K-pop's fourth-generation groups, debuted after 2017, are in a class of their own. What they lack in years of experience in the industry, they make up for that with their talent, diligence, and thirst to achieve more than they have before.
Groups such as ATEEZ, Stray Kids, ITZY, (G)-IDLE, Dreamcatcher, and Treasure have already established unique music styles. This has led to the groups winning awards on various weekly music shows.
The leaders of these fourth-generation groups are also charismatic, skilled, and ready to make the members’ strengths shine the best they can. Group leaders are tasked with ensuring a smooth run of the group’s activities, and standing up for the members when needed.
5 fourth-generation K-pop group leaders
Leaders have a tough job of looking after other idols while being an idol themselves. K-pop group leaders may also assist in production and songwriting for the group, becoming the driving force behind the music style and concept of the group. Here are five such emerging fourth-generation leaders.
1) ATEEZ's Hongjoong
Also known as the "captain" of ATEEZ, Hongjoong was the first member of the group to join ATEEZ's agency, KQ Entertainment, in 2016. He taught himself how to produce music, taking assistance from the group's producer EDEN. Since ATEEZ's debut, the leader has produced about 40 songs for the 8-member group, apart from participating in songwriting with fellow rapper, Mingi.
As the leader of a fourth-generation group that strives to become as global as its fans are, Hongjoong watches shows such as Modern Family to improve his skills as an English speaker. Additionally, he is aware of his impact as an idol, making sure to use his reputation to promote important issues.
For a long time, the 23-year-old idol has painted one of his nails in support of the "Polished Man" campaign, which seeks to assist victims of child abuse. ATEEZ has since become the brand ambassador for the campaign, leading their fans to contribute to it as well.
Hongjoong recently drew attention because of his two-toned black and white hair, which he revealed on YouTube live with Yunho.
2) Stray Kids' Bang Chan
Stray Kids debuted in 2017 after a reality show, and Bang Chan was chosen as the leader of the group. With more than eight years of training with JYP Entertainment under his belt, he has evolved to become a producer, songwriter, rapper, singer, and leader par excellence.
As the leader of a fourth-generation group Bang Chan is worth the praise. His years in the agency allowed him to perfect his production skills with future bandmates Changbin and Han, creating the formidable rapper-producer trio, 3RACHA.
Referring to his members as his "kids," Bang Chan is always helping them out, whether it is music-related or not. Apart from his teammates, the 25-year-old rapper cares about his fans, and holds a weekly livestream titled Chan's Room. Here, he shares music, talks about his interests, and about those he admires.
3) ITZY's Yeji
Another from JYP Entertainment, ITZY is an all-female fourth-generation group that debuted in 2019, with Yeji as the leader. Despite being reluctant to take on the mantle in the beginning, she agreed to become leader after being encouraged by other members.
Having been a trainee since 2015, Yeji was not the most obvious choice to become a leader. However, the four members have mentioned that she exudes the charisma of a leader when she is on stage. Netizens have often praised the 21-year-old idol for her facial expressions and stage presence.
In IU's Palette, IU mentioned that she thought ITZY didn't have a clear hierarchy to which Ryujin replied that Yeji was the reason it was so. She encouraged the members to be friends and help each other progress, improving their teamwork.
4) TXT's Soobin
TOMORROW X TOGETHER debuted in 2019 with Soobin as the leader of this five-member K-pop group. The process of choosing a leader for the group was as unique as the five vibrant personalities within the group.
Every member of TXT tried to become the leader for a few weeks, and was evaluated by the other members. As a result, Soobin became the leader as chosen by the other members because of his kindness and patience.
Being the only introvert in a group of extroverts allows Soobin to look after the members in his own way. He is just as chaotic when he is with the members, if their variety show TO DO TXT is any indication.
If the leader is in a situation without the rest of the 5-member fourth-generation group, his level-headed nature allows him to get through it smoothly. His stint as the emcee of Music Bank allowed him to explore his horizons and exposed a lot more people to TXT as a group.
5) (G)I-DLE's Soyeon
Talking about fourth-generation group leaders without including (G)I-DLE's Soyeon would be an injustice. Debuted in 2018 under Cube Entertainment, the five-member group is led by 23-year-old Soyeon, who also acts as songwriter, producer, and rapper for the all-female group.
Prior to debuting with (G)I-DLE, Soyeon had participated in idol survival shows like Unpretty Rapstar and Produce 101. Her participation in songwriting and composing makes (G)I-DLE one of the very few female K-pop groups who lend a hand in the music they release.
The fourth-generation leader also gained a reputation for being a "strict" mentor on the idol audition program, My Teenage Girl. She defended her stance, saying that she only said things she wished someone had told her during her time on similar programs.
Soyeon's solo album, Windy, showed a different side to her image as a member of (G)I-DLE. She displays her talent as a vocalist as well as a rapper, while subtly showing off her skills as a dancer in the music videos. The album embodies the spirit of a fun summer.
The fourth-generation of K-pop is here to create earworms, good music, and songs that they relate to. They have new stories, new concepts, and a thirst to prove themselves. It is no surprise that they are taking over the music charts in Korea and the world while building loyal fanbases.