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Music in South Korea

"KPOP" redirects here. For other uses, see .

K-pop (abbreviation of Korean pop; : 케이팝) is characterized by a wide variety of elements. While the modern form of K-pop can be traced back as early as to early 90s, the term has been popularized since 2000s and replaced the term (가요) which also refers to domestic pop music in South Korea. Although it generally classifies "popular music" within South Korea, the term is often used in a narrower sense to describe a modern form of South Korean pop that is influenced by styles and genres from around the world, such as , , , , , , , , , and on top of its uniquely roots. The more modern form of the genre emerged with one of the earliest K-pop groups, , forming in 1992. Their experimentation with different styles and genres of music and integration of foreign musical elements helped reshape and modernize South Korea's contemporary music scene.

Modern began with the boy band in 1996, as K-pop grew into a that amassed enormous fandoms of teenagers and young adults. After a slump in early K-pop, from 2003 and started a new generation of K-pop idols that broke the music genre into the neighboring Japanese market and continue to popularize K-pop internationally today. With the advent of online and , the current global spread of K-pop and Korean entertainment, known as the , is seen not only in and but also ,,, the and the , gaining a widespread global audience.



Audiovisual content[]

Although K-pop generally refers to South Korean popular music, some consider it to be an all-encompassing genre exhibiting a wide spectrum of musical and visual elements. The French defines K-pop as a "fusion of synthesized music, sharp dance routines and fashionable, colorful outfits." Songs typically consist of one or a mixture of , , , and genres.

Systematic training of artists[]

See also:

Management agencies in South Korea offer binding contracts to potential artists, sometimes at a young age. Trainees live together in a regulated environment and spend many hours a day learning music, dance, foreign languages and other skills in preparation for their debut. This "robotic" system of training is often criticized by Western media outlets. In 2012, reported that the cost of training one under averaged US million.

Hybrid genre and transnational values[]

Search volume for K-pop for the period 2008–2012 according to .

K-pop is a cultural product that features “values, identity and meanings that go beyond their strictly commercial value.” It is characterized by a mixture of Western sounds with an Asian aspect of performance. It has been remarked that there is a "vision of modernization" inherent in Korean pop culture. For some, the transnational values of K-pop are responsible for its success. A commentator at the has said that "contemporary Korean pop culture is built on [...] transnational flows [...] taking place across, beyond, and outside national and institutional boundaries." Some examples of the transnational values inherent in K-pop that may appeal to those from different ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds include a dedication to high-quality output and presentation of idols, as well as their work ethic and polite social demeanour, made possible by the training period.


Many agencies have presented new idol groups to an audience through a "debut showcase", which consists of online marketing and television broadcast promotions as opposed to radio. Groups are given a name and a "concept", along with a marketing hook. These concepts are the type of visual and musical theme that idol groups utilize during their debut or comeback.[] Concepts can change between debuts and fans often distinguish between boy group concepts and girl group concepts. Concepts can also be divided between general concepts and theme concepts, such as cute or fantasy. New idol groups will often debut with a concept well known to the market to secure a successful first debut. Sometimes sub-units or sub-groups are formed among existing members. An example subgroup is which consists of members Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung, and , which became one of the best-selling K-pop subgroups in China.

Online marketing includes music videos posted to YouTube in order to reach a worldwide audience. Prior to the actual video, the group releases teaser photos and trailers. Promotional cycles of subsequent singles are called comebacks even when the musician or group in question did not go on hiatus.

Use of English phrases[]

Modern K-pop is marked by its use of English phrases. Jin Dal Yong of Popular Music and Society wrote that the usage may be influenced by "Korean-Americans and/or Koreans who studied in the U.S. [who] take full advantage of their English fluency and cultural resources that are not found commonly among those who were raised and educated in Korea." In 1995, the percentage of song titles using English in the top 50 charts was 8%. This fluctuated between 30% in 2000, 18% in 2005, and 44% in 2010. Similarly, increasing numbers of K-pop bands use English names rather than Korean ones. This allows songs and artists to be marketed to a wider audience around the world. An example of a Korean song with a large proportion of English lyrics is ’s "," which was released at the same time in both Korea and Japan to much success.

Increasingly, foreign songwriters and producers are employed to work on songs for K-pop idols, such as and Sean Garrett. Musicians, including rappers such as , , , and , have also featured on K-pop songs.

However, the use of English has not guaranteed the popularity of K-pop in the North American market. For some commentators, the reason for this is because the genre can be seen as a distilled version of Western music, making it difficult for K-pop to find acceptance in these markets. Furthermore, Western audiences tend to place emphasis on authenticity and individual expression in music, which the idol system can be seen as suppressing.

Article Selection[]

Three different fields, pop singer or group names, titles of songs, and lyrics, have exhibited a significant growth in the usage of English words according to Korean music charts like Melon. The names of singers showed the big change at first. No singers in 1990 who are in the top fifty charts have English in their names. Before this time, people who work in the Korean music industry view using Korean names as a standard, which most musicians followed. Fourteen (28%) singers began using English names in 1995, and the environment was now different from before. Some popular singers at the time such as Gun-mo Kim, Mi-kyung Park, Jin-young Park, Seong-chul Lee, and Jin-seop Byun still used Korean names, but singers and groups such as , , Piano, and Solid now used English names, which set a difference from the early 1990s. Due to mostly the 1997 financial crisis and how the government now no longer censored English lyrics, Korea started to have a boom in English. Therefore, since the late 1990s, English usage in singers' names, song titles, and lyrics has grown quickly. Seventeen singers (34%) used English names in the top fifty charts in 2000, and more than half of the singers (thirty-one, 62%) did so in 2005. In 2010, which is more recently, forty-one (82%) singers used English names among the top fifty songs, but usually three or four singers and groups had more than one or two songs on the chart simultaneously. Korean names (e.g. Ji-youg Baek, In- young Seo, and Gak-Hue) are seen less frequently because many K-pop singers have English names (e.g. , , , , BEAST, and ). Notably, until the early 1990s, musicians had Korean characters for their English names, but now singers would just take their English names without turning them into Korean characters.

Hybrid K-pop has imported different styles from foreign countries and has presented its internationality through English lyrics. Korean pop music from singers or groups who are Korean-American such as , ., Rich, , and both has American style and English lyrics. Since these Korean-American singers' music has such a unique style that is different from common Korean music, young people quickly invest interest and want to learn more about these types of music.

The entertainment companies help to expand K-pop to other parts of the world through a number of different methods. Singers need to use English since the companies want to occupy markets in the other parts of Asia, which enables them to open the Western market in the end. Most of the K-pop singers learn English because it is a common language in the world of music, but some singers also learn other foreign languages such as Japanese to approach the Japanese market.

According to 's research, even though appears more and more often in K-pop, and sometimes may even make fans admire their K-pop stars more because it is fresh, new and interesting, it is hard to change those who believe in a perfect ideal for pure linguistic. This means that the original form of language is still hard to be altered.

East Asia has many different languages, which makes recording in English a working choice to make up the language gap that disturbs the international music communication. Nonetheless, probably because singers do not want to take the risk of presenting a wrong identity, this option is certainly not used most commonly. Musicians who understand both cultures and are fluent English speakers such as and have the most success while using this method to have international music markets. The reason why the frequency of the strategy is comparatively low is because not many East Asian artists have fluent English skills, which people often make comments about a singer's English fluency. More importantly, the East Asian music wave is not simply about the sounds and products of music. Flows of language and identity come with the East Asian wave, and more of these flows will enable researchers to have a better understanding of the international flow in East Asian music.


Dance is an integral part of K-pop. When combining multiple singers, the singers often switch their positions while singing and dancing by making prompt movements in synchrony, a strategy called "formation changing" (: 자리바꿈, Jaribaggum). The K-pop (Korean: 안무, Anmu) often includes the so-called "point dance" (Korean: 포인트 안무), referring to a dance made up of hooking and repetitive movements within the choreography that matches the characteristics of the lyrics of the song.'s "" and ' "" are examples of songs with notable "point" choreography. To choreograph a dance for a song requires the writers to take the tempo into account. According to Ellen Kim, a Los Angeles dancer and choreographer, a fan's ability to do the same steps must also be considered: Consequently, K-pop choreographers have to simplify movements.

One of the most prominent forms of choreography in Kpop routines is rooted in "B-Boying". B-boying is also commonly known as break dancing. This unique street style dance originated in the west, specifically New York city . Although this trend of dance dates back to the 1980s, it remains a popular style of choreography in Kpop. Similar to break dancing, hip hop dance is also a common style. Hip hop moves are recognized as vigorous and forceful, stemming from the 1990s. Despite the popularity of break dancing and hip hop dances, the most widely used Kpop dance is freestyle. Freestyle is a broad term that encompasses many different styles of dance. Utilizing a freestyle routine allows a Kpop group to experiment and highlight multiple skills. Because of the unique combination of styles and techniques used in Kpop routines, fans take great interest in recreating or covering routines. Each dance becomes a signature of a specific group or song.

The training and preparation necessary for Kpop idols to succeed in the industry and dance successfully is intense. Training centers like Seoul's Def Dance Skool develop the dance skills of youth in order to give them a shot at becoming an idol . Physical training is one of the largest focuses at the school, as much of a student's schedule is based around dance and exercise . The entertainment labels are highly selective, so few make it to fame. Students at the school must dedicate their lives to the mastery of dance in order to prepare for the vigorous routines performed by Kpop groups. This of course means that the training must continue if they are signed. Companies house much larger training centers for those who are chosen.

An interview with Kpop choreographer Rino Nakasone lends insight into the process of creating routines. According to Nakasone, her focus is to make dance routines that are flattering for the dancers but also complimentary to the music . Her ideas are submitted to the entertainment company as video recordings done by professional dancers , Nakasone mentions that the company and the Kpop artists themselves have input on a song's choreography . Choreographer May J. Lee gives another perspective, telling that her choreography often starts out as expressing the feeling or the meaning of the lyrics . What starts out as small movements, turns into a full dance that is better able to portray the message of the song .

According to , some of the most noteworthy choreography sections of 2016 include 's 'Monster' and 's 'Fire' music videos . Such praised dance routines often create "signature" moves that are easily recognized by fans and used again in other videos .


See also:

K-pop has a significant influence on fashion in Asia, where trends started by idols are followed by young audiences. Some idols have established status as fashion icons, such as and , who has repeatedly worked with fashion designer , being labeled his "muse."

There is some concern over trends such as being popularised by the industry, which has been criticised for its narrow .

