Hallyu: How K-Pop and Korean Culture is Here to Stay
K-Pop has come a long way since its inception in 1992. The last 10 years have seen it skyrocket from a niche scene to mainstream success. Aside from obvious hit artists in the form of Psy and BTS, K-Pop now has an almost permanent position in the UK and US singles charts. K-Pop acts now sell out arenas, reach number 1 and get billions of hits on YouTube and Spotify. Embracing digital media and creating great content has allowed K-Pop to leave a lasting impression on the world of music, art and fashion. The hallyu is real and we think it's here to stay.
Most recently, K-Pop has seen massive success in the form of Blackpink's Lisa. Her track "Money" has replaced Adele on the YouTube charts and has currently been on the UK singles chart for 5 weeks in row. It is now one of the longest standing tracks on the UK charts by a woman in the K-pop scene. Interesting, despite being born in Thailand and singing in English, Lisa's music still very much represents K-Pop. Her membership of Blackpink is an obvious reason for this, but it's interesting to see the definition of K-Pop become blurred over its development. It's a genre that loves to mutate; borrowing pieces from other genres while also developing its own unique style and sound.
Once known for its smartphones and automobile manufacturers, South Korea is now a cultural behemoth. Aside from K-Pop, South Korea is also dominating in terms of TV (e.g. Squid Game) and film (e.g. Parasite). As of last Monday, 3 of the top 10 shows on Netflix were South Korean. At the end of the summer, the Oxford English dictionary even added 26 words of Korean origin. One of these words was "hallyu", a Chinese term used to describe this new influx of Korean cultural ideas. The population of South Korea is only a 6th that of the USA, yet it still manages to cut through in film, TV and music.
Unique ideas and a distinct visual style have left Western audiences hungry for anything of Korean origin. The story book heroes of Hollywood have been replaced by the flawed yet endearing characters we see in Korean programming (such as the protagonist in Squid Game). Even K-Pop offers a change of pace to the likes of Ed Sheeran or One Direction. Why see Ed Sheeran perform when you can see a brilliantly produced, heavily choreographed BTS for the same price? Songs like Psy's "Gangnam Style" may have been one hit wonders, but we're finally seeing Korean culture get to a more stable position when it comes to cultural prowess. This could be a turning point for the world of culture and we're happy to sit here and enjoy the show.
One of the things that defines K-Pop is the size and passion of its fandom, they are the driving force behind the industry’s success. K-Pop has managed to weaponise such a strong fandom through a multitude of touchpoints such as frequent and multi-modal communication with their audiences, creating a community for their audience to thrive within whether that be on social media platforms or at their live shows. K-Pop stars are also experts in content creation - developing relevant and fun characters which audiences adore, engaging and stimulating storylines, which sometimes audiences try and emulate in their own fiction. It’s no surprise the industry is continuing to be such a global force. To find out more about how they have done this, check out our trends debrief on K-Pop’s undeniable success: https://app.hubspot.com/documents/8818874/view/124504588?accessId=a31343