South Korea is a country in East Asia. There are many things to do in South Korea such as walking around Seoul’s busy streets, to Busan’s beaches, shopping in Gangnam, or eating Jeju’s oranges. However, the one thing you are guaranteed to hear everywhere is K-Pop. K-pop stands for Korean Pop Music, and it has grown enormously over the years. It is no longer just a music genre of South Korea, you can hear it all over the world now. K-Pop started to become more well know because of Psy’s Gangnam Style. Following Psy’s success, was BTS’s Blood Sweat & Tears. After its release, it became the most viewed K-Pop video in 24 hours with 6.34 millions of views. Furthermore, it is also the fastest video to hit 10 million views, and the fastest boy group video to hit 20 million. Thanks to the success of artists like Psy and BTS, K-pop has become a global phenomenon. In addition, it is popular for its distinctive blend of addictive melodies, tight choreography, and production values. K-pop is also known for its performers who spend years in strict and demanding setting to learn how to sing and dance, until they are able to be perfectly synchronized.
Before the phenomenon of K-Pop, Korean music were primarily slow ballads. However, “after the liberalization of South Korean media in the late ’80s their radio broadcasting expanded, and they became more exposed to a varieties of music from the outside, including American music” (Romano, 2018). When K-Pop first started, it was very unusual and new to Korea. It got its start thanks to a band called Seo Taiji and Boys. Their debut single, “I Know went on to top South Korea’s singles charts for a record of 17 weeks, which would stand for more than 15 years as the longest No. 1 streak in the country’s history” (Sin & Yi, 2017, p. 158). The song represented the first time Korean culture had been fused with American-style pop music. Seo Taiji and Boys were innovators who challenged norms around musical styles, song topics, fashion, and censorship. During their time, they changed the ways of music and performance in South Korea forever. They paved the way for future artists to be even more experimental and break even more boundaries. The wide spread of K-Pop is regarded very highly in Korea, it is even given the name “The Hallyu Wave.” It is the idea that “South Korean pop culture has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global culture, seen in everything from Korean dramas on Netflix to Korean skincare regimens dominating the cosmetics industry” (Romano, 2018). As stated by Professor Park Gil-Sung, chairman of World Association for Hallyu Studies, “Hallyu could be a stepping stone for peace.” A perfect example of that is this year, when South Korean K-Pop group, Red Velvet performed in North Korea. At the end of the concert, people in “the audience sang “Let’s meet again” and “Our wish is unification,” a song about reunification of the two Koreas, together with the South Korean performers” (Cho & Lee, 2018).
The key features that make K-Pop different from the artists in American are, their high-quality performance, polished image, and the way they are trained. K-Pop idols are trained for years, until they become perfect money makers for their company. As stated in Harvard Business Review of analyzing K-Pop’s global success, “rather than find ready-made talent, K-Pop companies manufacture it” (Rhee, 2016). The trainees “spend hours in daily rehearsals and compete every month to be the best” (Williamson, 2011). They are trained to be perfect in dancing, singing, and entertainment. Then, when they are old enough, and talented enough, the company will place them into an idol group or launch them as a solo artist. If the company think that they aren’t ready yet, then they have to back and continue training. Which is completely different from the ways artists are in America. Artists in Korea are also different from the ones in America because, American is known for its individualism and freedom. Whereas, Korean artists are more about conforming and following a system. Korean artists are basically slaves of their company, and they don’t normally have any right in what they wear or songs they sing. While artists in American, can wear and sing whatever they want. Furthermore, K-Pop idols aren’t into individualism like American artist. Koreans are well known their collectivism. They “prioritize the goal of the group” more than themselves (Ahn, 2011).
While K-Pop is widely accepted in Korea, it is only recently becoming popular in America. K-Pop in Korea is a subculture all on its own. K-pop fans in Korea have perfected the “art of the fan chant, in which fans in live studio audiences and live performances will shout alternate fan chants over the musical intros to songs, and sometimes as a counterpoint to choruses, as a show of unity and support” (Chua & Iwabuchi, 2008). Some examples would be fans who wake up early and wait to see their idols walk into rehearsals or fans who wait at the airport all day to see the idols depart or arrive. While K-Pop in American, is starting to become much more popular. Recently, the biggest reason is because of BTS. A boyband who have taking over America, “since their performance at the AMAs, the BTS Army has been steadily growing. Sales and streaming of the group’s songs have shot up in the last week” (Han, 2017). Since the success of BTS people are starting to know more about K-Pop, and they are loving it. The New York Times even reported that KCON “has grown exponentially from its inaugural 2012 edition in L.A. into a globe-trotting envoy reaching K-pop fans in Japan, the United Arab Emirates, France, Mexico and Australia” (“Ever-growing”, 2018). Currently, K-Con is the largest US K-pop convention. However, there have recently been some smaller conventions that have taken place as well. Some would be the K-Feast in Texas, and we also have one in St. Louis next Saturday at Saint louis University.
The future direction of K-Pop is it will only continue to grow. It has already made a name for itself in places like Europe, Asia, and South America. It has grown much more than a music genre in Korea. K-Pop is reaching people worldwide, “K-pop is quickly becoming one of the county’s biggest exports; in 2011, exports equaled $180 million, up 112 percent from the previous year” (Ladner, 2017). Furthermore, K-Pop has become influential for the future generations. K-Pop is not only connecting with our generation, but also the ones after us. As a result, they will continue to become more influential and well known to people. One case of it happening is, when BTS spoke at the 2018 United Nation in New York. They spoke about “the world’s youths, and how they should have self-acceptance and inspiration” in life (Wang, 2018). In addition, K-Pop are becoming more mainstream in our society so people should expect to hear it more. They are topping charts in Apple music, being played on radios, and performing on shows. Some shows that K-Pop idols have been on are The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Late Show with James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
This study looked at the success of K-Pop in our society. K-Pop has gain tremendous attention from the public in recent years. It has truly grown from being just a genre in Korea to a global phenomenon. It shows that the world is changing and more accepting now. Asians are now receiving more attention and breaking stereotypes. Through K-Pop people see that even a language barrier couldn’t stop them from liking something. K-Pop has not only attracted people to its music, but also its culture. As stated by Eshy Gazit, CEO of Gramophone Media, “”I believed full-heartedly regardless of the status quo and the history, that it’s time for music from South Korea, and from all over the world, to cross over to the United States.”