The emergence of in 1992 paved the way for the development of contemporary K-pop groups that fans interact with today. revolutionized the Korean music scene by incorporating and American conventions into their music. This adoption of Western style spread into the fashions worn by the boy band, and the boys adopted the hip-hop aesthetic. and bandmates' outfits for the promotional cycle of "" (난 알아요, I Know) included vibrant streetwear such as oversized T-shirts and sweatshirts, , overalls worn with one strap, overalls worn with one pant leg rolled up, and American sports team jerseys. Accessories included baseball caps worn backwards,, and . As K-pop "was born of post-Seo trends," many acts that followed adopted the same fashion style. and can also be seen wearing on-trend hip-hop fashions such as baggy pants, sportswear, and in their performances. With Korean popular music transforming into youth-dominated media, manufactured teenage idol groups began debuting in the mid and late '90s, wearing coordinated costumes that reflected the popular fashion trends among youth at the time. Hip-hop fashion, considered the most popular style in the late '90s, remained, with idol groups and wearing the style for their debut songs. The use of accessories elevated the idol's style from everyday fashion to performance costume, as ski goggles (worn either around the head or neck), headphones worn around the neck, and oversized gloves worn to accentuate choreography moves were widely used. 's 1996 hit "Candy" exemplifies the level of coordination taken into account for idol's costumes, as each member wore a designated color and accessorized with face paint, fuzzy oversized mittens, visors, bucket hats, and earmuffs, and used stuffed animals, backpacks, and messenger bags as props. While male idol groups' costumes were constructed with similar color schemes, fabrics, and styles, the outfits worn by each member still maintained individuality. On the other hand, female idol groups of the '90s wore homogeneous costumes, often styled identically. The costumes for female idols during their early promotions often focused on portraying an innocent, youthful image.

debuted in 1997 "" and 's 1998 debut "" featured the girls dressed in white outfits, "To My Boyfriend" by .'s shows idols in girl costumes pink school and in particular "One" and "End" of Chakra presented indu and African style costumes. To portray a natural and corny image, the accessories were limited to large bows, pompom hair ornaments and hair bands. With the maturation of female idol groups and the removal of bubblegum pop in the late 1990s, the sets of female idol groups focused on following the fashion trends of the time, many of which were revealing pieces. The latest promotions of the girl groups Baby Vox and Jewelry exemplify these trends of hot pants, micro miniskirts, crop tops, peasant blouses, transparent garments and blouses on the upper part of the torso.[]

2NE1 Fire Wonder Girls Nobody

K-pop showed significant trends over the past few decades. In the early 90s2000s, culture emerged as good looking internet celebrities posted photos on popular sites like Haduri(face webcam site), Daum community. The rise of ulzzang style parallels the K-pop phenomenon, hence many K-pop idols adopted the look, which is described as “huge, delicate bambi-like eyes with double lids and a tiny, delicate nose with a high bridge are a prerequisite. Smooth, pale snow-white skin, and rosebud lips are also desirable. So is a small and sharp chin to achieve the perfect “V-line” face, which should ideally be no bigger than the size of your palm". This look was nearly impossible to gain naturally, giving rise to the popularity of circle contact lenses, plastic surgeries, and skin-whitening products. As K-pop became a modern hybrid of Western and Asian cultures starting from the late 2000s, fashion trends within K-pop reflects diversity and distinction as well. Fashion trends from the late 2000s to early 2010s can largely be categorized under the following:

  • Street: focuses on individuality, bright colors, mix-and-match styling, graphic prints, sports brands such as Adidas and Reebok (e.g. 2NE1-Fire, SHINee-Ring Ding Dong, etc.)
  • Retro: aims to bring back "nostalgia" from the 1960s to 1980s, dot prints, detailed patterns, common clothing items include denim jackets, boot-cut pants, wide pants, hair bands, scarves, and sunglasses (e.g. Wonder Girls-Nobody, Tiara-Roly Poly, etc.)
  • Sexy: highlights femininity and masculinity, revealing outfits made of satin, lace, fur, and leather, common clothing items include mini skirts, corsets, net stockings, high heels, sleeveless vests, see-through shirts (e.g. Girls' Generation-The Boys, After School, TVXQ-Mirotic, etc.) Girls' Generation Genie
  • Black & White: emphasizes modern & chic, symbolizes elegance & charisma, mostly applied to formal wear (e.g. Girls' Generation-Genie, Super Junior-Sorry Sorry, Beast-Fiction, etc.)
  • Futurism: commonly wore with electronic and hip-hop genres, popping color items, metallic details and prints, aims to have a futuristic outlook (e.g. 2NE1-I am the Best, Wonder Girls-Like Money, NCT U-Seventh Sense, etc.) The has attributed the rapid surge in cultural exports since 1997 to the increased worldwide popularity of K-pop.

Government support[]

The has acknowledged benefits to the country's export sector as a result of the (it was estimated in 2011 that a US0 increase in the export of cultural products resulted in a US2 increase in exports of other consumer goods including food, clothes, cosmetics and IT products) and thus have subsidised certain endeavours. Government initiatives to expand the popularity of K-pop are mostly undertaken by the , which is responsible for the worldwide establishment of . South Korean embassies and consulates have also organized K-pop concerts outside the country, and the regularly invites overseas to attend the annual in South Korea. In addition to the use of the popularity of K-pop for benefits to the country’s export sector in economic perspective, the South Korean government has been taking advantage of the influence of K-pop in diplomacy with a name of “Soft Power diplomacy”. The existing traditional diplomatic strategy “” refers to the ways of obtaining what one wants from stakeholders through direct intimidation such as military threat and economic sanctions. As mass communication has become developing, however, “”, which is pursuing achievement of one’s goals by persuading stakeholders using cultural and ideological power, is regarded as more effective and pragmatic diplomatic tactic. Considering changed point of view towards the world by globalization and political and social trends, South Korean government has approached the ways of dealing with diplomatic issues by taking the indirect and softened strategies. In this regard, Korean Wave, K-pop is taking account for a great part, has been utilized and supported by South Korean government in a pursuit of attracting other countries interests in South Korean culture and improving perception on the country. A representative example of the South Korean government effort in diplomacy exploiting K-pop as a tool can be (MAMA). MAMA, started with the opening statement of (the Korean president at the time), was K-pop music awards hosted by Mnet in Hong Kong in 2014. This event is considered to have power for South Korea to strengthen nation’s reputation and political influence towards the world. Based on this value, the fact that the Small and Medium Business Administration(SMBA) sponsored the awards can be interpreted as the Korean government’s deliberate endeavor to support Korean cultural industries with expectancy on synergy effects in diplomacy. Another relatively recent instance can be K-pop singers’ performances in North Korea. There were a few precedents, terminated in 2005, that Korean pop singers visited North Korea to perform before North Korean audiences. After about a decade year, approximately 190 of South Korean performers including well-known South Korean musicians, , , , and , were sent to Pyongyang in North Korea for performance on March 31st and April 3rd in 2018. also attended as an audience.


K-pop music is easy to be found online. This is because the copyright holders, Korean entertainment companies are not much attached to the copyright regime, but they are willing to share their music through YouTube and other SNS.


Origins of Korean popular music[]

The history of Korean popular music can be traced back to 1885 when an American missionary, , began teaching American and British folk songs at a school. These songs were called changga in Korean, and they were typically based on a popular Western melody sung with Korean lyrics. For example, the song "Oh My Darling, Clementine" became known as "Simcheongga." During the (1910–1945) the popularity of changga songs rose as Koreans expressed their feelings against Japanese oppression through music. One of the most popular songs was "Huimangga" (희망가, The Song of Hope). The Japanese confiscated the existing changga collections and published lyrics books of their own.[]

The first known Korean pop album was "Yi Pungjin Sewol" (This Tumultuous Time), by Park Chae-seon and Lee Ryu-saek in 1925, which contained popular songs translated from Japanese. The first pop song written by a Korean composer is thought to be "Nakhwayusu" (낙화유수, Fallen Blossoms on Running Water) sung by Lee Jeong-suk in 1929. In the mid-1920s, Japanese composer mixed traditional Korean music with Gospel music that American Evangelists introduced in the 1870s. This type of music became known as in Japan, and later in Korea as (: "트로트").

1940s–1960s: Arrival of Western culture[]

After the was partitioned into North and South following its liberation in 1945 from , was introduced into South Korea on a small scale, with a few Western-styled bars and clubs playing Western music. After the (1950–53) troops remained in South Korea. With the continued presence of the U.S. military during this time, American and world culture spread in South Korea and Western music gradually became more accepted.

In the 1950s, after the Korean War, a large number of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and American pop music was introduced to South Korea through various channels. For example, super stars like Nat King Cole, Marilyn Monroe and Louis Armstrong held shows in South Korea for the U.S. army.

entertaining American soldiers in Korea in 1954

The made it possible for several prominent figures of American entertainment, like and to visit the soldiers stationed in Korea. These visits prompted attention from the Korean public. In 1957, the American Forces Korea Network radio started its broadcast, spreading the popularity of Western music. American music started influencing Korean music, as was gradually replaced by and popular songs started to be modeled after American ones.

In the 1960s, the development of and improvements in recording technology led to the pursuit of diverse voice tones. Open auditions were also held to recruit musicians to perform at the U.S. army clubs. Since South Korea was impoverished after the Korean War, skilled Korean singers regarded performing for the U.S. troops as a good means to earn money. Many singers sang for the American troops, usually in dedicated clubs, the number of which rose to 264. They performed various genres like country music, blues, jazz and rock & roll. The started blooming and popular music followed the trend, spread by the first commercial radio stations. also began to develop and Korean musicians began performing to wider audiences.

When reached the shores of Korea the first local rock bands appeared, the first of which is said to be Add4, a band founded in 1962. The first talent contest for rock bands in Seoul was organized in 1968. Besides rock and pop, trot songs remained popular.

Some Korean singers gained international popularity. In 1959, the Kim Sisters went to Las Vegas and became the first Korean artist to release an album in the U.S. pop market. The cover of "Charlie Brown" sung by the Kim Sisters reached No.7 on the Billboard Single Chart. The Kim Sisters also appeared on TV programs and radio programs and held tours in the U.S. and Europe. In fact, the Kim Sisters appeared 25 times on The Ed Sullivan Show (a popular variety show during that time) which was more than other American stars like Patti Page and Louis Armstrong (who appeared 18 times each)., Yoon Bok-hee and were the first singers to debut in such countries as Vietnam and United States. The Kim Sisters became the first Korean group to release an album in the United States, performing in and appearing several times on 's TV show. Han Myeong Suk's 1961 song "The Boy in The Yellow Shirt" was covered by French singer and was also popular in Japan.

In the 1960s, the Korean artists who previously performed for the U.S. army clubs reached out to the Korean public (Shin Joong-hyun, Pearl Sisters and Patti Kim). In the mid-1960s, due to the influence of the legendary British group, The Beatles, there was rise of “group sound” in South Korea, for example, the Add4 and the Key Boys.  The Add4 was Korea's first rock group formed by Shin Joong-hyun in 1962 and produced Korea's first rock song, “The Woman in the Rain” which is a form of light rock reminiscent of the early Beatles. Shin Joong-hyun was so instrumental in the development of Korean rock music that he is regarded as the “godfather of Korean rock” in South Korea.

During this period, with the rise of Western pop music and Korean rock music, trot became less popular in South Korea. However, trot singers like Lee Mi-ja still managed to attract a certain level of popularity. One of her famous songs is "Lady Dongbaek."

During the 1950s and 60s, Western pop music, Korean rock music, and trot co-existed in South Korea.

Late 1960s and 1970s: Hippie and folk influences[]

At the end of the 1960s Korean pop music underwent another transformation. More and more musicians were university students and graduates who were heavily influenced by American culture and lifestyle (including the movement of the 1960s) and made lighthearted music unlike their predecessors, who were influenced by war and Japanese oppression. The younger generation opposed the as much as American hippies did, which resulted in the Korean government banning songs with more liberal lyrics. In spite of this, folk-influenced pop remained popular among the youth, and local television channel organised a music contest for university students in 1977. This was the foundation of several modern music festivals. The younger generation born after the 1950s had grown up under the U.S. influence and preferred the U.S. lifestyle, giving rise to the “youth culture” which was expressed through long hair, jeans, acoustic guitars and folk music.  The folk music of that time is made up of melodies sung plainly, with the singing accompanied by a guitar or two. A majority of the folk music at that time was initiated by elite university students and those who graduated from prestigious schools. Like the activists of the U.S. student movement, they turned to folk music as the preferred music of politicized youth, who staged demonstrations against the authoritarian government.  In turn, the government banned folk music due to its association with the students’ anti-government movements. In the 1970s, the Park Chung-hee government banned American pop music and Korean rock music for their association with sex and drugs.  Shin Joong-hyun, the “godfather of Korean rock music”, was imprisoned in 1975 due to a marijuana scandal.  In order to bolster its anti-Japanese credentials, the government also banned trot songs because of its “Japaneseness” given the influence of Japanese “enka’ songs on trot. However, President Park actually embraced trot.  One of the leading figures of the era was Han Dae Soo who was raised in the United States and influenced by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon. Han's song "Mul jom juso" became iconic among young people in Korea. His daring performances and unique singing style often shocked the public and later he was banned from performing in Korea. Han moved to New York City and pursued his musical career there, only returning to his home country in the 1990s. Other notable singers of the period include Song Chang-sik, Young Nam-cho and Hee Eun-yang.

