Turbo was formed in October 1994 to compete against the then-popular dance group, Deux. Leader and former DJ Kim Jung Nam was responsible for the rap and choreography while Kim Jong Kook, former vocalist for a high school band, took care of the vocals. This combo proved to be well matched, as Turbo's name soon became synonymous with dance music.
They launched their first album in August 1995, titled "280 km/h speed". Living up to their group name and album title, Turbo took the dance world by storm debuting with the song "나 어릴적 꿈"(My Childhood Dream). With the breakup of Deux just one month after Turbo's debut, Turbo was on track to become the next king of dance. Following up with songs "검은 고양이" (Black Cat) and "선택" (Decision), Turbo was labeled as "dance music's scary kids" for rising in popularity so fast.
Just a year after their debut, Turbo returned with their second album, "New Sensation". Reaffirming their popularity, the album sold 800,000 copies within the first two months and their title track "Twist King" swept all the charts. After "Twist King" Turbo performed "Love Is...(3+3=0)" and "어느 재즈 바... (At the Jazz Bar...)". By the end of their second album promotion, Turbo was firmly entrenched as a premier dance group.
This status was short lived however, as Turbo broke up just months later. Citing problems with their management, Turbo went into seclusion. Their hiding was so effective that police were brought in to investigate their whereabouts. Eventually, due to public demand for Turbo's return, half of Turbo returned. Kim Jung Nam, unable to reconcile his differences with the management, left the group. He later joined the 5 member group SNAP in 1999. This left Kim Jong Kook looking for a new partner.
That partner was found in California resident Mikey. Immigrating to America at the age of 6, he had his dreams set on becoming a singer ever since watching videos of the popular group Seo Taiji and Boys. In May 1997, with the goal of becoming a singer, Mikey returned to Korea alone. Just two months later he auditioned for Turbo among 3500 other hopefuls. Mikey shined both in his rapping skills and also his ability to speak English, gaining him the spot.
Resurrected with the addition of Mikey, Turbo returned to the gayo world October 1997 with their aptly titled 3rd album "Born Again...". Performing "회상" (Remembrance/December), "Geum Gwi Dwen Jang Nan" and "Goodbye Yesterday", they took back the dance music title. During this time, Turbo was offered to sing a duet with American singer and movie star Will Smith. Smith, who had just launched his second single "Just the two of us" (Bill Withers song) said he wanted to make an Asian version of the song. After reviewing singers from Asia he picked Turbo for their music abilities and unique style. Also of interest, singer Choi Chang Min served as a back dancer for Turbo from 97-98 before launching his own solo career.
Unfortunately while preparing for their 4th album Kim Jong Kook injured his hip, hampering their album release. Eventually released October 1998, entitled "Perfect Love" Turbo ventured into different types of music, including Latin, techno, R&B, hip hop and ballad. Turbo's title track "애인이 생겼어요" (I Got a Girlfriend) was described as a fresh and comical change for Turbo. Following up with a more traditional Turbo style song "X: The Greatest Love", Turbo showed they were still going strong, getting voted as one of the best artists of 98.
But once again Turbo faced breakup. Turbo was invited to participate in the Asia Superconcert (12/30/98) to represent Korea with names like H.O.T., S.E.S., Fin.K.L, Clon and Sechs Kies. This concert featured singers from all over Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan and was broadcast live to Korea, China and Japan. Due to arguments with management before the concert, Kim Jong Kook protested his role in the concert by not performing his section of the concert and leaving without bowing. This rude behavior was heavily criticized by many who watched the live KBS 1TV broadcast, including top politicians. Due to this incident Kim Jong Kook and Turbo were banned from appearing on tv.
With the ban reluctantly lifted October 1999, Turbo returned in full force just 4 months later with their 5th album "Email my heart". Wanting to raise their level of music, Turbo requested the help of Korea's top musicians and composers including Yoon Il Sang, Yoo Jung Yun, Joo Young Hoon, and Ahn Jung Hoon. Labeled "Cyber Lover", Turbo's title track was not only an exciting song but provided an entertaining look at today’s Internet based society. Also to celebrate the millennium Turbo included a special ticket in 2000 of their albums, with the winners guaranteed a copy of Turbo's new albums henceforth.
Not only was their 5th album a success, the music video for their follow up song "Tonight" garnered much popularity and was regarded as one of the years best music videos. Starring talent Kim Min and Turbo's own Kim Jong Kook, the video was directed by Kim Sae Hoon who also did the acclaimed videos "To Heaven" Jo Sung Mo and "Youngone" [sky]. Set in LA's Harlem, Tonight dramatizes gang violence in typical Korean style. But this dramatization was deemed too violent for tv and Turbo was forced to take it off the air. Having their video banned was nothing new, since their title video, "Cyber Lover" was also banned for inappropriate chat dialog within the video.
Although their 5th album was a huge success, lead singer Kim Jong Gook took an opportunity to go solo leaving Mikey and many disappointed Turbo fans. Kim Jong Kook was offered a 700 million won (more than half million USD) contract for 2 albums by I Star media. Mikey, with his visa expiring, also took leave to New York City to study music under Paul Bay. To end their long career, Turbo released one last album titled "History" revisiting all their hit songs from previous albums and including 3 new songs. A music video for "History" was also released, featuring for the first time transsexual model and singer Harisu.