Have you ever heard the term First Gen K-Pop Groups? Surely they are the sunbaenim of all the K-pop groups that we support today.
K-Pop groups today are undoubtedly popular due to the influence of social media. Fans all over the world can easily memorize the members with their profiles found online. Which shows a clear huge difference back in the 90s where K-Pop is in its early beginnings.
So if you are a huge fan of K-Pop music and whichever generation you’ve started stanning your faves, this article may help you know some of the pillar groups. The groups who made it possible to the succeeding groups to promote easily and be known globally as we know as of today!
First Gen K-Pop Groups who dominated the 90s
90s Korean music consists of songs that bring funky rhythm and nostalgia to its listeners. They’ve stood a test of time as some of the Korean shows today are doing remakes of some of the past greatest hits. The K-Pop culture back then is so diverse and open to any genre!
We’ve divided this article into three categories: girl groups, boy groups, and co-ed groups who debuted anytime between the late 1980s to 1990s. Just a disclaimer bes, we’ve only selected a few groups out of many!
First Gen K-Pop Girl Groups
Let’s start with the ladies! Before the debut of girl groups, solo singers such as Uhm Jung Hwa and Kang Susie dominated the music scene with their hits. However, it didn’t hinder the following girl groups from debuting and make their mark in the K-Pop music scene in the 90s!
The group debuted in 1997 under DR Music and has undergone member changes due to unexpected events. The final members were able to rose to stardom and receive love from their fans.
They won a Top Excellency Award for their song, Killer back in 1999. One of the group’s notable members is actress, Yoon Eun Hye who gained popularity for her role in the dramas Princess Hours and Coffee Prince.
Years active: 1997-2006
Members: Kim E-Z, Lee Hee Jin, Yoon Eun Hye, Kan Mi Yeon, and Shim Eun Ji
Fin. K.L debuted in 1998 under DSP Media. Their whole group name is Fin Killing Liberty, a phrase with a message to end oppression. Their debut work, Blue Rain, gave way for their prominence that allowed them to win the Rookie of the Year in Golden Disk Awards, and several Bonsang awards followed.
Girl member Lee Hyori is one of the iconic members of the group due to her strong personality whenever she goes on screen. The member made a short reunion in 2019 for a variety program and released a single.
Years Active: 1998-2005; 2019
Members: Lee Hyori, Ock Joo Hyun, Lee Jin, Sung Yu Ri
This K-Pop trio debuted in 1997 under SM Entertainment. S.E.S is often known as the rival group of Fin.K.L as they often meet each other at the top of the charts.
They also won the Rookie of the Year in Golden Dis Awards for their debut work, I’m Your Girl. The group parted ways in 2002 and reformed subsequently to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2016. Penthouse actress, Eugene is part of the said group.
Years Active: 1997-2002; 2016-2017
Members: Bada, Eugene, Shoo
First Gen K-Pop Boy Groups
The following groups dominated the music halls and concert venues with thousands of girls chanting their names! Before the popularity of male groups, we also want to acknowledge solo singers who serenaded the hearts of many ladies! Singers like Cho Yong Pil, Lee Moon Sae, and Shin Hae Chul were some of the crowd favorites who inspired some of the groups below.
1TYM is a K-Hip-Hop group trained and debuted by YG Entertainment. The group debuted in 1998, a year after the debut of Jinusean.
One of their members, Teddy Park is one of the producers for YG Entertainment and has produced songs for singers under the said label. The group’s debut album, One Time For Your Mind earned them success and numerous awards.
Years Active: 1998-2006
Members: Teddy Park, Danny Im, Oh Jinhwan, Song Baekyoung
Deux is a duo group that debuted in 1993 under K&C Music. They are one of the groups to incorporate hip hop and swing beats into the Korean music scene.
The group has successfully introduced themselves to the general public with their album, Deux, and the title track, Turn Around and Look at Me. However, the group’s success was cut short as they went to pursue their solo careers in 1995.
Years Active: 1993-1995
Members: Lee Hyun Do and Kim Sung Jae
Groove Over Dose (g.o.d)
Groove Over Dose, popularly known as g.o.d, is a 5-piece K-Pop group that debuted in 1999 under SidusHQ. The group mostly dominated the early 2000s with their songs written in a storytelling type combining various musical elements. They have won several local and international awards for their different songs.
The group moved to JYP Entertainment sometime in 2004 after their contract with SidusHQ has expired but went on hiatus when Yoon left. In 2014, now established on their careers, the group has reunited to celebrate their 15th anniversary.
Years Active: 1999-2005; 2014-present
Members: Joon Park, Danny Ahn, Yoon Kye Sang, Son Ho Young, Kim Tae Woo
Highfive of Teenagers (H.O.T)
Highfive of Teenagers also known as H.O.T is one of the popular boy groups under SM Entertainment in 1996. The group is considered the first successful K-Pop group as they dominated the music scene with their songs.
They’ve sold millions of copies of their albums and won numerous awards at the peak of their career. The group unexpectedly disbanded in 2001 when they disagreed with their agency.
H.O.T is often rivaled with SECHSKIES back then due to their number of fans. The majority of the members now excelled in their own fields in the entertainment industry. The group reunited in 2018 when they guested in the variety program, Infinite Challenge.
Years Active: 1996-2001; 2018-present
Members: Moon Hee Jun, Tony Ahn, Jang Woo Hyuk, Kangta, Lee Jae Won
Jinusean, a hip-hop duo, debuted in 1997 under YG Entertainment. The group of Jinu and Sean is one of the most popular hip-hop acts in the 90s to early 2000s. Some of their songs feature Yang Hyunsuk of YG.
