K-pop, short for Korean popular music, is a genre of music originating in South Korea as part of South Korean culture. It is influenced by styles and genres from around the world, such as pop, experimental, rock, jazz, gospel, hip hop, R&B, reggae, electronic dance, folk, country, and classical on top of its traditional Korean music roots. The more modern form of the genre emerged with the formation of one of the earliest K-pop groups, the boy band Seo Taiji and Boys, in 1992. Their experimentation with different styles and genres of music and integration of foreign musical elements helped reshape and modernize South Korea's contemporary music scene.
K-pop's increasing popularity forms part of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave: the popularity of South Korean culture in other countries. K-pop is increasingly making appearances on Western charts such as Billboard. The development of online social media has been a vital tool for the Korean music industry in reaching a wider audience. As part of the Korean Wave, K-pop has been embraced by the South Korean government as a tool for projecting South Korea's soft power abroad, particularly towards overseas youth. In August 2014, the prominent British news magazine The Economist dubbed Korean pop culture "Asia’s foremost trendsetter."
As K-pop became a modern hybrid of Western and Asian cultures starting from the late 2000s, fashion trends within K-pop reflected diversity and distinction as well. Fashion trends from the late 2000s to early 2010s can largely be categorized under the following:
- Street: focuses on individuality; features bright colors, mix-and-match styling, graphic prints, and sports brands such as Adidas and Reebok.
- Retro: aims to bring back "nostalgia" from the 1960s to 1980s; features dot prints and detailed patterns. Common clothing items include denim jackets, boot-cut pants, wide pants, hair bands, scarves, and sunglasses.
- Sexy: highlights femininity and masculinity; features revealing outfits made of satin, lace, fur, and leather. Common clothing items include mini skirts, corsets, net stockings, high heels, sleeveless vests, and see-through shirts.
- Black & White: emphasizes modern and chic, symbolizes elegance and charisma, mostly applied to formal wear.
- Futurism: commonly wore with electronic and hip-hop genres; features popping color items, metallic details and prints; promotes a futuristic outlook.
K-pop has a significant influence on fashion in Asia, where trends started by idols are followed by young audiences.
According to professor Ingyu Oh, "K-pop emphasizes thin, tall, and feminine looks with adolescent or sometimes very cute facial expressions, regardless of whether they're male or female singers."
K-pop artists are frequently referred to as idols or idol groups. Groups usually have a leader, who is often the eldest or most experienced member and speaks for the group. The youngest group member is called the maknae (Korean: 막내; RR: mangnae). The popular use of this term in Japan was influenced by boy group SS501 when they expanded their activities in the country in 2007. Its Japanese translation man'ne (マンネ) was often used to name the group's youngest member Kim Hyung-jun in order to differentiate him from their leader with a similar name and spelling, Kim Hyun-joong.