Here are the 10 most powerful idols in the entertainment industry, in no particular order.
1. Wanna One
The boy band formed by the survival reality program Produce 101 Season 2 was extremely popular and in demand, especially due to the fact that their promotions under the title Wanna One came to an end on December 31, 2018. Their concert tickets sell out within seconds and opportunities to attend one of their fansign events are so high in demand that some fans have even bought thousands of dollars worth of albums in order to attend one.
Despite the fact that they only promoted together for less than 2 years, they were ranked No. 1 on the Boy Group Brand Power Ranking by the Korea Institute of Corporate Reputation for four months and were consistently at the top of the rankings. They were also selected as the Best K-Pop Artist of 2017 and ranked No. 2 on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity List of 2018, confirming that they are indeed one of South Korea’s most powerful and influential celebrities.
Even though the group is no longer together, the impact that they had on the industry is definitely long lasting. Each of the members have gone on to successful debuts, whether it be as a soloist, in a group, or with acting.
TWICE has won over the hearts of audiences since before their debut on the survival reality program Sixteen. Their admirable teamwork, as well as each of the members’ unique personalities, have gained them a fanbase that has surpassed gender and age boundaries. Since their debut in 2016, they have been gaining more and more success with every comeback and have won numerous awards. Dubbed “Asia’s #1 Girl Group” and the new “Nation’s Girl Group”, TWICE has topped both digital and physical sales charts with every comeback.
Their second EP was the 5th highest selling K-Pop album of 2016. In June 2017, TWICE officially made their debut in Japan and became an instant success ranking No. 2 on the Oricon Albums Chart and selling 136,157 albums within the first seven days of its release.
They were also ranked in the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity, third overall and first among recording artists as well as No. 18 on Billboard’s 21 under 21 2017: Music’s Next Generation, just to name a few. As their most recent achievement, they have become the fastest K-Pop girl group to reach 250 million views with their “LIKEY” music video.
The 7-member boy band continues to break record after record through a series of achievements since their debut. They have made an international breakthrough, with a comprehensive list of awards, chart achievements and numerous lists. Often known for their large social media presence, they were also the first Korean group to win at the Billboard Music Awards, with two consecutive Top Social Artist Awards. They are also widely known for their international fan base, who provide a strong foundation and support system for the idol group.
4. Girls’ Generation
Girls’ Generation rose to fame with their single “Gee” from which they continued their incredible success. Their album debut Japanese album, “Girls’ Generation”, became the first album by a non-Japanese girl group to be given the title “Million” by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. Their success in Japan continued with numerous albums as well as concerts which have gathered a record-breaking number of spectators.
They were considered one of the most prominent figures in the South Korean culture and have been praised by numerous international media calling them “Asia’s No. 1 girl group” or a “national phenomenon”. They were also on the top 10 of the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity from 2010 to 2016 and were included in the educational material for Korean culture of many foreign institutions.
From 2009 to 2011, Girls’ Generation earned around $62 million USD, earning them $20 million USD in profits and making the highest-earning artist in SM Entertainment. They also earned a revenue of $124.5 million USD in Japan from 2010 to 2012.
EXO was the first of their kind in Korea with two subgroups promoting the same music at the same time in Korea and China at the time of their debut. Targeting the Korean and Chinese market, they were divided into EXO-K and EXO-M but later combined into simply EXO. EXO has made some significant achievements internationally since their debut and has sold over a million copies of multiple albums.
Among many other achievements, EXO performed at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Winter Olympics and was named one of the top five most influential celebrities on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list from 2014 to 2018. They were honored with commemorative medals from the Korean Mint Corporation for their contribution in spreading the Korean culture as representatives of K-Pop.
Despite her relatively young age, IU has already been active in the music industry for 10 years as she debuted when she was only 15 years old. She began making record achievements with her song “Good Day”, which was at the top of the Gaon Digital Chart for 5 consecutive weeks, and has been nicknamed “Korea’s little sister”.
She is one of the few solo artists who can compete against the numerous idol groups that dominate the market and she has also been on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list since 2012. She has also ventured into hosting radio and television shows as well as acting in drama series, and has truly spread her branches into many areas of the entertainment industry at a young age.
BIGBANG is often considered one of the most influential artists that helped spread the Hallyu Wave internationally and have been nicknamed “Kings of K-Pop” by the media. They have sold over 150 million records and are one of the biggest-selling boy bands in the world. They were selected as one of the most powerful celebrities in South Korea in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 and were the first Korean artists to enter the Forbes’ Celebrity 100 as well as the 30 under 30 list of most influential musicians of the world in 2016 and 2017.
G-Dragon, in particular, was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 for Asia’s entertainment and sports, and is widely recognized for his influence on youth culture, fashion and music in South Korea. With a long list of popular songs he has written as well as his successful solo albums, he is one of the most powerful idols running the K-Pop industry.
8. Super Junior
Super Junior began gaining international recognition through their hit single “Sorry, Sorry” in 2009 and have since been extremely successful with each member branching out and succeeding in various areas of the entertainment industry including acting, radio and television hosting and presenting. This did not come as a surprise as the members of the group were originally chosen for their experiences in various fields such as acting, presenting, hosting or modeling.
One of their subgroups, Super Junior-M, which was formed in 2008 also became a commercial success in China and won them numerous awards at Chinese music festivals. Having gone on numerous world tours within the past 13 years since their debut, they have become one of the biggest names in the K-Pop industry.
PSY is a singer, rapper, songwriter and record producer who made his debut as a singer in 2001 with his album Psy from the Psycho World! The talented producer has written and composed hit songs such as Lee Seung Gi’s “Because You’re My Girl” in addition to his own songs. PSY achieved international fame in 2012 when his song “Gangnam Style” went viral. “Gangnam Style” was listed on the Guinness World Records as the first video to reach one billion views on Youtube with 3.1 billion views to date. It was also listed on the Guinness World Record for the most liked video online at the time.
He also performed the song at Times Square, New York for New Year’s Eve in 2012 in front of a live audience of over a million people. PSY is estimated to have made approximately $25 million USD during the 7-month period he promoted the song and won numerous awards for it. He is considered the first K-Pop artist to succeed in the Western music industry and has played a big role in introducing the world to modern Korea. He was awarded an Order of Cultural Merit by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in recognition for his cultural achievements.
BoA, who is often referred to as the “Queen of Korean Pop”, lives up to her title as she was one of the first to make an international breakthrough for Korean pop. At the young age of 13, she debuted with her first album ID; Peace B followed by Listen to My Heart, which became a major success in Japan. She is the only foreign artist that has sold over one million copies of three albums in Japan and is one of two artists who have 6 consecutive albums ranked No. 1 on the Oricon charts since her debut. She has essentially paved the way for K-Pop music to enter the Japanese market through her success. 18 years later, she is continuing her activities as a singer and has also become a creative director of SM Entertainment.