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What to look forward to from K-pop in 2023

From a new YG girl group to return of G-Dragon, Taeyang and flood of new boy bands

By Choi Ji-won

Published : Jan. 2, 2023 - 16:00

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(Left) A cropped image of YG Entertainment's new girl group debut announcement poster (YG Entertainment)/ (Right) BTS (Big Hit Music) (Left) A cropped image of YG Entertainment's new girl group debut announcement poster (YG Entertainment)/ (Right) BTS (Big Hit Music)

The year that just ended saw the Korean music scene go through a whirlwind of changes. But don't sit back yet, as the new year is already hyping up with unexpected returns, anniversary celebrations and lingering questions to be answered.

Among the biggest events to come this year is the unveiling of a new YG Entertainment girl group. The company broke the news at midnight on Sunday, releasing a video that gave a peek into the upcoming girl group to be named Baby Monster.

According to the video, the new girl group will consist of seven all-teen bandmates. Baby Monster will be YG's first new girl group in over seven years, since Blackpink. Few details about the group have been revealed so far, including the names, ages and nationalities, or the group's debut date.

Meanwhile, Blackpink is set to decide whether to continue as a group or end the contract with the agency within this year, with the four members' seven-year terms coming to a close.

Before the group makes the next move, Jisoo is debuting solo under Blackpink's name. Jisoo is the last member from the quartet to come out solo. YG announced on Monday she has been working on her solo album since last year and is currently done with her jacket image shooting and amid recording her songs.

Blackpink's Jisoo (YG Entertainment) Blackpink's Jisoo (YG Entertainment)

More new groups are also set to flood onto the scene from the major labels this year.

Hybe plans to unveil four new groups this year. In its annual corporate briefing last November, the firm announced Pledis Entertainment and Big Hit Music were each preparing to debut a new boy band, while Belift Lab is set to air a TV idol competition to discover another new group in the first half. Producer and rapper Zico's label KOZ is also set to debut a male group early in 2023.

SM Entertainment is set to take its boy band brand NCT global. NCT, short for Neo Culture Technology, is SM's international idol group project launched in 2016 to produce an endless number of international boy bands under the umbrella. The new NCT units set for debut this year are tentatively named NCT Hollywood, NCT Saudi and NCT Tokyo.

JYP Entertainment also seeks to go more global in 2023. The company plans to launch a new girl group in the US in cooperation with Republic Records, while introducing new boy bands in China and Japan. Locally, its group put together via 2021 TV competition "Loud" will also debut.

Poster for Mnet's Poster for Mnet's "Boys Planet" (CJ ENM)

The TV K-pop competition boom continues into yet another year. After launching Kep1er from "Girls Planet 999" last year, Mnet looks to launch its male version from February. MBC is joining the fray with "Fantasy Boys," while JTBC seeks to shine light on undiscovered talents with "Peak Time."

Amid the rush of rookies are some more familiar faces.

The members of Big Bang have each embarked on solo careers, and this year, some are returning to the scene as musicians. Rapper and producer G-Dragon got his official start on Sunday. The 34-year old announced he will drop a new album to mark his return as a solo musician almost six year since dropping his album "Kwon Ji Yong" in June 2017. G-Dragon recently re-signed with YG Entertainment as the only member of Big Bang.

Relocating to YG affiliate the Black Label, Taeyang is also gearing up for another splash. And excitement is doubling as Taeyang's new solo project is set to feature his collaboration with BTS' Jimin. On Monday, Taeyang also posted on his Instagram a photograph of what seems to be himself and Jimin working inside the studio.

(Left) G-Dragon (YG Entertainment)/ (Right) Image of Exo's special album (Left) G-Dragon (YG Entertainment)/ (Right) Image of Exo's special album "Don't Fight the Feeling." (SM Entertainment)

Exo is ending its military hiatus. Leader Suho broke the news on Sunday through his Instagram, posting "2023 Exo is coming back" with an image of the act posing on the stage. Baekhyun, the act's last member to serve the military, is set to be discharged from is service on Feb. 5, which will allow the group to begin their normal group activities as an eight-piece. The group last dropped the special album "Don't Fight The Feeling" in which only six members took part.

Marking the band's 10th year, BTS is likely to experience yet another big year. The act will have its third try to take home a trophy at the 65th Grammy Awards on Feb. 5. The group has been nominated in several categories this year, including best pop duo or group, in which it has been nominated for a third straight year.

With the act's eldest Jin beginning his mandatory military duty in December, Suga and J-Hope are now preparing to begin their service before the end of this year. While nothing has been confirmed about their respective enlistments, speculations indicate that Suga may serve an alternative form of duty, such as a social service agent, due to a shoulder injury.

On the brighter side, more solo projects are expected from BTS. Suga will likely drop his solo album before beginning his service, while Jimin, V and Jungkook are also set to unveil their first official solo albums soon.

K-pop boy group BTS poses for photos during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3, 2022. (Big Hit Music) K-pop boy group BTS poses for photos during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3, 2022. (Big Hit Music)

Meanwhile, more long-awaited comebacks may be in the works for this year. Shinhwa may bring an end to a long hiatus in celebration of the group's 25th anniversary this year. TVXQ is also marking its milestone 20th anniversary, and fans anticipate the duo to come back with a new album.

Legendary rock singer Cho Yong-pil has heralded his grand comeback this year. Commemorating 55 years since his debut, the 72-year-old musician will drop his 20th full-length album for a comeback a decade in the works, since the release of his 19th LP, "Hello," in 2013.