Reality shows looking for the next big talent are popping up on every channel, while dozens of cram schools in Seoul teach students how to become a next K-pop star auditions held by management companies. With a population of only 48 million, Korea is a relatively limited market which accounts for most of the K-pop albums’ overseas sales. Seoul’s “Big Three” management companies– JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment and SM Entertainment– have been making moves to Latin America, Europe and North America.
While Korea has been an export powerhouse for decades in electronics, ships and cars, manufacturing companies have rarely played up Korean brand identity. However these days I can easily find out articles praising Korean Wave, contagious K-pop, Hallyu, a phenomenon known in Asia, is spreading to Europe and the U.S, and spurring Korea’s culture export earning even though Asia is still crucial and the most effective managers continue to target export market.
It was the first time I finally grasped the enthusiasm for K-pop when I took class this semester. In our class learning about International Communication and PR, we have several foreign students and exchange students from China, Taiwan, Japan, U.S and France. In class, they shared their experiences of searching for the videos or information of K-pop star and shared pictures together with their friends through social networking sites.
I believe that South Korea’s uniquely large scaled entertainment companies played a crucial role in creating the flourishing popularity of K-pop around the world. Their system of manufacturing singers by teaching them dancing, singing, acting and even foreign language during a training period that can begin from young age and last as long as seven years, is unprecedented in the world. Even though some people criticize that the big enterprises make all Korean pop songs sound the same without their own characteristic, I think those long years of practicing to become a star made them more competitive in a global market overflowing with artists.
Also, behind the high success of the K-pop lies the development of the new media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube which allows the real time transcending national boundaries when it comes to distribution. Any good content frequently spreads via word of mouth among the world’s netizens which allow the fast transition of culture.
When asked about the attractiveness of K-pop to my foreign friends, they mostly responded that they have fallen for its triple combination of unique and dynamic dance, music and its singers’ attractive appearances. In my assumption, I think that in contrast to American artist, Asian music is very hooky and fast and just very exotic.
Frankly speaking, having followed the Korea media, I became too familiar with the unrestrained embellishment of hallyu. Thinking that the world music market is still huge and there exist more people who do not know about the K-pop compared to those who love them before stamping the word hallyu on every song with a connection to Korea, would deconstruct the notion of the so called Korean wave. Therefore, instead of simply glorifying the concept of K-pop, the Korean media should understand that media’s coverage of hallyu and K-pop is ridiculously one-sided.