The Rise of K-Pop Around the World


YG Entertainment

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Havana Thomas, Staff Writer

The Korean Wave (Hallyu) defines the global exportation of South Korea’s cultural economy, and recently, one aspect of Korean entertainment has definitely taken the world by storm. Korean pop music, commonly known as K-pop, has finally made a breakthrough in the global music industry after having gradually built up popularity over the past decade.

In the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, a handful of Korean soloists and groups attempted to break into the American market. The reason they failed to go mainstream, among the Western public, was due to the fact that their marketing plans had fallen short, and in the end, it wasn’t until a few years later in 2012 when K-pop had the biggest exposure in the States. It was during this year that PSY came out with his hit single, “Gangnam Style,” the first-ever video on YouTube to acquire approximately 1 billion views. After obtaining attention in the U.S. for his incredibly eccentric music video, PSY essentially paved the way for other Korean artists to conquer the Western market as well.

Hallyu is not as complex as it seems. Being a global phenomenon that gradually introduces Korean influences to the foreign public, there are many reasons why national facets of entertainment would gain international recognition. For example, with Korean entertainment companies carrying out the right marketing and advertising strategies, they managed to acquire fans in Europe, a region where K-pop is not especially favored.

Also, things often become popular, intentionally or not, with the help of the internet, and they gain attention for different reasons as well, like in the United States, where K-pop offers a form of music very different from what many Americans are used to. Japan, a country big on entertainment, has the Japanese public taking a liking to K-pop because of its sexier and more mature characteristics, which contrast to their own “cute-styled” J-pop.

More fans equals more money, which is why entertainment companies in Korea aim to find strategies, such as following worldwide trends, that allow them to attract people from all over the globe. If groups properly use marketing strategies, they can successfully appeal to different regions. Because the U.S. and Japan hold the biggest music markets, there are often English or Japanese versions of Korean songs. With this alteration, fans in these regions can better appreciate the music. It is not uncommon for groups to cover their songs in different languages. NCT 127 released an English version of their song “Regular” last month. Songs released in languages affiliated with certain regions give Korean artists the opportunity to gain more recognition. And to further their influence, subgroups are formed to appeal to other markets, such as EXO, which has a separate group of performers formed to fit the Chinese market.

Immense global recognition of Korea’s pop culture has caused it to understandably be a major focus of the government, whose goal is to have an international influence. Thanks to K-pop and other forms of Korean entertainment, there’s been a surge of tourism and an increasing fascination of Korean studies and language. This sudden interest has improved Korea’s national image in a very positive way.