Just as there are millennials and Gen Zs, K-pop also has its generations that categorize different acts by the year they were “born.” And it's already onto the fifth generation — or is it?
K-pop had just welcomed fourth-generation singers right before the outbreak of Covid-19. These groups — think big names such as NewJeans, Le Sserafim, aespa, IVE, Tomorrow X Together, Enhypen and more — were born during a new chapter in Korean pop music defined by online concerts, short-form videos and virtual tours amid the pandemic.
While there is no rock-solid demarcation for each generation, the consensus in the industry had assigned each decade starting from the 1990s to a generation. So generally speaking, the four generations of K-pop artists were divided into those that debuted in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s.
But earlier this year, cable channel Mnet's audition program “Boys Planet” labeled the resultant boy band ZeroBaseOne as a “5th Generation K-pop Boy Group.” Other boy bands, namely The Wind, began using the moniker too. Local news articles are slowly easing into the terminology, referring to newly-debuting bands as 5th generation.
Although the generic definition is not official, the sudden acceleration in the birth of a new generation begs the question: What is a K-pop generation, and why is it important?
What is a generation in K-pop?
K-pop generations are similar to generations in general. They are defined by years of birth and used to analyze and understand why people of certain ages act the way they do.