2nd Generation's Guide to Making Kpop History

The 2nd generation is undoubtedly the most talked about and missed era in Korean wave (Hallyu) history. A generation we’ve seen gave birth to “noise music”, introduced photocards, light sticks. Whose groups took risks, expanding their creative palette, that helped lay the groundwork for future generations to come. Let’s take a look at some of these groups, and how they helped change the game.

Girls’ Generation

Girls’ Generation (also known as SNSD) dropped their second studio album titled “Oh!” under SM Entertainment. Of course like any KPop album, it came with a photobook of the members in both solo and group shots that fans would cherish for years to come. What sets this album apart from those that came before it? The album came with a photocard!  

Photocards (pcs for short) are individual selfies of each member of the group. Today, photocards are almost always guaranteed when purchasing a KPop album. They are distributed at random, so fans often purchase multiples in hopes that they will get their favorite member (bias), or to collect all of them. Girls’ Generation was the first group in Korea to have photocards in their albums.

Pcs are the extra gifts that fans appreciate. It’s a moment in time that fans will look back on fondly whenever they revisit that album and its photocard. The era it was in, the music that dropped during that time. A time capsule worthy piece of merchandise that I don’t see going away anytime soon. Dubbed “The Nation’s GG”, Girls’ Generation has set trends and maintained fanfare for 15 years. Check out their recent album Forever 1, their first album as a group in 5 years!

Big Bang

Big Bang made their official debut on August 19, 2006 with the release of their lead single “La La La” under YG Entertainment. During this time, KPop was expanding. Although fandoms were not new, it certainly amplified with the rise of the 2nd generation. G-Dragon, leader of Big Bang decided he wanted something that would permanently identify and unify V.I.P (official fandom name) in the crowd. 

Whether they were performing at a show of their own, or sharing the stage with other groups and idols, G-Dragon wanted Big Bang and V.I.P to have something just for them. Thus, the Bangbong was born. It has been credited as the official first light stick in KPop. 

Fans now felt closer and more involved in the live experience than ever before. Today, light sticks are the most sought after KPop merchandise (photocards to follow) to exist. They are designed specifically with the group/artist and fans in mind, and an easy identifier in a sea of KPop fans. It changed the game, becoming a significant staple for KPop fans around the world.

After School

After School debuted as Pledis Entertainment’s first girl group on January 17, 2009.The then quintet brought a feisty, sexy, hip-hop feel to the table, setting them apart from groups that came before them like Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, and Kara. With this refreshing take on what we’ve known to be the standard bubbly KPop group, After School left audiences wanting more. 

While their music was great and took on concepts the industry had never seen before, After School would go down in history for much more. They were the first group to implement the “graduating” system. Pledis Entertainment decided that once the member’s contract was up, they were free to leave the group to pursue other endeavors. Because of this, the group went through several lineup changes. Some stayed longer than others, but each brought their own style that added to the vibe Playgirlz (official fandom name) loved and supported.

NCT Dream, one of four subunits for idol group NCT, briefly used the graduating system. The members under NCT Dream were teenagers, and members were to rotate out after turning 20 years old. As of today, the system is no longer being used for the group. One of the most recent graduations to occur in KPop was with BLACKSWAN. BLACKSWAN is a multinational girl group under DR Music. In July 2022, two of its members officially left the group, while two new members joined. 


f(x) debuted on September 5, 2009 under SM Entertainment. Like other idol groups, they had great vocalists and a lineup of artists who kept fans captivated. Their sound? Dubbed “experimental”. The group’s ability to bounce from one concept to the next without losing their signature style was inspiring. 

Specializing in syntho-pop, EDM, and electropop, the group defined an era that many fans, including myself look back on fondly. An era that shifted the industry. Groups would soon take on this sound, contributing to what many netizens consider the best genre. Future generations, groups notably from SM Entertainment have taken on this style of music. NCT and Aespa are known for having bass dropping choruses, intricate dance breaks, and beat switch-ups in their songs. 

While netizens might go back and forth on how to describe the group’s sound, their influence won’t go unrecognized. With tracks like “NU ABO”, “Electric Shock”, and 4 Walls, f(x) created a new lane for all idol groups. It’s a sound the industry hasn’t turned its back on. If anything, we're seeing it rise all over again.

Super Junior

Super Junior made their debut on November 6, 2005 under SM Entertainment. With a catalog of hits under their belt like “Sorry, Sorry”, and “Mr. Simple”, Super Junior has solidified their place in the KPop industry. Just 1 year after their debut as a group, Super Junior would give birth to a concept that would soon become an industry go-to.

Super Junior K.R.Y was a sub unit consisting of members Yesung, Ryeowook, and Kyuhyun. This was the first of its kind, and SM Entertainment was ahead of the curve. Creating a group within a group was a power move, and only added to Super Junior’s legacy. Through the years, Super Junior would go on to create multiple sub units, allowing E.L.F (official fandom name) to see the different sides of the members. 

I can talk forever about all the subunits that have come and gone. Their impact, and debate on whether they were bigger than their actual group. Despite having a distinct sound with their groups, idols have proven to be multifaceted, looking for avenues to showcase those talents. With subunits, members were able to take on new roles, and experiment with their sound.

A lot of the things we love about KPop had to start from somewhere. The 2nd generation gave fans a new perspective, and artists different ways to reinvent and express themselves. The era is missed due to its impact, and how KPop officially arrived on a greater scale. Internationally, fans were beginning to tap in and pay attention. It became more than a genre. It was growing into a movement. A movement that is still just getting started.

What do you miss about the 2nd Generation? Did you learn something new? Let us know @KpopWise!


Carmira's interest in the Korean music industry started over 13 years ago after being introduced to SHINee, Girls’ Generation, and 2NE1. Through writing, Carmira hopes to connect with a community of avid listeners who enjoy exploring new music, and learning more about the Korean music industry.

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