“Korean Media Questions Standards For KPOP Generation”

Recently debuted idol groups are now being referred to as “5th generation.”It has only been two years since the debut of NewJeans, classified as part of the fourth generation. This has led to some criticism of the current standards for categorizing KPOP generations.

The KPOP idol industry saw its first generation emerge in the early 2000s, led by groups such as H.O.T., Sechs Kies, Shinhwa, SES, Fin.K.L, and GOD. These early idols paved the way for the establishment of a system centered on large agencies. Approximately a decade later, the second generation of idols emerged in the mid-2000s. Popular second generation groups include Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, Big Bang, TVXQ, Kara, and SHINee.


Red Velvet, who made their debut in 2014, is considered the leader of the third generation. They debuted seven years after Girls’ Generation, who debuted in August 2007. Idols who have debuted after 2020 are considered part of the fourth generation, such as aespa, LE SSERAFIM, IVE, STAYC, and NewJeans. The third and fourth generations are approximately six years apart.

Recently, there has been a blurring of the lines between the fourth and fifth generation of idols in the KPOP industry. Despite debuting in May 2022, LE SSERAFIM is considered a fourth generation idol, while ILLIT, who debuted just two years later, is classified as fifth generation. This has caused confusion and led to the emergence of a new term, “4.5 generation,”to differentiate between these two groups. Even KISSOFLIFE, who debuted in July 2023, has been referred to as both fourth and fifth generation. It is clear that the criteria for KPOP generations have become muddled with the addition of new idols.

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There are differing views on this matter. Some argue that the line between the 4th and 5th generations has been organically defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many idols from the 4th generation have faced its effects while those from the 5th generation have not. Others suggest that there has been a recent increase in the speed at which idols emerge.

On the other hand, there are also significant voices of criticism. This supports the argument that the distinction between 4th and 5th generation idols is not substantial, and that the so-called 5th generation was brought about by entertainment companies for marketing purposes rather than being a genuine 5th generation.


Several artists have also shared their dissatisfaction with the situation. Hyoyeon from Girls’ Generation expressed her thoughts, stating that she felt the division within the 4th generation was unnecessary. She further added that this division was not present during the 2nd generation, which she compared to a device.

Many argue that it is important for each K-pop group to develop their own unique style and stand out from the artificially created generational divide.

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