A decade is a long time. Within a decade, children grow to be adults. Koreans say, “Even rivers and mountains change in 10 years.” With the fast-paced advancements in society, it is no longer easy to picture yourself in 10 years. This is especially evident in the entertainment industry, for the entertainment media are consumed ever so quickly. Many artists and creators come and go with a minute of fame or even without ever getting the spotlight. However, 2016 marked the 10th year for a team of men who have endured the ages with their music. They are called BIGBANG.
Idol groups in Korea date back to 1996. The “ancestor” of idols is the group H.O.T., creators of the idol-fandom culture. They were so popular at the time that the subway extended their operating hours and the Ministry of Education had to ban sick leaves on days that H.O.T. held concerts. With good looks and catchy tunes, they were the perfect example of a Korean idol group carefully trained and strategically produced by an entertainment company. Groups that people commonly classify as “first generation idols” include H.O.T.’s rival group Sechs Kies, the oldest remaining idol group Shinhwa, national idol g.o.d and the two girl groups S.E.S. and FIN.K.L.. These first generation idols paved the way for later groups to rise to fame and ride the K-wave to Asia and other parts of the world.
The second generation idols are perhaps the more familiar ones to those who are in their early 20s now. They include groups like Dong Bang Shin Ki, Super Junior, SS501, BIGBANG, FT Island, Wonder Girls, and Girls’ Generation. Trendier and more diverse in genre than before, they successfully took on the idol music scene left behind by the first generation idols and traveled through the ages with the teens. With catchy tunes and flamboyant dances, their influence not only reached the consumers in terms of music, but seeped into various areas of teen culture such as fashion. Not only were they influential within Korea, but they also played a breakthrough role as the propagators of K-pop to other countries, especially to those in Asia. Their successes within and outside Korea resulted in the outpouring of more idol groups later on.
Despite the roaring success of the first and second generation idols, only a few groups have survived the ages. The only first generation idol group that has managed to do so unscathed (without a member change) is Shinhwa. This year marked their 18th year together and they still have a strong fandom that supports them. The fact that they are the only other group before BIGBANG that managed to withstand more than a decade without any changes in their members is what makes BIGBANG’s 10th year anniversary significant. It is evident that many circumstances – such as discord within the group or conflicting interests – put a stop to most idol groups’ attempt for a long run.