K-Pop has increased dramatically in popularity since Seo Taiji and Boys first brought contemporary music into the public consciousness.
Since then, K-Pop has grown to a point where it is considered an instrumental cultural export of South Korea.
10. COOL – 4,957,526 sales
COOL debuted in 1994 and was one of the earliest and most influential Korean pop groups. They were also a co-ed group with two male members and one female member.
They are incredibly well-known in South Korea and are famous for their light-hearted and popular dance tracks. They helped set the stage for the continued success of K-Pop in the 21st century.
9. DJ DOC – 5,103,336 sales
DJ DOC was a hip-hop trio that debuted in 1994 and they are considered an iconic group in South Korean music. They were also invited to perform at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
While K-Pop groups nowadays are known for their demure and controlled images, DJ DOC sparked much controversy in the 1990s with their songs which had lyrics that were profane and often critical of the South Korean government.
For this, they are acknowledged for challenging attitudes towards free speech and artistic expression.
8. g.o.d. – 5,161,611 sales
Newer K-Pop fans might recognise Park Joon-hyung who is a hilarious staple in Korean variety shows.
However, this group was one of the most successful K-Pop groups, being labelled “the nation’s group” due to their mainstream appeal and their public-friendly personas.
Although they debuted while South Korea was recovering from the 1997 Financial crisis, they hold the record for the highest-selling album within a month of 1,441,209 copies that has yet to be broken.
7. Girls’ Generation – 5,367,936 sales
“The nation’s girl group”, Girls’ Generation are one of the most iconic groups of the Hallyu wave and have been accredited for furthering K-Pop’s international expansion.
Their success have run for more than ten years and continues with the latest release of “Lil’ Touch” by the subunit SNSD-Oh!GG.
They are one of the best selling K-Pop artists, selling more than 5 million albums as well as over 30 million digital singles thanks to their multiple breakout hits.
6. TWICE – 5,634,229 sales
TWICE is the best-selling girl group in South Korea. Alongside Girls’ Generation, they are also regarded as the “Nation’s Girl Group” thanks to their infectious charms and approachable personalities.
They became the best-selling girl group after the release of their most recent EP “Fancy You“.
They have sold more than one million copies of albums in both 2017 and 2018, demonstrating TWICE’s prowess in physical sales.
5. H.O.T. – 6,558,469 sales
One of SM Entertainment’s first groups, they were the first group that followed the “idol group” formula and are considered pioneers of the Hallyu Wave.
They experienced tremendous success, selling over 6 million records in South Korea, despite only being active for five years, disbanding in 2001.
Still, H.O.T. paved the way for future idol groups and became the model that many idols aspired to be.
4. Seo Taiji and Boys – 8,000,000 sales
They debuted in 1992 and are considered the oldest Korean contemporary music group.
The groundbreaking blend of Western music genres made Seo Taiji and Boys one of the most legendary groups, as they helped change the landscape of South Korean music forever.
This fame translated to success as they sold 8 million copies across their career. Additionally, newer K-Pop fans may recognise member Yang Hyun-Suk who would start YG Entertainment and debut his own successful idol groups.
3. EXO – 11,271,803 sales
EXO had the best selling album for five years in a row between 2013 and 2017.
Physical copies for groups declined as digital music stores gained steam in the 2000s, however EXO defied the odds and became the first group to sell over a million physical copies since g.o.d.
Since then they have sold one million copies for five different albums, becoming “quintuple million sellers”.
2. TVXQ! – 12,155,906 sales
TVXQ was perhaps the most popular group of its time, furthering K-Pop’s popularity in Japan especially.
TVXQ also sold over 10 million physical records in the first ten years since their debut, establishing themselves as one of the most successful acts that K-Pop has produced.
Additionally, they have smashed multiple records for international artists in Japan, being the first foreign artist to sell over 400,000 copies in one week in Japan.
1. BTS – 16,286,358 sales
BTS‘s most recently album “Map of the Soul: Persona” is also the best-selling album of all time in South Korea, with more than 3.2 million copies sold in South Korea.
They have been dubbed “the biggest boy band in the world” and are considered instrumental in the Korean Wave’s recovery after restrictions on South Korean goods placed by China.
Additionally, BTS is the first and so far only K-Pop to have topped the Billboard 200 and has sold hundreds of thousands of albums in the United States.