The Evolution Of K-Pop Duo Names Has Fans Divided

Here’s why they changed — which side are you on?

Just as K-Pop is evolving all the time, so are K-Pop fandoms. What’s the latest new development dividing fans across the internet? K-Pop duo names. Also known as “ship names”, duo names have radically changed with the new generations — but which side is right?

Flashback to earlier K-Pop generations, and the formula for duo names was, quite literally, as easy as one plus one equals two. Think “TaeNy”, for example, for Girls’ Generation‘s Taeyeon (“Tae”) and Tiffany (“Ny”). This style of name persisted into the third generation of K-Pop too, with names like “TaeKook” for BTS‘s (“Tae” from his real name, Taehyung) and Jungkook (“Kook”).

Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany and Taeyeon | @tiffanyyoungofficial/Instagram

But now, in the era of the fourth and fifth generations, K-Pop duo names have taken on a completely different style. Simple portmanteaus? Out. Completely unique monikers? In.

For example, LE SSERAFIM‘s Sakura and Yunjin aren’t known as “YunKkura” like you might imagine. Instead, they’re known as “HotCoolz”. Likewise, while some may refer to ZEROBASEONE‘s Sung Hanbin and Zhang Hao as “HaoBin,” many choose to call them “Centerz.”

ZEROBASEONE’s Zhang Hao and Sung Hanbin | Mnet

As you can tell, the majority follow the same pattern: a word or words with the suffix “z” (or “즈” in Korean). Some say the trend became particularly popular in the English-speaking K-Pop fandom world when IZ*ONE shot to popularity, particularly due to “Annyeongz” — a clever duo name that’s both a combination (of “An” from An Yujin and “Yeong” from Jang Wonyoung) and a Korean word (“annyeong,” meaning “hello”).

IVE’s Yujin and Wonyoung | @IVE_twt/Twitter

Unsurprisingly, the change has left K-Pop fans completely divided. Many are complaining that these new names are confusing, and that it’s no longer possible to work out which members are included by reading the name alone.

Similarly, these fans say the confusing duo names make it even harder to enter a new fandom. Along with needing to learn all the members’ names and brush up on the group’s history, you now need to study dozens of duo and trio names to understand half the conversations happening in the fandom.

However, those who love the new style of duo names say there are good reasons behind them.

For one, the “-z” type of duo name has been particularly popular in South Korea for a while — both with fans and with the idols themselves. These names are known as “chemi” names, short for “chemistry,” and they usually have cute or poignant meanings. Sakura and Yunjin’s “HotCoolz,” for example, comes from how Yunjin’s “hot” and fiery personality contrasts with Sakura’s reserved and “cool” personality.

LE SSERAFIM’s Sakura and Yunjin | Weverse

Alongside Korean fans, idols often use these names themselves. Fellow LE SSERAFIM members Chaewon and Kazuha, for example, referred to themselves as “Summerz” (because of their August birthdays) at the group’s showcase.

This is true even for older idols. TWICE‘s Jeongyeon and Sana, for example, came up with their duo name “230s” because they share the shoe size 230 (US size 6).

TWICE’s Sana and Jeongyeon | @once__tw/Twitter

ZEROBASEONE even use their “chemi” names in official content, making it difficult to avoid them.

On top of this, many fans say that this style of name is a lot less open to confusion and misunderstanding. Jeongyeon and Sana’s most obvious traditional duo names (“JeongSa” and “SaJeong”) both have sexual connotations in the Korean language.

Similarly, OG fans of EXO‘s Xiumin and former member Luhan say the duo name “LuMin” became very confusing when member Lumin joined the group M.Pire.

EXO’s Xiumin and Luhan | @smtownglobal/Twitter

That being said, even “chemi” names are open to confusion these days. For example, multiple fandoms use the name “Madmakz” (a combination of “madnae” meaning “eldest” and “maknae” meaning youngest), including ENHYPEN fans…

… IVE fans…

… and LE SSERAFIM fans.

Either way, there’s certainly no wrong or right way to come up with a duo name, and it’s unlikely there’ll be consensus any time soon. While numerous new fans love the trend, others still say “chemi” names work best in Korean, not English.

Which side are you on?