On April 15, the K-pop girl group KAACHI commemorated the first anniversary of its debut. This group initially confused K-pop fans. Unlike “common” K-pop groups debuting in Korea, KAACHI is based in London. This caused controversy amongst K-pop fans on whether the group should be considered a K-pop group or not.
Regardless of how the audience defines the group, KAACHI’s work consistently embodies the features of the K-pop genre, from its debut single to the recently uploaded covers of other K-pop songs. Many K-pop fans responded positively to KAACHI’s efforts. The official music video of its first single, “Your Turn,” garnered more than 13 million views. Their latest single is pushing past three million views.
A major contributor of KAACHI’s current success is Lee Hye-lim, the general producer of KAACHI and the CEO of the FrontRow Label. She graduated from the Graduate School of International Business at Ewha Women’s University and also worked as a program director at Arirang TV.
Lee took part in three news programs in Arirang TV, while simultaneously attending graduate school. According to Lee, her experiences at Arirang TV were the foundation of her motivation to establish the FrontRow label. For example, the experience gave her the ability to accomplish tasks on tight deadlines.
“I felt accomplished every time I saw the anchor speaking the closing remark of the news that I directed,” Lee said. “The time in Arirang TV was a chance to learn practical affairs and be imbued with inspirations.”
Lee also attributes how the graduate school developed her skills in international accounting and negotiation.
When she left behind her career in Korea to establish a start-up in London, she originally planned a business that provided administrative help for independent artists in London. However, she soon realized that the business was not sustainable.
“I tested and launched an artist version of DocuSign, a program allowing clients to manage electronic agreements easily, but it was not profitable enough to maintain the business,” Lee stated.
Lee commented that you need to be bold when launching a start-up in the foreign country: “Try not to be too emotional when you face challenges. Keeping an open mind on unexpected changes is essential.”
To survive, she endeavored to network with people in London’s music scene, from prominent producers to independent artists, to find out how she could break into the industry.
To fully understand the industry, the first thing that she had to eradicate was the passive attitude. “Every time I entered into a networking party where entrepreneurs gather, I repeated saying, ‘I will be the center of this meeting,’ and it helped me,” Lee said.
“I looked to producing and publishing,” Lee said. “I also decided to launch a K-pop group based in London for the first time. It was when I met KAACHI’s members in a K-pop audition held in London.”
Lee thinks that K-pop entered its golden era in 2019, following the global success of BTS in global music industry. She wanted to know whether K-pop could be accepted as a major genre in London.
Debuting in the middle of the COVID-19, KAACHI was faced with several difficulties, such as the closure of filming studios. One of Lee’s most memorable moment was when KAACHI filmed its music video for “Your Turn” on the freezing streets because of the studio closures.
“COVID-19 is a point of inflection in the music industry,” she said. “It clearly was a critical risk element in off-line performances but acted as an opportunity to distribute content through online platforms. Accordingly, KAACHI is producing various contents that can be formed without outdoor activities.”
KAACHI’s uniqueness is that it captures the group members cultural backgrounds and infuses them with K-pop culture created in South Korea. However, according to Lee, KAACHI is also constructing its own style, and has now been invited to London’s New Year’s Day Parade.
Lee and her label Front Row also have plans to break KAACHI into the Korean music industry post-COVID, as they hope to expand and drive the industry forward. How traditional K-pop fans will react to this is an open question, but so far, Lee is at the forefront of this uncharted territory in the K-pop and music industry.