South Korea has been invaded, not by it’s neighbor from the North, but from troops of long-legged girls in the guise of carefully manufactured Kpop groups. The small peninsula of around 50 million people has seen an explosion of Kpop girl groups in the past year who all pretty much look and sound alike (arguably) but somehow manage to maintain popularity among a shared fan base. While it might be easy to dismiss this as eye-candy for teenage boys (of which there is some truth) they appear to have considerable staying power among a diverse demographic of both men and women –
“In the past, one or two similar bands won fans and massive popularity, while the rest disappeared quietly after a month or two. What we are experiencing is a brand new phenomenon in which several girl bands are sharing fans and popularity among themselves” – Kim Hong-in
What differentiates this new generation of starlets is their ability to cross multiple mediums such as TV dramas, movies and talk shows in addition to their musical endeavors, possibly accounting for their increased longevity and ability to dominate online as well as offline. Digital downloads have brought in a new era of affordability for casual and fanatical fans alike.
Of course behind all the glamor are entertainment conglomerates with money to burn and who work tirelessly to tweak and perfect each groups image (including the copious use of cosmetic surgery). Most groups spend as much as 2-4 years preparing for their debut and with such demanding schedules nearly all have suffered casualties from fatigue and ill health. Whilst their compexions may be perfect accusations of plagiarism are rife within the industry with lawsuits regularly being filed and many questioning the originality of locally produced content (mostly bubblegum pop).
Whatever the reasons for this uprising it’ll be interesting to see if such a large number of groups can be sustained in a relatively small market and if this trend spreads elsewhere.
To see what it’s all about for yourself videos are provided after the break in HD (apologies to Chinese readers – YouTube is blocked so you won’t be able to see them directly). You can also find more info on allkpop.com.
Wonder Girls (원더걸스) is a band with five members (Min Sun Ye, Park Ye Eun, Kim Yoo Bin, Sun Mi and Ahn So Hee), formed under the guidance of male R&B singer Rain. They are signed to South Korean label JYP Entertainment and debuted in the beginning of 2007 on M! Countdown, singing Irony, the title song of their debut album, “The Wonder Begins”.
Girls’ Generation (소녀시대), also known as SNSD, the acronym of So Nyeo Shi Dae is a large nine-member girl group formed in 2007 by SM Entertainment. The group debuted on SBS Inkigayo in 2007, performing their first single, “Into the New World”. The members are Yoon A, Tiffany, Yu Ri, Hyo Yeon, Soo Young, Seo Hyun, Tae Yeon, Jessica, and Sunny. Some members speak multiple languages as they were raised outside Korea.
2NE1 (투애니원; pronounced “to anyone” or “twenty-one”) was created by YG Entertainment. First appearing in a Cyon commercial campaign with Big Bang for LG Telecom, their debut single “Fire” was released on May 6, 2009. The group’s name stands for “New Evolution of the 21st Century”. The group consists of Lee Chae Rin (CL), Park Bom (Bom), Sandara Park (Dara) and Gong Min-ji (Minzi).
Consisting of Ji Hyun, Ga Yoon, Ji Yoon, Hyun A, and So Hyun 4minute (포미닛) was created by Cube Entertainment. Their debut song, “Hot Issue”, was released on June 15. Their style is called “The Candy Funky Style” which apparently mean their music, fashion, and performance will “show sides of sweetness and funk while being rebellious and carefree at the same time” (try saying that out loud with a straight face).
Kara (카라) debuted in March 2007 under Daesung Entertainment (DSP). Kara comes from the Greek word “chara” (χαρά, lit. “joy”), which the group interpreted to mean “sweet melody”. After losing a member in 2008, Kara regrouped to become a 5-member band and eventually achieved their first #1 song with “Honey”.
After School (애프터스쿨) is managed by Pledis Entertainment and debuted on January 17, 2009, with their first dance song, “Ah”. They were also recently featured in a digitally released single titled “AMOLED” for a new Anycall Phone (Amoled Haptic) with Son Dam Bi who is part of the same entertainment company.