[ key-pop ]
/ ˈkeɪˌpɒp /
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pop music from Korea (often used attributively): a K-pop girl group;K-pop is really great to dance to.


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Origin of K-pop

First recorded in 1990–95; K(orean) + pop2

Words nearby K-pop

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does K-pop mean?

K-pop is a genre of pop music originating from South Korea. The genre combines such Western pop music elements as hip-hop and rock with Korean traditions, and frequently involves dance routines and singing in Korean lyrics intermixed with some English.

K-pop is especially performed by idolized boy bands and girl groups.

What are some other words related to K-pop?

Gangnam Style

Where does K-pop come from?

K-pop stands for Korean pop, pop being short for pop music. The name for the genre is first recorded in English around 1990–95.

Strongly influenced by Western popular music, K-pop took off in 1992 with Seo Taiji and Boys, who incorporated rap, rock, and dance elements into Korean popular music.

In 1995, the entertainment company SM Entertainment was founded. It went on to launch some of the most successful K-pop early groups, including the girl group S.E.S. and boy band H.O.T. H.O.T. who helped cement the traits of the K-pop genre: attractive, intensively trained teen idols who sing in a mix of Korean and English lyrics and dance in highly choreographed videos.

In the 2000s, K-pop spread throughout Asia to such countries as China, Japan, and India in a movement called the Korean Wave—like the British Invasion, just for Korean popular music. In the 2010s, K-pop became a truly global phenomenon. The Korean rapper Psy went massively viral with his 2012 song and video, “Gangnam Style,” one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time. In fact, “Gangnam Style” was the first YouTube video to reach one billion views.

Then a little band called BTS, with its seven, record-breaking heartthrobs, released their first single in 2013. In May 2018, they became the first K-pop group to reach #1 on the Billboard Artist 100 charts thanks to their album Love Yourself: Tear—quite an accomplishment for an album that is primarily in Korean. Their fan base, the ARMY, is many millions strong and very active on social media.

While incredibly popular, K-pop has faced criticism over concerns about cultural appropriation, high-pressure working conditions for artists, and the sexualization of minors.

How is K-pop used in real life?

K-pop is often used attributively (e.g., a K-pop group). The genre and its performers continue to prove popular all over the world.

K-pop‘s rise in popularity has led to a lot more bands, many of whom acquire huge fan bases (often referred to as stans) and cultivate major social media presences.

K-pop can also refer to the larger idol culture around the musical genre, including its often intense fandom and celebrity gossip.

More examples of K-pop:

“BTS are arguably the world’s most successful K-pop group, having accumulated millions of followers across social media since forming in 2012.”

—Tom Parfitt, Independent, April 2019

“With the world now truly entering what is largely being called the “Fourth Wave of K-pop”, we are looking at an industry standing on the precipice of much-needed change: in terms of how it treats its stars, how they connect with fans, and how its existence is gradually becoming a normal part of global music culture.”

—Billboard, July 2018

How to use K-pop in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for K-pop


the characteristic pop music of South Korea
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012