to have them desist from using the H.O.T’s brand name and logo in future performances. Moreover, he also filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office to seek punishment for the illegal use of the trademarks.

Courtesy of MBC

Jang said that the group failed to discuss their plans and reach an agreement with Mr. Kim. When using trademarks and logos, it is natural to obtain the consent of the trademark holders. However, after discussing with Mr. Kim and failing to reach an agreement, they went ahead and used the trademark in various ways leading up to and during their concert. Given that Mr. Kim holds the rights to the group’s brand name and logo, he can raise issue with its usage legally.

Additionally, it is Mr. Kim’s intention to prevent the use of trademarks and logos not only in this concert but also in future concerts. “In addition to this performance, we should not use unilateral trademarks or logos without an agreement in the upcoming H.O.T. concert,” Jang said. As a trademark, the use of the name must be agreed and paid for by law. “That is why we have filed a lawsuit not only to be compensated for damages but also to ban the use of the product,” the lawyer explained.

In particular, the claimant is paying special attention to H.O.T member Jang Woo-hyuk and Salt Innovation. Jang Woo-hyuk was the only member to participate in planning the concert as well as contacting Mr. Kim to talk about the trademarks. It is suspected that the singer “actively colluded” with Salt Innovations to use the brand name and logo illegally.



Original article

Translated by O.C


Moon Hee-Jun and Tony Talk About H.O.T. Reuniting After 17 Years

H.O.T. members Moon Hee-jun and Tony talk about how they felt about the group reuniting after 17 years on “Happy Together 4.”

Image source – KBS2

On Wednesday’s episode of “Happy Together 4,” musicians rocking the music industry like H.O.T. Moon Hee-jun and Tony, Paul Kim, Sam Kim, April’s Naeun, and Na Haeun appeared on the show.

During the episode, the H.O.T. members revealed how they felt about reuniting for a show after 17 years. “I couldn’t believe it, it was like a dream. It was amazing and touching,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we performed on stage but our fans didn’t forget to come,” he continued.

Tony revealed that they were worried that they wouldn’t sell tickets for their reunion show. ” We were actually worried if we could perform in the stadium…I felt like I was in a time machine,” the singer said. Moon gave Yoo Jae-suk credit for the reunion. “I’ve been talking to him for three or four years, but he told me not to give up until the end,” he revealed saying that Yoo is like a father.

However, although they joined together on stage, it seems like the members of the group haven’t had the time to catch up. Tony said that “we had a close relationship before the reunion of H.O.T. but it’s been 17 years since we made a comeback. After our comeback, we didn’t have a chance to talk even a little bit.”


Original article

Translated by O.C


H.O.T. Moon Hee-Joon and Tony to Guest on ‘Happy Together 4’

H.O.T. members Moon Hee-joon and Tony Ahn will reunite for an upcoming episode of “Happy Together 4.”

According to multiple broadcasting officials on Wednesday, H.O.T. Moon Hee-joon and Tony Ahn have decided to guest on the variety program “Happy Together 4” on KBS2. Notable, this will only be the second program that the group mates will appear in together. Their last appearance on MBC’s “Infinite Challenge” was about ten months ago. Nonetheless, expectations are high for the duo.

Their appearance on the show comes after the group briefly reunited after 17 years for a concert. With 80,000 tickets sold, H.O.T. remains very popular — even being inactive for more than a decade. Moreover, many are looking forward to seeing Moon and Ahn’s being frank about each other and the group after so many years.

In addition to the duo, Hwangbo from Chakra and Paul Kim will also participate in the recording scheduled for December 22.



Original article

Translated by O.C


H.O.T. Attracts 80,000 Fans to Concerts Reminiscent of Their Heyday

It has been 17 years since H.O.T.’s last independent concert, but it was well worth the time with the group putting on a show reminiscent its most brilliant heyday.