One of the leading figures of the era was , who was raised in the United States and influenced by , and . Han's song "Mul jom juso" (물 좀 주소, Give Me Water) became iconic among young people in Korea. His daring performances and unique singing style often shocked the public and later he was banned from performing in Korea. Han moved to and pursued his musical career there, only returning to his home country in the 1990s. Other notable singers of the period include , Young Nam-cho and Hee Eun-yang.

In the 1970s, also started to become popular.

1980s: The era of ballads[]

The 1980s saw the rise of singers after Lee Gwang-jo's 1985 album "You’re Too Far Away to Get Close to" (가까이 하기엔 너무 먼 당신, Gakkai Hagien Neomu Meon Dangsin) sold more than 300,000 copies. Other popular ballad singers included (이문세) and Byun Jin-seob (변진섭), nicknamed the "Prince of Ballads". One of the most sought-after ballad composers of the era was Lee Young-hoon (이영훈), whose songs were compiled into a modern musical in 2011 titled Gwanghwamun Yeonga (광화문 연가, Gwanghwamun's Song).

The Asia Music Forum was launched in 1980, with representatives from five different Asian countries competing in the event. Korean singer won first place and went on to have a successful career, performing in Hong Kong and Japan. His first album Chang bakkui yeoja (창 밖의 여자, Woman outside the window) was a hit and he became the first Korean singer to take to the stage at in New York. Cho's musical repertoire included rock, dance, trot and folk pop. Despite his early association with rock music as an electric guitarist in a rock band, Cho Yong-pil's initial popularity came from his trot songs which were popular in both South Korea and Japan. For example, in 1976, his trot song, “Please Return to Pusan Port” was a great hit.  Despite the temporary set-back due to his involvement in a marijuana incident in 1977, he managed to bounce back with his song, “The Woman Outside the Window” which reached a record-breaking sales of 1 million in 1980.  In 1988, he sang “Seoul Seoul Seoul” in three languages (Korean, English and Japanese) to celebrate the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

1990s: Development of modern K-pop[]

, one of the popular hip hop trios of the 1990s

In the 1990s, Korean pop musicians incorporated partially and mostly styles such as , , , and in their music. In 1992 the emergence of marked a revolutionary moment in the history of K-pop. The trio debuted on 's talent show with their song "Nan Arayo" (난 알아요, I Know) and got the lowest rating from the jury; however, the song and album of the same name became so successful that it paved the way for other songs of the same format. The song's success was attributed to its -inspired beats and memorable chorus, as well as innovative lyrics which dealt with the problems of Korean society. Their footsteps were followed by a wave of successful hip hop and R&B artists like , , , Deux, and .

The huge popularity of Seo Taiji & Boys among teenagers shifted the focus of the Korean music industry to teen-centred pop music and paved the way for the formation of young boys and girls idol groups in this period.  Lee Soo-man, who was educated in the U.S. and was exposed to the trends in American music, established SM Entertainment and created a male idol group called H.O.T. with a rigorous training system including not only singing and dancing skills but also other skills such as etiquette, attitude, language and the ability to deal with the media.  

In 1995, South Korean record producer founded the entertainment company . Former Seo Taiji & Boys' member formed in 1996, and established in 1997.

(young boybands or girlbands) formed, inspired by Seo Taiji & Boys, to cater for a growing teenage audience. was one of the first idol boybands, debuting in 1996. Their success was followed by that of bands like , , , , , , and . The 1990s saw a reactionary movement against mainstream popular culture with the rise of illegal clubs and bands such as .

The song, “Candy” sung by H.O.T. presented a softer and gentler form of pop music with upbeat and cheerful melodies accompanied by energetic dance steps – a formula adopted by many subsequent idol groups. The group was a huge success and the fans copied the group's hairstyle and fashion. Merchandise affiliated with the group ranging from candy to perfume were sold as well. Following the success of H.O.T., entertainment agencies created other young boys and girls idol groups like Sechs Kies, S.E.S., Fin,K.L., Shinhwa and g.o.d. which also became popular among the younger generation.

The prompted South Korean entertainers to look for new markets: released a Mandarin-language album and released an English-language album in Taiwan. The need for new markets drove K-pop stars to look at foreign markets. Similar to , K-pop stars are selected before being groomed to appeal to a global audience, whether through formal training and classes, or through residency programs. They are trained via an extensive and intensive process that includes physical and language training (a program sometimes called abusive), and they are selected for height as well, being much taller on average than their Japanese counterparts. As for looks, "K-pop emphasizes thin, tall, and feminine looks with adolescent or sometimes very cute facial expressions, regardless of whether they’re male or female singers", according to sociology professor Ingyu Oh. Over time, Korean-American artists have become successful due to their fluency. These efforts increase the marketability of K-pop while also increasing South Korean soft power, which has become an important part of official policy.

21st century: Rise of Hallyu[]

Main article:

K-pop's increasing popularity forms part of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, which refers to the popularity of South Korean culture in other countries. K-pop is increasingly making appearances on Western charts such as . The development of online social media has been a vital tool for the Korean music industry in reaching a wider audience. As part of the , K-pop has been embraced by the South Korean government as a tool for projecting South Korea's abroad, particularly towards overseas youth. In August 2014, the prominent British news magazine dubbed Korean pop culture "Asia’s foremost trendsetter".

K-pop industry statistics Year Total exports in US$ views 2008 .5 million 2009 .3 million 2010 .9 million 800 million 2011 0 million 2.2 billion 2012 5 million 7.0 billion Exports by country (US$) Year Japan China 2008 .2 million .80 million 2009 .6 million .36 million 2010 .60 million 2012 4 million

By the beginning of the 21st century, the K-pop market had slumped and early K-pop idol groups that had seen success in the 90's were on the decline. disbanded in 2001, while other groups like , , , , and became inactive by 2005. Solo singers like and grew in success. However, the success of boy band after its debut in 2003 marked the resurgence of idol groups to Korean entertainment and the growth of K-pop as part of Hallyu. The birth of second-generation K-pop was followed with the successful debuts of (2005), (2005), (2006), (2007), (2007), (2007), (2008), (2009), (2009), (2009), and (2009).

During the beginning of the 21st century, K-pop idols began receiving success elsewhere in Asia: in 2002, 's single "Coincidence" became popular in many Asian countries after it was released and promoted during the in South Korea. became the first K-pop singer to reach No. 1 on the Japanese and shortly afterwards, had a sold-out concert to an audience of 40,000 fans in Beijing. In 2003, Baby V.O.X. topped the Chinese music charts with their Chinese single "I'm Still Loving You" from their third album Devotion, the first idol group to do so, creating a huge fanbase in China. They also charted in various music charts in Thailand. marked the rise of K-pop boy bands in Japan. In 2008, their single "Purple Line" made the first foreign boy band and second Korean artist after to top the music chart.

Since the mid-2000s, a huge portion of the has been dominated by K-pop. In 2008, South Korea's cultural exports (including television dramas and computer games) rose to US billion, maintaining an annual growth rate of over 10%. That year, Japan accounted for almost 68% of all K-pop export revenues, ahead of China (11.2%) and the United States (2.1%). The sale of concert tickets proved to be a lucrative business; 's in Japan sold over 850,000 tickets at an average cost of US9 each, generating a total of US.6 million in revenues.

Elsewhere in the world, the genre has rapidly grown in success, especially after 's "" was the first Korean YouTube video to reach one billion views, achieving widespread coverage in mainstream media. As of November 2016, the video has 2.7 billion views. Several failed attempts have been made by entertainment companies to break into the English-language market, including , , , and . It wouldn't be until 's win for Top Social Artist at the in 2017, making them the first K-pop group to win a BBMA, that K-pop began to gain more international coverage. Their performance of the song "DNA" at the American Music Awards, the first K-pop group ever to perform on the award show, also lead to the song to peak at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. The following year, BTS became the first K-pop group to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200 with . They have also made two appearances on , highlighting their success and popularity, as well as the growing popularity of K-pop, in the U.S. Meanwhile, in January 2018, boy group was invited to , for the Dubai Fountain Show. Their single, "", was chosen as the first K-pop song to be played at the fountain for the choreographed fountain show in Dubai. This prompted the group's agency, SM Entertainment, to hold the very first concert in the country in April.



K-pop has spawned an entire industry encompassing music production houses, event management companies, music distributors, and other merchandise and service providers. The three biggest companies in terms of sales and revenue are , and , often referred to as the 'Big Three'. These also function as representative for their artists. They are responsible for recruiting, financing, training, and marketing new artists as well as managing their musical activities and public relations. Currently, the agency with the greatest market share is S.M. Entertainment. In 2011, together with Star J Entertainment, AM Entertainment, and Key East, the Big Three companies founded the joint management company United Asia Management.

Total revenues of K-pop (in USD million) Year of
establishment Record label 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 Source 1995 42.5 87.1 129 241 268 286.9 280 313 1996 51.8 70.3 96.9 116.6 156.3 170 286.4 1997 3.1 9.1 17.8 13.5 21.4 48.5 50.56 69.5

Sales and market value[]

In 2009, became the first distributor of K-pop on .

In 2011, 1,100 albums were released in South Korea. The hip-hop genre had the most representation, at two-thirds of the total albums. One-third of the albums were from a variety of other genres, including rock, modern folk, and crossover.

In 2012, the average cost of obtaining a K-pop song in South Korea amounted to US

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This set of photos shows a lovely daily hairstyles’ idea with sharply razored tips, for medium – thick hair.   () are easy haircuts to keep under control, as heavy layering gets rid of all the unwanted bulk.  Hairstyles with layers on thick hair allow the stylist to create fabulously sculpted shapes, like the curves cut into this blonde inverted bob.  Suits round, heart and oval faces!

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Messy Bob Hairstyle with layers

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If you have fine hair, a slightly inverted with blunt-cut tips, makes fine hair seem thicker.  And you can add more volume from pretty, loose waves and a tousled finish.  Layered bob hairstyles with shorter layers cut around the chin, create a soft and natural look that suits oval, square, round and heart face shapes. Subtle golden highlighting adds colour depth and shine to this cute example of for fine or medium hair.

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The latest layered bob hairstyles include lots of lovely mix and match hair color ideas!  Here’s another easy haircut idea that’s already emerging as one of the most with layers for fine hair and medium hair types.  This medium bob hairstyle is a cute version of the versatile, inverted bob with a touch of bouffant volume at the back.  Soft, romantic waves give extra shape and volume to the blonde tips and there’s a subtle deep pink balayage just above!  Suits heart, oval and square faces.

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This edgy, messy daily hairstyles’ idea is already on our list of most popular hairstyles 2018, for trendies who also like easy haircuts! If your hair-texture is medium, coarse or thick, you’ll find that bob hairstyles with layers are a great way to get control.  This ‘ update has long, ragged tips; a big trend for spring and summer hairstyles 2018!  The fresh hair color idea is silver-blonde, with a hint of pastel purple at the side and darker roots.

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Here’s an interesting switch – over-50’s layered bob hairstyles for mature women featuring gray/white grown-out roots.  What a liberating idea! Short layered bob hairstyles with soft waves tinted warm, red shades from eye-level to jaw, focus attention on the centre face and bring gray hair bang up-to-date! Easy haircuts like this inverted bob, remain popular hairstyles – flattering all ages and most face-shapes – not just the over-50’s!

Layered short A-line Bob Haircut for women over 50

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Undoubtedly one of spring and summer 2018’s most popular hairstyles, this high-fashion layered bob has a full curve at the back above a neatly cut stacked-back. Straight inverted bobs make great daily hairstyles, needing little styling thanks to the cut and the weight of .  Hairstyles with smooth layers make great backgrounds for fresh hair color ideas, like this white-blonde with a rich brown ‘border’ making an attractive feature that accentuates the asymmetry!

