The ’90s were a significant era for Korean music. Although Koreans had become accustomed to pop music from previous decades, they were in no way prepared for the hip-hop and pop tunes, flashy fashion, and the crazy hairdos that would take the nation by storm. It really didn’t take much time for people to fall in love everything about this new type of Korean pop music. It was obvious, even back then, that this genre would change Korea forever.
In order to give respect where it’s due, here is our list of 13 K-Pop groups from the ’90s that should never (and will never) be forgotten.
When you think of the ’90s, you can’t forget this power duo. Deux was serious about hip-hop and they were one of the original groups to introduce this genre to Korea. Not only were they known for their music, but they were also known for their dancing and hip-hop fashion – in particular, the bandanna.
(Note: Hoya danced to this song in Reply 1997).
You can’t mention ’90s K-Pop without mentioning DJ DOC and their iconic songs. Their hits “Dance with DOC” and “Run To You” are karaoke anthems. You really can’t help but sing and dance along to their songs!
Seo Taiji and Boys paved the way for many K-Pop artists today. They redefined K-Pop. They were all about doing things that were unconventional and out of the norm, which obviously had good outcomes! Also, recognize the man on the left? It’s none other than Yang Hyun Suk, founder of YG. Talk about having an impact in the Korean music industry!
Before Kim Jong Kook became the “Running Man” star we all know and love today, he was an idol from a duo called Turbo! Together with fellow member Kim Jung Nam, they released several hit songs, most notably, “Black Cat.” A couple years later, Kim Jung Nam left the group and Mikey took his place, where they then released “Goodbye Yesterday” and “December.” They eventually disbanded, but all three reunited as a trio for a comeback in 2015!
This iconic ’90s group was well-known for the rap and reggae components of their songs. Lee Sang Min’s rough and raspy rapping beautifully paired with the voices of Kim Ji Hyun and Chae Ri Na. Their style was fresh, unique, and you couldn’t help but love their songs!
While the U.S. had Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, Korea had H.O.T and Sechskies. H.O.T is considered to be the original boy band in K-Pop. Back in the day, you did not want to mess with an H.O.T fan – they were strong and had their oppas’ backs. (Sound familiar?) The synchronized dancing, romantic ballads, and cute outfits were too much for ’90s’ girls to handle. Their posters were plastered on almost every girl’s wall; these girls grew into the women who are hoping for their comeback today.
When H.O.T is mentioned, it’s almost impossible not to think about Sechskies. This group was considered to be the rivals of H.O.T – it was frowned upon to like them both. (Again, sound familiar?) Just like H.O.T, Sechskies was known for their heartfelt ballads, dancing skills, enigmatic rapping, and of course, their looks! You might recognize them as they recently made their return to the music scene.
There weren’t as many girl groups as there were boy bands in the ’90s, but S.E.S definitely had a huge impact on K-Pop. They were the heartthrob of many boys, and almost everyone knew the words and dance moves to their song, “I’m Your Girl.” Almost every girl in the ’90s at one point tried to pull off Bada’s high-ponytail hairdo. (No word on whether they succeeded.)
Fin.K.L (Fine Killing Liberty) set the fashion standard for a lot of females in the ’90s. Every K-Pop-loving girl in the ’90s needed those baggy jeans, baggy shirts, construction boots, and a slouchy backpack with a little doll hanging from the zipper. I also can’t mention Fin.K.L without mentioning their adorable hit song, “To My Boyfriend,” which was probably sung to every boyfriend in the late ’90s at one point. This group was also constantly linked to dating rumors with g.o.d members… some of which were true!
Jinusean was – and is still – so cool. They talked, walked, and looked hip-hop. They were mostly known for their fast killer raps and sweet catchy melody. Their hit single, “Tell Me” was their biggest hit, but people loved pretty much every song they released: “Gasoline,” “Give Me Your Phone Number,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Celebrate,” and the list goes on!
Most people might recognize the name as it was the former hip-hop group that Teddy Park was a part of, but in the late ’90s and early ’00s, 1TYM used to top the charts and even won several awards for best hip-hop artist! Similarly to Jinusean, 1TYM oozed hip-hop – just listen to Danny’s buttery vocals and Teddy’s solid rapping!
While H.O.T and Secshkies were busy rivaling each other, Shinhwa came out of nowhere and put themselves on the map. They debuted with the hit single, “Resolver.” They are also greatly respected in the K-Pop industry today for their longevity and ability to stay a unit for so long!
Having just debuted at the tail-end of the ’90s, g.o.d is considered to be Korea’s national K-Pop group. Loved and adored by all ages, g.o.d’s heartwarming songs and cute dances are hard not to fall in love with. Till this day, their hit debut song, “To My Mom” still makes people cry.
Honorable mentions: Cool, R.ef, Baby V.O.X., Diva, Fly to the Sky, Two Two, NRG.
Hey Soompiers! What were some of your favorite ’90s K-Pop songs or groups? Let us know in the comments below!
binahearts is a Soompi writer who can be most often seen singing her heart out at karaoke, walking her dog, or indulging in dessert. Her current obsessions include Song Joong Ki, 1llionaire, and Doctors. Make sure you follow binahearts on Instagram as she journeys through her latest Korean crazes!