Image source – Ilgan Sports

Over the weekend of October 13, 80,000 fans filled the Olympic Stadium in Seoul where they reunited with legendary K-pop group H.O.T. The concert titled “2018 Forever – High-five Of Teenagers” comes months after the group made a highly anticipated performance on the now-ended “Infinite Challenge.”

During that special show, the group proved their continuous popularity when it attracted 20,000 fans. However, with 40,000 present at each show decked out in white raincoats sporting the group’s logo and waving lightsticks, reminded people of H.O.T.’s heyday.

Image source – Ilgan Sports

Somehow, with a combination of nostalgic stage outfits and passionate performances, helped to fill the 17 years since their last concert. All members were well-practiced and on top of their game with strong singing voices and powerful raps during the three-hour show.

Notably, the group members expressed gratitude for fans remembering them and showing their support. More, they also talked about how worried they were about not being able to perform as well as before. However, with the encouragement of friends they gained the confidence to step in front of fans again.

Meanwhile, in addition to confidence issues, the group also encountered some legal problems leading up to the concert.



Original article

Translated by O.C


Kangta and B1A4 Sandeul Talk About Overcoming Stereotype as Idols

Kangta and B1A4’s Sandeul have opened up about the inevitable stereotype every idol goes through in their career.

On September 6 broadcast of tvN’s “Life Bar,” Kangta and B1A4’s Sandeul appeared as guests alongside actress Choi Yeo-Jin and Cha Ji-Yeon. Among many discussions, the two idol-based celebrities freely explained the inevitable stereotype every idol goes through in their career, and how they individually overcame it to stand where they are right now.

At first, Kangta expressed his worries as a rookie musical actor. The singer said, “to be honest, I had received many musical offers in the past. However, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to draw out the energy that is needed to be a musical actor. Because it is such a difficult and different genre of music, I was being very careful.”

Cha Ji-Yeon, who is co-starring in the same musical as Kangta, added to it. The actress said, “I worried about Kangta, who is very new to musicals. But it was only at the beginning, because he adjusted to the surroundings very easily. Of course, I couldn’t look past his experience of performing on stage for the past 20 years.” In response, Kangta commented, “thanks to Ji-Yeon’s veteran-like energy, I was able to focus even more.”

Kangta continued to speak about overcoming the stereotypes of being an idol-based celebrity. The singer said, “while it’s already been 22 years since debut, I always feel a constant pressure regarding my performance. I always have this idea of putting on a perfect show, which sometimes drags down my confidence.”

He continued, “when I first started producing music, the public did not have much expectation for me just because I was an idol. It was the same when I first released my solo album, too. People had a certain prejudice about idols, which I could not break, and I had a hard time with it. Because it was a repetitive occurrence, I learned to live with it.”

To this, Sandeul added his personal experience dealing with the public’s standard image of idols. The singer said, “I once read a comment online that came as a shock to me. The comment wrote that people just assume it’s a bad musical if it features an idol member.”

He continued, “I wanted to prove them wrong and it was finally time I showed them what I and many other idols could do. That’s why I decided to take on musicals.”

Image Source – tvN’s “Life Bar”

Original Article (1), (2)
Translated by Dasol Kim


H.O.T Encounter Copyright Hurdle Ahead of Reunion Concert

Kim Kyung-wook who worked with H.O.T in the past has filed a copyright complaint against the concert organizers.

Image source – MBC

On September 4, Kim Kyung-wook sent a statement to Salt Innovation, the organizers for H.O.T upcoming reunion concert, for intellectual property infringement. According to reports, the complaint was filed last month on the 23rd but is just coming to light.

Further, Kim has asked the organizers for the appropriate level of royalties resulting from the use of the H.O.T trademark, but they have yet to reach an agreement. However, PRM Idea Lab, a company associated with the organizers said that they might not need to come to an agreement. “After getting legal advice, we understand that there will be no issues even if we hold a performance,” a representative said.

