21 Surprising K-Pop Facts That’ll Make You Say “Wow”


1. Management agencies in South Korea hold auditions for trainees starting at very young ages. Trainees live together in a regulated environment, and spend many hours a day learning music, dance, foreign languages and other skills in preparation for their debut. This system of training is often criticized by Western media outlets, as they claim it violates the human rights of a minor. Labels invest up to 3 million USD per trainee, gambling on the chances of them making it huge in the industry.


2. Koreans have a love/hate relationship with Japan. It also applies to the K-Pop industry. Regarding sensitive topics such as the Japanese invasion era, idols must be careful with what they say. Once you are labeled as unpatriotic, it can destroy your career, no matter how popular you are.


3. Groups are given a name and a concept for each single and albums. Sometimes sub-units or sub-groups are formed among the members. Other times, they will have sub-unit groups that only promote overseas, such as Japan or China.


4. EXO will be featured on the 2018 Guinness World Records for having won most Daesang awards at Mnet Asian Music Awards. (Tied with BIGBANG at 5)


5. Once idols have a new song and album to promote, they go on up to 6 music shows a week to promote their songs.


6. Korean idols will not be getting paid any money until they pay off all their debt. For example, if it cost the label 1 Million USD to train the members before debut, they will not get paid until they pay off the entire 1 million dollars to the agency. Some companies, such as SM and JYP Entertainment, do not make their newly debuted groups pay their trainee debt back.


7. Over 100 groups debut in South Korea every year, but less than 5% are successful.


8. G-Dragon is the most famous K-Pop artist in Korea, having over 15 Million Instagram followers in the world. He frequently gets invited to CHANEL, GUCCI, and Alexander McQueen fashion events in Europe, thanks to his provocative fashion sense.


9. 2NE1 performed in the United States in 2011, making their debut at MTV IGGY, when they won the best new artist in the world!


10. Western artists such as The Chainsmokers, Charli XCX, Steve Aoki, Akon, Kanye West, Desiigner, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg, have all featured on K-Pop songs.


11. The history of Korean popular music can be traced back to 1885 when an American missionary, Henry Appenzeller, began teaching American and British folk songs at a school. These songs were typically based on a popular Western melody sung with Korean lyrics.


12. It only took CNBLUE just 16 days to win their first ever trophy at KBS Music Bank. Later that year, miss A released their debut single “Bad Girl Good Girl” and it took them 22 days to win the first trophy. In 2016, BLACKPINK took just 13 days to win their first trophy at SBS Inkigayo with “Whistle”, making them the ultimate overnight success story in K-Pop industry.


13. Sechs Kies is the longest running idol group in South Korea. Formed in 1997 with 6 members and are currently active with five. Some may not consider them the longest as they were on hiatus for over 10 years, therefore, the longest lasting idol group could also be considered Shinhwa, debuting in 1998 and promoting consistently the past 20 years.


14. Little did you know, S.M. Entertainment’s legend started with H.O.T in 1996, where they gained international stardom with their signature heavy Rock n Roll based music, helped establish the entertainment tycoon that is S.M. Entertainment today, and lead the K-Pop industry altogether. H.O.T disbanded in 2001, after having 5 albums become million-sellers.


15. The Kim Sisters, Yoon Bok Hee, and Patti Kim were the first singers to debut in such countries as Vietnam and United States. The Kim Sisters even appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show several times.


16. In the 1970s, DJ’s started to become popular in South Korea. Many coffee shops started to have DJ’s playing different tunes for customers.


17. In the 1990s, Korean pop musicians incorporated American popular music styles. Seo Taiji and Boys were the pioneers of using that style, coming out with the notorious single “I know” in 1992. It was so controversial, that most critics hated their music, saying that they would never make it. Yet the group became immensely popular very quickly. YG Entertainment’s Yang Hyun Suk was a member of the group, considered part of the revolutionary period in K-Pop.


18. S.M. Entertainment was formed in 1995, while YG Entertainment was established in 1996, and then JYP Entertainment was created in 1997. These three agencies are considered the big three entertainment in South Korea right now.


19. Lee Hyori is the only person to win a Daesang Award in both Entertainment and Music in Korea.


20. BIGBANG members were supposed to go by the stage names “Mark (T.O.P), G-Dragon, Sonic (Seungri), Big Castle (Daesung) and Taekwon (Taeyang)”


21. When Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon heard “Gee” for the first time, she hated it so much, to the point where she cried when she had to sing it.