“No Korean Members” – K-Pop Groups Without the ‘K’: How Far Have They Come?
K-pop has gained global love, and it has become common for talented stars from various nationalities to debut alongside Korean members in groups originating from South Korea.
However, recently, there has been a rise in K-pop groups without any Korean members. These groups share a common trait: they are signed to Korean entertainment agencies and demonstrate a strong desire to pursue activities in Korea.
One such group is Black Swan, which debuted in 2020. Initially, they had Korean members, but through multiple departures and additions, the group transitioned into a multinational girl group consisting solely of foreign members. The group comprises members of mixed heritage, including Brazilian and Japanese, a Belgian member, a German-born Brazilian, an Indian, and an American.
Notably, Black Swan gained attention for including Pato, a black member. While other K-pop groups had foreign members before, having a black member was a first, making waves among K-pop fans worldwide. This change was widely embraced by K-pop fans globally and even helped increase awareness and perception of K-pop in different countries.
Despite being composed solely of foreign members, Black Swan’s recent release, “Karma,” included over half of its lyrics in Korean. The music video surpassed 2 million views within four days of its release and garnered 12 million views on the Chinese platform Weibo. Additionally, it reached 23rd place on the YouTube Worldwide Music Video Chart, further solidifying their global presence.
Another group, XG, debuted in March last year with all members holding Japanese citizenship. While they are composed entirely of Japanese members, they have yet to promote in Japan and continue their activities in Korea.
XG aspires to become global artists who can positively influence global pop, including Korea. Their strategy of singing all songs in English allows them to showcase their charm and performances to a broader audience, without being restricted by nationality or language.
The emergence of K-pop groups composed solely of foreign members signifies the continuous growth of K-pop through new challenges. It also raises expectations for their ability to introduce K-pop to their respective countries and contribute to its global recognition.
In addition to Black Swan and XG, there are other groups that debuted under the K-pop system but primarily focus on activities in their local markets, such as JO1 and NIZIU. These examples demonstrate the true globalization of K-pop.