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Stylistic origins Rhythm and blues • Jazz • Folk • Dance • Classical • Rock and roll • R&B
Cultural origins Nominally early 1990s; trace the roots to 1960s
Typical instruments Vocals • Rapping • Drum machine, Drum pad • Drums • Electric bass • Keyboards • Piano • Sampler • Sequencer, Synthesizer • Vocoder, Auto-tune • Occasional use of various other instruments
Mainstream popularity Continuous in South Korea since emergence.
Bubblegum pop • Dance-pop • Operatic pop • Power pop • Soundtrack • Synthpop • Space age pop • Sunshine pop • Traditional pop • Teen pop
C-pop • J-pop
K-pop (Korean: 가요, kayo) (an abbreviation of Korean pop or Korean popular music) is a musical genre consisting of dance, electronic, electropop, hip hop, rock, and R&B music originating in South Korea. In addition to music, K-pop has grown into a popular subculture among teenagers and young adults around the world.
Although in a bigger scope K-pop may include other genres of "popular music" within South Korea, outside of the country the term is more commonly used for songs sung by Korean teen idols, which covers mostly dance, electronic, rap, hip-hop, and R&B genres. Starting in 1992, dance and rap music became popular due to Seo Taiji & Boys, which is seen as the beginning of modern K-pop. Genres such as ballad and rock are still popular today; however, the term can be debatable.
With the rise of social media networks during the mid 2000s, the ability of K-pop to reach a previously inaccessible audience via the Internet is driving a shift in the exposure and popularity of the genre. The Korean Wave has spread K-pop to the Pacific Rim, the Americas, Eurasia, and North Africa.
1 Musical and visual style
3.2 United States and Canada
3.3 Latin America
3.6 Africa, India, and the Middle East
4 Appeal and fanbase
5.1 Music and appearance
5.2 Fan obsession
6.1 Sales and market value
6.2 YouTube views
7 List of K-pop artists
8 See also
11 External links
Musical and visual style
According to a Rolling Stone author, "K-Pop is a mixture of trendy Western music and high-energy Japanese pop (J-Pop), which preys on listeners' heads with repeated hooks, sometimes in English. It embraces genre fusion with both singing and rap, and emphasizes performance and strong visuals."
The BBC describes the K-pop bands Super Junior and the Wonder Girls as "highly produced, sugary boy- and girl-bands with slick dance routines and catchy tunes." Many K-pop music videos have colourful visuals and a catchy beat. 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. K-pop is also recognized for pretty-boys and girl groups that are young and considered attractive.
An advertisement (top left) for the SMTown Live '10 World Tour in Times Square, Manhattan.
K-Pop Fans in Warsaw holding a S.Korean-Polish flag as well as banners of boybands MBLAQ, B1A4 and 2PM
An old-fashioned style of Korean pop music called Trot (Korean: "트로트"), influenced by a Japanese pop music of Enka during Japanese rule over Korea (1910-1945), was popular in South Korea until the 1980s.
In the mid-1920s, Japanese composer Masao Koga mixed traditional Korean music with Gospel music that American Evangelists introduced in the 1870s. This type of music became known as Enka in Japan, and later in Korea as Trot.
As Korea was liberated from Japanese annexation in 1945, the country was divided into two nations: North Korea and South Korea. Western culture was introduced into South Korea on a small scale with a few Western style bars and clubs playing Western music. After the Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950 and lasted for 3 years, U.S. troops remained in South Korea for protection. With the continued presence of the U.S. military, American and world culture began to infiltrate South Korea. During this time, Western music became more accepted to a wider crowd of young adults. Improvements in the recording systems encouraged the production of LP records in the 1960s, which led to the pursuit of diverse voice tones. Many singers sang for the American troops in Korea at the time, and the appearance of chorus in performances was conspicuous. At this period of time, civilians were exposed to pop songs by commercial radio stations, which led to the great popularity of pop songs. The Kim Sisters, Yoon Bok-hee and Patti Kim were the first singers to debut in such countries as Vietnam and United States.
In the 1970s, the new career of DJs became popular, deeply impacting the teenage cultures. Guitars and jeans were the symbols of youth. This resulted in the introduction of more folk singers, such as Chang Sik Song, Young Nam Cho, and Hee Eun Yang. In 1977, the Seoul International Song Festival was launched, which encouraged cultural exchanges with other countries. In 1980, the Asia Music Forum was launched. National singers from five different Asian countries competed in the event. Cho Yong-pil won first place and earned a high reputation as a Korean singer in Japan.
