5+ Korean Music Vocab Every K-pop Fan Should Know

Earphones on, and raise your lightsticks up. Today, we will talk about a topic that is close to the heart of every K-pop fan – Korean music 한국 음악 hangug eumak.

From Korean dramas on Netflix to Korean skincare regimens dominating the cosmetics business to tasty Korean tacos on your favorite local menu, South Korean pop culture has grown into success to become a key driver of global culture. They call it Hallyu (한류) or the Korean wave. But, the heart of Hallyu (한류) falls to the phenomenal K-pop or Korean pop music.

Although K-pop is only half of the Korean music culture, we cannot deny the K-pop idols are getting recognized by the world stage right now. With the Billboard Hot 100 worthy songs, and record-breaking music videos, indeed Korean pop music is a global success.

In this blog, we will learn some vocabulary related to Korean music. If you’re into K-pop, you definitely know many words that you’ll see here. Shall we start?


History Of Music In Korean Culture

음악 (Eumak) – Music

Korean Music

The first Korean music vocabulary that you should learn is, of course, the word “Music.” In Korea, they use the word 음악 (Eumak), which isn’t that hard to remember. So, take note of these because there’s a lot more to follow.

Traditional Korean Music

Before the contemporary music that is dominating not only SouthKorea but also the rest of the world today, Koreans have Korean traditional music, which shows their Korean culture a lot. Koreans are known for their lyrical sensitivity, which allows them to convey their feelings through music. If you have watched any traditional Korean dramas, Traditional Korean music is separated into two categories: royal family music and commoner music, with each having a distinct style.

Music Listened By The Royal Family

The royal ancestral ritual music, Jongmyo Jeryeak, was solemn and beautiful. It was the representative royal court music played throughout Joseon kings’ ancestor rites.

Music Listened By The Commoners

On the other hand, commoners who wanted to help the working class frequently performed folk songs or folk music and pansori, a type of traditional Korean music that tells a story. Pansori was named a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO because of its distinct tone, rhythm, and singing method.

Korean Pop Music (K-pop)

You might be wondering how South Korea gave birth to the massive K-pop culture they have now. Where it all started can be traced down to Seo Taiji & Boys’ television debut in 1992.

When you look back on South Korea’s history, their music is nothing like compared to what it is right now. You can’t hear music that talks about sensitive topics that don’t get along with the conservative culture of Koreans. Then how should their music sound like?

This might shock you because former South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee imposed control of pop culture, which lasted for a long time. Because of this, you’ll only hear music that is commissioned and promoted by the government. Everything that will be broadcast and played on radios is under the government’s control. The kind of music that the government will approve of should be a “healthy song” or meaning it is patriotic, like “아! 대한민국 (Ah! Republic of Korea)” by Kim Soo Hee or a “safe” song like “You Who’s Too Far Way to Get Closer” by Lee Gwang Jo.

Can you imagine if this has been the case until now? Probably, there are no BTS, Blackpink, Twice, or any other K-pop girl group or boy group if it is still in that situation today. That’s why thanks to Seo Taiji & Boys for making a television debut which became a defining moment and changed the whole K-pop culture in South Korea. The jaw-dropping outfits, incredible rap songs, and smooth-like-butter dance move that we see in the K-pop idols and K-pop stars right now were first seen on Seo Taiji & Boys. They literally transformed everything.

Back in the old times, dancing, especially for boys, it is not as well-accepted as it is now. But Seo Taiji & Boys changed the game, and everything they wore became a trend just like now. They could create their own songs based on what they felt, but one track has been banned because it disrespects the elders. You know how they value respect, right?

But “cancel culture” in Korea is still not a big thing as it is now, and this doesn’t stop Seo Taiji & Boys from being on the top until they announce their retirement, which leaves their fans in grief. It is like when 2NE1 announces that they will be disbanded. You know how painful is that.

K-pop Music Saving The Economy Of Korea

You’re not an avid fan of K-pop music if you don’t know SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment. But did you know how big their part is in bringing the K-pop culture to the rest of the world?

