Ever wondered how modern K-pop culture came to be? Just as the foundation for a building needs to be solid and strong, the Korean music industry would not have come far without the foundations that were laid down by first generation K-pop idols. Here are some of the groups that were the forerunners in creating K-pop history. 

  • H.O.T.

H.O.T. ( High Five of Teenagers) debuted in 1996 under SM Entertainment, which is home to many K-pop groups including Girls’ Generation and SHINee. They captured the hearts of the people with their charisma and creative choreography. Members include Hee-jun, Kangta, Jae-won, Woo-hyuk, and Tony. They are also known for their invincible fandom, with the yellow raincoat as their symbolic image. They are such a staple, that they were represented in the drama, Reply 1997. In a scene that depicts the legendary fight between the yellow raincoat-clad H.O.T. fans and the white raincoat-clad Sechskies fans, we can see the fierce rivalry between the fandoms. H.O.T. members are still active today, participating in variety shows, producing music, and more.

“Candy” is a cute, upbeat song that shows the soft side of H.O.T. Wearing an overfit, colorful costumes, H.O.T. sings about how they won’t leave their loves. The lyric describes lovers and their promise to stick together.

  • Sechskies

Under DSP Media, they first debuted as a 6 member group in 1997. Original members include Ko Ji-yong, Eun Ji-won, Lee Jae-jin, Jang Su-won, Kim Jae-duck, and Kang Sung-hoon. Ko Ji-yong left the entertainment industry after the group disbanded in 2000. In 2016, Sechskies reunited and signed a contract with YG entertainment. From there on, they have been actively promoting their group, releasing albums and appearing on variety shows. In 2019, Kang Sung-hoon left the group due to his controversies and Sechskies became a four member group. 

One of their famous songs is called “Couple”, which was released in 1998. Dancing along a sweet melody, this song gives off a wintery vibe and is the type of song to revive memories of love. 

  • Fin.K.L.

In 1998, Fin.K.L. under DSP Media, which debuted K-pop girl groups such as KARA and Rainbow and is home to KARD and April. Fin.K.L. stands for Fin Killing Liberty as a way to express their intention to stand up for themselves and their freedom. The members consisted of Lee Hyo-ri, Lee Jin, Ok Joo-hyun, and Sung Yu-ri. They are best known for their pure, innocent image that resembles the image of “first loves,” which is reflected in many of their famous songs including “Eternal love” and “White.” Fan who were curious about their current activities were gifted with a show called Fin.K.L Camping Club, which aired in 2019. Through this show, fans were able to see the true side of Fin.K.L. as well as reminiscing about their best times. 

One of their well-known songs is “Eternal Love,” which was released in 1999. The song describes lovers’ promise to maintain eternal love. In the music show, they are seen donning white costumes to symbolize eternity, innocence, and perhaps, matrimony. “Eternal Love” is also known for its iconic hair-flipping choreography.

  • g.o.d.

In 1999, g.o.d., or groove over dose, debuted under JYP entertainment, which found many K-pop groups including Wonder Girls, 2AM, 2PM, TWICE, and ITZY. The members include Tae-woo, Kye-sang, Danny, Ho-young, and Joon. They were known for their sentimental music that reflects meaningful lyrics as well as their sincere vocals that captured the hearts of the viewers. Like the meaning of their group, their dance choreography heavily reflects JYP’s groovy, rhythmically dance moves. All members are still part of the group and are active today, with each member focusing on their own activities such as acting, singing, and participating in variety shows.

One of their famous songs is called “To Mother” which was released in 1999. This song combines groovy dance moves with sentimental melody. Their genuine lyrics resonate sincerity and especially, g.o.d. is known for their particular rap style where they rap as if they are narrating.

  • Jewelry

In 2001, Jewelry debuted under Star Empire entertainment. Members include Seo In-young, Park Jung-ah, Kim Ye-won, and Ha Joo-yeon. Their concept image was a combination of girl crush and sexy charisma. Fans were able to see the group through a reunited stage on JTBC’s Sugarman where they performed a few of their popular songs including “Super Star” and “I Really Like You.” After the group disbanded in 2015, Jewelry members went on to pursue their interests in the acting industry or remaining within the K-pop industry. 

One of their iconic songs is “One More Time,” which was released in 2008. It is a song about lovers and their intimacy. The music is an 80s disco pop style with an addicting beat/melody. This song is also famous for its choreography where it involves touching two fingers together, just like in the movie E.T.

First generation K-pop idols have set the foundation for the birth of future K-pop groups who have followed their dreams in the hopes of becoming stars like these first generation K-pop idols. What do you think about these first generation idols who played a significant role in shaping the Korean entertainment of today?

Cover Image: DSP Media
Written by Jessica Lee

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