A Year Of Memorable Debuts: 9 K-Pop Groups That Started Out In 2009

2009 was the year that gave us mega K-pop hits like “Gee,” “Sorry Sorry,” and “Nobody.” It was also the year that introduced us to sizzling hot new groups that would, in turn, gift us with their own huge hits, such as “I Am the Best,” “Madonna,” and “Fiction.” 2009 was indeed the year for K-pop, and for those of us who have been around since that era, just reading the names of these groups and songs will probably evoke a strong sense of nostalgia.

Sadly, the majority of the groups that debuted in 2009 have either disbanded or are on hiatus. But maybe, just for a few minutes, we can turn back time and revisit the glory days of these groups that filled our lives with laughter, color, and great music!

Here are nine K-pop groups that debuted 10 years ago, in order of their debut:

After School

Current Members: Raina, Nana, E-Young, Ga Eun; (Former: So Young, Bekah, Kahi, Lee Joo Yeon, Jung Ah, Uee, Lizzy)
Debut date: January 17
Debut single: “AH!”
Label: Pledis Entertainment
Status: On hiatus since 2015

While After School initially debuted with five members, they’ve since established a “graduation” concept, where members are regularly added and also “graduate.” The group has consistently released well-loved songs, including “Diva,” “Bang!” and “Flashback.” “Because of You,” in particular, was an instant hit, achieving an all-kill on digital charts and becoming one of their best-selling songs.

Known for their outstanding stage performances, After School has often incorporated different elements and dance styles into their stages, such as tap dancing and pole dancing. Citing U.S. group The Pussycat Dolls as one of their influences, the group even opened for them during the Asian leg of The Pussycat Dolls’ tour.

In 2010, After School’s sub-unit Orange Caramel was formed with members Raina, Nana, and Lizzy. Orange Caramel also drew their own strong following thanks to their quirky, fun concepts, and boppy songs, such as “Catallena,” and “My Copycat.”

After School has not released any new music or done any group promotions since 2015, thus the members have all branched out into solo endeavors. Raina is still promoting as a solo artist, whereas Nana, Uee, Jooyeon, So Young, and Lizzy (now promoting under Park Soo Ah) are all active as actresses. Former leader Kahi is now married and a mother of two, and was most recently seen as a dance trainer in the “Produce 101” series. Ga Eun also joined last year’s “Produce 48,” and although she was considered a front-runner and ranked first for multiple weeks, she did not make it into the final top 12. Jung Ah herself got married just last year, and many fellow members celebrated her special day with her.

2NE1

Members: Bom, CL, Dara, Minzy
Debut date: May 17
Debut single: “Fire”
Label: YG Entertainment
Status: 
Officially disbanded as of November 2016

Often referred to as Queens, 2NE1 garnered immense attention from the moment they stepped onto the K-pop scene in 2009. Their debut on “Inkigayo” with “Fire” remains iconic to this day, thanks to the bold and edgy concept (and their hairstyles). Their follow-up single, “I Don’t Care,” similarly exploded in success, and won them the Song of the Year award at the 2009 MAMAs, as well as multiple other awards on major music award ceremonies, cementing their monster rookie status. They continued to sweep various grand awards throughout their career, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year.

As with other successful K-pop groups, 2NE1 was also big in Japan, but more significantly, they also managed to break into the U.S. market. The quartet has worked with Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, as well as appeared on “The Bachelor” and “America’s Next Top Model.” Their singles have not only constantly charted at No. 1 on Gaon charts, but also manage to enter Billboard 200. Specifically, their second studio album “Crush” peaked at No. 61 and set a new U.S. record for highest-charting K-pop albums.

Sadly, the group’s fiery success took a left turn in 2014 when Bom temporarily halted all activities. The other three members pursued their own solo ventures, essentially putting the group on hiatus. In 2015, all four members reunited at the MAMAs and gave a surprise performance of their hits. This was their only group performance of 2015, and as it turned out, their last live performance as four members.

In April 2016, it was announced that Minzy left YG Entertainment and the group and that 2NE1 would promote as three members from then on. However, just a few months later, YG Entertainment announced the disbandment of the group, with only CL and Dara remaining on the label. The trio released one last single, “Goodbye,” as a farewell to their fans.

