Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: Submit Your K-Pop Pantheon

Dear readers,

Now that he started a music corner on AAK!, the Korean is on a roll. Now the Korean wants to have a gigantic AAK! music series that showcases the most hallowed members of K-Pop -- the K-Pop Pantheon, if you will. Essentially, the series will discuss the top-25 (or 30, or 50, or whatever the Korean ends up deciding,) musicians/bands in K-pop history in order. Like everything else on this blog, this series is guaranteed to be arbitrary and capricious to the Korean's whim. But the Korean wishes to have at least some semblance of reason, and that is where you come in.

Submit your very own K-pop Pantheon! In doing so, please consider the overall picture instead of just submitting the people you like. While you can employ whatever criteria you want, here are some criteria to guide your thoughts with:

- Sheer ability: Does the artist have incredible voice (example: Lee So-Ra) or the ability to constantly churn out popular music over a long time? (Example: Yoo Yeong-Seok.)

- Artistry:  Is the artist innovative or original in his/her music and/or presentation? (Example:  Jaurim.)

- Genre-defining/leading:  Did the artist create a genre? (Example:  Shin Joong-Hyeon.) Is the artist essentially synonymous with the genre? (Example: Song Dae-Gwan.) Is the artist so far ahead of everyone else in the genre? (Example: Seo Taiji.) Perfected an archetype of a genre? (Example:  H.O.T.)

- Popular appeal:  Did the artist completely dominate an era? (Example: Cho Yong-Pil.) Was the artist simply everywhere in Korean pop culture for a time? (Example: Lee Hyo-Ri.) Is the artist staying in the public consciousness for a very long time, for whatever reason? (Example:  Shin Hae-Cheol.) Does the artist dominate a certain segment of the population? (Example:  Jang Gi-Ha.)

- Social impact:  Did the artist change the society around him/her, through his/her music or otherwise? (Example: Kim Min-Gi.)

- Cultural reflection:  Does the artist serve as the epitome of the society around him/her? (Example:  Kim Gwang-Seok.)

- Historical perspective:  Is the more recent artist getting overvalued at the cost of the more classic artist?  (Example:  Picking Girls' Generation over Sanullim.)

The Korean is doing this so that he does not miss anyone significant. Mad props will be given to those who include artists from pre-1990s K-pop. Also, feel free to accompany the names with the most representative song for the artist. (Here is an example: Regret of the Times (시대유감) for Seo Taiji. Discuss.)

Also, please tell your k-pop loving friends! The Korean really wants to have the most comprehensive list possible. Burn down the comment thread!!

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. This is a little off topic as I am not an authority on K-POP.

    But I would like to nominate Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for being 1/2 Korean and being born in Korea. And for doing a side project called Native Korean Rock


  3. I'm curious about how much this survey will reveal of your readers' age range (i personaly know very few among the ones you mentioned).

  4. 1. 이선희 - 가창력 alone can put her in the list, but her explosive popularity in her time and the cultural relevancy she maintains to this day is pertinent as well. Of all her songs, 알고 싶어요 and J에게 stands out imo. Or.. you could always dig up the opening song of 달려라 하니. :D

    2. 이문세 - a phenomenal singer who maintains consistent popularity since his debut. So many of his songs are iconic in Korean culture (소녀, 이별이야기, 붉은 노을, 사랑이 지나가면, 파랑새, 광화문 연가, 가로수 그늘 아래 서면, 가을이 오면), but my favorite has to be 옛사랑.

    3. 김광석 - who doesn't know his remake of 김현성's immortal '이등병의 편지'?

    4. 이적 - an incredible lyricist whose unique style of music and voice(especially in Panic's 2nd album) made him a standout in K-pop history. I would suggest his 그 어릿광대의 세 아들들에 대하여, but I'm not sure how available that song in online... so I would suggest '거위의 꿈', 왼손잡이, 정류장, or 'UFO' instead.

    Those four are the only ones I can think of top of my head. More to come later, I guess...

  5. 신중현, the godfather of Korean rock, has some of the best music out there, and still going strong.

    As for actual KPop, I'm just gonna list the ones I know: 이선희, NRG, 신화, H.O.T., FinKL, god, Uhm Jung-Hwa, S.E.S., 2PM, Super Junior, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls, 비

  6. I'll throw in two...

    JYP simply because of his production abilities and impact on generating several boy/girl bands.