If there is another thing, South Koreans should be thankful for this massive Korean wave, the increase of Korea’s GDP that made them the 11th richest country in the world by 1996. This is where the name “Lee Soo Man” should be talked about. For him, Korean music can be a new export. If you know the Korean boy group H.O.T (High-Five Of Teenagers) until this modern-day, then you know how Lee Soo Man’s idea turned out.

This idea from Lee Soo Man became beneficial to the government when a crisis happened. As a result, the Korean government boosts the culture by making a law about it, and they actually allocate at least 1% of their national budget. This is where the companies SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment started making history un producing Korean artists that have been experiencing global success today.


Korean Music Vocab

1. 케이팝 (Keipap) – K-Pop

 케이팝 (Keipap) - K-Pop

Indeed K-pop or Korean pop is definitely the most popular genre in South Korea nowadays. So, that’s our first word to learn related to Korean music. But, it is not just South Korea, it grew global audiences from different parts of the world, and it even reached the US. The birth of K-pop, which you can read above, is truly a historic event in South Korea.

But, little did we know that they call it “idol groups” in Korea because companies have a very specific process in producing a pop star. They call this a “formula,” just like how H.O.T. succeeded. Check it out below:

STEP 1: Scouting And Auditioning

Remember the three major entertainment industries in South Korea mentioned above? They do the scouting and auditions.

The most common is auditions 오디션 (odisyeon). People who aspire to be K-pop idols go to audition or audition shows. Big companies hold global auditions. They travel to other countries like Canada, the US, the UK, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, etc. This is the answer to why there are K-pop idols that’s not of Korean descent.

One perfect example is Lisa of BLACKPINK (블랙핑크). Lisa auditioned for a trainee position at YG Entertainment in Thailand in 2010. She is the only one who passed. Back then, she did not know how to speak the Korean language but look at where she is now. She is the rapper of their group. Have you watched her solo “Lalisa”? You wouldn’t believe at first that she’s not Korean because of how fluent she is in the Korean language. But, she added a touch of her Thai heritage bringing honor to her homeland.

There are also other audition styles like weekly and monthly auditions and online auditions. In weekly/monthly auditions, these are the auditions held in strictly one area. Online auditions are the type of auditions where aspiring K-pop idols will send a video to the companies while showcasing their talents.

Next is scouting 정찰 활동 (jeongchal hwaldong). Nobody can tell when it will happen. It is one of the hardest things to do, but it is not impossible. Let’s take a look at BTS’s Jungkook’s story of being scouted.

Did you know that not just one or two agencies scout Jungkook? It is a whopping seven agencies ya’ll. Plus the fact that these agencies are not just ordinary agencies. We are talking about agencies like JYP Entertainment and Cube Entertainment. But, Jungkook chose Big Hit Entertainment, which is smaller than the first two because he is a fan of RM for a very cute reason!

STEP 2: Training

Have you seen music videos and live performances by different female and male idol groups? Can you notice how they are incredibly perfect? It is because of the training they have. They are trained how to sing, dance, act. Even other aspects of their lives such as eating, working, out and more. It is all part of their training.

STEP 3: Assembly

Do you think that these idol groups are just formed in a snap? Well, you’re wrong because it takes years of training to make them polished and well-rounded before they can actually be an official group. Well, look how big they are now? Performing their own music in different stages in the world during their world tour, being nominated in music awards, and most of all being admired by fans. You can say that the formula really works.

Although there are some controversies and issues in contracts between idols and companies, K-pop is really far from the very strict agreements it used to have.

2. 케이팝 아이돌 (Keipab Aidol)

케이팝 아이돌 (Keipab Aidol)

Now that you have learned a little bit of what it takes to be a K-pop idol let us talk about other terms associated with this word.

솔로 아티스트 (Sollo Atiseuteu) – Solo Artist

First is the solo artist 솔로 아티스트 (Sollo Atiseuteu). Most of the solo artists nowadays used to be part of groups. But, there are also those who really made their own way to become one of the top solo artists in Korean music. One perfect example of a successful Korean solo artist is IU.