Layered a-line bob hairstyle with dark roots

Lovely long bob hairstyles with end waves & subtle honey ombré on dark blonde

This is an attractive daily hairstyles’ choice and another of the easy haircuts to style. Long layered bob hairstyles on medium and fine hair types can be made to look thicker if only the last few inches are layered and then waved.  This adds volume and attractive texture around the chin and neck area.  Dark-blonde hair is livened up with flattering and natural-looking honey highlights and a subtle ombré to the tips.

casual layered medium wavy hairstyle for everyday

Flattering dual striped highlights on rounded medium-bob hairstyles for over-50’s

Although this is a great short hairstyle for mature women, it isn’t only for the Over-50’s Hairstyles’ list!  Stacked-back bobs that finish around chin-length are classic, flattering hairstyles for most face-shapes.  This version uses the latest hair color ideas with a blend of vertical blonde highlights creating texture and color-depth on a smooth medium bob.  Hairstyles with layers shaping the back are easy haircuts to keep under control, making them excellent daily hairstyles! Suitable for thick and medium-textured hair types.

Layered Stacked Bob Hairstyle for women over 50

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Shaggy Layered Angled Bob Hairstyles for Women

Beautiful sea-green Boho layered bob hairstyle on brunette hair

This stylish shape is great for thick and medium-textured straight hair with some natural volume to play with.  It’s a layered bob hairstyle that appears to be the same length all around, but it actually has some clever layering near the ends.  This creates a smooth, natural curve that hugs the chin in a way that flatters most face shapes.  Then just add some amazing blue-green balayage and wow! you’ve got a fabulous Boho layered bob hairstyle that’s perfect for spring and summer 2018!

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Extreme layered bob hairstyles with neutral blonde highlights on dark blonde base

‘Chic and trendy’ best describe this style of carefully-shaped, layered bob hairstyles for thick/medium hair.  Notice the expertly-thinned last 2 or 3 inches, which is a new twist for spring and summer 2018 bob hairstyles.  This creates ragged tips and a cute raggamuffin finish, for a highly contemporary look.  Add in the casual, defined waves accentuated by neutral blonde balayage and you have a totally up-to-date medium layered bob hairstyle for round or heart-shaped face!

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Snazzy short layered bob hairstyle with dual blonde highlights and steep angles

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.10 for a single download, or .002 when streamed online.

In the first half of 2012, according to , the Korean music industry grossed nearly US.4 billion- a 27.8% increase on the previous year- and was recognized by magazine as "South Korea's Greatest Export".

K-pop (in Korea) global music market rank Year Physical Digital 2005 27 2006 27 2007 32 23 2008 24 2009 24 14 2010 21 2011 11 11 2012 11 8 includes albums, singles and DVDs sold

Trainee system[]

See also:

By convention in modern K-pop, trainees go through a rigorous training system for an undetermined amount of time before debut. This method was popularised by , founder of S.M. Entertainment, as part of a concept labelled "". described this as an "extreme" system of artist management. According to the CEO of 's Southeast Asian branch, the Korean idol trainee system is unique in the world.

Because of the training period, which can last for many years, and the significant amount of investment agencies put towards their trainees, the industry is very serious about launching new artists. Trainees may enter an agency through auditions or be scouted, and once recruited are given accommodation and classes (commonly singing, dancing, rapping, and foreign languages such as Mandarin, English and Japanese) while they prepare for debut. Young trainees sometimes attend school at the same time. There is no age limit to become a trainee and no limit to the duration one can spend as a trainee.

Record charts[]

Main article:

Further information:

Korean record charts include the and the . Recently, some K-pop records have appeared on the of Japan and the of the United States.

In 2009, singer Hwangbo entered the European music industry for a short period when she released the single R2song, reaching # 1 on the world's largest dance music site JunoDowload, being successful in both the United Kingdom, Europe and Korea; becoming the first Asian artist to achieve it.

In May 2014, became the third K-pop act to enter the that year after , and were the first K-Pop act to chart on Billboard 200.

In October 2016, 's album becomes the first Korean album to chart in the , reaching #62, and the highest charting and best selling K-pop album in the . They also became the first Korean artist to have three entries on the Billboard 200 and first K-pop act to have an entry for more than one week on the Billboard 200.

In February 2017, BTS landed their fourth album, "You Never Walk Alone," at #61 on the Billboard 200, becoming the first K-pop act to have four entries on the Billboard 200. They also became the first Korean artist to break into the Top 10 of the US iTunes sales chart with the title track "Spring Day" at #9. In May 2017, also became the first Korean artist group to win a Billboard Music Award.

In September 2017, landed at #14 on the with their new album, , becoming the first Korean artist to land in the top 40 of the chart. In April 2018 BTS was once again nominated for at the , which they later won on May 20, making them the only Korean artist to be nominated for and win the award two years in a row. They made their debut as international performers at the show, premiering their new single, "", from their third Korean-language LP, , released on May 18. The album debuted at number one on the US with 135,000 (including 100,000 pure album sales), becoming BTS' highest-charting and first number one album in the US, the first K-pop album to top the US albums chart, and the highest-charting album by an Asian act. "Fake Love" peaked at number ten on the that same week, becoming the band's highest reaching song on the chart as well as their first in the top ten. Overall, "Fake Love" is the seventeenth non-English song to reach the top ten, and the first for a K-Pop group. The single also debuted at number seven on ’s chart with 27.4 million streams earned in the week ending May 24, giving BTS its first top ten on the chart and making “Fake Love” the first K-pop song to land on top ten since ’s "Hangover" feat. in 2014. Love Yourself: Tear also reached number eight on the , marking the group's first top ten album in the country.

BTS was also the recipients of the 2018 TIME 100 reader poll with over 15% of the votes received they easily dominated this year's poll. While the TIME editors select the winners of the TIME 100, the online poll is open for the general public. In June 2018, included BTS in the list of 25 most influential people on internet.

In June 2018, YG Entertainment's girl group became the first K-pop girl group to hit within the top 50 of Billboard 200 album chart; their first mini-album SQUARE UP debuted at No. 40. Their title song "Ddu Du Ddu Du" charted at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the highest charting song and the first full Korean language song by a K-pop girl group.


The Korean music industry has spawned numerous related reality TV shows, including such as and , specialist rap competition and its female counterpart , and many 'survival' shows, which commonly pit trainees against each other in order to form a new idol group. Examples of survival shows include 's , which formed the boy group ;'s WIN: Who Is Next, which formed the boy group ; MIX&MATCH, which formed ; 's , which formed girl group ; 's No.Mercy, which formed boy group ; 's Pentagon Maker, which formed boy group ; 's , which formed girl groups and , and boy group ;'s Finding Momo Land, which formed the girl group ; and most recently, 's , which formed the girl group . The rise in these shows, which often involves larger agencies contracting smaller agencies' trainees into project groups and taking a larger portion of the revenues, have led to criticisms over the former monopolizing the industry.


K-pop artists are frequently referred to as or idol groups. Groups usually have a leader, who is often the eldest or most experienced member and speaks for the group. The youngest group member is called the maknae (). The popular use of this term in Japan was influenced by boy group when they expanded their activities in the country in 2007. Its Japanese translation "マンネ" was often used to name the group's youngest member in order to differentiate him from their leader with a similar name and spelling, .

K-pop groups often are very delineated, with each member having a specific role or roles within the group. Roles are divided mainly into singing, dancing, and rapping, with "main", "lead", or "sub" added before the main role to differentiate between the skill level or position of the members in the group. Groups also have "visuals", who are the most traditionally beautiful or handsome member of the group. The "face" of the group refers to the most well-known or popular member of the group, and sometimes changes between releases as popularity fluctuates.

Industry-specific expressions[]

Korean Romanized Meaning 대상 daesang At music awards artists may receive a bonsang for outstanding music achievements. One of the bonsang winners is then awarded with a daesang, the "Grand Prize". 본상 bonsang All-Kill (AK) Referring to chart positions. An Instiz certified all-kill ("AK") occurs when an individual song sweeps all of South Korea's major music charts simultaneously, placing first on both the real-time and daily charts. Perfect All-Kill (PAK) An Instiz Perfect all-kill happens when an individual song has an all-kill and at the same time it places first on Instiz Weekly Chart. Mini album Roughly equivalent to an EP, contains multiple tracks but shorter than a full-length album. Title track Equivalent to a 'lead single', title track is the main track of an album released with a music video and promoted through live performances on televised music shows. Promotion Takes place when a title track is released. Artists perform in televised music shows and interviews. Promotion on TV shows usually lasts one month, with a 'debut stage' for newcomers, a 'comeback stage' for regulars and a 'goodbye stage' at the end of the cycle. Comeback Refers to the release of an artist's new music and the accompanying TV performances.

Appeal and fan base[]

fans (VIPs) hold crown shaped light sticks during a concert: this is the symbol of the fan club

Not all K-pop fans are young females, although most are; in 2012 magazine interviewed male adult fans, who admitted to liking the group for its members' looks and personalities, citing the members' humility and friendliness towards the fans.

Many fans travel overseas to see their idols on tour, and tourists commonly visit Korea from Japan and China to see K-pop concerts. A K-pop tour group from Japan had more than 7,000 fans fly to Seoul to meet boy band in 2012, and during JYJ's concert in Barcelona in 2011, fans from many parts of the world camped overnight to gain entrance. A 2011 survey conducted by the reported that there were over 3 million active members of Hallyu fan clubs.

An article by indicated that K-pop's future staying power will be shaped by fans, whose online activities have evolved into "micro-businesses". K-pop groups commonly have dedicated fanclubs with a collective name and sometimes an assigned colour, to which they will release merchandise. For example, fans are known as 'Cassiopeia', and their official colour is 'pearl red'. Some of the more popular groups have personalised light sticks for use at concerts; for example, fans hold yellow crown-shaped light sticks.

Fan clubs sometimes participate in charity events to support their idols, purchasing bags of '' in order to show support. The rice bags are donated to those in need. According to , for one of Big Bang's shows, 12.7 tons of rice were donated from 50 fan clubs around the world. There are businesses in Korea dedicated to shipping rice from farmers to the venues. Another way that fan clubs show their devotion is sending lunch to idols during their schedules, and there are catering companies in South Korea specifically for this purpose.

A unique feature of K-pop fandom is the "fan chant". When an idol group releases a new song, chants, usually consisting of group members' names, are performed by live concert audiences during non-singing parts of songs.


Main article:

Some idols and idol groups have faced problems from obsessive fans that indulge in stalking or invasive behaviour. These fans are known as fans, from the Korean word for 'private life', which alludes to their penchant for invading the privacy of idols and members of idol groups. There have been accounts of extreme behaviours from fans trying to gain idols' attention as well as taxi services that cater to those wishing to follow idols. Korean public officials recognize this as a unique but serious concern.

Some idols have reacted angrily towards sasaeng fans, for which they received backlash; including members of JYJ, member , and .

In response to the issue, a new law introduced in February 2016 in Korea saw the penalty for stalking rise to around US,000 as well a possible two-year jail sentence.


International tours[]

Main article:

Conventions and music festivals[]

See also:

Social media[]

Social media has been instrumental in the global reach of K-Pop, particularly video-sharing site , , and . Due to these sites, K-pop has been able to expand to a much wider audience all around the world and are able to communicate with their fans much easier and better.


Since Kpop started to spread its industry outside South Korea, YouTube has always been the place where Kpop records can be tracked. Of the 2.28 billion worldwide K-pop YouTube views in 2011, 240 million came from the United States, more than double the figure from 2010 (94 million). In December 2011, K-pop became the first country-specific genre of music to gain its own homepage on YouTube, along with other popular genres like Pop, R&B, etc. In December 2012, Psy's music video for “Gangnam Style” reached 1 billion views, making it the first video to ever do so. On August 24, 2018 BTS’ music video for “Idol” won the record for YouTube's “Most Viewed Music Video in 24 hours”, reaching over 45 million views in only 24 hours after the video was released to the public. As for girl groups, in 2016 the girl group Twice reached over 400 million YouTube views for the music video for their hit song "TT", making them the first female Korean act to do so.


As the internet, technology and electronic devices have been developed and spread, Twitter has expanded its industry and impact at a large scale. It is a Social Networking Service, or SNS, which provides a stream of messages with the maximum word count of 140. It is also a platform for cultural products to be produced, shared, and spread through people's various contributions. Gangnam Style, the icon of Kpop that made its way to the United States and other global areas, benefited from Twitter since it was tweeted for 18,000 times. From this, it is revealed that Twitter has a strong influence on how cultural products can be promoted in the modern times. In conclusion, Twitter is one of the biggest digital tools nowadays that reboots discussions and communications under the context of cultural product industry.

