1. Big Bang - FXXK IT
Big Bang's most recent single, "FXXK IT," was subjected to a ban by KBS due to "inappropriate lyrics." It's understandable, with the English title of the song quite clearly tip-toeing the line, and T.O.P. even prophetically rapping about a P.O. (parole officer) months ahead of his scandal. That didn't stop the song from becoming one of their most successful to date, with its MV now able to claim over a hundred million views; indeed, it turns out that KBS can't control the rest of the internet.
2. Epik High - Nocturne
Epik High's earlier material was the frequent subject of bans and criticism, with lyrics about society's ills often ruffling the feathers of the very same people that they spoke about. "Nocturne" is a master class in "wokeness" delivered by Tablo, with its chorus shouting out "the money that you earn, let it burn, let it burn." Tablo compares the money-hungry to cannibals, questions the idea of a heaven, speaks on suicide and shreds Korea's legal system. It's right at home on the "Remapping the Human Soul" album, a controversial double-LP that many Epik High fans stand by as their best work.
3. H.O.T. - Wolf & Sheep
H.O.T. is one of the most legendary "first generation" K-pop acts ever, which naturally means they were the first to experience a lot of occurrences within the industry. Their material always vacillated between bubblegum pop and socially conscious rap-rock, and this song fell into the latter category. "Wolf & Sheep" was banned for profane lyrical content, and though it was a hit among fans (as evidenced by the legendary opening scene of "Reply 1997"), it became difficult to promote on television. Even though the group was able to keep promoting by releasing different songs from the album, this was far from their last brush with controversy, with later songs like "I Yah" coming under fire for societal criticisms.
4. Dal Shabet - Joker
Dal Shabet is one girl group that just cannot catch a break. Despite promoting for half a decade, the group has struggled to secure a genuine hit, even during the times when they had stellar sounding tracks from top name producers. "Joker" became another bump in the road for the girls after censors banned the song from certain venues and broadcasts due to a rather unusual quirk: "Joker," as pronounced by the girls, happened to sound extremely similar to a Korean word for genitals. Considering that the group went out of their way to match the concept to the song title, it's unclear if the banning was just a case of people having their mind in the gutter.
5. GD&TOP - Knockout
GD&TOP's "Knockout" caught the attention of the world with its Diplo-produced beat and glamorous music video, but unfortunately, it also managed to catch the attention of several copyright holders months after its release and promotion. Of course, the combination of profanity and name-dropping specific brands is already a great way to get in trouble in the Korean music scene, but GD&TOP managed to take it a bit further. In a rare turn of events, the music video was actually entirely erased from YG's official platforms after both Playboy and the Beats by Dre brand raised concerns about modified versions of their products and logos appearing in the video.
6. PSY - Right Now
PSY is without a doubt the most banned artist on this list and perhaps the most banned artist in Korean pop. His debut was that of an Eminem-style "X-rated" rapper, far from the friendly dancing everyman persona he took on in later years. For goodness sake, he had a song called "I Love Sex!" That said, "Right Now" came out quite a long time after that era, but it still managed to rile up Korean censors with its criticisms of society and the salaryman lifestyle (notice the trend). Of course, it didn't help for Psy to use a derogatory term for disabled people in the chorus - or call out "bullshit" - but I think it's safe to say that things worked out for him after 2010.
7. TVXQ - Mirotic
"Mirotic" was TVXQ's last Korean single as a group of five, and it made a super serious impact when it came out. Fans became enamored with everything about the song, from Changmin's shouted high note to the "chin stroking" dance during its middle eight rap. Despite this, the song was problematic among Korean censors due to a combination of questionable Korean and English lyrics; "under my skin" was, for whatever reason, specifically cited in many criticisms of the song. All told, the song was still a huge hit and incidentally ended up serving as a powerful sendoff for what most people consider the "true form" of TVXQ.
8. e.via - Oppa, Can I Do It?
e.via (later known as Tymee) is a little-known rapper who made her debut during the late 2000s. She gained a ton of attention for her speed-rapping skills, though something else managed to capture the imaginations of her male listeners: extremely explicit lyrics. Little needs to be said about "Oppa, Can I Do It?" that isn't already reflected in the title or the opening intro to the song. It was by all means (trying to be) erotic, and even as the song crashed and burned through a rapid tempo change, one couldn't help but admire e.via's boldness for daring to release and promote the track.
9. NCT 127 - Cherry Bomb
NCT 127's "Cherry Bomb" is the latest song from SM Entertainment to come under fire from networks like KBS due to its lyrics. There's something quite different about how the label handled it, though - rather than bending and breaking to the will of broadcasters, SM defiantly refused to promote an edited version of the song on KBS (despite a "performance version" being included with the source mini-album). The lyrics in question were apparently "violent" and "encouraged bad behavior among youth," though it's hard to see any harm coming from a group of boys loosely dancing with their hands stretched over their heads. The jury is still out, as the song is relatively new, but so far it's shaping up to be the NCT project's most successful track yet.
10. S.E.S. - Love
"Love" is a late 90s title track from "the original girl group," S.E.S., who were known well for their bubblegum pop numbers and girl-next-door appearance. As it turns out, the source of the ban on this song had nothing to do with lyrical content or even its music video. You see, during the 1990s, there was still a lot of territory that had yet to be explored in K-pop. In this case, the territory that S.E.S. explored was dyed hair, something that doesn't seem controversial in the slightest in a post-Lady Gaga society. Surprisingly (and perhaps almost impressively), the track was banned from promotion on three of the major four Korean music channels, with no opportunity for other album tracks to shine as long as the girls were rocking blonde hair. The group persisted, and eventually standards in Korean society changed enough to allow performers to do more with their appearance.