EXO made headlines this week when its album EXOdus gathered the best sales week, in the United States, of any K-Pop album ever. The grand total? Just more than 6,000 copies sold. Okay, that might seem underwhelming after all the hype, but it's just another step in the continued growth of the pop genre among American audiences, as the previous record was held by 2NE1 and Crush was set during 2014. If you want to see some more awe-inspiring numbers, check out the list of the best-selling albums in the history of South Korea, K-Pop's homeland. Keep in mind that these sales come from a nation of 50.2 million people, compared to the United States, a nation of 319 million residents.
Here are the Top 7 selling albums in Korean history.
07) We Hate All Kinds of Violence by H.O.T. (1.5 million copies sold)
H.O.T. preceded the late '90s boy band craze of the United States by a few years, and unlike that craze, made very clear what audience it was aiming at—"H.O.T." is not a lame acronym spelling "hot" but is rather meant to stand for "high-five of teenagers." The group's first two records were both huge sellers, with the awkwardly-titled We Hate All Kinds Of Violence selling 1,500,000 copies during 1996 and then the following Wolf and Sheep selling almost exactly as many copies during 1997 (making it the no. 8 bestselling album in Korean history). H.O.T. can sympathize with Robin Thicke, as its success was plagued with accusations that the group was recycling copyrighted material.
06) Classic by Jo Sungmo (1.6 million copies sold)
Understand that even in Korea, one of the most successful music markets on Earth today, the diversity of talent is nowhere near that of the United States or UK, or even Sweden—the three largest music industry nations. That means not as many performers can gain fame in Korea, and those that do tend to dominate the market. Understanding that, you'll be seeing a lot more of Jo Sungmo, a pop performer noted for his balladic approach, during this list. Classic was actually a step down for the performer (despite being no. 6 all time), marking a significant drop off in sales from his last album. More on that later.
05) Chapter 4: Road by g.o.d. (1.7 million copies sold)
Yes, the competition is so fierce in the Korean music industry that even God himself can't get the no. 1 album. We kid of course: "g.o.d." is a provocative acronym meant to stand for "groove over dose" (sic...it was their idea to make "overdose" two words). This was the band's second album to crack the American version of platinum status, but marked a decrease in sales from the band's previous release. Sales would continue to drop for three more albums until the band split during 2006. Good news however: g.o.d. has since reunited during 2014 (although its first album back only sold 35,000 copies).
04) Chapter 3: Lies by g.o.d. (1.8 million copies sold)
Alright, so g.o.d.'s fall in sales from its third album to its fourth wasn't that dramatic. However the fall from album four to album five was reminiscent of the band's rise from Chapter 2 to Chapter 3. The band had recently switched labels from EBM to SidusHQ and within a year it had gone from selling 580,000 copies of its album to selling 1.8 million copies.
03) Let Me Love by Jo Sungmo (2.05 million copies sold)
We may have been slightly misleading you when we mentioned that Classic was a downgrade in sales for ballad singer Sungmo. That was true...but he wasn't done yet. The vocalist released Classic during 2000 and then turned right back around and released Let Me Love, which would sell even more copies, becoming just the third album in South Korean music history to crack the 2 million copy sales mark. Can you guess who might have been behind the other two?
02) For Your Soul by Jo Sungmo (2.1 million copies sold)
No, they weren't both by Sungmo but you can bet that at least one was. For Your Soul was the vocalist's superstar moment, when he went from being the guy with one album to being the one who would break a million in sales every time he put out a record. His first release, To Heaven, just broke a million in sales but then he doubled it for For Your Soul, which became the second album in Korean history to crack 2 million in sales. Although he would never again reach the numbers of For Your Soul, Sungmo would qualify for American platinum status with his first five albums.
01) Mis-Encounter by Kim Gun-mo (3.3 million copies sold)
Michael Jackson's Thriller is by far the bestselling album of all time, coming in at almost 50 percent higher than its closest competition, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of The Moon. The story is the same in Korea, where Kim Gun-mo is more than 1.2 million copies more than the runner-up, in a market where only three albums have ever broken 2 million in sales. That makes Mis-Encounter the only album in the nation's history to crack 3 million in sales, and 20 years after its release, it seems tough to imagine that any record will ever be able to compete with the record. The closest he's ever come to matching that total was with his 2001 album Another Days, which sold 1.4 million copies (making it the no. 9 bestselling album of all time). When you have a hit like Mis-Encounter, you don't need new stuff to sell. Gun-mo still tours successfully at the age of 47.