A Beginner’s Guide to Kpop – Page 3 – Seoulistic

A Beginner’s Guide to Kpop

Non-Idol Singers

Akdong Musician

So, as a genre, KPop is completely lorded over by the studio systems. These studios spend years grooming bands for their debuts once they do debut, they become hit-making machines. This doesn’t mean that it’s completely impossible for non-idols to break through into the KPop world.

Most of the time these non-idol groups are discovered on audition shows. For the past two years, the band Busker Busker has owned the hearts and minds of Korea, even though they did not win the audition show on which they were discovered. Lee Hi is also owning KPop this summer . Now in Seoul you cannot walk down the street without seeing/hearing the adorable brother-sister duet Akdong Musician.


There is also a quickly growing indie scene in Korea as the younger generations become increasingly jaded towards the idol system. The most popular is undoubtedly 10cm, the go-to soundtrack for any café in Seoul. Other bands like Nell, 404, 9 and the Numbers, and 3rd Line Butterfly are also attempting to break the mold of what Korean music can be.

If hardcore underground rap is more your style, then fear not. Artists in Korea are exploring everything from more old-school rap (performed by MCs such as Noise MOB and Verbal Jint) , more 90s-era rap (from acts like Deepflow, Paloalto, and The Quiett), more intense spitters (like Huckleberry P, Beenzino, and Garion), and more modern acts (Swings, Simon D, and Dynamic Duo). The rapper fear of not selling out can hinder these artists, as Korean musicians rarely become celebrities without appearing on Korean television programs.

There you have it! Now you’re prepared to explore the wonderful land of Korean modern music from the Top 40 hits to the underground clubs of Hongdae!

Margaret has been living and working in Seoul since 2011. Originally hailing from the United States (Maine and Tennessee, to be precise) she’s more than found a home amongst the wonders of Seoul. She eats more kimbap that could possibly be healthy for her and has a bad habit of bursting into KPop songs to which she does not know even 80% of the lyrics. Check out her blog at margarettriesbeing.com for more in-depth (that is to say, rambling) articles on Seoul How-To’s, Survival Tips, and excessive use of animated gifs.


  1. PSY says:

    SoShi was the first group I really listened to, back before their debut I watched GGTS when paying a visit to SK

  2. mup says:

    “Similar groups include Be2st (aka Beast), Wonder Girls, After School, and SHINee.”
    it’s B2ST, not Be2st. lol

  3. Titi says:

    Okay then, where’s Super Junior? 😐 😐 😐 😐 😐 Where’s Shinhwa?! Anyway, thanks!

  4. Spress says:

    People wishing to explore more of Korean music might want to check out EatYourKimchi. It’s a Canadian couple who review music, culture and life in Korea. I was introduced to Kpop via Wonder Girls back in 2008, went and saw them live in San Francisco 2010, and 2012. They’re on hiatus now, but fans are hoping they’ll return soon!

  5. Rora says:

    I think CNBLUE deserves a mention! I normally only like select songs from various artists, but CNBLUE and FT ISLAND are the only two bands that I have all their songs on my playlist. 🙂

  6. Margaret says:

    Thanks so much for the suggestions @Rora & @Titl. Since this was an attempt at a general overview I couldn’t include all of the great bands there are to enjoy. I love both Super Junior and CNBlue but was having a difficult time deciding which sub-genre they best fit into since they’re very unique groups.

    Keep reading and keep commenting! Comments are what make our writing better!

  7. farnaz says:

    Your comment…woooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwww 2pm is realllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy best

  8. henny says:

    i think u guys have to review about 1st generation of idol in korea too!^^ like H.O.T, Shinhwa, S.E.S. because i still heard them a lot when i was junior high school (even im not living in korean). and generally, kpop become famous because BoA and Rain’s hardwork. seems they have big contribution bout kpop. =]

  9. Margaret says:

    Oh totally, Shinhwa did a lot to shape how KPop artists present themselves today and they’re still a pretty popular group (“Venus” from last year is still one of my top KPop songs). Rain and BoA then added to that with adding the importance to cross-promote yourself overseas. “Evolution of KPop” would make an interesting article!

  10. P Smith says:

    I lived in Seoul from 2001 to 2005. Kpop sucked then, and it still sucks now. It’s an entire country modeled on Stock Aitken Waterman “music” (see: Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue). Even worse is how it’s exported and taking over – and ruining – the once strong domestic scenes in other countries (e.g. Japan, Philippines, etc.).

    The only good bands in Korea back in the early 2000s were the punk and alternative bands (e.g. Crying Nut, No Brain, Cherry Filter, et al) and they were the only groups writing and playing their own music. It’s no surprise that groups like those are the among the few that have had 10-15 year careers, still able to attract fans today. People want DIY and originality, but they’re not getting much of it from the Korean music industry.

  11. GIM says:

    For foreigners interested in learning the Korean language characteristic of K-Pop, you should include this site:


    Seemile is a site out of Hangyan University in Seoul which specializes in language materials for several Asian languages, especially for Korean. Jenny Lee, who does a lot of the teaching is very pretty, and is a good and interesting teacher.

  12. DavidXian says:

    I recommend LeeSSang!
    They started as a non-idol singers – without big agency but now I think they’re as popular as the idols. (I heard they’re already popular in Korea even before Gil joined Infinite Challenge and Gary joined Running Man though.)

  13. :S Sujin :S says:

    Why didn’t you leave EXO out??? D:

  14. Angie says:

    Is Dynamic Duo still considered underground? If I recall correctly, they performed on music shows like Music Bank when they were promoting their single BAAM BAAM BAAM.

  15. Allie says:

    Some confusing infortions here, han? I think we should be very careful when we label groups without researching enough .__.

  16. Talos says:

    Think you forgot Kasper lol

  17. Baiyo says:

    Don’t forget about EXO 😉

  18. Mrs. Park says:

    I love BTS, just saying 😀

  19. Hannah says:

    I don’t get the whole jizz with Girls Generation. I know their stuff, yet I’m just not a fan. To me, they’re a bit overrated. Now, don’t pound me for it! I respect them, I’m not particularly crazy for them, though. That’s all. I DO love Kpop, though!!!

  20. girl korean says:

    i love korea so much korea y world and my heart ….. i’m really i want boyfriend she from korea

  21. Skylar says:

    i got to hear about a lot of band half of them i already knew but i didn’t hear one mention of The “SUPER JUNIOR”…which is like almost as famous as Girls Generation. and also i didn’t hear a thing about EXO and the BTS!!!
    well that disspoints me a litttle

  22. Bethany Reed says:

    The first kpop group I ever listened to was back 10 years ago which was Big Bang. I think the industry to growing in a good way. I love BTS and their story.

  23. Erica says:

    It’s amazing how all this is relevant even till today and kpop is only still at the beginning stages of growth; I can’t wait to see what its going to be like in 10 years!

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