Since disbandment, the members have continued to pursue solo careers in singing and acting, and it appears their friendship has remained strong. Minzy has just gone on her first North American tour and released her first English single end of last year. Most recently, CL, Minzy, and Park Bom all sent well wishes to Sandara Park when she became a host on “Video Star.” Sandara is also confirmed to be featuring on Park Bom’s comeback in March, which will make this her first solo comeback in eight years.

4Minute

Members: Jihyun, Gayoon, Jiyoon, HyunA, Sohyun
Debut date: June 15
Debut single: “Hot Issue”
Label: Cube Entertainment
Status: Officially disbanded as of June 2016

At the time when teasers for the group were released, 4Minute immediately drew great interest for including former Wonder Girls member, HyunA. Their first single “Hot Issue” was hot indeed, and it was only the start of what would turn out to be a very impressive career. They delivered multiple hits, including “What’s Your Name?” (the group’s first No. 1 on Gaon charts as well as No. 1 on Billboard K-pop Hot 100), “Whatcha Doin’ Today?” (notably winning against both 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation on “Inkigayo”), and “Crazy” (impressively debuting at No.1 on Billboard’s World Albums Chart).

In June 2016, just a few days short of their seventh-year anniversary, the group announced their disbandment amidst rumors of failed contract negotiations. Only HyunA continued to stay on with the label, while the other four girls left when their contracts ended. However, in 2018, when news of HyunA dating fellow Triple H member Hyojong (E’Dawn) was confirmed, she also parted ways with the label. Just recently, it was announced that HyunA (and Hyojong) signed on with PSY’s P NATION.

The other four girls have also continued to carve out their own career paths in the industry, with Jihyun (now Son Ji Hyun) most recently appearing in the K-drama “Grand Prince,” whereas Gayoon and Sohyun have been active in films. Jiyoon, who now promotes under the name Jenyer, continues to work on her own music.

T-ara

Members: Qri, Eunjung, Hyomin, and Jiyeon; (Former: Hwayoung, Areum, Boram, and Soyeon)
Debut date: July 29
Debut single: “Lie”
Label: Core Contents Media (Now known as MBK Entertainment)
Status: On hiatus

Well-known for their fun, dance-pop music, T-ara took Asia by storm with their early songs. “Bo Peep Bo Peep,” from the group’s first studio album (released only four months after their debut), managed to win the “Triple Crown” on “Inkigayo.” The Japanese version of the song, which was released later in their career, peaked at No. 1 on the Oricon chart, making them the first non-Japanese girl group to do so for a debut single. “Roly-Poly” was another massive hit; it became one of the top-selling singles in 2011 and was awarded the Record of the Year (Digital) at the Seoul Music Awards.

In 2010 and 2012, members Hwayoung and Areum were added to the line-up, respectively. However, shortly after the addition of Areum, T-ara was swept up in controversy, and Core Contents Media promptly announced the departure of Hwayoung. In mid-2013, Areum left the group due to health issues, whereas Soyeon and Boram left in 2017 after their contracts expired.

In 2017, after Soyeon and Boram left, T-ara released their ninth EP, “What’s My Name,” as a quintet. In 2018, Eunjung, Hyomin, Jiyeon, and Qri chose not to renew their contracts with MBK Entertainment, thus leaving the company.

Maintaining that they have not disbanded, the girls have focused more on solo ventures. Eunjung has been keeping herself busy with films and dramas, most recently working on “Lovely Horribly,” as is Hwayoung, whose latest drama is “Mad Dog.” Areum herself joined the idol rebooting show, “The Unit,” last year. Jiyeon recently made her solo comeback last December with “One Day,” which is her first solo comeback since 2014. Hyomin too has been constantly releasing music, with her third mini album “Allure,” just dropping last month, making it her first album since 2016.

f(x)

Members: Victoria, Amber, Luna, Krystal; (Former: Sulli)
Debut Date: September 5
Debut Single: “LA chA TA”
Label: SM Entertainment
Status: On hiatus since 2016

f(x) officially debuted with “LA chA TA” and has since carved a strong following with their more experimental and electropop-based sounds, as well as promoting individuality in styling. Their strong success with their second EP, “Electric Shock,” also earned them an invitation to perform at SXSW in the United States, making them the first K-pop group to do so. Their second studio album, “Pink Tape,” was also the only Korean album to land on Fuse’s list of Best Albums of 2013. Their releases have constantly won them awards in both end-of-year music awards, as well as weekly music shows during their promotions.