Similar to YouTube, Twitter has also been a significant social media platform for Kpop stars to get connections and promotions. Bang Si Hyuk, the producer of BTS, claimed the fast growth of their fanbase strongly relied on Twitter, on which they are able to post their moments and share with the world. BTS’ twitter reached 10 million followers on November 13, 2017, making them the first South Korean act to do so. In 2017, BTS is the most tweeted-about artist in the United States and across the globe as well. Along with BTS, there are celebrities who are well known in the U.S., such as Justin Bieber and Harry Styles. In the global top 10 list, other Kpop groups, such as SEVENTEEN and Monsta X, showed up as well. EXO, a South Korean boyband, is announced to be the most followed celebrity that entered Twitter in 2017. According to Sin Chang Seob, the CEO of Twitter Korea, the usage of Twitter by Kpop artists has led to a massive increase on the number of South Korean and international users. Matters related to Kpop often attract the fandom to discuss actively. Another major way Twitter has helped spread K-pop is at different award ceremonies across the world. At the 2017 and 2018 Billboard Music Awards, BTS won the award for Top Social Media Artist, which fans were able to vote for with the Twitter hashtag “#BTSBBMAS”.


Many Korean entertainment companies use social media platforms, especially Facebook, to promote and communicate about their global auditions and encourage idols from all over the world to participate in them . Many companies have specific Facebook pages dedicated to their auditions, like SM Entertainment , JYP Entertainment , YG Entertainment , and many more. Many K-pop groups have Facebook pages for their groups where they promote their music and other content to their fans, similar to Twitter and other social media sites. Their Facebook pages can often reach large amounts of fans, as many groups and solo artists, like Psy, Big Bang, and more have millions of Facebook fans that like their page. Many K-pop fans also use Facebook to show their devotion and consume more K-pop content. They also often use Facebook pages to communicate with others that are a part of the K-pop community. When Kpop artists have concerts in different overseas countries and the tickets sell out quickly, many fans turn to social media sites, especially Facebook, to organize flash mobs to release more tickets and tour dates like many did in Paris in 2011

K-Pop, gender representations and androgyny[]

The visual representations of K-pop artists and music videos play a crucial role in promoting ideology.  K-pop idols are admired and emulated across Asia and as consequence their physical appearance is extremely influential to cultural norms and trends.  They give a strong perception of ideal manhood and womanhood and influence cultural perceptions such as cosmetic surgery trends and notions of femininity and masculinity.  Scholars suggest that Korean pop music offers an emancipation from traditional norms of gender.

Popular culture is a cultural product and social process that analyses ideological assumptions and frameworks.  Due to the performative nature of gender, scholars look to K-pop as an example of actions changing the national perception of gender norms within Korea and internationally.  Many scholars have referenced the feminist theory of Judith Butler, that gender is a construct which changes through performance.

The notion of K-pop playing a less traditional role is surprising to some, as in Korea there is pressure to conform to hegemonic identities and roles.  South Korea's societal norms relating to gender roles have traditionally been shaped by the Confucian tradition,  and though they still are relevant there has been changes to these roles from sources such as media and music.  It is debated whether the androgynous or gender non-conforming representations translate into audience behaviour.  

It has been contested that the images marketed to the public in Korean pop music videos effect the actual lifestyle choices of the public to varying degrees.  Within K-pop audiences play a vital role, often encouraging gender roles to be overturned through fan fiction,  and social media interaction and reception with K-pop stars.   Some have said K-pop exemplifies of how feminisation of mass culture occurs through capitalism.

The theory of K-pop being a reflection of societal change contrasts with the widely understood fact that entertainment companies who select K-pop stars maintain a high degree on control over the decisions of the stars lives.  The commercial value and governmental censorship over K-pop is significant, therefore whether these gender norms are calculated for profit or truly symbolise change is contested.  Even the government is involved, for instance the South Korean government Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has guidelines which define appropriate lyrics, artist clothing and choreography.  Further argument posits changes to the appearance of men and women within the K-pop sphere does not correlate with a complete subversion of patriarchy or misogyny within society.

In Korean Wave it is easy to see many bands and band members index soft masculinity, in order to appeal to culturally shared ideas of cuteness in South Korea.   The gender order is fluid, constantly changing as individuals construct gender identities which are not constrained by binaries of masculinity and femininity.  The effeminacy of men in popular culture and the evidence a new possibilities relating to gender and sexuality are said by some to be due to the empowerment of women culturally.  K-pop over time has continued to alter sound, style and look based changes among the audience.

There are stars within K-pop, for example Amber Liu, who go against the hegemonic standard and remind the public that gender roles are constantly renegotiated through music to society.  Amber expresses an androgynous appearance, which is extremely distinct from the other members of her group f(x), who often wear tight, small clothing.  Though her appearance is different to her fellow members, she is not treated as particularly out of the ordinary by her fans.  It is quite common to now see K-pop girl groups have a single androgynous member of the group who plays the role of the rapper, such as in f(x) and 2NE1.  In K-pop boy bands there has also been a trend of androgynous looks, with males wearing makeup, unisex clothes, dyed hair and jewellery.

Masculinity represented in K-Pop[]

Masculinity within South Korea takes on various forms, however, Korean media and more specifically K-pop has been a pioneer for the emergence of more gentle masculinities, giving rise to what is known as “soft masculinity”. South Korean soft masculinity, which is typified by pretty boy images, appeared in the South Korean entertainment industry in the late 1990s.  This type of masculinity is prominent in multiple mass media platforms including advertisements, billboards, Korean dramas and variety shows, adoring these beautiful men for their soft, pretty features. This social-cultural phenomenon as explained by Jung, is referred to as the (꽃미남) syndrome, where pretty feminine males in the media become hugely popular.

This soft masculinity is a hybrid product constructed through the trans cultural amalgamation of South Korea's traditional masculinity [...] Japan's masculinity, and global metrosexual masculinity”,  creating what is known as mugukjeok. Mugukjeok is a notion used when there is a cultural practice that has an absence of a specific national trait, but rather utilises a combination of many traits from various regions.  These “non-Korean global masculinities” are crossing their cultural boundaries and hybridizing with contemporary South Korean masculinities, which is a contributing factor to the rapid spread of Korean soft masculinity, and consequently to K-pop's global popularity.

The gender performative nature of soft masculinity allows for Korean idol groups to appeal worldwide to their fans due to their versatility in expressing both their “manly” masculine side and their “cute” feminine side. There are many ways in which groups can do this, however, one highly popularised way of expressing this soft masculinity is through (애교). Aegyo is a concept that is shaped largely by culturally shared ideas of cuteness in South Korea,  and it is a speech style that is ideologically associated with women and femininity.   Aegyo is more historically performed by girl groups such as , building a strong connect between this display of cuteness and female idols. This correlation between aegyo and girl groups have allowed aegyo to be a strong tool for boy bands to utilise as an index of soft masculinity.

Jimseungnam or “beast-like” masculinity is a less prominent, but still notable masculinity that exists within K-pop and is quite the opposite to soft masculinity. This is characterised by ‘manly’, muscled boys who display their masculine, rough, toned bodies and features within their music videos. Groups such as , B2AST and are said to embody this idea of beast-like masculinity due to their strong, muscled physiques.  East Asian beast like masculinity [also] serves as a countermove against white western feminisation of Asian men, especially as the cultural values are in opposition to hard masculinity.

These two masculinities (soft and beast-like) within K-pop contribute to Jung's notion of “manufactured versatile masculinity” which is multifaceted, culturally hybridised, simultaneously contradictory and tactically manufactured, to sell these idols images.  The way K-pop stars experiment with masculinity [and] what it means to be a pretty male in a heterosexual or non-heterosexual way,  creates new opportunities for South Korean men to express different types of masculinities in their own life.

Soft Masculinity in Kpop[]

In recent years, within has evolved with the growth of a new pop culture. As people continue to become more open minded, fashion and beauty has begun to blur the lines between and expectations. Kpop idols push the limits of modern day trends, inspiring their followers to do the same. One of the most interesting trends that have risen since the rise in Kpop is the gender fluidity amongst male Kpop idols. The idea of soft masculinity has flooded the Kpop culture and has reacted well with Kpop fandoms. Another term that may be used for this concept is , which is the idea of a refined man who takes particular interest in their appearance and kind nature. Soft masculinity is seen in a variety of ways between male hrough their makeup, clothing, dancing, and behavior; we see the gender lines blurred to some extent. Yet fans find this completely normal and find themselves diving deeper into their obsession with the artist. Male Kpop musicians are carefully branded and sculpted to meet this ideal Korean male image to gain a bigger following. Over time, this stereotypical male image has developed to where it is today through foreign influences and the increased popularity of Kpop groups.

Only in recent years has gender fluidity become a topic of interest in modern society, so it is surprising how these Korean beauty standards are being accepted all over the world. The more viewers that are seeing this portrayal of the "ideal" man, the more normal it becomes and the more accepting the audience becomes. The growing acceptance can be drawn to the , also known as "", which is the spread of Korean pop culture into other countries and societies. In most pop culture media, the male figure is displayed as overly , exhibiting behaviors of sexual dominance and aggressiveness. But in Korean pop culture, the male figure is shown to be soft and caring, exhibiting behaviors similar to that of a friend rather than a sex object. This becomes more appealing to women because they find that these Korean men have more sympathy and understanding for them.

While Korean culture has evolved into a more advanced society through technological advancements and outside influences, the branding of these male Kpop idols are mainly used to increase popularity and sales. In this day and age, the buying power of women has become more important and influential. What comes with this is a high demand for the ideal man, which has been shaped by the recent growth of feminine influence in our economy, thus influencing the way these Kpop stars portray themselves. The power of the consumer overcame the power of gender roles and can actually be seen changing the way we look at gender, making soft masculinity normal.

Previously, men had been looked at for their actions, now it is more about how they look. Going back to the idea of metrosexual men, these Kpop stars will make sure their hair is perfect, and that they are wearing the right outfit and have the right accessories. The idea of soft masculinity and gender bending allows these men to care about themselves in a way that was previously not considered and often dubbed as something females would do. Although soft masculinity is gaining popularity, it must not be mistaken that all of these men and Kpop idols are what they say. Companies strategically brand these idols to appeal to the new wave of and , but there is still the portrayal of traditional in songs and music videos such as "Crayon" by . The visual image of these artists is crucial to their financial success within the music videos. Contracts with different agencies put pressure of the artists to create the perfect music videos that will appeal to their consumers, artists will achieve this by going to whatever lengths necessary. From makeup and hair to plastic surgery, the wave of metrosexual soft masculinity has engulfed the Kpop scene.

On the other hand, the use of soft masculinity within Korean boy bands is also used to appeal transnationally. They are able to appeal to a multitude of societal standards through distributed masculinity where each group member has their own unique brand, giving the fans more choices about which band member they like the most. Along side of soft masculinity comes other portrayals of masculinity designed to appeal to different cultures. Most common is the aggressive military man and the powerful man. Including soft masculinity, all three portrayals appeal to different consumers and different cultures. For example, soft masculinity is especially satisfactory towards Japanese women who are accustom to the cute and lovable male stereotype also called "bishnen" or pretty boy. Overall, gender is very much performative, and these bands use that to their advantage to please their audiences and make their music more transnational.

Femininity represented in K-Pop[]

Korean culture is highly associated around their patriarchal gender roles. Commonly, these roles of masculinity and femininity between both men and women are dominated by values serving the purpose of dominant males and innocent females orientated around family living.   However, Korean pop culture demonstrates a global shift between some of these values creating an in-between phase due to Westernisation and forms of “localized heterogenization”. This in-between phase interacts strongly with the neoliberal market of Korean culture and the soft power of femininity.

