Did the 4th Generation of KPOP idols really emerge? [PART 1: BTS’s Generation]

The theory appeared when the entertainment industry changed from the 2nd generation to the 3rd generation. Surprisingly, the situation seems to happen again as we are gradually moving from the 3rd generation to the 4th generation.


Some people claimed that the 4th generation has already emerged. However, some denied it, saying the time of Generation 4 has not come yet.

The Theory of Idol Generation has always been mainly about “What kinds of idols have appeared?”. In this series, we will discuss the changes in the environment surrounding the idol groups that are called “the 4th generation”.

The key idea is really simple. We can raise different opinions in terms of “personal opinions”. However, looking from the “industrial viewpoint” and “environmental change” perspectives, we have to admit that the 4th generation has come into view.

This discussion contains 2 main implications. Firstly, do not shout at the new rookies saying, “You are not the 4th generation!”. Secondly, being a fourth-generation idol does not mean they have to be a rookie who leads a hot, trendy, and new era. “A stronger mountain has emerged” is the attitude we should have in accepting the 4th generation of idol groups.

As a result, in the discussion about the 4th generation idols, BTS (the 3rd generation group) is the core of the topic even though they don’t belong to the 4th generation

By saying that the idol generation has obviously changed into a new one, what should we look into and discuss?


We can assume that BTS is leading the expansion of KPOP. Even if you are a fan of any new idol, you can not say the appearance of your idol in the entertainment industry is more destructive than the group that achieved the first-ever No.1 on Billboard Hot100.

The 3rd generation had benefited from the new Korean Wave created by the 2nd generation idols, such as Girls’ Generation, Kara, Big Bang, etc. In turn, the current generation, claiming to be the 4th generation, will benefit from the new KPOP world created by the current representatives, such as BTS and BLACKPINK.

Compared to when BoA opened the gate into the music market in Japan and the U.S, Wonder Girls entered the U.S market, the inroads into the foreign music markets have become much easier. If it hadn’t been for the spreading of the Corona Virus, many new rookies would probably spend more time abroad than in Korea at the moment.

Even in discussing the changes in the KPOP market’s structure and in business, most of the topics would be hard to explain without mentioning BTS.


HYBE (formerly Big Hit) has transformed from a small and medium-sized agency into a large company and an IT corporation, breaking the BIG3 companies system that had been established since the beginning of the 3rd generation. The growth of HYBE is due to BTS’s influence. Moreover, offline services (events, tours, etc.) and online services (ON:TACT concerts, Weverse – the community for fans and idols, etc.) couldn’t become as popular as they are today if we exclude the impact of BTS.

Following the popularity of BTS, major foreign media and columnists, such as Forbes, Time Magazine, and Billboard, have written more articles about KPOP idols (including the rookies). The inflation in the sales of KPOP albums has changed significantly since the beginning of the 3rd generation. Once again, thanks to the influence of BTS that KPOP could earn these achievements.

Thus, it is reasonable to say that the 4th generation of idols emerged not because the 4th generation groups have debuted alone; BTS opened the entry into the new generation. In short, BTS opened the door; then, the KPOP rookies entered that door.

However, by saying, “the 4th generation idols didn’t open the new era by themselves”, we do not underestimate the talents of the rookies. The 4th generation idols can either work hard to open another gate for the 5th generation later on because BTS and BLACKPINK also didn’t get to their place in just a few days. The future cannot be determined by the present situation alone.

It’s hard to claim that the emergence of the newbies symbolizes a new era. Many people can express their opinions by saying, “The newbies also have this special talent and that special talent”. However, it is true that at the moment, they are being overshadowed by BTS.

In this era, a five-syllable word can be understood as BTS, and a three-syllable word can also be defined as BTS.

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