In 2014, after the group released their third studio album “Red Light,” it was announced that Sulli would be taking a temporary break from promotions to focus on her health. However, the hiatus eventually became permanent in 2015 when Sulli officially departed from the group. Promoting as a quartet, f(x) then went on to release “4 Walls,” their fourth studio album, which topped Billboard World Albums Chart. Though the group hasn’t disbanded, they have yet to release any new music after releasing the single “All Mine” via SM Station in mid-2016.

Despite the group’s semi-hiatus, the members are all doing well in their solo pursuits. Earlier this year, Luna made a solo comeback with “Even So,” and her members shared sweet messages of support. Amber, while regularly releasing new singles and videos, is also planning to promote in the United States. Victoria is actively promoting as both a solo artist and an actress in China, as well as appearing on various variety shows. Krystal also has been active as an actress as she recently starred in “The Player” alongside Song Seung Heon. After working in a few films, Sulli was most recently featured in her own reality program.

Secret

Members: Jung Hana, Jung Hyosung, Song Ji Eun, Han Sunhwa
Debut Date: October 13
Debut Single: “I want you back”
Label: TS Entertainment
Status: Unofficially disbanded

Secret’s debut was somewhat lost in the shadow of other well-performing girl groups at the time. It wasn’t until 2010, when the group subtly started adopting a retro image, that they managed to find their own color and niche. Their second digital release, “Magic,” did the job and successfully won over the public, as did follow up track “Madonna,” which reached No. 1 on Gaon charts and remains one of their most well-known songs. With these two consecutive successes, Secret was able to win the New Artist Award at the 2010 Golden Disk Awards. 2011’s “Starlight Moonlight” is also another one of their hits and one of their best selling singles to date.

In September 2016, it was announced Sunhwa would be leaving the group as she had decided to not renew her contract with TS Entertainment. Despite maintaining that Secret would continue with three members, the group has yet had any promotions since then. (The groups last official release was in 2014). In February 2018, it was announced that Hyosung and Jieun had left TS Entertainment and that they were in legal disputes with the label over contract and payment matters.

Despite the unpleasant business between the members and the label, the members themselves have remained in touch, and three of them have even met to catch up earlier this year. Han Sun Hwa has been active as an actress since leaving the group, and is in talks to star in the second season of “Save Me.” Song Ji Eun has been working as a solo artist as well as an actress, with her most recent drama being “My Secret Romance.” After the courts ruled in Hyosung’s favor regarding her contract with TS Entertainment, she has since signed with a new agency and will be continuing with her acting career.

MBLAQ

Members: Seungho, G.O, Mir; (Former: Lee Joon, Thunder)
Debut Date: October 15
Debut Single: “Oh Yeah”
Label: J. Tune Camp
Status: Unofficially disbanded

MBLAQ garnered significant interest during their debut for being formed by Rain and even made their first appearance performing alongside him during his concert in October 2009. The songs from their debut single album “Just BLAQ” was well-received, and many praised their performance abilities.

The group’s releases often did very well on Gaon charts (four out of their eight EPs reached No. 1), and they maintained a steady popularity throughout, with “Y,” “Cry,” and “This Is War” being some of their bigger hits. They’ve also snagged themselves various awards, including the Bonsang at the 26th Golden Disk Awards, and the Idol Music Daesang (Grand Prize) at the 19th Korean Cultural Entertainment Awards. The quintet was also a mainstay on various variety shows thanks to their relatable personalities as well as often working on drama OSTs.

In December 2014, Joon and Thunder announced to be leaving the group, which meant MBLAQ would be promoting with three members from then on. After the split, the trio released their eighth (and last) EP, “Mirror.” Since then, the group has gone into hiatus and the members have branched out into other areas, such as Seungho with his musical theater and G.O with his YouTube channel. Lee Joon has also been recognized as an established actor over the past years.

Both Seungho and Lee Joon are currently serving in the army, and will soon be discharged later in the year. Thunder, who established his own independent label last year, is expected to enlist within the year. Last year, Mir made a surprise appearance on G.O’s Vlog, much to the delight of their fans. More recently, Mir and Thunder both guested on “Video Star,” where they met for the first time in five years, and candidly talked about their time together.

Though there has been no official announcement of disbandment, their label J.Tune Camp has essentially dissolved, and the members have all moved on to other agencies.