They went on hiatus in 2004 and reunited in 2015 to celebrate their years in the industry. They joined Show Me The Money 4 as mentors with Epik High’s Tablo and released a single titled “Tell Me One More Time.”
Years Active: 1997-2004; 2015-2020
Members: Jinu, Sean
SECHSKIES is a 6-member group that debuted in 1997 under DSP Media. The group is often considered one of the groups that started the idol fandom culture (Yellowkies) due to the number of their fans. Alongside H.O.T, the group also dominated the charts with their songs and received several grand prizes with their hits.
The group announced its disbandment in 2000, which surprised the fans when they disbanded during the peak of their career. In 2016, the group was able to reunite due to Infinite Challenge and was able to sign with YG Entertainment.
Years Active: 1997-2000; 2016-present
Members: Eun Ji Won, Lee Jai Jin, Kim Jae Duck, Jang Su Won, Ko Ji Yong*, Kang Seung Hoon*
Seo Taiji and Boys
Seo Taiji and Boys is one of the popular groups in the 90s. The group consist of three members and is said to become the pioneer group to introduce western influence in their own music. They are also one of the Korean acts who utilize the use of rap in their music tackling societal issues.
The group has sold more than 6 million copies of their albums making them one of the best-selling acts of all time. Seo Taiji and Boys announced their disbandment in 1996 which took everyone by surprise.
One of the members, Yang Hyun Suk later on established his own label, YG Entertainment which houses BLACKPINK, BIGBANG, TREASURE, and many more.
Years Active: 1992-1336
Members: Seo Taiji, Yang Hyun Suk, Lee Juno
If we will look at the years of debuting, Sobangcha is considered the first-ever group formed to feature K-Pop music. The group debuted in 1987 under DSP Media. The group has attracted a huge number of girl fans due to the members’ attractive stage presence. However, the group started to grow apart and got stuck with conflicts that lead them to disband in 1990.
They attempted to reunite by releasing solo songs, but they can’t seem to keep up with the trends back in the day. However, one of their popular hits, Last Night Story, gained some attention for being used in the popular series, Reply 1988. Singer-actress IU also made a cover for the said song.
Years Active: 1987-1990; 1994-1995; 2005; 2012
Members: Kim Tae Kyung, Jung Won Kwan, Lee Sangwon*, Do Gun Woo
* past member
Turbo is a K-Pop duo that debuted in 1995 under GM Agency. The group was initially formed to rival with Deux, but the latter disbanded making Turbo the new source of dance music during that time. Kim Jung Nam, Turbo’s leader, left the group in 1997 due to conflict with the management. Jung Nam was replaced by Mikey.
From 1997 to 2001, Turbo has dominated the dance music industry winning several Bonsang awards throughout their career. They disbanded in 2001 to pursue solo careers. By 2015 the group has reunited to prepare for their 20th anniversary as three members. Member Kim Jong Kook is famous in the variety industry for his shows, Running Man and My Little Old Boy.
Years Active: 1995-2001; 2015-present
Members: Kim Jung Nam, Kim Jong Kook, Mikey
First Gen K-Pop CO-ED Groups
Aside from the groups specified per gender, the Korean music scene in 90s were also dominated by mix-gender groups! These co-ed groups took the industry to a new level allowing the audience to support them fully without shipping them to each other.
Cool originally debuted as a four-member group in 1994. However, two members left where female member Yuri joined them. Throughout their career, Cool’s hits were a combination of dance music and sweet ballads. They announced their disbandment in 2005 but once again reunited in 2008.
One of their famous song, Aloha, has been covered by Cho Jung Seok as part of the soundtrack for the medical drama, Hospital Playlist.
Years Active: 1994-2005; 2008-present
Members: Yuri, Lee Jae Hoon, Kim Sung Soo, Yoo Chae Yeong*, Choi Jeon Yeong*
Koyote, also known as KYT is a co-ed group that debuted in 1998. Koyote’s debut was a success for releasing Genuine which enabled them to receive support and love from the general public. Koyote has also dominated the early 2000s for their dance and hip-hop music. They’ve won the Rookie of the Year in 1999 several Bonsang awards followed throughout their career.
The group temporarily went on hiatus when Kim Jong Min and Bbaek Ga enlisted for their mandatory military service. Member Kim Jong Min is known for being a variety show personality for being a fixed member of the variety show, Two Days and One Night.
Years Active: 1998-present
Members: Shinji, Kim Jong Min, Baek Ga, Cha Seung Min*, Kim Goo*
Roo’ra is a co-ed group that debuted in 1994. Roo’ra’s songs were well-received due to its dance-pop, hip-hop, and reggae combination of music. One of their albums, The Angel Who Lost Wings released in 1995, has sold over one million copies breaking records at that time.
The group has experienced member changes throughout their active days and disbanded in 2001. In 2009, members Lee Sang Min, Chae Rae Na, Go Young Wook, and Kim Ji Hyun reunited to release their final album, Again.
Years Active: 1994-2001; 2009
Members: Lee Sang Min, Chae Ri Na, Go Young Wook, Kim Ji Hyun, Shin Jung Hwan*, Mikey Romeo**
Thank you, first gen k-pop groups sunbaenims!
Surely, the time has changed the game when it comes to K-pop music that we know today. For the new fans, we hope that you realize how blessed our idols are now for being able to debut and gain worldwide recognition without too many hardships. The success that they experience today is much easier than the earlier groups who had to promote without the power of the internet.
Even though some of them have disbanded already, their songs are eternal! Let’s listen to some of their songs once in a while to see how the Korean music scene has changed throughout the years.
Disclaimer: All images are outsourced via Google Images.