Korean rock music has been around for decades, but it’s become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years. From the melodic and dreamy sounds of Nell to the hard-hitting riffs of Big Bang, there is something for everyone who loves Korean rock.
With their captivating soundscapes, Korean bands will be sure to entrance you with every note they play. Thus in this post, in this post, let’s explore 11 of the greatest and most famous Korean rock bands. Let’s get started.
South Korean rock group Nell made its mark in the music scene in 1999. The four-member band consists of Kim Jong-wan, Lee Jae-kyung, Lee Jung-hoon, and Jung Jae-won.
Though their first label album, Let It Rain, was dropped in 2003, Nell reached critical and commercial success with Slip Away in 2012. This album topped the music charts in South Korea and had one of the group’s best songs, “The Day Before,” which peaked at #3.
The quartet has since achieved various recognitions, such as Best Modern Rock Artist of the Year (Picked by Netizens) at the 2007 Korea Music Awards and Music Style Award—Best Rock at the 2012 Melon Music Awards for the song mentioned above.
2. FT Island
Five Treasure Island, shorted to FT Island, was formed in 2007 by FNC Entertainment. They went on to be renowned for their energetic live shows and distinctive sounds, which combine different genres such as punk, pop-punk, and alt-rock.
FT Island’s first four albums, from 2007 to 2009, were released to moderate success. In 2011, they had a breakthrough in Japan with the album Five Treasure Island. This was followed up in 2012 with Five Treasure Box.
These two albums shot FT Island to fame. The next albums they released up to 2019 topped South Korea’s chart and peaked in the top six in Japan. Members took a break to enlist after this point but have come back together in 2022.
Since 2009, South Korean rock band CNBLUE has been a major presence in the Korean music industry. CNBLUE, originally known as Code Name Blue, began as an indie band and developed its signature soft-rock vibe over time.
Drawing from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, and Led Zeppelin, the band’s sound is a unique blend of today’s K-pop scene. This combination of styles gives them a unique edge in the modern K-pop landscape.
With two of their 10 studio albums taking the #1 spot on South Korea’s chart and six of 14 EPs topping charts, CNBLUE has become one of the most popular Korean rock groups of contemporary time.
Formed in 2015 by JYP Entertainment, Day6 was originally a six-member group but now consists only of Sungjin, Wonpil, Dowoon, and Young K. They’re known for playing a wide range of genres, from hard rock to soft ballads.
Since their first EP in 2015, The Day, they’ve had success not just in South Korea but in the US too. The majority of their EPs and studio albums have landed in the top 10 of Billboard‘s World Albums chart.
Currently, most of Day6’s members are still enlisted in South Korea’s army, but plans are still in the works to continue making music.
Indie rock band Kyukoh began in 2014 and comprised of Oh Hyuk, Im Dong-geon, Lim Hyun-Jae, and Lee In-woo. Because Oh Hyuk was raised in various parts of China for most of his life, their music lyrics are a blend of Korean, Mandarin, and English.
The group had moderate success with their EPs before dropping a debut album in 2017 called 23. It landed at #5 on South Korea’s chart and #6 on Billboard World Album.
Kyukoh’s songs “Wi Ing Wi Ing,” “Comes and Goes,” and “Tomboy” are among their most popular. “Come and Goes” won Best Modern Rock Song at the 2016 Korean Music Awards, and “Tomboy” won Song of the Year in 2018.
6. The Rose
Indie pop-rock group the Rose is a rising South Korean band that debuted in 2017. The band’s music is a fusion of rock, pop, and R&B. Their powerful live performances have helped them quickly gain popularity.
The band has so far released two EPS, a single album, and a studio album, all to commercial success. Some of their popular tracks include “Sorry,” “She’s in the Rain,” and “Baby.”
The Rose has been recognized for its talent and won several awards, including Most Promising Artist at the International K-Music Awards in 2019 and Band of the Year at the 2022 Prêmio Annual K4US. With the way the Rose is going, they’re certainly heading for greatness.
In 2013, FNC Entertainment got together Kwon Kwang-jin, Kim Jae-Hyun, Cha Hun, and Lee Seung-Hyub to form the alternative rock group N.Flying. Soon, Yoo Hwe-Seung was added to make N.Flying a five-member band.
Unlike the other bands on this list, N.Flying debuted first in Japan with the single album Basket (2013) before debuting in their homeland two years later with Lonely. Both albums were a success, with Lonely peaking at #9.
Since then, N.Flying has dropped two studio albums and eight EPs. Their work garnered them a number of awards, including Band Discovery of the Year at the Gaon Chart Music Awards in 2019.
Another indie band rocks this list and their name is Jannabi. The group formed in 2012. The originally five-member group is now down to two core members: Choi Jung-hoon and Kim Do-Hyung. The band’s music is known for its laid-back, acoustic sound and poetic lyrics.
The band gained popularity with the hit single “Good Morning,” which was released in 2018. Some of its other popular tracks include “For Lovers Who Hesitate,” “Summer,” and “A Story I Couldn’t See.”
Jannabi’s work has gained them numerous awards from various Korean awarding organizations. This includes Song of the Year and Best Modern Rock Song for “For Lovers Who Hesitate” in the 2020 Korean Music Awards and the most recent Band Award in the 2023 Seoul Music Awards.
9. Kiha & The Faces
The year 2008 saw the formation of Kiha & The Faces in South Korea. The indie rock band’s music is known for its blend of rock, funk, and folk influences, as well as its witty, socially-conscious lyrics. Some of their popular tracks include “Cheap Coffee,” “Super Weeds Man,” and “That Kind of Relationship.”
The first two albums Kiha & The Faces dropped did not chart, but their third album, Human Mind, became their breakthrough. It peaked at #5 on the South Korean chart in 2014. Since then, the group has continued dropping charting albums.
Over the years, Kiha & The Faces won multiple awards, including Best Rock Song for “Cheap Coffee” at the Korean Music Awards in 2009 and yet another Best Rock Song for “That Kind of Relationship” in 2012.
The four-member alt-rock group Dickpunks has been making music since 2007. The band’s high-energy live performances and catchy melodies have helped it gain a large following in South Korea and beyond.
In 2012, Dickpunks already had a large following and popular reviews. But when they joined the TV talent show Superstar K4 that year and won second place, they skyrocketed to greater fame.
After this success, their albums started charting, and some of their songs landed in the top 30, like “Viva Youth” and “Sunglass.” Dickpunks’ talent and popularity continue to grow, making them one of the most exciting bands in the Korean music scene today.
11. No Brain
We end this list with the band South Koreans consider the godfathers of punk rock in the country’s music scene. No Brain has been active since 1997 and consists of four members: Bulldaegal, VOVO, BBogle, and Hyoonga.
Over the years, No Brain has participated in concerts and tours in South Korea and in the US, including the Seoulsonic 2K13 tour. They’ve also released numerous albums, both original and covers. Their most notable cover album is Never Mind the Sex Pistols. Here’s the No Brain.
No Brain has not released new albums since 2014, but fans rejoice! In 2022, they dropped their latest work, an English album called Big Mistake that features new songs to enjoy.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Korean Rock Bands
As you can see, dear readers, from Nell to No Brain, these Korean rock groups have been making waves in the music industry for years, not just in their home country of South Korea but also the world.
Whether you’re just getting into K-pop or are already an avid fan, there’s something here for everyone to enjoy. Each of these bands’ styles and sounds is unique, so give each one a listen.
Our list is far from complete, however, so if you believe there’s a band missing, let us know. We’ll add them for you!