Femininity within K-pop holds a strong position both in a cultural and contemporary context.  Globally, the femininity of women in K-pop is associated with strong Korean values and the patriarchal system still valued in the modern day. The correlation between cultural identity and femininity in Korean culture helps K-pop portray a perceived “authentic” version of Korean women within pop culture.  

Although Korean pop culture portrays sexualised elements of K-pop stars dancing and singing, the dance movements are said to live and portray specific ideologies of women.  Dance moves incorporated into K-pop performances often involve women tilting their pelvises to the side or backwards in order to exaggerate their curved body lines to portray the ideal body of women.  Further, women in K-pop are often portrayed in large spaces to create the illusion of them being feminine and dainty. K-pop artists are often extremely non-muscular and use smaller dance moves not emanating large actions, to globally portray ideal Korean femininity and beauty.  Thus, dancers often resonate with moves and gestures of classical ballet repertoire which is globally acknowledged alongside characteristics of grace, beauty and feminine attitudes.

Male figures in K-pop challenges masculinity by incorporating soft masculinity into their fashion, appearance and musical genre. However, this same option is not available for women.  Women immerse themselves in androgynous clothing and more gothic appearances but are ultimately limited to their overall portrayal of feminine beauty and the goal of not over throwing masculine power.  Girl groups must carefully depict themselves in a feminine nature to fit into the patriarchal structure and not question the masculinity of males. Thus, men within K-pop videos are often portrayed as heroes and saviours rather than women being the antagonists. In addition, the lyrical work of women K-pop artists uplifts the masculinity of the male protagonists and does not question against these gender norms.  This further corroborates with gendered movements of dance and bodies, where femininity is often depicted as submissive, fragile and slim to continue to further masculinise men.

Often, global on lookers ask why men have the ability to question masculinity with ideologies of soft masculinity but women are unable to do the same with femininity? K-pop idols must remain within the bounds of the Korean media industry and its conservative mannerism. The industry is constantly policed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, ergo, the government oversees if artists are following the guidelines and the distribution of cultural content.   Therefore, all aspects of K-pop from clothing to song lyrics are monitored by the government to ensure it ultimately portrays Korean cultural values correctly to the global community.

Femininity is an important aspect of Korean pop-culture as artists reinstate Korean culture values through their work and artistic innuendos. Although, monitored by the government it is recognisable female artists occasionally dabble in androgynous fashion choices but ultimately use K-pop to portray all aspects of femininity. This differs immensely to male K-pop artists who vary across genre and identify with both masculinity and soft masculinity.

African American Influence[]

Many of the genres that K-Pop is influenced by were invented by African Americans. Genres such as , , and were originated as a vehicle to express the Black experience. Though African American music was originally exported to South Korea after the Korean War as a result of an increased military presence, the influence of African American music on Korean music became evident in the 1990’s because of the end of the long authoritarian rule. Both the inauguration of President Kim Young Sam, as well as the relaxation of censorship laws, allowed for Korean musicians to take advantage of their democratic and creative freedoms, leading to further exploration in Korean music. This increase in creative freedoms led to R&B and Hip-hop to rise to popularity, as it "represented musical traditions that spoke to the creative possibilities opening in Korean society.”

African American aesthetics have been present in K-pop since its modern inception. For example, rap, "a tradition nurtured by African Americans," has been present in musicians like and . In addition to the tradition of rapping, Korean musicians have adopted mixing from African American originated genres. Mixing is used by most K-pop artists, from , to more modern K-pop groups, such as . Mixing, as originated in hip hop and rap, is the process of cutting and mixing different sound bites from all kinds of media in order to create something new. Since the method allows artists to create something new out of something already existing, mixing has become a “tool for reworking local identity all over the world.” Styles of singing have also been borrowed from African American traditions. vocal keys, the key often used in R&B music, has become more popular for Korean musicians to use. For example, the Korean group are utilize this scale to sound more soulful in their music. This shift to polytonal vocal keys marks a departure from the pentatonic scales more widely used in the 70’s and 80’s in South Korea.

Cultural Appropriation[]

There are both critics and supporters of Korean groups utilizing African American aesthetics. Those who critique K-pop's usage of African American genres often accuse Korean musicians as culturally appropriating Black aesthetics. Some critics say that these Korean musicians are using Black culture for their own advantage, which ultimately leads the Black cultures who originated the aesthetics voiceless, which means these cultures are unable "to properly convey the culture, meaning, or values of their own culture.” Some critics also claim the utilization of African-American originated aesthetics commoditizes Blackness. In addition to musical aesthetics, many also critique K-pop for appropriating visual aesthetics. For example, groups like and have utilized cornrows and bandanas in their music videos.

In contrast, there are also some supporters of the blending of African American genre into South Korean music. For example, one argument for the use of African American aesthetics in K-pop is that "[a]ppropriating elements of a culture by taking them out of their original context and using them in a completely different way does not automatically constitute negative cultural appropriation." In addition, some fans of K-pop often applaud the groups for being well versed in many genres, including ones originated by Black cultures. Other supporters claim that allows Koreans to have a vehicle to express their own experiences of dominance and local conditions.

Though K-pop is influenced by , many South Korean musicians have also mixed in local characteristics of their culture into their music to make it a more genuine expression of their culture. Many Korean musicians fuse the images and instruments that originated in their own culture with conventional aesthetics of Hip Hop For example, Master Plan Production utilized traditional Korean art styles, as well as traditional hip hop aesthetics to create the cover of their compilation album, P’yungnyu (2002).

Beyond aesthetics, South Korean musicians also localize Black genres by using them as vehicles to discuss their specific experiences in South Korea. By straying from classic genre conventions and focusing on specific issues in South Korea, many Korean musicians recontextulize African American genres to be an expression of South Korean attitudes. For example, one thing many Korean students experience is a lack of freedom as a result of their strict education system. expresses their anger about this through their song "Class Idea" with lyrics like "I don't want to be a part of this education anymore!" Modern K-pop groups such as have even covered this song, showing that this is an experience that Korean youths continue to struggle with.

Popularity and impact[]



Following the lifting of -era restrictions imposed on exchanges and trade between Korea and Japan in the late 1990s, the first-generation girl group became the first Korean artists to debut in Japan in late 1998 and their first album in 1999. 's debut Japanese album released in 2002, entitled , was the first album by a Korean singer to debut at the top of the Japanese Oricon Charts and become an RIAJ-certified "million-seller" in Japan.

On January 16, 2008, (known as Tōhōshinki in Japan) also reached the top of the Oricon Charts with their sixteenth Japanese single "". This made them the first Korean male group to have a number-one single in Japan. Since then, the Japanese market has seen an influx of Korean pop acts such as ,,,, and . In 2011, it was reported that the total sales for K-pop artists' increased 22.3% between 2010–2011 in Japan. Some Korean artists were in the top 10 selling artists of the year in Japan.

With tensions still remaining between Korea and Japan, the import of Korean popular culture has been met with different forms of resistance, in the form of the 'Anti-Korean Wave'. One demonstration against the Korean Wave with roughly 500 participants was broadcast on Japan's Fuji TV to an Internet audience of over 120,000. However, the chairman of the Presidential Council on National Branding cites this resistance as proof of “how successful Korean Wave is.”


The 1990s saw the rise of K-pop in China through groups like and —sparking China's investment in Korea's entertainment industry. K-pop artists have achieved considerable success in China since then: in 2005, held a concert in Beijing with 40,000 people in attendance. In 2010, the won an award for the highest digital sales for a foreign artist, with 5 million digital downloads, in the 5th annual China Mobile Wireless Music Awards. Most recently, China has become the South Korean entertainment industry's biggest market for exports. Twelve percent of ’s sales in 2015 went to China, and this number rose to 14.4 percent by the middle of 2016. China has found that K-pop is a profitable investment. According to Director of Communication for the Korea Economic Institute of America Jenna Gibson, sales for a certain shampoo brand rose by 630% after Super Junior endorsed it on a Chinese reality show. K-pop’s popularity has also led China’s e-commerce company to buy roughly million worth of ’s shares in 2016 in order to help its expansion into the online music industry. Legend Capital China has also invested in ’ label . As of the beginning of 2017, China took up around 8-20 percent of major Korean entertainment companies’ total sales. Chinese entertainment companies have also claimed stakes in the industry, partially overseeing groups like and or representing groups like and , which include both Chinese and Korean members

Having Chinese members in K-pop groups is one way Korean entertainment companies make K-pop more marketable and appealing in China. Other strategies include giving Korean members Chinese-sounding names, releasing songs or whole albums in Chinese, and making subgroups with members that predominantly speak Mandarin—like 's and , which has had successful results on the Kuang Nan Record and CCR.

Chinese singer Zhang Bi Chen, later a member of K-pop girl group Sunny Days, performs during 2012's K-POP World Festival.

The K-pop industry's methods of producing idols have influenced Chinese entertainment companies’ practices. These Chinese companies aim to reproduce K-pop idols’ success with their own stars so that Chinese entertainers can compete better globally. To achieve this, Chinese entertainment companies have recruited K-pop industry experts, and some of these insiders have actively started moving into the Chinese music industry to capitalize on K-pop's increasing influence on market demands. Chinese reality show further highlights K-pop's impact on China's entertainment scene: closely mirroring Korea's .

Chinese singer Jackson Wang from GOT7 at promotional event in Hong Kong

A number of Chinese K-pop idols, such as ’s and ’s , , and , have left their respective K-pop groups in order to pursue solo careers in China. However, lately, Korean entertainment companies have allowed their Chinese K-pop idols more freedom in pursuing solo work in China. Therefore, ’s , for example, has released several of his own songs in China and, in 2017, reached number one on Chinese music charts.

Additionally, the rise of K-pop has led to an increase in the number of Chinese tourists in South Korea—3.8 million more Chinese toured South Korea in 2016 than 2015 according to the . K-pop has also made China’s youth find South Korean culture "cool", and K-pop has helped facilitate greater understanding between Korea and China.

North Korea[]

Despite North Korea's traditionally strict , K-pop has managed to reach a North Korean audience. While consumption of South Korean entertainment is punishable by death in North Korea, it has still become increasingly more available with the global rise of technology and the implementation of underground smuggling networks over the past decades. The popular flash drive technology containing K-pop and K-dramas was preceded by the use of DVDs burned with such content. Because North Korean law enforcement had figured out how to catch people consuming the media from DVDs, few people accessed the K-pop and K-dramas. Many North Koreans considered the risk too great, so it wasn't until the proliferation of the flash drives that it hit common homes. Utilizing the increasingly sophisticated smuggling networks, several thousands of USB drives and SD cards containing K-pop and K-dramas have been distributed and sold through care packages and the black market. Some South Korean humanitarians have also deployed drones and balloons carrying these flash drives in order to make the media more accessible. In fact, access to USB drives and SD cards exponentially rose from 26% to 81% in from 2010-2014 largely due to development in technology, with a large majority containing South Korean music and dramas. The expanding technology capabilities allowed the flash drives to be accessed by a wider North Korean audience. Flash drives that used to cost upwards of USD, can now be purchased for under , making them more affordable and easier to send into North Korea.

Those near the border who choose to stay away from the banned media from the flash drives often cannot escape it. Ever since the 1950s, both countries have blasted their own propaganda across the : North Korea broadcasting anti-south propaganda and South Korea broadcasting Korean and world news as well as K-pop. In 2004, both countries agreed to end the broadcasts. After an incident in 2015, South Korea resumed broadcasting anti-North news for four days, as well as in 2016, after North Korea tested its hydrogen bomb and has been broadcasting since. In April 2018, in preparation and out of respect for the meeting between North leader Kim Jong Un and South leader, Moon Jae In, the South Korean speakers ceased their broadcasts. These 11 loudspeakers can be heard up to six miles into North Korean territory. This enables the broadcasts to influence possible defectors staying near the border as well as create bothersome propaganda that North Korean soldiers cannot escape.The content on these USB drives and SD cards are then viewed by plugging the device into a , a small portable media player. Although this practice had originally begun with banned books and simple radios, there is now an even higher demand for South Korean media following the cultural phenomena of , or the Korean Wave.

