Iconic Korean Pop Girls Who Paved The Way To International Success

Before BlackPink rocked the stage at Coachella in 2019, and BTS made a hobby of topping the Billboard charts, the West as a whole remained largely unfamiliar with the culture of K-pop. The Hallyu Wave, a Chinese term for the increasing popularization of Korean pop culture, has been slowly growing since the 90s, but only recently has it completely flooded the shores of North America. Did this come out of nowhere? It may seem that way, but really, the tide has been growing slowly stronger and stronger way before our favourite groups today even debuted. 

After the astonishing success of Psy’s Gangnam Style overseas, Korean labels realized that the door to the American market was getting closer to being opened. Who could represent K-pop better than the nation’s most popular girl groups at the time? Let’s flashback to a decade ago and look at these talented women who were among the first to promote in such a foreign landscape.

Girls’ Generation (소녀시대)

Girls’ Generation is arguably the most iconic K-pop group of all time. Shattering records in Korea and worldwide, they cemented their place in the hearts of many (including me, love you girls forever) with their hit 2009 single “Gee,” dubbed now the Song of the Decade. Under SM Entertainment, they made their American debut in 2012 with an English version of their song “The Boys.” With Japan and Korea conquered, the Western world was next. They starred on The Late Show With David Letterman on January 31st of that year, and on Live! With Kelly the next morning. They were never able to reach the same success in America as they did back home, but who could blame them? Girls’ Generation was the first group ever to achieve 100 music show wins, and even having debuted 12 years ago, the girls to this day, remain widely famous. 

Wonder Girls (원더걸스)

While Girls’ Generation was skyrocketing to Korean stardom with “Gee,” Wonder Girls was touring in America with JYP, the owner and namesake of their production company. They had achieved great success with their retro-inspired single “Nobody” (I think I still remember the iconic dance) and re-recorded it in English for the Western audience. In 2010, they left JYP as his opening act and embarked on a 20 show tour in the United States and Canada. Wonder Girls’ songs, whether in English, Korean, or anything else, still remain in the cultural consciousness worldwide. I promise that you’ve seen one of your favourite new-gen groups cover one of these legendary tracks!

Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation were not the only groups popular around 2010 and were also not the only acts to try to reach an international audience, but they are a few of the most iconic names out there. These groups have either disbanded or slowed down on comebacks, but most members are following their dreams with solo endeavours. Check out your idols’ idols and support these wonderful women on their projects to come!