Lee Ji-eun (이지은), also known as IU, is an incredibly talented singer who is trending on the internet nowadays. Aside from being an actress, singing is where she also shines. Some of her famous songs are “Good Day” “Palette” ft. G-Dragon, “Eight” ft. Suga. Now, she continues to make her own music; you can listen to her songs entitled “LILAC,” “My sea,” and “Celebrity.”

Kim Ryeo Wook (김려욱) is also known as Ryeowook. He’s a part of the K-pop boy group “Super Junior.” He is one of the first Korean artists to appear on Chinese postage stamps, among four other members of Super Junior. His solo career began in 2016 with the release of his first EP, The Little Prince.

Here are some of the incredible solo artists who perform music on their own:

  1. Sunmi
  2. Chungha
  3. Zico
  4. BoA
  5. DEAN
  6. Kang Daniel
  7. Eric Name

아이돌 그룹 (Aidol Geulub)- Idol Group / Idol Groups

If you’re an OG K-pop fan, you know how it feels to be a fangirl or fanboy of these Korean Idol Groups that are conquering the world stage in this modern times. You can’t imagine how big they are right because they have fans in almost every part of the world. So, after talking about solo artists, let us move on to the groups.

Below is a list of Korean girl and boy groups. These groups need not much discussion because if you’re a fan, you probably know everything about them right now.

K-pop Boy Groups

BTS Or Bangtan Sonyeon Dan (방탄소년단)

BTS is a South Korean boy band made up of seven members that are signed to Big Hit Entertainment. This seven-piece boy band has made history and is undoubtedly the biggest name in K-pop. These seven members have their roles in the group. Suga, RM, and J-hope are rappers, whereas Jimin, V, Jin, and Jungkook are vocalists. BTS also became the first Non-English group that debuted on US TV, and they were even part of the “Friends Reunion.”

Super Junior (슈퍼주니어)

Super Junior, also known as SJ, rose to popularity in 2009. If you’re an OG K-pop fan, they must be one of the boy groups you follow. They released their best-selling single Sorry, Sorry, which was taken from their most popular album of the same name. They’ve been dubbed the ‘King of Hallyu Wave’ due to their popularity. Currently, Super Junior (슈퍼주니어) consists of 10 members: Leeteuk, Sungmin, Heechul, Yesung, Donghae, Eunhyuk, Shindong, Siwon, Kyuhyun, and Ryeowook.

Shinee (샤이니)

Shinee is a South Korean boy band from SM Entertainment that has been releasing songs since 2008. They are not just known for making catchy and jaw-dropping music that caters to both Korea and Japan, but they are also known for their breathtaking fashion. They are known to be the “Princes of K-pop.” This group has four members named Onew, Key, Minho, and Taemin.

Big Bang (빅뱅)

G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung, and one former member Seungri, who would have forgotten these names? Of course, they are the one and only Big bang. Big Bang was created in 2006 and quickly rose to become one of the world’s best-selling and most popular boy bands. They are from YG Entertainment. They are indeed veterans of the K-pop music scene and won tons of awards in different music awards.

EXO (엑소)

The group was created in 2012, and their music is a bright, upbeat combination of rap, hip-hop, R&B, and rock. Currently, EXO (엑소) consists of 9 members: Chanyeol, Suho, Xiumin, Baekhyun, Chen, Lay Kai, D.O., and Sehun. They have former members, namely Kris, Tao, and Luhan. They performed at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. EXO has four No. 1 albums on Billboard’s World Albums chart, making them yet another immensely popular K-pop group with awards to match.

