In recent years, K-Pop idol groups have made great progress and become a huge force in the international music scene. First there were BTS’s historical milestones, followed by BLACKPINK’s global successes, and it is impossible not to mention the impacts of groups like GOT7, EXO, SuperM and so on. However, most of these representatives are from the famous leading companies in the Korean entertainment industry, including SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment and Big Hit Entertainment.

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When mentioning global K-Pop idol groups, many people will immediately think of BTS and BLACKPINK.

Recently, a netizen on Theqoo forum posted an interesting article with the title: “The boy group and girl group that became very popular abroad even though they are from small companies.” According to the post, these two groups don’t have the advantages of being from Big 3 or Big Hit, but they’ve done well in both YouTube views and album sales thanks to the enthusiastic support from international fans. Because this is an individual choice, there are more or less mixed opinions.

Male group representative: ATEEZ

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ATEEZ debuted in October 2018 under KQ Entertainment. KQ is a not-so-popular entertainment company in South Korea – the only popular group they manage is Block B (with their own label, Seven Seasons). Currently, after Zico left, Block B is no longer active. ATEEZ is now ‘carrying’ the whole company on their back. This 8-member group, though not very well-known in South Korea, is a phenomenon internationally thanks to their music and concept being very appealing for the West.

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In February 2019, ATEEZ held a tour in 15 cities in Europe, including London, Paris, Lisbon, Milan, Moscow, Amsterdam and so on. All tickets of the 15 venues were sold out, proving the group really was a craze abroad. With success in the international market, ATEEZ has also signed a contract with US record company – RCA Records – to promote their activities here. Most recently, their comeback album ‘ZERO: FEVER part. 1’ sold 112,895 copies in just one day, a respectable number for a group from a small company like ATEEZ.

Female group representative: (G)I-DLE

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(G) I-DLE is a girl group debuted in May 2018 under Cube Entertainment. With their debut, the group caused a fever with the song ‘Latata’. However, some time later, despite being very popular with international K-Pop fans, the group had a hard time in the domestic music industry. It was their excellent performances at ‘Queendom’ in 2019 that brought the group back to glory at home.

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(G)I-DLE is the most typical example of a successful group not coming from Big 3 or Big Hit. All of their 5 songs: ‘Latata’, ‘Hann (Alone)’, ‘Senorita’, ‘Uh-Oh’, ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Lion’ made it to the top 10 of Billboard’s World Digital Songs. The group has also been honored in the Rolling Stone’s Top 25 Breakthrough. Recently, the group has signed a contract with the US record label – Republic Records – to enter the US market.

ATEEZ deserves to be on this list, but not (G)I-DLE?

In the comments section, most netizens on Theqoo forum acknowledged the success of ATEEZ and (G)I-DLE. However, the reason they believe that (G)I-DLE should not be included here is because although Cube is not Big 3 or Big Hit, it is still a very famous and big company in South Korea.

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To choose a internationally successful girl group that comes from a truly small company, many Korean netizens suggest that it should be EVERGLOW. The group debuted in March 2019 under Yuehua Entertainment. Although this is a very strong company financially (with the main market in China), in South Korea, it is still a very small company in terms of reputation, very far behind Cube Entertainment. Yet, right from the beginning, EVERGLOW did well with their MVs having a lot of views, as well as a powerful international fandom.

Here are some comments from the topics:

  • “EVERGLOW is also very popular abroad!”
  • “ATEEZ is really good! I understand why international fans are so fascinated by them. Their performance is no joke.”
  • “Shouldn’t it be EVERGLOW? I was shocked to know that their MV surpassed 100 million views.”
  • “Just looking at the article title, I thought it would be ATEEZ and EVERGLOW!”
  • “How come Cube is listed among small companies? It should be EVERGLOW.”
  • “ATEEZ? The first time I heard the name of the group.”
  • “I think the girl group should be EVERGLOW or LOONA.”
  • “The truth is Cube doesn’t belong to ‘small companies’.”