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Sitting Down With A Legendary ‘90s K-Pop Idol: Danny Im From 1TYM

Four Asian men pose for a photo on a street with graffiti behind them. The man on the left wears dark clothes and a black cap. To his right a man wears a white tank top, to his right a man in glasses has his hair in cornrows, and at the far right a man in a cap has his left arm in the air.
1TYM members (L to R): Baekkyung, Danny Im, Jinhwan (foreground), Teddy Park
(Courtesy YG Entertainment)
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When 1TYM — pronounced “one time” — debuted in South Korea in 1998, the members had no idea they would become one of the first K-pop groups from YG Entertainment to make it big.

The group had a fresh West Coast hip-hop sound that introduced hip-hop to the Korean mainstream and ushered in the next generations of K-pop artists.

The group’s lead vocalist, Danny Im, spoke to Vivian Yoon — host of our new podcast, K-Pop Dreaming — about 1TYM’s rise to fame in K-pop’s infancy during the ‘90s and early 2000s and being discovered by one of K-pop's biggest music labels in Los Angeles.

Listen to the episode

Listen: To extended interview with 1TYM's Danny Im

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The origin story

The two Korean-American members of 1TYM, Danny Im and Teddy Park, both grew up in Los Angeles County. They attended Diamond Bar High School and became close friends through their shared love of music.

“We would go to karaoke all the time,” Im said. “If we got tired, we would just sleep in the room, wake up and just eat there, everything.”

They ended up meeting friends who produced music and lived in their neighborhood. The producers asked Im and Park to sing and rap on one of their demos, which was sent off to other music producers in South Korea — including YG Entertainment.

YG Entertainment’s founder, Yang Hyun Suk, took an interest in the demo and arranged to meet with Im and Park in Koreatown.

“We met him in this hotel room in L.A.,” Im said. “He talked to us for a little bit and then basically just goes, ‘OK, do something’ — so I remember Teddy rapped and sang a little, and then I rapped and sang a little, whatever.”

The two didn’t expect anything to happen after the audition, Im said — but a few days later, Yang Hyun Suk asked them to come to Seoul, South Korea. After speaking with their parents, the two make the decision to fly there and try to become K-pop stars.

At YG Entertainment, they met the other two members of what would eventually become 1TYM: Oh Jinhwan and and Song Baekyoung. 1TYM released their first album One Time For Your Mind in 1998, which included their self-titled breakout hit song, “1TYM.”

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The group continued making music for eight years, generating multiple chart-topping hits. After 1TYM’s success, YG Entertainment continued to grow. It eventually established itself as the entertainment giant behind some of the biggest groups performing today, including BLACKPINK.

1TYM’s rapper and producer, Teddy Park, went on to produce music at YG Entertainment for K-pop legends including BIGBANG, 2NE1, and SE7EN. He’s now the producer for many of BLACKPINK’s hit songs.

Danny Im shifted his focus to mentoring trainees at YG Entertainment — he helped discover some of today’s K-pop superstars.

Im said he was at an open audition in Thailand where he first met BLACKPINK’s Lisa.

“She had this confidence that even I was like, ‘Is that too much confidence?’” Im said. “But when we talked to her, she was very humble, so she had this thing that it was like, we couldn't forget, you know?”

He also reviewed BLACKPINK’s Jennie’s audition tape and supported IKON’s Bobby through the trainee process, Im said.

Impact on K-pop

1TYM’s legacy continues on beyond their discography. The group was a source of major inspiration for the massively popular second-generation K-pop group that followed, BIGBANG.

BIGBANG went on to become a major influence on BTS. Several BTS members have been vocal about the impact of BIGBANG’s music on their own musical ambitions.

For more K-pop

Listen to all of LAist Studios’ new podcast, K-Pop Dreaming. Host Vivian Yoon follows the rise of K-pop through the perspective of the Korean American diaspora in Los Angeles.

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