Previous Girl Groups’ Japanese Development and Current Prosperity

Korean girl groups’ history goes back to 1998. Back then, there were 3 extremely popular girl groups; S.E.S, Fin.K.L and BABY VOX. Eventually, the R&B Unit S.E.S made up of Bada, Eugene, and Shoo, began developing their activities in Japan, partially because Korea’s representative songstress Lee Hyori, leader of Fin.K.L, was staying in the role of Korea’s traditional idol. Also, Yoon Eunhye’s (who is currently an actress) group BABY VOX stepped toward China.

Previously, there was another 4 member idol group called S.O.S who debuted in Japan, but S.E.S had a full-blown debut and was able to be the first successful Korean girl group in Japan. Perhaps the influx of popular Korean artists entering the Japanese market is due to the success S.E.S had in Japan. However, after that groups like Sugar and JEWELRY went to Japan one after the other and didn’t have a big break. That wasn’t necessarily a complete mistake, the girl groups were cheering with all their might during the Korea-Japan sponsored World Cup and their popularity temporarily increased, but then rapidly began to fall.

On a different subject, in 2007 the Wonder Girls debuted. JYP, the same person who produced Bi (Rain), created the wonder girls. They have music that resembles music from the 70s~80s and “Tell Me” was their big break. SNSD was formed from S.M. ENTERTAINMENT who formerly produced S.E.S. Also, DSP media who created Fin.K.L had KARA debut, and once again it’s the golden age of girl groups.

Characteristics of Popular Girl Groups

SNSD is made up of 9 members and they do dramas, variety programs, among other things and show how lovely they are. In “GEE” they showed their catchy dance which was a hot topic from kids to adults. KARA is walking in Fin.K.L’s footsteps as being the traditional idols, “Honey” was their big break, and “Mr.”’s butt dance became a hot topic, both (SNSD & KARA) have become national idols.

In order to have hit songs in K-POP it’s almost a rule to have unique dance performances like Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me” and KARA’s butt dance. The dances become a popular topic of conversation (even in news programs) and fan’s also copy the choreography and fill up websites with their copied dance videos. In the late 90s Namie Amuro and SPEED (Note: These are Japanese artists) attracted people by this, girls would copy their dances and in turn it was easy for them (the artists) to be accepted in Japan.

Also, 2008 and after street dance groups reformed Korea’s girl pop. From the start Korean raps have been in songs. It was standard to have a rap inserted into a dance song and girl groups who tried to be “cool” instead of “cute” were born. First on the list is the female BIGBANG, 2NE1. Then multinational group f(x) debuted with members from Korea, China and America. These girls are valued for their high charisma and powerful performances. Also, Wonder Girls’ original member Hyunah and current member of 4Minute, is also recognized as being a fashion leader.

Senpai Boy Groups co-star, bond and support their protégées

In 2009 this is how girl groups appeared (to the public). Already DBSK and BIGBANG have established their popularity in Japan and have rapidly increased recognition for K-POP. Coincidently, the popularity for girl groups from those boy groups’ companies has also increased.

There is a steady hierarchical relationship in Korea, Girl groups are in the position of younger sisters to Senpai groups (Note: Senpai is the same as sunbae), so it’s natural they appear together in their music programs, concerts, music videos, etc. 2NE1’s debut song “Lollipop” was a collaboration with BIGBANG. SNSD members have appeared in DBSK and SUPER JUNIOR’s music videos. KARA members have also frequently worked with their senpai’s SS501. T-ara collaborated with a group from their same company called Supernova and formed a boy-girl unit called TTL. The project single “TTL (Time To Love) ranked 1st on 8 online music distribution sites.

Even in Japan you can directly see boy and girl groups working together through the internet or cable TV by watching Korean popular music shows and music videos. Due to this many female fans of the boy groups also become fans of the girls. Former girl groups were supposed to target men, but current girl groups are supported overwhelmingly by girls. It’s the effect of being in the position of younger sister to the boy groups. Moreover, fashion, being sexy, being cute, and dance performances (which are copied by both genders) seem to be the driving forces in their charm and popularity.

It is even charming to remember seeing DBSK and BIGBANG, speak shaky Japanese at first. In 2010, Korean girl groups will successively come to Japan, and thus will be all over Asia’s music scene.

Korea’s Popular Girl Groups


March – Brown Eyed Girls (R&B, HIPHOP): In March 2006 Narsha, Jea, Miryo and Gain debuted as a 4-person group with “Your Story”. In July 2009, “Abracadabra” went on sale with the “cheekiness dance”. This sexy dance became a hot topic.


February – Wonder Girls (Dance): Singer and producer JYP produced the 5 member group with Yubin, Yeeun, Sunye, Sohee and Hyerim. They debuted in February 2007 with the song “Irony”. In September 2007, “Tell Me” was released which became a national big hit. In May 2010, they released their album “2 Different Tears” in America.

March- KARA (Dance; August 2010 Japanese debut): Park Gyuri, Han Seungyeon, Nicole, Goo Hara, and Kang Jiyoung make up this 5 person idol group. They debuted in Korea in March 2007. In 2009 they released “Mr.” and the “butt dance” became very popular. In February 2010, they had their first Japanese showcase which was immediately sold out, and they quickly did other performances. In August they’ll debut in Japan.

August- SNSD (Dance; A Japanese debut is planned for 2010): In August 2007, the 9-member girl group debuted with Taeyeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun. They are a nationally popular group in Korea with a wide range of activities in things like dramas, theater and MCing. In August 2010, they will have their first Japanese concert.


February – AFTER SCHOOL (Dance, HIPHOP): In February 2009, they debuted with “New School Girl”. Members have left and joined the group numerous times. The current members are: Kahi, Jungah, Jooyeon, Uee, Bekah, Raina, Nana and Lizzy. In January 2010, they went to Japan for the “Billboard JAPAN Music Awards 2009” and received the “Korea Billboard Special” award.

March- 2NE1 (Dance, HIPHOP): In March 2009, they collaborated with BIGBANG and debuted with the song “Lollipop”. The 4 member dance group consists of Park Bom, Sandra Park, CL, Gong Minji. They have 4 crowns for winning the 2009 Mnet Asian Music Awards’ “Best Rookie of the Year”.

June- 4Minute (Dance, HIPHOP; May 2010 was their Japanese debut): This 5 person dance group consists of Nam Jihyun, Heo Gayoon, Jeon Jiyoon, Kim Hyunah and Kwon Sohyun. They had their Korean debut in June 2009. In May 2010 they had their Japanese debut and their first Japanese concert was filled with many female fans and was a great success.

July-T-ara (Dance): This 6 person dance group consists of Boram, Soyeon, Eunjung, Hyomin, Qri and Jiyeon. They debuted in July 2009 with “Lies”. In September 2009, Supernova’s Kwangsu, Jihyuk, and Geonil along with Soyeon, Eunjung, Hyomin and Jiyeon created a unit called “TTL” which ranked 1st on 8 of Korea’s online distribution sites.

September- f(x) (Dance): Koreans Sulli, Luna and Krystal along with Chinese-Americans Victoria and Amber create this multinational 5 person group and are an Asia Pop and dance group. They debuted in September 2009 with “LA chA TA”.

October- Secret (Dance): Hyoseong, Zinger, Jieun and Sunhwa form this 4 person dance group. They debuted with the digital single “I Want You Back” in October 2010.

November- Rainbow (Dance): In November 2009, they debuted with their mini album “Gossip Girl” with 7 members: Woori, Seungah, Jaekyung, Noeul, Yoonhye, Jisook and Hyunyoung.

Translated by: [email protected]
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