K-Pop is not just a simple music genre from Korea. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. So huge that it practically has its own vocabulary. Ever heard of “aegyo” or “maknae”? No? Then read on to learn some K-Pop slang, discover some K-Pop bands and get to know some handy Korean words along the way.
A for Aegyo: Aegyo basically stands for cuteness in Korean. It includes anything that makes a person appear cute, adorable and childish – for instance, talking in a high-pitched voice, whining like a little kid or dancing to children’s songs. And if such an act of aegyo is coming from your favorite K-Pop star, then it’s a thousand times cuter. By the way, aegyo is not reserved to girls, boys do it too.
B for Bias: Your bias is the absolute favorite member in a K-Pop band. He or she outshines all the other members, you fell in love with him or her at first side and find every little thing he or she does extremely cute or attractive. There is also the bias-wrecker. That’s your second favorite member in the group. The bias-wrecker manages to distract you from your bias sometimes.
C for Comeback: Every time a K-Pop artist comes up with a new song, they start a so-called comeback. They promote their new music on various music shows with the aim to top the charts. With every comeback comes a new concept. The concept describes the theme of the new song, including the outfits and make-up look of the artists.
D for Dance Practice: You can’t get around the amazing dance choreographies when talking about K-Pop. Besides catchy tunes, K-Pop is also characterized by memorable dance routines which fans love to copy. To make it easier for their fans to study the choreographies, K-Pop groups post dance practice videos. Those videos are usually filmed in the dance studios of the group’s management agency. They show the whole group in a frontal, wide-angle shot – so that every move and formation change is clearly visible. Often times the groups film various versions of their dance practice. For instance, a version with close-ups on the member’s faces.
E for Ending Fairy: Earlier we mentioned the music shows where the K-Pop groups perform their new songs. After each performance the camera zooms onto the face of one member. That member becomes the ending fairy. If you’re lucky, that final shot goes to your bias and you can admire her of his face from close up for a couple of seconds.
F for Fan Chant: K-Pop fans love to show their support for their favorite group during their performances. But they don’t just randomly cheer and scream for their groups. They have a method to their cheering. Each song comes with an official fan chant. Sometimes the official fanbases create these fan chants and sometimes the artists themselves provide a fan chant guide. Such a chant usually starts with naming the group’s members in a specific order. Other elements of the chant include singing along to some of the lyrics, repeating specific words in the song or cheering loudly at a given point of the song.
G for Girls’ Generation: If there is an OG K-Pop girl band you have to know, then it’s Girls’ Generation. They debuted with 9 members in 2007 under one of the major Korean entertainment companies named SM Entertainment. Their most popular song to this day is called “Gee”. Today some of the members have started solo careers while others pursue a career in acting or have become business women. Other famous groups from SM Entertainment are Super Junior, Shinee, EXO, Red Velvet and SuperM.
H for Hallyu: Hallyu is a Korean term and translates to Korean Wave. The word describes the fact that K-Pop and other elements of the Korean culture (K-Beauty included) have slowly flooded other countries. The wave started in neighboring Asian countries like Japan and has meanwhile reached America and Europe. K-Pop has gained tremendous popularity all over the world. K-Pop artists like BTS and Blackpink have since made their debut in America and continue to top international charts with their music.
I for Idol: Members of K-Pop boy and girl bands are often called idols. Why? Because they are idolized by their fans, both in terms of looks and talents.
J for JYP: JYP is the short version of Jin-Young Park. He is the founder of JYP Entertainment, one of Korea’s largest entertainment agencies. But not only is he the creator of many big K-Pop artists, he is also a well-known singer and dancer himself. Besides producing music and new K-Pop singers, he is also seen as judge on casting shows these days and has just come back with a new song called “Fever”.
K for K-Pop: If you’ve made it this far, then K-Pop is surely not a foreign word for you. But just to cover the basics: K-Pop stands for a Korean music genre. The genre is probably best described as a mix of Pop, Electronic/Dance, Hip-Hop and RnB. The songs are usually in Korean with some English words here and there. However, K-Pop is not JUST the music. What makes K-Pop so unique is the whole package. It’s the multi-talented artists, their voices, their dance routines, their styles and everything that the fans love about them.