    이효리 because she was and continues to be a powerhouse in several pop culture venues. Also, since she started a movement among younger women to become more toned and muscular.

  7. The givens: Seo Taiji and the Boys, H.O.T, JYP, Park Hyo Shin...

    For more recent artists, I find it hard to talk about Kpop without mentioning 동방신기. Not only do these boys have immense talent, but they've dominated the Japanese charts and set all kinds of records. Also, their current lawsuit against SM Entertainment has the possibility to change the way the Korean music industry operates.

  8. I'm gonna throw 동방신기 out there just because I am actually very curious to see your opinion of the group since they're so popular and I've been wanting to ask for a while now. :)

    I'd also like to hear what you have to say about 이정현 since I don't know much about her but I kept seeing her on shows I watched with other artists.

  9. Glad to see KIM GUNMO was already mentioned. Too bad I only have his stuff on cassette.

  10. 김경호
    Eugene Park
    Cherry Filter

  11. Check out Ha Soobin from the early 90s

    Pretty girl.

  12. Repair Shop/리페어샵 - My no.1 favourite of all time.

    (The lyrics are on gasazip)

    Does anybody know where to buy their album?

  13. BoA, 2NE1, H.O.T., Shinhwa, DBSK

  14. I agree with QiRanger's comments about JYP and 이효리 even though personally I'm a fan of neither.

    I'm also not a huge fan of Big Bang, but I admire the fact that each member has a very distinct identity. They are much more distinguishable to me than most Korean groups, and I actually find them more interesting as solo artists. In particular I gained some respect for 대성 when I discovered that "대박이야" was his song. Few mainstream pop stars would attempt something so musically adventurous. Hype and media overexposure notwithstanding, I think these guys have the potential for some staying power in the long run.

    Don't know as much about Korean artists as I should, but the artists I genuinely like tend to be more on the indie side. The more well-known artists include 이소라 and Nell. The lesser-knowns include 재주소년, 한희정, 푸른새벽 (now defunct), Dear Cloud and 루싸이트 토끼. Even my Korean friends don't know about most of these artists...ha ha.

    Can't tell you much about anyone's influence or legacy, sorry...but thought they were worth mentioning anyway

  15. its funny, we don't have much korean music in Mexico, but few weeks ago I was listening a song in the radio that Im pretty sure was in korean, it was not that good, I just remember the chorus, and I think it was in korean, chinese, english and spanish: "sarang-de (?) I love you, te quiero" it was sang by a boy and a girl, I coulnd't hear the name ... dong ban shik? ... whatever

  16. I found this in a mexican radio station's web site, I guess K-pop in Mexico is not that new as I thought:

  17. Looking for information on Korean music is how I found this blog, though there wasn't any here when I arrived. haha. Looking forward to how this survey turns out. Also enjoying all the comments. I've been listening to this artist a bit lately:
    Lee Seung Chul

    Music Video:

    Interview (subbed) with infant daughter (she likes his music! haha):

    Place of birth : Seoul, Korea
    Physique : 170cm, 65kg
    Blood type : A (*Why do Asian artists list their blood type?)
    Religion : Buddhism
    Hobby : Fishing
    Favorite food : Sashimi

    Lee Seung-Chul, dubbed “The Emperor of Live Music”. He made his debut in the pop music world in 1985 as the leading vocalist of the band “Boohwal”. However, Boohwal disbanded in October 1988 and since then Lee has been performing as a solo singer. His solo debut numbers “Don’t Say Good-bye” and “On a Sleepless Night” were great hits, especially among female teens. Through the series of concerts he held to coincide with the release of his first solo album, Lee gained his nickname “The Emperor of Live Music”. However, Lee was arrested for taking drugs and had to stop his career as a musician for a while.

    Lee made a comeback in 1990 with the album “Part 2”. The song “The Last Concert” included in the album was a great hit and gave Lee an opportunity to successfully continue his career as a singer. In the same year, Lee released his second official solo album and the song “I Loved My Friend’s Love” proved to be a great hit. However, the drugs problem still lingered in the shadows and Lee had to go on another hiatus as he was once again arrested for taking drugs. However, Lee didn’t give up his passion for music and came back on stage through a series of national tour concerts in 1991. The next year, Lee published a book of journals entitled “The Portrait of Muse”. In 1995, Lee held a memorable concert with the US-based a cappella band “The New York Boys”, capturing the hearts of many pop music lovers with sophisticated sounds and melodies.