Kim was the entertainment director of H.O.T and is credited with casting the nurturing the members in the 1990s. Further, he also served as the CEO of SM Entertainment from 2001-2004, but no longer holds that position.

On the other hand, Salt Innovation is planning the group’s reunion concert which is scheduled for October 13 and 14 at Jamsil Stadium. The event is a direct response from fan requested an encore after the group appeared on MBC’s “Infinite Challenge” and performed in February.

Notably, the upcoming concert will be H.O.T first in about 17 years, with the last being in 2001. However, SM Entertainment, the group’s former agency, may put a wrench in their plans to perform for their fans.



Original article

Translated by O.C


H.O.T. Clarifies Group Promotions Ahead of Their Reunion Concert

H.O.T. is reassembling to prepare for their upcoming concert in October, and that is their only focus.

Image source – SM Entertainment

Many people are looking forward to H.O.T.’s highly anticipated reunion concert at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul from October 13 to 14. Especially considering that it will be the group’s first performance in 17 years with their last performance occurring in 2001. Although the members have not been together to perform for years, their reputation and popularity are still going strong.

Earlier this year in February, the members joined forces for a special performance on “Infinite Challenge,” which drew a lot of attention. Given the news of their concert, many have had expectations that the group would appear on entertainment programs together. However, H.O.T. has clarified that this will not be the case.

The group does not intend to appear on different shows or conduct interviews. Clarifying the decision, the group explained that it is not necessary to promote concerts by appearing on TV programs. Moreover, since the some of the members are signed to different agencies, a lot of coordination that would go into making multiple appearances and interviews. As such, this time around, the group plans to only have official performances.

An official representative of the group said that “there’s a lot of offers” but that they do not plan to accept them. Fans will only be able to see the group during concerts and the like. However, while some may be disappointed by not seeing H.O.T. on different programs, they can look forward to a great performance. Currently, all the members are focusing on preparing for their two-day concert.

Meanwhile, SM Entertainment created and debuted H.O.T. in 1996. Further, the success formula of the first-generation K-pop group became a model that is still followed today.



Original article

Translated by O.C


Idol Legend H.O.T. to Reunite for a Concert This Year

The first generation K-pop idol group, H.O.T. is planning to reunite in the second half of this year to hold a concert.

According to multiple sources, the group has finalized their plan for the concert this year.

Previously, H.O.T. has touched fans’ hearts by reuniting as a five-member group in 17 years. At the stage prepared by the variety show, “Infinite Challenge,” the group implied their will to reunite by saying, “We will seriously discuss the possibility.”

For the last concert before its recent reunification, which was in 2001, H.O.T sold out tickets only in 10 minutes and 24 seconds, affirming its position on the top of idol groups at that time. At the time of their recent concert, their hit numbers topped the music charts again.

Debuted in 1996, H.O.T. made some of the greatest hits of the era, such as “Candy,” “Happiness,” and “We Are the Future.” Hearing the news about their comeback, fans are anticipating further details.


Original article


[OPINION] Just Like Fashion Trends, K-Pop Has Come Full Circle

Just like fashion trends, K-pop has come full circle. With the growing popularity of K-pop in both domestic and international music industry, people are finally starting to acknowledge K-pop as a music genre, as well as a cultural phenomenon.

While BigHit Entertainment’s seven-headed monster BTS contributed much to spreading greatness of K-pop all over the world, we have to understand that they were able to do so, only because K-pop has come full circle.

In fact, if there is one group to whom they should credit their fame, it is Seo Taeji and Boys, as known as the “President of Culture” from the early 1990’s.

As some of you already know, K-pop was greatly influenced by the Western pop in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. While the government had strict regulations on music in Korea for most of the 1900’s, the 1987 reform changed everything.

TV stations started to expand their entertainment contents, making American music more available and easily accessible to the public. Furthermore, talent shows on TV became increasingly popular – like present day Inkigayo, Show! Music Core, or Music Bank.

