KMA2018: Artist of the Year

The winners of the 15th Korean Music Awards will be announced at a ceremony next week. In preparation, I’ve been looking into the nominees for the main categories starting with Album and Song of the Year respectively. Today it’s time to learn more about the nominees for Artist of the Year.

Kim Mokin

Kim Mokin made his debut in 2002 with instrumental music produced under the alias Family Piano Project. From 2004 he was best known as the guitarist of Cabinet Singalongs, releasing a single in 2005 and a full-length album a year later.

Kim Mokin released the first solo album under his own name, 음악가 자신의 노래 (Songs of Musician’s-Self), in 2011. He has grown into a singer-songwriter that jumps between genres with little effort all the while maintaining his key acoustic sound. Kim Mokin is commonly found supporting other singer-songwriters around Seoul and managed to gather an impressive amount of support in return for his third full-length album, 콜라보 씨의 일일 (A Day in the Life of Mr. X), released in November.

Kim Mokin’s 3rd full-length album 콜라보 씨의 일일 (A Day in the Life of Mr. X) is nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Folk Album. Album lead track “걷다 보니 (Walking)” is nominated for Best Folk Song where it is competing against “집에 가자” that he recorded together with Siwa and Hwang Puha. Kim Mokin’s previous nomination in the Korean Music Awards came before the introduction of the Best Folk category.

  • 2014: Best Pop Album – 한 다발의 시선



Hip-hop oriented boy band BTS formed under Big Hit Entertainment and debuted as seven members with single album 2 Cool 4 Skool in June 2013. The group had an international orientation already from the beginning, with events in Japan, Thailand, and China within months of the debut and live performances not only in Asia but also in Europe as well as North and South America the following year.

With continued international activities and releases in both Korea and Japan, BTS’ fan base has grown considerably since, earning the band the award for Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards 2017. Mini album Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’ peaked at #7 on Billboard 200 with the subsequent single “Mic Drop Remix”, produced by Steve Aoki and featuring Desiigner, moving to become certified gold by RIAA with Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’ lead track “DNA” following suit a week later.

BTS’ 5th mini album Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’ is nominated for Best Pop Album whereas album lead track “DNA” is nominated for both Song of the Year and Best Pop Song.



IU made her debut at age 15 as a solo singer from Loen Entertainment, in 2008 with the release of mini album Lost And Found. She has since continued to release numerous singles and EPs as well as four full-length albums, the latest, Palette, in April 2017.

In addition to participating on various soundtracks, IU herself has become an actress appearing in multiple dramas. During 2017 she was also a regular cast member on popular entertainment show Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast (효리네 민박). With a wide range of activities as well as frequent endorsements IU is currently one of Korea’s highest-earning celebrities.

IU’s 4th full-length album Palette is nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Pop Album whereas album track “밤편지 (Through The Night)” is nominated for both Song of the Year and Best Pop Song. IU has previously won the Korean Music Awards Netizens’ Choice for Female Artist in 2012 and 2016 and won both Song of the Year and Best Pop Song in 2012.

  • 2012: Song of the Year – “좋은 날 (Good Day)”
  • 2012: Best Pop Album – Last Fantasy
  • 2012: Best Pop Song – “좋은 날 (Good Day)”
  • 2016: Best Pop Album – CHAT-SHIRE
  • 2016: Best Pop Song – “스물셋 (Twenty-three)”



After recording Hyukoh‘s 2014 debut EP 20 as a solo project with session musicians, OHHYUK set out to recruit band members. The indie rock outfit released its second EP 22 in May 2015, after already having gained attention from OHHYUK’s collaboration with hip-hop producer Primary during the spring.

Hyukoh became known to the general public in Korea through appearing on the 2015 summer special of popular variety show Infinite Challenge (무한도전). In July 2015 Hyukoh became the first band signed to the YG Entertainment sub-label HIGHGRND and moved to release first full-length album 23 in April 2017. Meanwhile, OHHYUK has continued to raise the profile of the band through soundtracks and collaborations with other popular artists such as IU.

Hyukoh’s 1st full-length album 23 is nominated for both Album of the Year and Best Modern Rock Album. Similarly, album lead track “Tomboy” is nominated for both Song of the Year and Best Modern Rock Song. Hyukoh was previously nominated for Artist of the Year in 2016, at which time the band won both Rookie of the Year and Best Modern Rock Song in 2016.

  • 2016: Artist of the Year
  • 2016: Rookie of the Year
  • 2016: Song of the Year – “와리가리 (Comes And Goes)”
  • 2016: Best Modern Rock Album – 22
  • 2016: Best Modern Rock Song – “와리가리 (Comes And Goes)”

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