    In June, 1995, Lee surprised the public by marrying Kang Moon-young, an actress. However the couple divorced in March 1997. With a more mature image since his divorce, Lee has continued to actively perform in the local pop music scene by releasing albums steadily. Lee also participated in various OSTs for local films and has been holding live concerts in which he can show the best of himself to the fans of his music.

    In 2002, Lee regrouped with his former group Boowhal after 15 long years of separation and produced the hit ‘Never ending story’, which seemed appropriate regarding the relationship between himself and Boowhal. This enabled Lee and Boowhal to take centerstage once again with nearly 400,000 copies of album sales and a sold-out national tour, but the trip was short-lived and Lee and Boowhal went on their separate ways again. However, this didn’t slow Lee down at all. Determined as ever, he continued to put out album after album, even a cookbook of his favorite recipes. Furthermore, he celebrated his 20th anniversary since his debut in 2005 with a successful nation-wide tour and a Christmas concert, closing a very busy year for the singer.

    For this year, he made a comeback with a series of songs for various drama soundtracks. First he was featured in the MBC drama East of Eden with the song 'Are You Listening?'. Then he also had a song for a new movie 'A Sad Story Than Sadness', starring by Kwon Sang Woo, Lee Bum Soo and Lee Bo Young. The music video was released a few days ago. With all these recent activities, let's hope he can continue to do more for the music industry.

  18. Kim Bum Soo
    Rain (Bi)
    Son Dam Bi
    Lee Ji Hoon
    Big Bang

  19. I will nominate DBSK (sorry, can't type in Korean) because I want to see the Korean's opinion of this group.

  20. 쿨- they've been around for as long as I can remember, and though the music is cheesy I think they perfectly represent 90's and early 00's Korean pop. They probably have the most songs in NRB too. :)

    Tiger JK- revolutionized hip hop in korea and is a great lyricist. I watched a documentary on him and he is such an interesting artist.

  21. Delispice - helped start off indie/modern rock in in Korea.
    Rollercoaster - Only Korean acid jazz/sorta jazzy band I know of.
    DBSK - They accomplished a lot in Japan for foreign artists. Even if you don't appreciate their music, I think it's hard not to admire how far they got.
    Clazziquai - became mainstream without playing the typical kpop music.
    Epik High - Innovative. Does hip hop without feeling the need to fit in the hip hop stereotypes.
    Crying Nut

  22. I'm cosigning others on DBSK. I'm not a fan but they've sold tons of albums all across Asia and as someone said, hopefully their lawsuit will bring about some changes in Korean contract law.

    Obviously Rain warrants mention.

    And definitely, Big Bang. They're the only major Kpop act I'm aware of who have several songs in English that actually make sense. They're increasingly well known across the region and for whatever reason, display more talent than any of the other current boy band acts I can think of.

    2PM is worth discussing if only for the social significance of brouhaha over Jaebum.

    I def. cosign TigerJK as the godfather of and his wife Tasha (Yoon Mirae) plus son make the "first family" of hiphop for sure. (Tasha's insanely talented--check her track Pay Day--and could definitely stand on her own as a rapper in the States. It's unfortunate that the hiphop climate here is so tepid.)

    As far as much old(er)school stuff, I found the story of Insooni quite interesting...there's gotta be some social significance there. I saw her on TV last year sometime promoting a new album so she's still singing...

    People who can SING:
    Brian & Hwanee from Fly to the Sky who were AMAZING together but are now doing crappy pop songs but separately.
    Bobby Kim
    Kim BumSoo
    Big Mama (where are they now? T.T)
    Heritage Mass Choir (not super famous but folks in black gospel know who they are)

    Random inclusions:
    Epik High
    MC Mong - crazy, but totally original. lol.
    Dynamic Duo (personal fave)
    2NE1 from what little I know about the industry, YG seems to be using them to take girl groups in a slightly different direction...

    It probably goes without saying that JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment and their perspective founders each deserve their own entries too.

  23. Suave,

    You probably heard Baek Jiyoung's song, Candy to My Ear, featuring Taecyeon of 2PM. I have to agree, it's a pretty corny song.

    I third (?) whoever mentioned Tiger JK. He recently did a shoot for clothing brand Giordano with 장동건, which says a lot about how popular he's gotten these days.