Other K-pop Boy groups are:

  • Seventeen (세븐틴)
  • iKon (아이콘)
  • MONSTA X (몬스타엑스)
  • Got7 (갓세븐)
  • NCT (엔시티)
  • Stray Kids (스트레이 키즈)
  • Wanna One (워너원)
K-pop Girl Groups

Girls’ Generation (소녀시대)

OG fans will know that the Girls’ Generation is a legend in the K-pop world. Up until this day, fans are still watching their music videos and listening to their songs all over again. Their songs “The Boys” and “I Got A Boy” are really massive hits that stayed on the charts and radios. They are known as the ‘The Nation’s Girl Group’ in South Korea, and in 2017, they were crowned as ‘Top K-pop Girl Group of the Past Decade.’ They have eight members, namely: Tiffany, Taeyeon, Yuri, Sunny, Hyoyeon, Yoona, Seohyun, and Sooyoung

Twice (트와이스)

Consisting of nine members, Twice is a K-pop female group that debuted in 2015 as part of the survival show Sixteen under JYP Entertainment. Their song “Cheer up” has been their gateway to fame and earned them awards such as “Best Performing Single” and “Song of the Year.” This girl group consists of nine members: Dahyun,  Mina, Jihyo, Chaeyoung, Nayeon, Tzuyu, Jeongyeon,  Sana,  and Momo.

2NE1 (투애니원)

Since their debut with ‘Fire,’ 2NE1 changed the game of K-pop girl groups. This quartet consists of L, Dara, Park Bom, and Minzy. They have received numerous “Song of the Year” awards, and their songs really set the bar high for K-pop music. This is the reason why when they had a mini-reunion during CL’s performance in the 2015 MAMA where they performed their song “I Am the Best” and “Fire. They were undoubtedly one of the most successful Korean girl groups before they were disbanded.

Blackpink (블랙핑크)

Holding Youtube’s record for most-viewed video in the first 24 hours, Blackpink is indeed not your typical girl group. Having four very unique members, namely, Lisa, Jennie, Jisoo, Jennie, and Rosé, became their ace to give their K-pop fans a variety of music that is Billboard Hot 100 worthy. Some of their songs their popular songs are “How You Like That,” “Kill This Love,” and DDU-DU DDU-DU. Considering they are only two years in the industry, their achievement is really breathtaking. Now, fans are with them as they conquer the world stage.

Wonder Girls (원더걸스)

This four-membered group was the first South Korean girl group that reached Billboard Hot 100. With their hit single “Nobody,” they have been known globally, and they had an opportunity to join the Jonas Brothers on tour. This quickly rose them to the international market. The group members are Hyuna, Sunmi, Sohee, Hyerim, Yubin, Sunye, Park Ye-eun.

Other K-pop Boy groups are:

  • Red Velvet (레드벨벳)
  • Momoland (모모랜드)
  • MAMAMOO (마마무)
  • (G)I-DLE (아이들) 
  • T-ara (티아라)
  • Apink
  • Kara (카라)

최애 (Choeae) – Bias

Before we leave the topic K-pop idol, you shouldn’t miss learning the word 최애 (Choeae). If someone asked you, “Who’s your bias?” it simply means “Who is your favorite member of the group?”. Hence, your bias group is your favorite group.

3. 노래 (Nolae) – Song And 가수 (Gasu) – Singer

노래 (Nolae) - Song And 가수 (Gasu) - Singer

“Cause I-I-I’m in the stars tonight.”

Did it ring a bell on your ears? These are only six words, but you definitely know where these words came from, or maybe you might actually have sung it in your mind. Since Korean songs are topping the Billboard chart, the next words related to Korean music that we will talk about are song 노래 (Nolae) and singer 가수 (Gasu).

In August 2020, BTS released the song ‘Dynamite,’ which is their first song entirely in English. Little did they know that this song would make history not just for Korea but for the whole world. Aside from bagging multiple awards, they set not just one but 5 Guinness World Records so far because of this song.

Dynamite was also the group’s first Grammy nomination, which they received at the 63rd Grammy Awards. This opened doors for them to be recognized by the US music, and they even appeared on different US shows. Recently, they have released a song in collaboration with Coldplay entitled “My Universe.” From this, you can see that Korean music will continue to rise in the world stages and Billboard charts.

4. 뮤직 비디오 (Myujik Bidio) – Music Video

 뮤직 비디오 (Myujik Bidio) - Music Video

The second to the last Korean music word that we will learn is a music video. When we say Korean music video, there’s only one thing that will come into your mind – BREATHTAKING. Aside from their jaw-dropping dancing skills and excellent music, what sets Korean music videos apart from the typical music videos released by US music, is the superb overall productions starting from their outfits that can transform in a blink down to their locations and visual effects.

