K-Pop has had many historic moments during its long and rich history, but these are some of the most important ones to date.
1. First (known) K-Pop album
Yi Pungjin Sewol (This Tumultuous Time) is believed to have been the first Korean pop album ever made. It was released in 1925 by Park Chae-seon and Lee Ryu-saek and contained popular songs translated from Japanese.
2. Seo Taiji and the Boys’s debut
In the early 1990s, K-Pop began to evolve into what we know today. Often considered the progenitors of the modern K-Pop movement, Seo Taiji and the Boys were a huge part of that, and laid the groundwork for future groups. They debuted in 1992 with the song “Nan Arayo” or “I Know”.
3. First pop group to sell a million albums
H.O.T. was one of the most influential groups during K-Pop’s first wave, but also the first pop group to sell 1 million albums. This is especially impressive, considering that Korea was experiencing a financial crisis during the 1990s.
4. First group to perform at Seoul Olympic Stadium
In addition to being the first pop group to sell 1 million albums, H.O.T was also the first group to perform at this legendary Korean venue.
5. First Korean to perform at the Tokyo Dome
Rain became the first Korean to hold a concert at the famed and massive Tokyo Dome Theater when he performed for over 50,000 fans on May 25, 2007.
6. Most watched video on YouTube
In 2012, PSY‘s “Gangnam Style” music video became the most watched video on YouTube. It held onto this title for nearly five years before Wiz Khalifa‘s “See You Again” took its place. The success of “Gangnam Style” sparked a significant increase in K-Pop worldwide.
7. First YouTube video to reach 1 billion views
PSY’s “Gangnam Style” also achieved this incredible YouTube feat. “Gangnam Style’s” mainstream popularity proved that K-Pop (and humor!) can be enjoyed universally, despite language barriers.
8. First K-Pop act to perform on a US awards show
BTS made history on November 20, 2017 when they became the first K-Pop group to perform at the American Music Awards. The moment “DNA” began, BTS earned bragging rights as the first K-Pop group to perform on an American awards show.
9. First K-Pop band to win at the Billboard Music Awards
BTS wasn’t the first K-Pop act to be nominated for this award, but they were the first one to go from nominee to winner. On May 21 2017 BTS beat out Selena Gomez and repeat winner Justin Bieber to win “Top Social Artist”.
10. The historic “Two Koreas” performance
Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun moved many to tears when she joined North Korean singers on stage to sing about reunification. This meaningful performance happened on February 11, 2018 at the Haeoreum Theater in Seoul. Seohyun and North Korea’s singers sang the song “Our Wish” and were met with a standing ovation from the audience.
11. First openly gay K-Pop idol
On January 21, 2018, Holland debuted as Korea’s first openly gay K-Pop idol, offering new representation for thousands of LGBTQ+ K-Pop fans. His debut song “Neverland” puts his sexuality front and center by telling the story of a man who is searching for a place where he can be free to love. “Neverland’s” music video includes a rare same-sex kiss, which caused it to receive a 19+ rating.
12. First K-Pop group to go gold
BTS became the first K-Pop group to be certified gold by the RIAA when their “MIC Drop” remix moved more than 500,000 equivalent units between digital downloads and audio and video streaming.
13. First K-Pop group to top the Billboard 200 Chart
BTS brought yet another first to the K-Pop industry when their Love Yourself: Tear album debuted in the number one spot. “Fake Love” is the album’s title song.
14. First Female Foreign Artist To Go Double Platinum In Japan
TWICE‘s “Wake Me Up” became certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) on June 8, after selling over 500,000 copies. This is TWICE’s first time being certified double platinum, but they’re also the first female foreign artists to receive this certification for a single album in Japan.