  24. I nominate Sang-eun Lee (이상은), in all probability the greatest single female artist in South Korea. Her sixth album, 'Gongmudohaga (공무도하가)' remains the most eclectic and original piece of work to come out of the nineties ( incorporating rock, jazz and folk. as well as being the most successful effort to fuse traditional Korean 국악 and modern music. As Hae-chul Shin exclaimed as he reviewed this album on his radio show: "All male artists should go kill themselves right now, because Sang-eun Lee did it!" (a montage of Kim Yu-na set to the song, 'Gongmudohaga' - a little unusual but I couldn't find a video with just the music)
    She remains prolific and unique to this day (I think her last album was her thirteenth) and continues to delight her longtime fans by treading that fine line between modern 'Western' music and her own Korean sensibilities.

  25. Now for a more contemporary list...

    5. Baek Ji Young - her disappointingly commercial 'Candy to My Ears' aside, her 2006 comeback from an extremely unfair public image execution in 2000 marked a new standard in Korean ballads. 사랑안해 was a phenomenon, not only in popularity but because of her beautiful and sensitive voice that combined both great emotional depth and pure vocal projection power. 사랑 하나면 돼 and 총맞은 것처럼 are all excellent songs because of the same reasons above, but I personally like '사랑은 아름답습니다' the most. She have overcome a devastating sex scandal and vocal cyst with great emotional strength, but on top of that she is just so damn cool! (can you tell I'm a personal fan of hers?)

    6. S.E.S. - Along with FinkL they started the modern genre of cutesy-and-only-semi-musically-talented girl idol group. I picked S.E.S. over FinkL because 이효리 is more significant as a solo artist than as a FinkL member (and she's already mentioned by a lot of people as the dominant k-pop singer) and I personally think S.E.S. sang a little bit better (... mainly because of 바다). They started the genre and they dominated the charts when they were active... so they belong in the pantheon... I suppose.

    7. 윤하 - her extremely disappointing 3rd album(s) aside, 윤하 is the only mainstream k-pop singer I'm willing to listen. Her slightly deep yet explosive voice is only accentuated by the frantic piano rock piece that always accompanies her songs. Arguably this generation's 이선희, who shares many similarities when you look closely. She's the only mainstream artist I know who have sang 낭만 고양이 successfully in public, but check out her featuring in the live version of Bobby Kim's 'It's All Right, It's All Good.'. If not, check out the title song of her 2nd Korean album 'Telepathy'. I personally like her Japanese songs better, especially 'Ima Ga Daisuki'. Hell, if she can make 소녀시대's cringe-worthy 'Gee' sound good, she definitely belongs in the list, no? (

    8. 윤미래 - This lady can sing, rap, compose, write... you name it, she will do it and kick ass in it. At times, she's even better than her husband at rap (her part in 편의점, in particular), and her voice is simply amazing. For her rap, check out 'Pay Day'. For her singing, check out '시간이 흐른뒤'. For BOTH, check out her best work (imo) '검은 행복'.

  26. Super Junior M as they are the first group to ever have members of Chinese and Korean descent.

    Also for an older selection, BoA.

  27. Super Junior M as they are the first group to ever have members of Chinese and Korean descent.

    Also for an older selection, BoA.

  28. Just because they weren't mentioned yet, I submit Uh Uh Boo Project as a significant contributor to Korean popular music due to their original/unique sound, their influence on other acts in the Korean indie music scene in the late 90's and Jang Young-Gyu's tremendous impact on score/soundtracks for the Korean film industry.

    And, of course, Sanullim, who I think half of the Korean indie rock/rock-pop artists will cite as an influence on their music.

    Oh yeah, Kim Chooja was a very notable Korean psychedelic rock vocalist (not sure that "rock" is appropriate, but I don't know how else to categorize her) who a couple generations of Koreans will remember as the soundtrack to their college days.

    More as I think of them...

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  30. COOL/KU:L/쿨

    Can you say "Summer Story"? Also many many other awesome summer dance songs and winter mellow songs. 10 albums worth! I know they haven't released anything too profound lately, but in the last 90s/early 2000s they were AAAAWWEESOME! Well at least I thought so. They are always SUPER FUN to listen to.


    All of their albums have been great. I love the mellowness of their songs. Clever, kind of off the wall lyrics sometimes (that song about the mermaid and sailor is so cute.) And their songs range from light to a bit more solemn.