Just recently, Lisa from the girl group Blackpink released her first solo. With her solo debut, Lisa has broken two Guinness World Records. She broke the record of the most-viewed YouTube music video in 24 hours by a solo K-pop artist previously held by her bandmate Rose’. Most-viewed YouTube music video in 24 hours by a solo artist previously held by Taylor Swift.

5. 장르 (Jangneu) – Genre

장르 (Jangneu) - Genre

The last main word related to Korean music that we will learn is the genre 장르 (Jangneu). Here is a list of different music genres in the Korean language.

HangulRomanizationEnglish Translation
트로트teuroteutrot music
록 음악rok eumakrock music
힙합hipaphip hop music
raeprap music
민속 음악minsok eumakfolk music
발라드 음악balladeu eumakballad music
재즈 음악jaejeu eumakjazz music
가요gayopop music


Other K-pop Music Related Words

  • All-Kill (올킬 olkil) – when a song is at the top of all Korean music charts
  • Daesang (대상daesang) – highest award can be received by an idol
  • Fan chant (팬찬트paenchanteu) – words shouted by the fans during concerts and shows
  • Killing part (킬링 파트 killing pateu)- the best part of a song
  • Leader (지도자 jidoja)– leader of the group
  • Maknae (막내 maknae) – idol group youngest member
  • Sub-unit (서브 유닛 seobeu yunis) – smaller K-pop group in a big idol group line
  • V Live (V 라이브V laibeu)– Livestream platform where you can watch your K-pop idols
  • Beagle line (비글 라인 bigeul lain) – most playful and loud member of idol group


Musical Instruments In Korean

HangulRomanizationEnglish Translation
악기akkimusical instrument


Korean Words And Phrases Related To Music

HangulRomanizationEnglish Translation
light stick
glow stick
락앤롤ragaenrolrock ‘n’ roll
클래식 음악keullaesik eumakclassical music
음악 산업eumak saneopmusic industry
울트라 뮤직 페스티발ulteura myujik peseutibalUltra Music Festival
한국 노래 듣기hanguk norae deutgiListen to Korean songs
악기를 연주하다akgireul yeonjuhadaplay a musical instrument
어떤 케이팝 그룹을 가장 좋아해요?Eotteon keipab geurubeul gajang joahaeyo?What is your favorite K-pop group?
난 K팝 음악 좋아해.nan keipab eumak johahae.I like K-pop music.
케이팝을 좋아한지 얼마나 되었어요?Keipabeul joahanji eolmana doeeosseoyo?How long have you been listening to K-pop?
한국 노래 five 곡을 외우겠습니다.Hanguk norae daseot gogeul oeugetseumnida.I’ll memorize 5 Korean songs.
노래를 듣고 가사를 외웁니다.Noraereul deutgo gasareul oeumnida.I listen to songs and memorize the lyrics.


Going To South Korea To Meet Your Bias? Learn Korean Know!

Isn’t it great to understand every lyric of Korean music you love? I know that Korean music is already captivating enough ant it will make you wanna dance and sing along even if you do not understand what it means. But imagine how amazing it is to know the lyrics by heart. Aside from this, I know, lot’s of K-pop fans out there are dreaming of going to Seoul to meet their bias. What if an unforgettable day will happen in your life? How will you talk to your idol? This is where learning Korean will come in handy. So, if you’re looking for a friend –친구 (chingu) that will help you learn Korean, Ling App is perfect for you?

What’s with Ling App that will make your language learning journey successful? For starters, there are a variety of topics to choose from. Feel free to click on any topic or lesson that you wish to learn. Lessons are designed like a game. The words and phrases that you need to learn are in a smart flashcard where you can see and hear the translation. It also has images to help you learn. Backed with spaced repetition system, activities in Ling App will surely lead you to the language learning success you desire.

They say music is a way of saying what you feel. So, if you’re into Korean music or culture, why not learn Korean with Ling App now?

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