The vast and ever-expanding history of K-Pop can be divided roughly into 4 different generations. However, there is no accurate line drawn between these generations. Dividing K-Pop generationally is not meant to create conflict but is only a measure of organization of the history of K-Pop for future generations to look back to.
The 1st generation of K-Pop marks the very birth of K-Pop as we know it today. The defining term was “Hallyu,” which appeared for the first time during this generation. SM Entertainment produced South Korea's first boy group H.O.T which marked the onset of the 1st generation. Groups like Sechs Kies, S.E.S., and Fin.K.L also belong to this generation. Experimental groups like Shinhwa, Click-B, god, Chakra, Jewelry, and BoA fall into the interim between this generation and the next.
K-Pop groups like TVXQ, SS501, BIGBANG, Super Junior, Girls' Generation, KARA, and Wonder Girls found popularity as the 2nd generation of K-Pop. These groups were coming up while South Korea was going through an economic crisis. As such, the groups formed and promoted during this time were modeled commercially. SHINee, 2PM, INFINITE, f(x), 2NE1, Miss A, SISTAR were some groups that took advantage of the strong foundation of the 2nd generation of K-Pop and achieved unbelievable success. This was also the time when PSY's Gangnam Style in 2012 transformed the K-Pop scene forever.
The third generation of K-Pop is often referred to as the golden age of K-Pop as it achieved success beyond the limits of the South Korean horizon. With the increasing use of SNS and streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, this generation tasted success that was unthinkable before. Groups like EXO, NU'EST, VIXX, BTS, GOT7, Red Velvet, TWICE, BLACKPINK, GFRIEND, and more pioneered this generation’s global movement, setting up a solid foundation for artists to come. With the popularity of K-Pop at the peak, survival reality shows became even more popular, and it was through this that the torch was passed down to the 4th generation of K-Pop. Groups like SEVENTEEN, MONSTA X, NCT, Wanna One, Oh My Girl, I.O.I, and Cosmic Girls rose to fame during the gap between the two generations. While they’re not exactly 3rd generation, they can’t be referred to as 4th generation artists either.
Finally, K-Pop today belongs to the 4th generation. Standing strong on the foundation created by their seniors, 4th generation idols left no stone unturned to prove themselves to be a class apart. Idols today are simply a different breed of artistry. Groups like ATEEZ, STRAY KIDS, TXT, TREASURE, and THE BOYZ are perhaps the top 5 boy groups of this generation so far. Super rookie groups like CRAVITY and VERIVERY are slowly but steadily making their place at the top as well. ITZY, LOONA, (G)I-DLE, EVERGLOW, and IZ*ONE are the girl groups ruling at the top.
Keeping the above in mind, we introduce to you K-Pop’s 4th generation “it” boys and girls! These idols have captivated fans right from their debut, and their talent is unmatched. Moreover, Korean and international fans alike have themselves referred to these idols as absolute icons who have just the right amount of “oomph” to them.
Jeno has been in the industry for as far back as one can remember. There’s no doubting his skill or his visual and it’s much easier referring to him as the absolute package.
Juyeon is not only a face genius but a real one as well. Despite being a full-time idol, he’s also academically excellent. He speaks multiple languages and is even skilled at acrobatics, which makes him super flexible.
Fans often call him a manhwa (comic) character come to life. Asahi’s visuals are otherworldly. Not only is he the main vocalist, but he also composes music.
San is especially famed for his power-packed and intense performances as well as the booming energy he puts into each piece of work he has his name on. In a room full of brilliant idols, San would still stand out.
There is nothing that one can throw at this boy that he won’t be able to handle. He pulls off the simplest of concepts to the most intricate ones and has duality as you’ve never seen before.
Having been a trainee under BigHit for five years, Yeonjun polished himself to become the brightest diamond even before his debut. There is nothing that Yeonjun cannot do. His visuals are very obviously above par, and his skill is unbelievable. His unique tone of voice only adds to his appeal. Does it even get any better than this?
Everyone loves LOONA and everyone loves Chuu. With her bright energy and warmth, she’s so authentically and unapologetically herself that one cannot help but admire her.
Yiren is the lead dancer, vocalist, and visual center of EVERGLOW and for a good reason too. Yiren is what one many call a “triple threat” in the industry.
Shuhua is another such idol who is not afraid to be her real self, whether on camera or off it. She does not hesitate to knock down haters and is fiercely protective of the other group members even though she is the maknae.
Jang Won Young is not only drop-dead gorgeous, but her talent is incredible as well. She successfully holds strong the dancer's position and the vocalist of the group despite being one of the youngest idols ever. She was only 14 when she made her debut and started training even earlier. One thing is for sure; she definitely knew what she was doing.
Lia is the main vocalist and the sub-rapper of ITZY, which is testament enough of her incredible talent. It is enhanced and complemented perfectly by her fairy-like appearance. One significant thing about her is the fact that she never gives up. Being an idol is not an easy job and having a backbone built on self-esteem is admirable and even inspirational. Needless to say, she's a role model of innumerable little girls!