    Their first two albums were freakin' awesome. Interesting sounds.


    First two albums. Awesome lyrics. Even if one of them DID go to Stanfurd.


    Fly to the Sky:

    Because those two boys have awesome voices. Too bad they broke up.

  31. The 90's were the best period of Kpop to date. Hands down.

    1. Seotaiji. Needs no explanation. Anyone recall how teenage girls would rather buy multiples of his CDs than food during the IMF crisis?
    2. Cool. Everyone loves Cool. They pretty much have the official anthem of summer in Korea.
    3. H.O.T. The original idol group with the original psycho fans. They won the MTV Music Award for Best International Artist way before the Hallyu wave existed.
    4. SES
    5. Finkl
    6. Sechskies
    7. Jinusean
    8. Turbo

    And a little later on the timeline...

    -Drunken Tiger
    -1TYM (first group that most Korean-Americans weren't ashamed to listen to)
    -Shinhwa, god...the 1.5 idols

    Nowadays I think it's DBSK (first worldwide craze), Big Bang (their style), Wonder Girls (they were dominating the girl groups...until they left to fail in the US)...and SNSD. I don't see any other groups leaving a big mark on Korean history.

  32. I'm probably not qualified to add to this thread, but I'll nominate 3rd Line Butterfly. They rock and Nam Sang Ah's got soul!

  33. Wish the KpopFan could contribute to the pre-90s era, but that was before the Halyu, and the KpopFan didn't even know there was a pop-scene in Korea back then.

    The following contribution is not really based on musicality as that is such a subjective area, but based on impact the artiste has made to the world around them. So the KpopFan's nominations would be:

    1. H.O.T. - not so much for musicality, but for the marketing genius that started off the Halyu wave. H.O.T.'s music did not appeal to the KpopFan, however, it was Kangta's first two jazz-infused solo-album that opened the KpopFan's eyes to K-Pop in general.

    2. Shinhwa - longest running idol (?) group aside, this group literally changed the way the music business was conducted in South Korea. It is because of this group that the current batch of idols can now enjoy solo careers in addition to being a part of a highly popular group. Before Shinhwa, it was virtually unheard of. H.O.T. had to split up in order for their members to go solo (each with varying degrees of success). Having said that, the KpopFan feels that Shinhwa should now be categorized as a pop-group as they have long shed their idol images.

    Note: Writing in third-person is fun!

  34. I was born in 1985 and only got into Kpop about late 2007. My take on Kpop are as follows:

    1) Big Mama. His Eyes on the Sparrow was epic vocal arrangements for me. Got hooked since then. Where are they now?

    2) Vibe and Yurisangja. Altho I only know one song from each group, I can easily hum their tune because for the rich vocal harmonies that current idols lack.

    3) Shinhwa. It's funny how most readers mention about H.O.T. whom no doubt paved way for the current word of 'idol'. But, ultimately, Shinhwa are the current ones still standing strong, albeit on hiatus.

    4) TVXQ. Of course, one cannot not mention this group. If they manage to pull out of the lawsuit unscathed, they'd be standing with the men from Shinhwa.

    5) CSJH The Grace. Gone are the days where good vocal groups debuted. I think this group's talents are really wasted.

    6) Fly to the Sky, 2AM & Red Soul. I'm a sucker for vocal groups and whichever group can sing acappella in rich harmony has my vote.

    It goes without saying that current pop idols are famous, not for their music but for fame's namesake. My knowledge on K-music does span from current idols to golden oldies such as Boohwal, Insooni, Lee Bumsoo, Sung Shikyung etc...I'm currently venturing in K-jazz tho. Any reckons?

  35. I'd like to nominate Yiruma, who is actually a pianist and not k-pop artist. A few songs that I recommend are River Flows in You and Kiss The Rain.

    Also, an indie artist called 푸디토리움, Pudditorium. I love one of his songs called 그저 그렇고 그런 기억. The lyrics are great and in his new album, which was released May of last year, he cooperated with a Brazilian artist and created a few songs with Bossa Nova influence. He even did a song with Lucid Fall in that album!

    그저 그렇고 그런 기억 on youtube:

  36. Super Junior is definitely called the Kings of Hallyu for a reason. K-Pop did not take off in this generation until Sorry, Sorry and Mr. Simple hit. Everyone knows those as soon as you mention K-Pop


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