The dissemination of K-pop and Korean media has been crucial in presenting the realities of North Korea to its citizens. By detailing the basic conditions of life in South Korea and introducing foreign ideologies, Korean media has aroused civil unrest amongst both citizens and elites concerning the disparities between living conditions inside and outside North Korea. A defector explains that, when he escaped in 2012, only the wealthy families were the ones consuming the South Korean media because the costs of the flash drives and technology to use them were so high. Because most youth lacked the resources to afford the drives, most consumers of South Korean media before 2012 were middle aged elite who favored K-dramas over K-pop due to their more traditional behavior. The current high demand for Korean media continues to rise as now approximately 70% of North Koreans consume foreign media in their homes, which accounts for the higher youth following of South Korean media today. One researcher at the claims to have never met a single defector who had not seen or listened to foreign media before entering South Korea. Yet experts remain wary that a cultural uprising will occur because of the media. Consuming South Korean media serves many purposes for North Koreans such as enjoyment and education, but few consider uprooting a totalitarian regime because of the cultures they've experienced through K-pop and K-dramas.

Even North Korean leader has shown a liking for K-Pop music. In 2018, Kim stated he was "deeply moved" after attending a two-hour concert in featuring South Korean performers such as singer and the popular girl band . This historic concert marks the first performance by South Korean artists attended by a North Korean leader in Pyongyang. The concert featuring over 150 South Korean artists, attended by 1500 North Korean elites, also displays growing relations between the North and the South. None of the song line ups, lyrics, or dance moves of the performers were asked to be changed by traditionalist North Korean officials. This acceptance of the K-pop and its content shows a stark contrast of Kim Jong Un's historically stringent policies on foreign media. The South Korean artists also performed alongside notable North Korean artists in the following week. Recordings of both performances have been made public to South Koreans, though no reports have been made of their release to the North Korean public.


Despite sharing a similar past, the Taiwanese did not carry a positive sentiment towards South Korea after 1992, which is when South Korea broke off its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan in order to pursue one with mainland China. This changed in the early 2000s as the cultural dispersion of Hallyu has contributed to the reconstruction of South Korea's image among the Taiwanese. This change was in part prompted by the South Korean government, who wished to encourage goodwill between the two countries after the break of diplomacy. Now many Taiwanese have remarked that Korean popular music and Korean dramas has helped to foster a renewed interest and healthier relationship with South Korea.


There is a thriving K-pop fanbase in Singapore, where idol groups, such as 2NE1, , Girls' Generation and EXO, often hold concert tour dates. The popularity of K-pop alongside has influenced the aesthetics image of Singaporeans. Korean-style "straight eyebrows" have become quite popular among many Singaporean females and males of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent. Singaporean beauty salons have seen an increase in the number of customers interested in getting Korean-style "straight eyebrows" and Korean-style haircuts in recent years. On 5 August 2017, Singapore hosted the 10th Music Bank World Tour, a concert spin-off of Music Bank, a popular weekly music programme by South Korean broadcaster KBS. More than 7,000 fans were treated to a spread by five music acts, namely BTS, Red Velvet, SHINee, Mamamoo and CNBlue, at the sold-out session at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre. This event proved the immense popularity of the Hallyu wave in Singapore.


In Malaysia, among the three main ethnic groups- , and - many prefer to listen to music in their own languages, but the popularity of K-pop alongside Korean movies and TV series has become popular among all three ethnic groups, which Malaysian firms have capitalized upon. The popularity of K-pop has also resulted in politicians bringing K-pop idols to the country in order attract young voters.


K-pop along with Korean TV series and movies has turned into a popular culture, specially among young generation of Indonesia. This trend can be observed in any major city of the country. Music in Indonesia is also influenced by Korean Pop (K-Pop) music. Popularity of Korean culture has increased continuously in Indonesia since the early 2000s, starting with the East Asian popular culture boom.


In the state of , where separatists have banned Bollywood movies, consumers have turned to Korean popular culture for their entertainment needs. The 's correspondent Sanjoy Majumder reported that Korean entertainment products are mostly unlicensed copies smuggled in from neighbouring Burma, and are generally well received by the local population. This has led to the increasing use of Korean phrases in common parlance amongst the young people of Manipur.

In order to capitalize on the popularity of K-pop in Manipur, many hairdressing salons have offered "Korean-style" cuts based on the hairstyles of K-pop boy bands. This wave of Korean popular culture is currently spreading from Manipur to the neighbouring state of . K-pop is catching up in various other states of the country and millions of fans hold festivals and competitions in regard of the same.


In , K-pop gained popularity along with and films. K-pop has become influential in the Nepali music industry and K-pop music videos are often used as an accompaniment to Nepali music on and has become a popular trend in the country.

North America[]

Donika Sterling, an American K-Pop fan diagnosed with , was sponsored to meet her favourite idols in South Korea.

In 2006, held sold-out concerts in New York and Las Vegas as part of his .

In 2009, the became the first K-pop artist to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. They went on to join the on the . In 2010, they toured 20 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and were named "Artist of the Month" for June.

In 2010, held the with dates in Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, and New York. The same year, during the 8th Annual , K-pop artists made their first appearances at the .

Notable K-pop concerts in the United States in 2011 include the Concert at the New York Korea Festival, the K-Pop Masters Concert in Las Vegas, and the Korean Music Wave in Google, which was held at 's headquarters in .

2012 marked a breakthrough year for K-pop in North America. At the start of the year, performed the English version of "" on the late night talk show The and also on the daytime talk show , becoming the first Korean musical act to perform on these shows, and the first Korean act to perform on syndicated television in the United States. In the same year, the group formed their first sub-unit, entitled , or simply "TTS", composed of members , , and . The subgroup's debut EP, , peaked at #126 on the Billboard 200. In May, returned to California again with the in . In August, as part of their , held their first American concert in the at the of . In November, as part of their Alive Tour, held their first solo concert in America, visiting the in Los Angeles and the in Newark. The tickets sold out in only a few hours, and additional dates were added. On November 13, the American singer-songwriter and backup dancers performed "" alongside during a concert at in New York City. PSY later told reporters that his gig with Madonna had "topped his list of accomplishments".

On January 29, 2013, , one of America's most popular music magazines, launched , an online on its website that covered K-pop news, artists, concerts, and chart information.

In March of that year, performed at the in , alongside , who represented Korean rock. f(x) was the first K-pop group ever to perform at SXSW. Mnet hosted its Kcon event in NY and LA in July 2016.

In 2017, was nominated for the at the 2017 . Their winning of the award marks the first time a Korean group has won a Billboard Award, and the second time a Korean artist has won the award, after 's win in 2013. won the award at both the 2017 and 2018 . They performed at the 2017 and the 2018 , making them one of the first Korean group to have performed at either awards show.'s album reached #1 on the , making it the first Korean act to do so. Additionally, 's single, "", debuted at #10 on the , making them the second Korean artist to chart in the top ten.

Latin America[]

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Many idol groups have loyal fan bases in Latin America. Since 2009, about 260 fan clubs with a total of over 20,000 and 8,000 active members have been formed in and , respectively.

In 2011, the United Cube Concert was held in , shortly after the second round of the first was held in Brazil, with as judges.

In March 2012, performed in Chile and Peru. When the group arrived at the in Peru for the JYJ World Tour Concert, they were escorted by airport security officials through a private exit due to safety reasons concerning the large number of fans (over 3,000). At the in Lima, some fans camped out for days in to see JYJ. In April, and jointly aired a K-pop reality show in . In September, became the first K-pop idol to perform solo in Brazil and Mexico, after the in in 2009. The concerts sold out well in advance. That year there were 70 K-pop fan clubs in Mexico, with at least 60,000 members altogether.

In January 2014, performed in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, becoming the first K-pop idol to perform in Bolivia. The tour proved his popularity in the continent as both fans and the media followed him everywhere he went, causing traffic on the roads and police to be called to maintain safety. Fans were also seen pitching their tents outside the concert venue for days before the actual concert.


Korean media in experienced a surge in 2002 after Mexican governor, , visited South Korea. From his trip, he brought Korean series, movies, and other programs to Mexico State's broadcasting channel: (channel 34). Korean dramas exposed the Mexican public to Korean products and spurred interest in other aspects of Korean culture. K-Pop commenced to gain ground in Mexico due to the series the music accompanied. Fans particularly sought out the music of soundtracks respective to Korean dramas that were broadcast.

However, K-Pop's arrival to Mexico is also attributed to an influence of Japanese media in Mexico and the introduction of s (Pump It Up). The comic convention, La Mole, commenced selling Japanese comics and music and later commenced to sell K-Pop. PIUs combined gaming and dancing, introducing the Mexican youth to Korean gaming software and generating interest in Korean music.

KCON in Mexico City

K-Pop's presence in Mexico can be outlined through the growing number of Korean music acts in the country. In the recent years, the amount of K-Pop concerts in Mexico has risen and branched into other portions of the country. Idol groups, including and , have visited Mexico through their respective world tours. 's became the first Korean star to perform solo. His concert held in Mexico City sold out in advance. The also brought various acts to the Mexican public. Many of those groups covered widely-known songs, such as 's cover of Sabor A Mi.

In 2017, Mexico also became the first Latin American country to host . The two-day convention held on March 17–18 brought over 33,000 fans to . Much like artists during Music Bank, idols covered Spanish songs.

The strength and large number of fanclubs have continuously helped promote and support K-Pop across the country. Over 70 fan clubs dedicated to Korean music are present in Mexico, bringing together around 30,000 fans. Although many fanclubs were created around 2003, they achieved a public presence in 2005 when Korea's ex-president visited Mexico for a meeting with Mexico's ex-president . Around 30 Hallyu fanclubs held a "rally" asking Roh to bring actors and to their country.

Demonstrations have continued into recent years. On May 13, 2013, a large march was held in Mexico City's Zócalo. Called KPOP: MASSIVE MARCH K-POP MEXICO II, it was the second mass march that brought together hundreds of avid K-Pop fans.

However, larger fanclub organization in Mexico receive indirect or direct support from Korean cultural programs. (Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange) and the in Mexico often work in conjunction with fanclubs. These larger organizations contain multiple fanclubs within their structure. The three largest are MexiCorea, Hallyu Mexican Lovers, and HallyuMx. Both MexiCorea and Hallyu Mexican Lovers are supported by KOFICE while HallyuMx previously worked with the Korean Cultural Center and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Mexico.


In 2009, the singer Hwangbo began to receive great popularity in the United Kingdom and Europe, after he released his single Gift For Him and R2song in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Being the first singer of all asía popular in Europe.

In 2010, both the and the were held in Paris.

K-pop fans in Warsaw holding a South Korean-Polish flag as well as banners of various boy bands

In February 2011, performed at the Apolo concert hall in Barcelona. In May, became the first K-pop artist to perform in Germany, during the Music Festival. also performed in both Berlin and Barcelona. flew to and won the Best Worldwide Act during the in Northern Ireland. In Poland, the K-pop Star Exhibition was held in the Korean Culture Center. K-pop also saw a surge in popularity in Russia, where 57 dance teams took part in the . During the second round of the competition, flew to Moscow as judges, also performing to Russian fans. The following year, Russian youths launched K-Plus, a Korean culture magazine, and the number of Russian K-pop fans was reported at 50,000.

In February 2012, held their in Berlin. According to the , many fans who attended were not just from Germany but also from neighbouring countries such as France and Switzerland. Also in February, the drew more than 10,000 fans to the . That year, artists such as and performed during the United Cube Concert in London, where the MBC Korean Culture Festival was also held. When arrived at the for a concert at the in the same year, part of the airport became temporarily overrun by frenzied fans. The reservation system of the Odeon West End crashed for the first time one minute after ticket sales began as the concert drew an unexpectedly large response. At this time, SHINee also held a 30-minute performance at the . The ticket demand for this performance was so high that fashion magazine gave away forty tickets through a lottery, and the performance was also televised in Japan through six different channels. Also in 2012, Big Bang won the Best Fan category in the Italian .

2014 saw a continued rise in the popularity of K-pop in Russia. On February 3, became the first ever Korean singer to hold a solo concert in Moscow.