BEAST (Highlight)

Members: Yoon Doojoon, Yong Junhyung, Yang Yoseob, Lee Gikwang, Son Dongwoon; (Former: Jang Hyunseung)
Debut date: October 16
Debut single: “Bad Girl”
Label: Cube Entertainment
Status: Currently promoting as Highlight

BEAST’s debut as a group was once looked down upon for more or less being rejects of other agencies or having had unsuccessful debuts prior. However, their rapidly growing fanbase proved their dissenters wrong, and the group was even awarded the Best Newcomer Award at the 19th Seoul Music Awards in 2010, alongside After School and T-ara.

The group’s versatility in owning both the fierce and powerful dance songs while also being able to turn on the emotions with the heartfelt ballads proved just how much they were a force to be reckoned with. Their multitude of catchy songs often landed at No. 1 on Gaon weekly charts, as well as earning them multiple wins on weekly music programs. Even “On Rainy Days,” a b-side track of their “Fiction and Fact” studio album, impressively snagged itself a win on “Music Bank.” The title song of that album, “Fiction,” also won Song of the Year at the 2011 KBS Music Festival. BEAST has also won the Artist of the Year award at both the 2011 and 2012 Melon Music Awards, and the Record of the Year award at the 2015 Seoul Music Awards (for “12:30”).

In 2016, Cube Entertainment confirmed Hyunseung’s departure from BEAST, and the group was to move forward with the other five members. As a quintet, the group released their third studio album, “Highlight,” the last under the name “BEAST.”

After deciding to leave Cube Entertainment in late 2016, the boys established their own label, Around Us Entertainment, but were unfortunately unable to gain the rights to the name BEAST, which had been trademarked by their former label. They thus renamed themselves “Highlight” and started on a new journey. Despite competing with the younger generation of idols, Highlight has proven they’ve still got it and is still constantly being nominated for various awards at major award shows. Their first single under their new label, “Plz Don’t Be Sad” won eight No. 1’s across the weekly music programs. They also have the distinction of being the only group on this list that is still actively promoting.

The five members are also actively involved in acting, musical theater, or releasing solo music. Currently, Doojoon and Yoseob are enlisted in the army, while Gikwang will be enlisting on April 18. Hyunseung also quietly enlisted mid-2018. Junhyung and Dongwoon are expected to enlist sometime later in the year.

Rainbow

Members: Woori, Seungah, Jaekyung, Noeul, Yoonhye, Jisook, Hyunyoung
Debut date: November 12
Debut single: “Gossip Girl”
Label: DSP Media
Status: Officially disbanded as of 2016

Rainbow debuted in 2009 and drew interest for being from the same company of one of the hottest girl group’s at the time, KARA. They debuted with “Gossip Girl,” but it wasn’t until the following year, when they released “A,” that they managed to garner more attention for the group. The Japanese version of the song also did extremely well, even reaching No. 3 on the Oricon chart.

During Rainbow’s run, two sub-units were introduced — Rainbow Pixie, and Rainbow Blaxx. The MV for “Cha Cha” by Rainbow Blaxx, though considered overtly suggestive, was one of the most-viewed K-pop music videos when it was released. In total, Rainbow released two studio albums and five EPs, all which did considerably well on the Goan charts. They also won the Hallyu Icon Award at the 26th Golden Disc Awards.

In 2016, it was confirmed that all the members chose not to renew their contracts with DSP Media, and thus would disband and go their separate ways. Choosing to see their disbandment as more of a temporary suspension, the girls have remained very close and have often posted photos of their meet-ups. The whole group even met up last year to celebrate their ninth anniversary.

Jisook has continued with her music, and it was announced earlier in the year that she was preparing for a solo comeback. No Eul recently featured in BNT International, where she gave insight into life after Rainbow. Woori, who is now promoting as Go Na Eun, has been involved in dramas and films; while Hyunyoung as been appearing in musicals. Seung Ah and Jae Kyung, who have both been busy with dramas, were reunited at the 2018 MBC Drama Awards, where they both took home awards for their impressive acting.

Which of these 2009-ers do you miss the most? And were you surprised by all the strong girl groups that came out that year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Belinda_C loves Highlight to the moon and back, and them being able to survive their re-debut shows how much grit they have! May they have as many more years in them as Shinhwa does! SEVENTEEN too! Come fangirl over these groups with her on Twitter!

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