Then comes a South Korean trio “Seo Taeiji and Boys” in 1992, wearing Western Hip Hop attire with rap style like Americans, but conveying message strictly in Korean.


Because the material they brought to the stage was so new, the audiences loved them. Afterwards, their debut song “I Know” topped major charts in the country for several weeks, officially marking the beginning of “K-pop” we know now.

The trio used the power of their lyrics to challenge the status quo, especially regarding social and political issues. They expressed the problems as a part of the youth community in South Korea, often blaming the government for the troubles.  In response, the government tried to censor their lyrics, which failed because of the pushback from the fans.

Afterwards, three major entertainment companies arose, which stay prominent until now: SM, YG, and JYP.

Image Source – Korea Portal

The rest is what you would know as a fan of K-pop. SM first stepped in and created 1st generation idols, such as H.O.T and S.E.S, followed by BOA in 2000. Then comes the rise of TVXQ, BIGBANG, Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, SHINee, and 2NE1 in the 2000’s.

While “K-Pop” in the 1990’s mainly focused on the music, often borrowing the style from the Western pop and substituting the lyrics to fit the culture of Korea, the definition of “K-Pop” in the 2000’s has definitely changed.

Starting with the second generation of K-pop idols, the genre started to put more emphasis on the image, visual, and performance.

Image Source – SM Entertainment

Now, they focus on perfecting a “knife-like” choreography, coming up with catchy melodies, and pouring money into shaping their “idol-like” image. They did so by borrowing outfits from the Western trends, for which fans went wild, trying to copy their “idols” the best as they could.

From this, “image” arguably became the most important feature of “K-Pop,” which was now not only a music genre, but also a cultural phenomenon. Afterwards, the government decided to take part in this, even dedicating a whole government department to K-pop.

They built schools to train kids to sing, dance, and audition in hopes of becoming an idol. Once they signed a contract with companies, the idols had to hand over the control of their image to the management, including rehearsal schedules, dieting, and restrictions on romantic relationships. This is what they had to pay in order to gain the fame they desired.

While image still plays a big role in “K-Pop,” I believe that BTS did otherwise.

Just like Seo Taiji and Boys did in the 1990’s, BTS challenged the injustice in the society. They expressed the frustrations of young people and tried to push the boundary limits of Korea’s music industry. Their name “Bangtan Sonyeondan” literally translates to “bulletproof boy scouts,” and has a meaning of “protecting the youth from prejudice and oppression” from the society. Their debut song “No More Dream” talks about how young people’s aspiration and dreams are already set by their parents. Moreover, their school trilogy focused on the problems Korean high school and college students struggle through.


If you are a true Army, you would know that BTS was not a big deal when they first debuted. At the time, SM had just debuted their 13-member boy group, EXO, who instantly gained fame. BTS, who debuted under Big Hit, a small company with absolutely no power in the market compared to SM, had not much to compete with.

But BTS couldn’t care less.

They continued to push forwards with their own unique sound, hoping to have a positive influence on the Korean society. For example, the group remade Seo Taiji’s song “Come Back Home” from 1995, substituting the original lyrics to their own, to talk about the frustrations of today’s youth.


In my opinion, the lyrics of BTS songs take partial credit for their success. The lyrics allowed fans to find deeper meaning in their music. They allowed the fans to feel like their opinions were understood, heard, and expressed. The group made sure the fans felt connected to them on a common ground, just like Seo Taiji and Boys did in the 1990’s.

Image Source – YG Entertainment, weheartit.com

Besides BTS, many idol groups are secretly slipping in social commentary into their songs. While they don’t do it as bluntly as BTS, it is still happening. The girl groups are throwing out their cute and innocent origins to embrace more rebellious attire. The boy groups replacing their sweet words with socially aware lyrics. Just like past fashion trends are making comebacks, so is K-pop.

By. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.