Middle East[]

K-pop has become increasingly popular across the Middle East over recent years, particularly among younger fans. In July 2011, Israeli fans met South Korea's Ambassador to Israel, Ma Young-sam, and traveled to Paris for the in Europe. According to Dr. Nissim Atmazgin, a professor of East Asian Studies at of Jerusalem, "Many young people look at K-pop as culture capital- something that makes them stand out from the crowd." As of 2012, there are over 5,000 K-pop fans in Israel and 3,000 in the Palestinian territories. Some dedicated Israeli and Palestinian fans see themselves as "cultural missionaries" and actively introduce K-pop to their friends and relatives, further spreading the Hallyu wave within their communities.

In 2012, the number of fans in Turkey surpassed 100,000, reaching 150,000 in 2013. appeared for a fan meet-and-greet session in Dubai and a concert in Abu Dhabi. In Cairo, hundreds of fans went to the ’s stage theater to see the final round of the K-POP Korean Song Festival, organised by the Korean Embassy.


The K-pop Wave has lead to a number of growth in dance groups that does dance covers of K-pop music and teach K-pop choreography. In the , AO Crew represented Australia three time- 2013,2013, and 2016- in the competition. Also, another dance cover group, IMI Dance, was the opening show for the RapBeat Show in 2017. There are dance studio that provide classes that are based on K-pop choreography. Dance group Crave NV teaches a K-pop class every Saturday at their dance studio in New Zealand.

As the Korean Wave spread, teenagers started to become interested in the K-pop training and wanted to undergo it. In 2016, The Academy was created. This is a Sydney-based agency that runs experimental K-pop boot camp, choreography, TV style workshops, and other programs. This agency gives people the opportunity to work with professional trainers and consultants from top agencies in Asia. This helps to open doors for talent scouts to look for talent teenagers that may be a good fit to the Korean music industry. The Academy is for anyone and everyone that is interested in the K-pop training and had dreams of becoming a K-pop idol.

Oceania plays a part in bring talented Koreans into the K-pop stage and industry. , , , , , , , and are Korean Australian's that made it to the K-pop stage.

, an annual K-pop music and cultural convention, was launched for the first time in Australia on September 2017. They are the seventh country to host KCON since 2012. It was held at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney. The lineup for the event was , , , , , , , , and .

Concerts Held in Oceania[]

In 2011, the K-Pop Music Festival at the was held in Sydney, featuring Girls' Generation, TVXQ, B2ST, SHINee, 4minute, miss A, 2AM, and MBLAQ. There was also demand for concerts from New Zealand.

In August 2012, visited Sydney Harbour and the , as judges of a K-pop contest being held there. The following year, were judges at the same contest in Sydney. In October, toured Australia after his single "Gangnam Style" reached number one in Australia on the charts.

In May 2016, held a concert in Auckland, becoming the first K-Pop group to perform in New Zealand.

In May 2017, came to Sydney as part of their . The show sold out in less than 48 hours, and attracted fans from other Australian states and New Zealand. It was the group's second time visiting Australia after their in 2015.

Foreign relations[]

See also:

On May 25, 2010, South Korea responded to the alleged North Korean sinking of a navy ship by broadcasting 's single "" across the . In response, North Korea affirmed its decision to "destroy" any speakers set up along the border. That year, reported that the had considered setting up large TV screens across the border to broadcast music videos by several popular K-pop girl groups such as , , , and as part of "psychological warfare" against North Korea. In September 2012, North Korea uploaded a video with a photo manipulated image of South Korean president performing the dance moves of "". The video labeled her as a "devoted" admirer of the system of autocratic rule set up by her father, .

Since the early 2010s, several political leaders have acknowledged the global rise of Korean pop culture, most notably U.S. President , who made an official visit to South Korea in 2012 and mentioned the strong influences of social media networks, adding that it was "no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean wave, ." A few months later, delivered a speech in front of the , where he noted South Korea's "great global success" in the fields of culture, sports and the arts, before pointing out that the Korean Wave was "making its mark on the world". This occurred a few days after spokeswoman remarked in a daily press briefing that her daughter "loves Korean pop", which sparked a media frenzy in South Korea after a journalist from the country's publicly funded arranged an interview with Nuland and described Nuland's teenage daughter as "crazy about Korean music and dance".

In November 2012, the British for the , , addressed a group of South Korean diplomats at the , where he emphasized the close ties and mutual cooperation shaping and added: "As "Gangnam Style" has demonstrated, your music is global too." In February 2013, the , , gave an interview with South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, where she voiced her desire for more South Korean companies to invest in her country and named K-pop as "one of the main factors that made Peruvian people wanting to get to know South Korea more".

According to an article published by the international relations magazine , the spread of Korean popular culture across Southeast Asia, parts of South America, and parts of the Middle East is illustrating how the gradual cessation of European is giving way and making room for unexpected outside of the Western world. On the other hand, an article published by magazine expressed concern that discussions about Hallyu as a form of soft power seems to bear a whiff of the "old Victorian fear of ".

In August 2016, it was reported that China planned to ban Korean media broadcasts and K-pop idol promotions within the country in opposition to South Korea's defensive deployment of (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missiles. The reportage of these planned regulatory measures caused an immediate negative impact on shares in Korean talent agencies, although stock prices later recovered.

On 1 April 2018, leader watched a K-Pop concert in Pyeongyang.

Criticism and controversies[]

Main accusations and criticisms faced by the genre and industry as a whole include:

Naming and Identity[]

There have been critical responses in South Korea regarding the identity of the genre since its ascendance. Some of the notable music critics in the region have criticized K-POP as "a industrial label mainly designed to promote the national brand in the global market from the beginning" and argued that it was "not formed spontaneously as a pop culture but created with the orchestrated plan led by the government with commercial considerations" although in fact "the genre has practically no ties with traditional Korean identity". Also there's a perspective that the name of the genre was originated from .

Music and visuals[]

K-Pop has at times faced criticisms from journalists who perceive the music to be formulaic and unoriginal.Some K-Pop groups have been accused of plagiarizing Western music acts as well as other musical acts. In addition, K-Pop has been criticized for , with critics dubbing the use of English in titles “meaningless”.

K-Pop groups have been regularly accused on of cultures such as , especially due to the frequent use of cornrows and bandanas in idol groups' on-stage styling. K-Pop groups have also been accused of appropriating and cultures. However, debate exists about whether the borrowing of cultural elements from cultures outside of Korea indeed constitutes cultural appropriation, or if this cultural appropriation is negative at all. Scholar Crystal S. Anderson writes that “[a]ppropriating elements of a culture by taking them out of their original context and using them in a completely different way does not automatically constitute negative cultural appropriation.”

Industry practices[]


In 2002, magazine reported that Korean television producers such as Hwang Yong-woo and Kim Jong-jin had been arrested for "accepting under-the-table payments guaranteeing TV appearances to aspiring singers and musicians" in a bid to tackle "systemic corruption in South Korea's music business". Companies investigated included and .

Exploitation and poor living conditions[]

K-pop management companies have also been criticized for exploitation of idols through overwork and restrictive contracts, described as "" in a report. According to , "Korea’s entertainment business is notoriously improvisational and unregulated. In-demand K-pop stars – many of whom are teenage 'idols' – have been known to rehearse and perform without sleep."

In July 2009, S.M. Entertainment was taken to court by and a member, who alleged that their working conditions had led to adverse health effects. The court decision in the TVXQ lawsuit determined their contract with S.M. Entertainment , and resultantly the Fair Trade Commission released contract templates to regulate industry conditions.

In 2014, South Korea passed a law to regulate its music industry, protecting idols aged under 19 from unhealthy labor practices and overtly sexualized performances.

Under the new law, underage stars will be guaranteed the basic rights to learn, rest and sleep, though exceptions can be made for projects requiring long-distance travel. Weekly working hours for children younger than 15 are not to exceed 35 hours, while minors aged 15-18 are limited to 40 hours. Minors cannot work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless their guardians give consent. It will also be illegal to coerce minors into wearing revealing stage costumes or dancing sexually suggestive choreography routines.

Failure to comply with these regulations may lead to the equivalent of a US,000 fine.

Industry professionals such as SM Entertainment's CEO Kim Young-min have defended the system, arguing that individuals trained within the system are "no different than typical middle or high school kids, who go to after-school programs to cram for college entrance exams". Kim has also argued that there is a need to consider the expenses incurred by the company during the trainee period, including "facilities, equipment, costumes, and virtually everything the trainees need".

On March 7, 2017, the South Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) passed new regulations in order to protect trainee idols from unfair terms and working conditions. Prior to these regulations, trainee idols at eight idol agencies were not permitted to seek contracts at any other agency while at training. Moreover, agencies were able to terminate a trainee contract at any time for any reason. The Fair Trade Commission states that they believe these changes will "result in a more just contract culture within the entertainment industry between trainee and agency." For now these regulations only apply to eight major idol agencies but the Ministry of Culture intends to apply these regulations to all existing agencies throughout 2018.

Some of the concerns raised by the idol agencies over these regulations include the risk of a trainee at one agency going undercover at another agency to receive training with the other agency. This introduces further risk that the idol agencies must take in training new idols. Trainees train for 3 years on average and the agencies support these trainees with various training programs during this duration, resulting in each trainee being a very large investment for the agency.

Sexualization and sexual exploitation[]

Main article:

The industry has been criticized for the sexualization of both male and female idols, with the sexualization of minors in particular being of concern. Critics such as James Turnbull of the Korean Pop Culture blog have argued young female idols are especially susceptible to pressures to wear revealing clothing or dance provocatively. However, compared to western popular music, K-pop has little sex, drugs, or aggressive behavior and has a much more parent-friendly branding.

Sponsorships or "sponsor relationships" are a common form of sexual exploitation in the industry. Wealthy individuals will "sponsor" idols or trainees by giving them expensive gifts or by helping them land roles coverage in return for sexual favors.

Mental Health[]

Anxiety is one of the most talked about mental illnesses that many idols open up about. K-pop idols, such as Park Kyung of Block B, has talked about idol hardships with anxiety, stating, “you start living your life with anxiety right after debut.” Another example of an idol who has opened up about their relationship with anxiety is BTS's Suga. In his interview with Naver, Suga stated, “Anxiety and loneliness seem to be with me for life. I put a lot of meaning on how I would work it out, but it seems like I have to study it for my entire life.” Anxiety has affected some idols due to the uncertainty and pressures of their job as an entertainer.

Not only is anxiety one of the biggest mental illness with K-pop idols, depression is gaining a lot of limelight as well. While many idols have opened up about their struggle with depression, some idols have only hinted their problems. One of the biggest and most recent controversies involved SHINee's Jonghyun. Kim Jonghyun was open and public about his depression. He even said in a 2017 interview with Esquire, “I’m fundamentally a pessimistic person. Ever since I was little I showed a lot of depressive feelings, and it’s the same in the present.” However, his comments were brushed off by the public and on December 18th of 2017, he committed suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. The first line of his suicide note was about his battle with depression, “I am damaged from the inside. The depression that has been slowly eating away at me has completely swallowed me, and I couldn’t win over it.” Only 23% of Koreans with depression seek professional help compared to 44% in other developed countries.

Jonghyun's suicide had a huge impact on fellow K-pop idols and fans. However, Jonghyun is not the first idol to have committed suicide. One of the first k-pop idol to have committed suicide is Charles Park, also known as Seo Ji Won. Although nobody knows the reason for his suicide, he mentioned that the fame and glory after his first album became too much for him. He was also afraid that his second album might not meet expectations. The pressure of the K-pop industry became too much to handle and he passed away at the age of 19. The suicide rate in South Korea continues to be one of the highest among all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations. It should be noted that 75.3% of those who have attempted suicide have one or more forms of mental illness.

Though mental illness in South Korea has been an increasing problem, awareness has also been on the rise. The Shining Road series, a free concert that was held in the spring of 2018, was a way for Korean celebrities and K-pop idols to use their platform to raise awareness about mental illness. All proceeds that were raised went toward youth suicide prevention organizations.

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