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Here’s Why Korean Idols Also Release Japanese Music—and it’s Simpler Than You Might Think

Hint: it's green and it makes the world go round.

The nine members of K-Pop girl group TWICE during the promotions for their Japanese release Kura Kura

If you’ve followed any K-Pop group for a while, you have definitely noticed them releasing music in Japanese alongside their Korean albums and EPs—and their Wikipedia pages will often have two different sections when it comes to the discography, one for their Korean one and one for their Japanese one. Which can make it a bit confusing for some fans, are these groups KPop or JPop?

Japanese comebacks have become very much a K-Pop industry staple. They usually happen in between a group’s Korean releases, so the two singles do not block one another on music charts and the fans don’t have to choose which of the two albums to buy. They tend to be either a Japanese translation of their latest Korean single or a full-out original song written and composed directly in Japanese. 

TWICE performing Kura Kura (JYP Entertainment)

Take TWICE, for example. In 2021 alone, they have released a Korean mini-album, Taste of Love, and album, Formula of Love: O+T=<3, as well as two Japanese singles. Kura Kura and Doughnut, and a full album, Perfect World. Plus an English single, the record-shattering The Feels. And all of these are fully original songs, even though they also have Japanese versions of their biggest successes from LIKEY to FANCY.

And the reason for this is very, very simple—it’s money. Japan is one of the biggest music markets in Asia. Establishing a strong foothold there with dedicated singles and releases—which include albums, photo cards, and all sorts of merchandise for fans to buy—is a sure way of bringing in more income. It’s also an excellent way of keeping idols in the public eye throughout the year, making sure that they’re not “forgotten” by fans and the general public alike.

Where this trend started

The trend of expanding to the Japanese market was first started by groups that featured a Japanese member (or members), since, of course, they would already have some popularity within their home country. TWICE, once again, was particularly well-poised to start a Japanese discography since it features a significant and much-beloved “J-line”, consisting of members Momo, Sana, and Mina

From left to right, Mina, Sana and Momo are the members of TWICE’s J-line (JYP Entertainment)

So does that make a group that releases Japanese singles also a J-Pop group? Not really. Since the group is based in South Korea and it’s under a South Korean entertainment agency, they’re still considered K-Pop—just like a Japanese group based in Japan would be considered J-Pop even if they happened to release a song in Korean.

To remain with the group we have taken as an example, TWICE—while they do have a very significant Japanese discography and have performed several successful concerts in Japan, they still remain a group based in South Korea and are firmly considered a K-Pop group both domestically and internationally.

(featured image: JYP Entertainment)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.