Anyone who has ever read this series knows that we like to deep dive into Korean artists whose legacy and efforts have helped bring K-pop to where it is today. Whether it is Seo Taiji and Boys kicking off the first generation of K-pop and inspiring future generations of K-pop or H.O.T and Sechskies having one of K-pop’s fiercest rivalries that helped shape fandom as we see it today whilst being two of the successful groups and pioneers of their generation, or whether it is the likes of Deux and TURBO. Whose dancing and style are still iconic, creating some of the best dancing in the history of K-pop. 

K-pop has grown and expanded over the years, whether it’s BoA and TWICE, becoming some of the most successful and recognisable artists to enter the Japanese market. Or Girls’ Generation, seemingly breaking into the American market, performing on late-night American television shows. It can be natural to see your favourite artists travelling the world appearing on tv and touring.

But before all these artists, there was one group who gave all musicians hope. Conquering not only Korea but also breaking into the American market. Representing a Country still recovering from one of its biggest wars, they brought hope to a country and a music industry completely different to what we know today.

Today we will examine The Kim Sisters, one of Korea’s most successful music exports of the 60s and the idols before the term was even created.

Daughters of famous Korean composer Kim Hai-song and legendary trot singer Lee Nan-Young who most famously saw success with the 1935 song ‘Tears of Mokpo.’ The family looked to continue on their musical legacy, famously incorporating a Western style into his own composition. The trio were always destined to succeed in the Western World.

Starting out performing in Korea during the early 50s for the South Korean army and allies alongside their mother. Who also performed at various camps where they would learn English songs, replicating them to U.S. military camps, learning the skills they would use to carry out a successful career.

After impressing at these camps, the girls would attract the attention of former U.S. GI turned music producer Bob McMackin spotted the trio during a performance in 1957 and decided to make it his mission to bring the musicians to the states. Succeeding in 1959, with The Kim Sisters travelling over as “cultural ambassadors.”

They would reside in Las Vegas, with Kim telling the Korea Times in 2011, “Tom Ball was producing an Oriental show in Las Vegas and booked us into the Thunderbird Hotel. He told us, “I will sign you girls for four weeks. If you’re successful, I will renew the contract, if you’re not, you can pack and go back home.” Performing alongside other Asian acts, they became the face of Koreans in America performing 6 days a week. They would expand their show, incorporating instruments and dance, becoming standout performers who could do it all.


This gathered the attention of Las Vegas, being featured on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” One of the longest-running TV variety shows broadcasting every Saturday for over 20 years from the late 40s into the 70s. Over the years seeing performances from the likes of Elvis Presley and The Beatles. The show would see the girls perform across 20 episodes and would see special performances alongside their brothers, The Kim Brothers and Lee Nan-young.

These appearances would be accompanied by a feature in Life Magazine in February 1960. They would also see major success in the charts, hitting the number 6 spot in the Billboard charts covering ‘Charlie Brown’ by The Coasters. 

Lives post The Kim Sisters:

Entering the 70s and each getting married, the trio would separate with The Kim Brothers, now permanently living in America and continuing the family name. Members saw success individually. Mia married successful Hungarian conductor Tommy Vig. They would do the TV rounds, even working together to release the song ‘Oriental Boy’ as part of the 1982 film ‘They Call Me Bruce.’ 

Performing in sold-out arenas worldwide, they both moved to Hungary in the Mid-2000s appearing on various tv and radio spots. She was the subject of a 2015 documentary ‘Try to Remember.’ Honouring the legacy of The Kim Sisters to great success.

With another sister moving over from Korea, the new Kim sisters would continue to perform for several years. Aija would sadly pass of lung cancer in 1987, leaving only the Kim Brothers to continue until the 90s.

Seen as legends in Korea, Mia recalls travelling back, “Oh yes, we did go back in the 1960s and it was like a house on fire.” Their impact on Korean music is still seen today, showcasing a wide range of skills in singing, dancing and playing instruments. 

But their impact goes further. It is the story of a war-torn family living the American dream giving hope to all Koreans having gone through some of the Country’s most difficult years. They were not only one of the first-ever Korean musicians to succeed in America but celebrities.

Our Kim Sisters recommendations:

1 – Charlie Brown

2 – Arirang 

3 – Korean Spring song

4 – All Shook Up

5 – Little Darling


About Author

Writer and former radio presenter, into Korean rock and indie bands and all things Korean entertainment.