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[KPOP FAQ] How Long Is A KPOP Generation?

Those who are new to K-pop would often hear fans discuss K-pop generations and would be prompted to ask, what is a K-pop generation?

Unofficially, KPOP generation is a way to casually describe a generational period of time, in which different groups and artists are active or popular.

How long is a generation in KPOP?

Officially, there is no concrete or set duration on how long a KPOP generation is. There is always a contention on when a generation starts and when it ends, as there’s never a clear guidelines regarding it.

To give a clear idea, here are the unofficial timeline for each generation:

  • First Generation: 1990s to early 2000’s
  • Second Generation: early 2000’s to early 2010’s
  • Third Generation: early 2010’s to 2017
  • Fourth Generation: 2017 to present

While it’s clear that the 1st and 2nd generations are over, there’s still ongoing debates on whether the 4th generation has already started or whether we are still on the height of the 3rd generation.

There are also groups who are argued to be in between two generations, not belonging exclusively in just one generation.

Some fans contest that as long as there’s a KPOP group or artist at the height of its fame, a new generation won’t start yet.

For example, BTS is arguably the leader of the 3rd KPOP generation. And while they are still the top group, the 4th generation hasn’t started yet despite the rise of new groups rising in recent years.

girls' generation performing on stage
Girls’ Generation (SNSD) was arguably the leading girl group of the second generation. (image source)

How is generation calculated in K-pop?

It’s easy to determine a KPOP idol or group’s generation. A KPOP group’s generation is determined by their debut year.

For example, EXO’s and BTS’s debut dates were 2012 and 2013, respectively, which make them belong to the 3rd generation. ITZY’s debut year was 2019 which makes them part of the fourth generation.

1st Generation

H.O.T. group photo
(Image source)

Who are the leaders of the 1st Generation?

  • H.O.T.
  • S.H.E.
  • Sechs Kies
  • Fin.K.L 

Other notable groups in this generation:

  • Shinhwa
  • god
  • Click B
  • Jewelry

2nd Generation

TVXQ during Mirotic era
(Image source)

Who are the leaders of the 2nd Generation?

  • SS501
  • Bigbang
  • Super Junior
  • Girls’ Generation
  • KARA
  • Wonder Girls
  • 2NE1

Other notable groups in this generation:

  • SHINee
  • 2PM
  • f(x)
  • Miss A
  • Brown Eyed Girls
  • B1A4

3rd Generation

BTS group photo
(Image source)

Who are the leaders of the 3rd Generation?

  • BTS
  • EXO
  • GOT7

Other groups in this generation:

  • NCT
  • Wanna One
  • Ikon
  • Winner
  • I.O.I. 
  • Cosmic Girl
  • Oh My Girl
  • Lovelyz

4th Generation

NCT Dream group photo
(Image source)

Who are the leaders of the 4th Generation?

  • ITZY
  • Stray Kids

Other groups in this generation:

  • Golden Child
  • AB6IX
  • CIX
  • SF9
  • IVE
  • Cravity

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