In terms of Hallyu history, 2009 was an iconic year. Some would even argue it was a more impactful era in terms of K-pop reaching audiences outside of Korea than 2012’s “Gangnam Style.” According to an unpublished survey collected by Korea Creative Content Agency USA in 2014, the majority of K-pop fans in the States (39.5%) started consuming K-pop earlier than 2009, as opposed to 26.8% percent between 2012 and 2013. PSY might have turned himself into a viral phenomenon, but 2009 was a launch pad for a lot of what K-pop is today. (source: MTV)
1. TVXQ's 'Mirotic'
Release date: September 26, 2008
Although TVXQ had actually paved the way in Japan and China for themselves in 2005, the mega-hit song Mirotic opened up the doors for K-Pop across Asia and partially began to gain recognition in the west. Even at a time when social media was not available as it's now, Mirotic went on to sell more than 5 million downloads in across Asia, which makes it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time in Asia. Also Mirotic remains the best selling physical album of the 2nd generation, selling more than 600,000 copies. When Hallyu wave started to spread in the west, TVXQ went on hiatus for 2 years due to the lawsuit, which led them split.
2.Super Junior's 'Sorry Sorry'
Release date: March 9, 2009
2009 was an iconic year for K-pop's globalization. K-Pop groups released hit song after hit song and Super Junior's Sorry Sorry was one of them! Sorry Sorry became a huge hit in Southeast Asia, as well as in South America and Europe. In Taiwan, “Sorry, Sorry” spent 36 consecutive weeks at No. 1. and also dominated Taiwan's radio channel 'Hit Fm' released the 100 singles chart for 2009, ranking #1.
3.Girls' Generation's 'Gee'
Release date: January 5, 2009
"Gee" was originally intended for local consumption in Korea, but spontaneously became an international hit through Girls' Generation’s online fandom and YouTube, and boomed kpop to a wider overseas audience. Girls' Generation were also able to overcome international barriers because they had songs that were easy to sing and dance along to. It became a song everyone could dance, and was covered via Youtube in South America, Southeast Asia, Europe, and more.
4.Wonder Girls' 'Nobody' (English ver.)
Release date: September 30, 2009
After becoming one of the biggest K-Pop group hit in South Korea in 2008, "Nobody" was recreated in English in 2009. When Wonder Girls released "Nobody," South Korea’s music scene was just starting to gain prominence in the USA. On the October 31, 2009 issue of Billboard Hot 100, the single debuted at number 76. Wonder Girls became the first South Korean group to enter the chart. By February 2012, the single had sold in excess of 120,000 copies in the United States of both digital and physical copies combined. The single became the best-selling physical single of the year in the United States and topped the Year-End Chart of the Billboard Hot Single Sales which indicates the official physical singles chart. "Nobody" had sold over 78,000 downloads in the United States.
5.2NE1's 'I'm The Best'
Release Date: June 24, 2011
2NE1 rightfully asserted its dominance with the larger-than-life hit, "I Am the Best," in 2011. At their peak of global success, the ladies' signature swagger permeated through the boastful lyrics about celebrity life. The song also received airplay from American radio stations without officially being released to the airplay market.
6.BIGBANG's 'Fantastic Baby'
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Bigbang produced one of the few K-pop songs to garner attention internationally with “Fantastic Baby,” in part thanks to the song's dynamic sound and the stimulating visual feast that is the music video. The boisterous, genre-blending sound was something altogether new for the act at the time, while the seditious music video promoted music as a form of rebellion. With the exhilarating song and a video that took K-pop to a whole new level through its creative flair, “Fantastic Baby” has gone on to become one of the most-watched Korean music videos on YouTube. The single went on to sell more than 6 million downloads across Asia, which makes it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time in Asia.
Release Date: August 5, 2013
Growl is EXO's both national and international hit! It was the fifth best-selling K-pop track in America while their single "Wolf" was the ninth. "Growl" peaked at number three on the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 and at number two on the Gaon Digital Chart. All versions of XOXO collectively sold over one million copies, making Exo the first South Korean artists to reach that milestone in 12 years.
8. BTS' 'Blood, Sweat & Tears'
Release date: October 9, 2016
There is no doubt that BTS took K-pop globally to a whole new level and paved the way for K-Pop in the west. The song that made them globally famous is Blood, Sweat & Tears. Its music video gained over 6 million views within 24 hours, breaking the previous record held on YouTube for the highest number of views of a K-pop group music video within 24 hours. For the week of November 5 on Billboard's World Digital Song Sales Chart, "Blood, Sweat, & Tears" managed to hold onto the No.2 spot. Those successes led them to perform at Billboard awards and receive the social media award. “Blood, Sweat & Tears,” which became BTS’ first No. 1 single in South Korea and quickly became recognized as one of the group’s most monumental productions thanks to its dynamic sound and artistic music video.