K-pop fever

Did you know that South Korean Government spends around $91 million on pop industry every year? For the Koreans K-pop, as it is known among youngsters worldwide, is the face of Korea’s youth. It is intriguing how the bands and the state together have played their cards well enough to attract youth from all over the world. Bands aren’t just randomly picked rather each member plays a certain ‘characters’ to represent a targeted stereotype. The industry has grown into a popular subculture among teenagers and young college going adults worldwide.

How it all started:
Although South Korea was first introduced to Western music in the 1920s, it wasn’t until 1992, with the debut of ‘Seo Tai-ji and Boys’ that S Korean music took off and made headlines. By incorporating elements of techno and rap rock the iconic Korean band gave birth to an industry that became a promising investment for companies within years.
Surprised by the massive spill-over of South Korean culture and entertainment in China and Taiwan over mid-90s, in 1999 Beijing journalists coined the term ‘Hallyu wave’ for this unprecedented phenomenon.  The Hallyu is stretching from contest-based products like movies, popular songs, and television dramas to such cultural hardware as food, clothing, accessories and mobile phones. The 2000s brought popularity all over Asia and eventually Globalization. The popular bands initially specifically targeted the Japanese audiences, by singing and conducting interviews in Japanese, the move was a mega success.

Making it Big!
Today, in 2011, K-pop is the most trending genre in  in most East and South East Asia, including Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Vietnam. Outside Asia Korean music is gaining popularity at a miraculous pace in USA, Australia and Canada. Another major factor for the gain in popularity in the West is Asian students in Western colleges. American college campuses, with a lot of cultural exchange have become a hub for new audiences for K pop. Today K-pop is a multimillion dollar industry with the potential for billions more.

The Secret behind their success?
Firstly, Korean people have always been very open to cultural exposure. They have successfully mingled with different people, adopted new practices without losing the soul and essence of a ‘South Korean-ness’ that is reflected even among the ‘modern’ of their youth. They essentially don’t see a conflict between Modernizing and remaining Korean at heart. It is this confidence in their own culture that has allowed them to create a strong and attractive popular culture.

Secondly, the excitement, and joy around South Korean music attracts youth worldwide. Korean music espouses optimism in the younger generation and entertainment today, as has proven by their success, needs to be more of an outlet from the bizarre and depressing.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the amount of effort that goes into ensuring that the bands achieve success. They are a huge hit because of their setup, dance moves, outfits, and vibe. There’s a lot of intensive hard work and big bucks that the Koreans put into this market. Apprenticeship is a popular phenomenon, where talent agencies invest around $400,000 to launch a new artist. This includes fully subsidized tours, training, professional choreography, sculpt and shape their bodies and study multiple languages and culture.

It is important also to see the Hallyu in the international context, Japan’s social, economic and cultural decline and China filling that vacuum in Asia made room for South Korea to export influence.

Interesting Facts about K-pop:

  1. Korean culture exports reached $3.8 billion in revenue in 2011.
  2. Korean ‘Hallyu’ wave is a major source of National pride for many Koreans.
  3. Korean actors are highest paid in the world outside of Hollywood.
  4. Tourism increased drastically post Hallyu. From 2003 to 2004 an increase from 2.8million to 3.7 million foreign visitors was witnessed.
  5. 2008 and 2009 Guiness world record for the biggest official fan club went to biggest K-pop export TVXQ (Tong Vfang Xien Qi).