Best Subunit Groups of All Time

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge spike in the number of subunit idol groups. The strategy is simple – you put together some of your members in a smaller unit, give them a new name, and promote as a separate group.

The subgrouping idea has proven to be effective, especially for its immediate impact on the original group’s further success. The benefits of these subgroups can perhaps best be described in three ways: a) It gives a chance to highlight some of the lesser known members; b) creates a completely different image to expand the overall fan base; and c) raises awareness of the original group by using the name value of the better known members.

In particular, after seeing Girls’ Generation finally give in to this idea and debut their first subunit TaeTiSeo last week, we thought it was worth going over the best unit groups of all time. We’re sure this list will expand by the end of the year, with more subunits expected to debut, but please take this as a tribute to the early pioneers of subunit idol groups.

Who is your favorite subunit group? Who do you want to see team up for a new group?

Enjoy the list!

(Scroll through the list by clicking the page numbers at the bottom of this article)

Super Junior K.R.Y

With 13 total members, Super Junior is the largest idol group in K-Pop. This makes it very difficult for the general public to recognize all the members, besides the more popular ones such as Leeteuk, Siwon, and Heechul. Super Junior K.R.Y, however, put some of the lesser known, albeit equally talented (if not more), members in the limelight. Comprised of Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung, Super Junior K.R.Y put heavy emphasis on their vocal talent, and it did a superb job in establishing itself as the singing power of the group. Also, they are credited for being one of the first subunit idol groups, so they deserve more credit for starting the trend.


When it was first revealed that HyunA’s partner for Troublemaker would be BEAST’s Hyun Seung, some of my casual K-Pop fans questioned Cube’s decision. Well, it turns out Cube made the right choice, as he created perfect chemistry with HyunA for Troublemaker. The duo left a strong and lasting impression last year, making headlines throughout their promotion, even though it only ran for a brief one month. Troublemaker is formed with members from different groups (so technically, they’re not a subunit), but they looked as comfortable and easy as any other subgroup. In fact, their kiss performance at the 2011 MAMA is still one of the most dicussed topics from last year.

GD & T.O.P


We always knew G-Dragon and T.O.P had their musical influences deeply rooted in hip-hop. But most of the Big Bang songs, especially the more recent ones, were far from the traditional sense of hip hop music. By teaming up these two very talented rappers, GD & T.O.P has been able to tailor their music for a more specific audience, and by doing so, reach out to the more hardcore hip hop fans as well. Diplo, the producer of GD & T.O.P’s “Knock Out,” once described the duo as “…rapper rappers.. not phony.. they have crazy flow.”

CL & Minzy

The pairing of 2NE1’s best rapper and best dancer came as a big shock to most fans because everything about the project group was kept secret until Yang Hyun Suk’s surprise announcement in late 2009 (They didn’t even film a music video in order to keep the idea secret). Although CL & Minzy promoted only one digital single, “Please Don’t Go” is still one of my favorite YG tracks and there’s no question CL & Minzy contributed to the wider success of 2NE1.



SISTAR19 is pretty much credited for putting SISTAR on the map. Prior to SISTAR19, SISTAR as a whole did not garner much attention from casual K-Pop fans. But the wild success of “Ma Boy,” based on Hyorin and Bora’s sexy chair dance and strong rapping skills, generated tons of publicity that SISTAR never enjoyed in the past. And SISTAR19 has been able to successfully redirect that attention back to their original group, SISTAR. Fans are still questioning the real meaning behind “19” (it’s not supposed to mean “Restricted to 19 and above”) but it’s clearly serving as their lucky charm.

Bang & Zelo

B.A.P is one of the fastest growing idol groups in K-Pop these days. But before B.A.P’s debut, TS Entertainment wisely promoted their two most prominent members, Bang Yong Guk and Zelo, in a separate subunit group. Their debut track, “Never Give Up,” featuring Secret’s Hyosung, was an instant hit, as it featured three of TS Entertainment’s top stars in one song. Their popularity naturally transferred back to B.A.P’s wider success, and this should probably serve as a prime example of using your best known members to raise awareness of your original group. (BTW, have you seen Soompi’s exclusive interview with B.A.P? Check it out here!)

Other Notables: 

Orange Caramel

After School Red and Blue

Super Junior Happy, Super Junior M, Super Junior T

SM The Ballad (SHINee’s Jonghyun, SuJu’s Kyuhyun, TRAX’s Jay, and Jino)

BEAST’s Yoseob & Junhyung/ Doojoon & Dongwoon/ Hyun Seung & Ki Kwang

How does this article make you feel?