L for Leader: Within a K-Pop group, each member is given a role. One of these roles is the leader. Typically that’s the oldest member in the band. Rather than leading the group like a boss, he or she has a father or mother role in the group. They look after their members and provide guidance where needed.
M for Maknae: Here we have another role inside a K-Pop group. This one goes to the youngest member. Usually the maknae in a group is seen as the cutest, the one who is in charge of aegyo (go back to the first word in this list for the definition of aegyo). The term is not reserved to K-Pop groups, a maknae can also refer to the youngest among siblings.
N for Netizen: Netizen is the combination of citizen and internet. The term refers to people on the internet. Koreans love to be on social media and the internet to talk about K-Pop and other things. So whenever they are online they become netizens.
O for OST: OST is the short version for official soundtrack. The OST is a major part of a K-Drama (Korean TV drama series), because they just set the perfect mood for some scenes. An OST usually features famous Korean ballad singers and also K-Pop groups.
P for Point Dance: Talking about K-Pop dance routines, there usually is a so-called point dance. The point dance refers to the most iconic, unique, catchy move in the dance routine of a song. When K-Pop groups are featured in interviews of music shows, they are often asked to tease their choreographies with the point dance.
Q for Queen Of K-Pop: Throughout K-Pop history there have been several female artists who at some point where given the title of “Queen of K-Pop”. One of them is BoA. She debuted as solo artist in 2000 at the very young age of 14. With almost 20 years in the business and outstanding vocal and dance skills, she is still referred to as “Queen of K-Pop” by many today.
R for Rookie: Rookies are young K-Pop stars who have freshly debuted. They stay rookies for about 1-2 years. What’s characteristic for rookies is their high enthusiasm. Being at the beginning of their careers, they are very energetic and eager to perform and impress. Rookies are always expected to act highly respective in front of their sunbaes (= seniors, artists who have debuted before them).
S for Selca: Selca is the Korean term for selfie. It’s short for self-camera. K-Pop stars of course love to make selcas and post them on their social media channels. Sometimes they make selcas with polaroid cameras, sign them and hand them out to fans who come to see them at music shows.
T for Trainee: Someone who is currently training to become a K-Pop star is called trainee. To become the next K-Pop sensation you first need to join an entertainment company or record label. Once you’re in, you usually have to undergo years of training. That training includes singing lessons, dance classes, acting classes and more. You are basically in a bootcamp and are trained to become a multi-talented artist.
U for Unit: Sometimes a K-Pop group is split into smaller groups, the so-called units or sub-units. That’s often the case when the groups are fairly large with 10+ members. The members of a unit collaborate to come up with songs of their own. Fans get the chance to enjoy a new facet of the group, as the songs often have a different style.
V for Visual: The visual is another role given to one member within a K-Pop group. As the name suggests, the visual is the main face of the group. You could say it’s the best looking member of the band (although it’s pretty hard to pick one if all of them tend to look VERY good). The visual is often placed in the center of the group in photos and also in dance formations.
W for Wonder Girls: The Wonder Girls are another OG K-Pop girl band that you should know as a real K-Pop fan. They debuted under JYP Entertainment (see above). Their most popular song is called “Nobody”. And it’s one of the first K-Pop songs that went viral worldwide. Today the group is no longer active but some of the members, like Sunmi and Yubin, have started solo careers. Sunmi is currently a hot solo artist and is known for songs like “Gasina”.
X for X1: Currently, there is a popular casting show in Korea called “Produce X 101”. In this show, 101 trainees (see above) are competing for a spot in a K-Pop boy group. The group which was formed in the latest season of the show has 11 male members and is called X1.
Y for YG Entertainment: So far we have mentioned two big Korean entertainment companies: JYP Entertainment and SM Entertainment. YG Entertainment is the third big name to know in the K-Pop industry. Famous groups which have been created under this label are Big Bang and Blackpink.
Z for Zico: Zico is a multi-facetted K-Pop artist. He is the leader of the K-Pop boy band Block B. At the same time he is also a rapper, songwriter and music producer. Many see him as a crossover of the mainstream K-Pop, underground K-Indie (Korean Indie music) and K-Hip-Hop (Korean Hip-Hop music) scene. So if you want to check out different styles of Korean music, listen to some of his pieces.