Age is just a number; unless we’re talking about some of K-pop’s longest-running music groups. These K-pop groups hold a legendary status in their industry, mainly due to their staying power and ability to adapt.
By now, most people are familiar with the typical life cycle within the music industry. Artists make their debut, achieve an expected level of fame, and eventually disband. Nevertheless, there exist a select few veteran K-pop groups that have survived these challenges, continuing to thrive and captivate audiences in the year 2023.
We salute these music legends, and here’s a countdown of our favorites:
9. SHINee (formed in 2008)
The group debuted in 2008 with five members – Key, Minho, Taemin, Onew and the late Jonghyun – and immediately set the charts on fire with hits like Ring Ding Dong and Lucifer. Along with their musical skills and slick choreography, the group were renowned for their edgy outfits, which were unique for their time. SHINee were also popular in Japan, and released several Japanese albums.
Following the Jonghyun’s tragic death in 2017, the remaining members made the decision to carry on as a quartet, continuing to tour and release music. This year, SHINee marked its 15th anniversary, and released its eighth studio album Hard.
8. GIRLS’ GENERATION (formed in 2007)
The ultimate OG girl group, Girls’ Generation originally comprised nine members – Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Jessica, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun. They became international stars following their 2009 single Gee, which they followed with other hit songs like Run Devil Run, Oh!, Genie and Mr. Taxi. Following the departure of Jessica in 2014, they continued on as an eight-member group.
In 2017, the group went on an extended hiatus, with its various members pursuing careers as solo singers or venturing into acting. They reunited in 2022 for a successful comeback tour, releasing their 10th studio album Forever 1.
7. FT ISLAND (formed in 2007)
Originally formed as a five-man rock band, the group has undergone numerous evolutions over the years, producing music ranging from soft rock to indie to pop. Some of their most popular songs include After Love, Bad Woman, I Hope, Hello Hello and Love Sick. Fans fell in love with their high-energy performances and solid vocals.
Currently comprising members Lee Hong-Gi, Lee Jae-Jin and Choi Min-Hwan, FT ISLAND is continuing to tour and perform to this day, and shows no signs of stopping.
6. BROWN EYED GIRLS (formed in 2006)
Brown Eyed Girls also originally debuted as a non-pop music group, first starting out as an R&B quartet. Its members JeA, Miryo, Ga-In and Narsha eventually reached worldwide acclaim with songs like L.O.V.E. and Abracadabra. Their path as a group was particularly challenging; the group changed music companies twice and went through several hiatuses, with their last record RE_Vive released in 2019.
Today the group’s members promote their music individually but have not discussed disbanding, leaving loyal fans hopeful that they will eventually come together to release another record.
5. SUPER JUNIOR (formed in 2005)
One of the most iconic K-pop boybands around, SUPER JUNIOR debuted with a lineup of 13 members – Leeteuk, Heechul, Yesung, Shindong, Sungmin, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook, Kyuhyun, Han Geng, Kibum and Kangin. They made their name with songs including the mega-hit Sorry Sorry, Mr. Simple and Super Girl, as well as their tightly-choreographed dance moves. The group’s size allowed its members to split off into various smaller sub-units, releasing songs in various languages.
The line-up has slimmed down over the years, following the departure of Han Geng, Kibum and Kangin, and with Sungmin considered an inactive member since 2015. Today, SUPER JUNIOR is going strong as a nine-member group, with their 11th studio album released earlier this year, and a documentary on Disney+ detailing their career.
4. TVXQ (formed in 2003)
This legendary group started with five members – U-Know, Max, Hero, Micky and Xiah. They were arguably the first K-pop boy group to achieve success over the wider East Asian region, with active fandoms in South Korea, China and Japan. The group released albums in both Korean and Japanese, spawning a range of hits, including its most recognizable song Mirotic.
Following a highly publicized legal battle, Hero Micky and Xiah left the group in 2009, leaving TVXQ to operate as a duo. U-Know and Max continued to perform and tour, releasing more hit songs including 2011’s Humanoids. In recent years they have also released solo albums and have launched acting careers, although they still perform as TVXQ. Their last album was the 2022 Japanese EP Epitaph.
3. G.O.D. (formed in 1999)
One of the few first-generation K-pop groups still in existence, G.O.D.’s rollercoaster career is the stuff of legends. The group’s five members – Park Joon-Hyung, Yoon Kye-Sang, Danny Ahn, Son Ho-Young and Kim Tae-Woo – were arguably the nation’s most popular boybands at the turn of the century, with hits like To Mother, Road and One Candle. When leader Park Joon-Hyung was dismissed from the group following a dating scandal, fan pressure prompted their label to reinstate him.
Yoon Kye-Sang announced his departure from the group in 2006, and the other members went on extended hiatus to pursue individual music and acting careers. However, they never disbanded, and in 2014, all five members reunited and continued performing as a group, with their last major concert held in Busan in December 2022.
2. SHINHWA (formed in 1998)
Their group name means “legend” in Korean, and during the course of their 25-year career, SHINHWA certainly lived up to it, paving the way for all future generations of boybands. The group has undergone various changes in concept, outfit and music styles, but still retained the same six members – Eric Mun, Lee Min-Woo, Kim Dong-Wan, Shin Hye-Sung, Jun Jin and Andy Lee. To date they have released 16 studio albums and seven live albums. They were also the first K-pop group to start their own record label.
In 2022, the group formed its first sub-unit, SHINHWA WJD, comprising Lee Min-Woo, Kim Dong-Wan and Jun Jin, while the main group appears to be on a temporary hiatus.
1. SECHS KIES (formed in 1997)
While it is undisputedly the oldest group on our list, SECHS KIES is somewhat of an anomaly. Starting with six members – Eun Ji-Won, Lee Jai-Jin, Kim Jae-Duck, Jang Su-Won, Kang Sung-Hoon and Ko Ji-Yong – SECHS KIES had a rapid rise to the top, with hits like Couple and Letting You Go. The in 2000, at the height of its success, the group suddenly disbanded. It was a controversial decision that remains the subject of speculation to this day.
In 2016, the K-pop group reformed with five members (Ko Ji-Yong had left the entertainment industry), signing a contract with YG Entertainment. The group released a total of three albums under the new iteration, before Kang Sung-Hoon left the group in 2018. Today, SECHS KIES continues to tour and perform as a quartet, with its 2021 digital single Don’t Look Back reaching number 1 on music charts.