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Believe it or not, Korean music hasn’t always been as upbeat, stylish and danceable as the K-Pop we now know so well. It wasn’t until after a revolutionary artist brought R&B and hip-hop to Korea in the early 1990s, K-Pop became the wildly popular world-wide sensation it is today.

With the desire to share their culture with their non-Korean peers, a group of students from American university Wheaton College put together a dance medley showcasing the “Evolution of K-Pop” spanning the years 1994-2014.

▼ How many of the songs from this dance medley do you recognize?

Song list at the bottom of the page.

The dance performance was put together by the leader (and arguably the best dancer of the group), Wheaton College (the Illinois one, not Massachusetts one) senior Philip J Paek, referred to in the YouTube comments section as “Snapback Guy,” for the adjustable baseball cap he wore in the performance.

▼ Philip (middle) doing a great Orange Caramel impression.

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Philip painstakingly organized this dance routine for his school’s 2015 Lunar Festival. He and his 21 group members wanted to take the opportunity to share with their peers some Korean culture in a fun and entertaining way. The routine featured world-wide hits such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby,” Girls’ Generation’s “Gee,” and a slew of other songs.

The awesome performance was not without criticism, however. Some (nit-picky) viewers complained that the show was not thorough enough. The 14-song medley featured only two songs from the 90s then skipped ahead to the late 2000s, leaving some fans dissatisfied as many influential and iconic artists and songs from the late ’90s/early ’00s were not represented.

▼ Some big names like BoA didn’t make it into the set.


While this is a valid point, Philip took to the comments page to give his reasons behind the song choices. He explained that as much as they wanted to showcase a song from every year, they were limited to an eight-minute set (already graciously extended from six minutes). They very well could have just started the medley in the late 2000s, but they decided to start in the year that many of the performers were born, 1994, with the Kim Gun Mo song, “Wrongful Meeting,” very appropriate since it is also said to be the Song of the Decade in Korea.

Further, he explained that after hours of research to try to cut their list of 30 songs in half, they realized that prior to 2007, choreography was aimed at “making the star look good.” However, the 2007 Wonder Girls’ songv”Tell Me,” assisted by the accessibility of YouTube, started the trend of making songs “danceable, replicable and more fan friendly,” thus easier for this group to use in their show.

▼ Wonder Girls’ hit “Tell Me” was the start of fan-friendly dances.

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Finally, they used songs mainly from the late 2000s and 2010s because those are the ones that would be most recognizable to their 18-22-year-old audience, an understandable choice.

Still, most Internet users are not 18-22 years old, so some people were displeased with the song choices, but Philip handled it well, stating:

“I’m just a college student, not a professional…With respect to K-Pop fans everywhere, someone should go make a better version of this for actual K-Pop fans.”

Is that a challenge, Snapback Guy?

If someone were to make a more thorough compilation dance of the evolution of K-Pop, they would inevitably have to start in 1992 with the Seo Taiji and Boys’ hit song “Nan Arayo,” which is thought to be the radical song that changed K-Pop forever. Seo Taiji brought R&B and rap into the mainstream in Korea, bringing along his New Jack Swing-inspired beats and dancing.

▼ Seo Taiji and Boys, the “Fathers of modern K-Pop.”


While his controversial and inspirational song lyrics were a major factor of his fame, it was his rap, melodic choruses and danceable beats that served as the biggest influence for the bubblegum pop groups that dominate the scene these days.

While Seo Taiji and Boys were only a trio, K-Pop groups have transformed into groups that range from three to eight members and the genre has been described as “a fusion of synthesized music, sharp dance routines and fashionable and colorful outfits.” That sounds pretty accurate to us. Throw in catchy melodies, English words and rap verses and you’ve created the archetypical bubblegum pop song. Not that it’s bad; we love it!

▼ What’s not to love about Big Bang?


As Snapback Guy proposed, we really hope someone actually makes a thorough dance medley, showcasing the many popular songs from the relatively short but hit-filled history of K-Pop. It would probably be long, but we’re willing to bet that every viewer would sit through the whole thing. Until that video comes out, though, we’ll just stick to the video of Philip and his friends, and a similar tribute performance by a dance group from Ohio State University, another American school.

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Here’s the song list from the Wheaton College medley:

Kim Gun Mo – Wrongful Meeting [1994]
H.O.T – Candy [1996]
Wonder Girls – Tell Me [2007]
Brown Eyed Girls – Abracadabra [2009]
Girls’ Generation- Gee [2009]
Super Junior – Sorry Sorry [2009]
2ne1- I am the Best [2011]
Psy – Gangnam Style [2012]
Big Bang – Fantastic Baby [2012]
CRAYON POP – Bar Bar Bar [2013]
EXO – Growl [2013]
Orange Caramel – Catallena [2014]

2PM – Go Crazy [2014]
AKMU – 200% [2014]

Sources: YouTube (philipjpaek), MTV Iggy, Institut National Audiovisuel (INA) Global
Videos/Images: YouTube (philipjpaek, KoreaMusicVideoHD), Amazon, SeoTaiji, Flickr (YG Entertainment)