In the 1990s, early versions of Korean pop incorporated American popular music styles like rap, rock and techno in their music. Since the debut of Seo Taiji & Boys, multiple singers began to switch their positions while singing and dancing, a strategy called "formation changing" (Korean: 자리 바꿈, Jari ba'ggum) and a turning point for the establishment of K-pop style choreography (Korean: 안무, Anmu).
The founding of South Korea's largest talent agency and record label, SM Entertainment, in 1995 by Korean entrepreneur Lee Soo Man led to the first K-pop girl groups and boy bands. By the late 1990s, YG Entertainment, DSP Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and FNC Music had burst onto the scene and were producing talent as quickly as the public could consume it.
According to Mark James Russell from the global politics magazine Foreign Policy, K-Pop has now spread to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and parts of South America. He acknowledges that Korean popular culture "may not (yet) turn heads in Los Angeles or London" and claims that "the West is actually late to the party". However, this may soon change because K-Pop's influence continues to spread as it finds more fans in the West.
K-pop being played during the 2011 Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin in Germany
South Korea is emerging in the 21st century as a major exporter of popular culture. K-pop has been embraced by the South Korean government as a tool for soft power abroad, particularly towards youth. K-pop has come from humble beginnings to gain a huge fan base not just in Asia but also other parts of the world, and is considered by some to be South Korea’s greatest export because of its popularity and growing influence. As South Korea continues to develop its IT infrastructure, K-pop music is being shared over the internet and through mobile devices more rapidly than ever. One of the biggest examples of the globalization of KPOP is the emergence of PSY's "Gangnam Style" on the market. In October 2012, Psy became the first South Korean artist to hit the number 1 spot on top UK charts.
US President Barack Obama has noted the rapid surge and spread of Korean pop culture. During an official visit to South Korea in March 2012, he praised South Korea’s youth for their tech-savviness and optimism, and remarked:
“ It’s no wonder so many people around the world have caught the Korean Wave -- hallyu ”
Prior to the rise of social media networks, K-pop concerts and related events outside East and Southeast Asia were mostly unheard of. However, with the growing acceptance of Youtube during the late-2000s as a popular music sharing plattform, K-pop has since become increasingly well-known in many parts of the world, including the West. According to The New York Times, "attempts by K-pop stars to break into Western markets had largely failed prior to the proliferation of global social networks." However, K-pop artists are now gaining more international exposure through social media networks such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, making it easier for them to reach a wider audience.
In 2011, Billboard launched the Korea K-Pop Hot 100 chart and YouTube created an official K-pop channel. K-pop music videos were viewed more than 2 billion times during 2011, almost three times the 800 million views in 2010.
Girls' Generation performing at SMTown Live '08 in Bangkok, Thailand
According to the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, K-pop has been a successful export of Korean culture in Asia. On its "Korean Wave" index, the top country in 2010 was Japan, in a list that includes Taiwan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Following the lifting of import/export restrictions between South Korea and Japan which were in place since World War 2, the album Listen to My Heart by BoA was the first album by a Korean artist to debut at the top of the Japanese Oricon charts and become an RIAJ-certified million-seller in Japan. Following BoA's successful Japanese career, countless Korean pop acts have also made inroads in the market, including SHINee, Super Junior, BIGBANG KARA, Girls Generation, After School, 2PM, and Brown Eyed Girls.
K-pop has yet to make a major impact in China but there has been considerable success. The Wonder Girls won an award in the 5th annual China Mobile Wireless Music Award in Beijing for having the highest digital sales for a foreign artist with a five million digital downloads in 2010. Super Junior and their sub-group Super Junior M have had successful results on the Kuang Nan Record, CCR and Hit Fm Taiwan music charts.
In 2011, it has been reported that the total sales for K-pop artists' has increased 22.3% during 2010-2011 in Japan. Some artists have been in the top 10 selling artists of 2011 in Japan.
United States and Canada
Xiah Junsu on stage at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, 2012
One of the first significant K-pop events to be held in the United States were Rain's 2006 sell-out concerts in New York City and in Las Vegas 6 months later. In 2009, the Wonder Girls became the first K-pop artist to debut on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. They also joined the Jonas Brothers in the Jonas Brothers World Tour 2009. In 2010 they toured 20 cities in the United States and Canada, and were named House of Blues "Artist of the Month" for June.
In 2010 SM Entertainment organized SMTown Live '10 World Tour, touring in Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo and New York. In May 2012, SM Town returned to California again with the SMTown Live World Tour III in Anaheim.
In 2010, during the 8th Annual Korean Music Festival, K-pop artists made their first appearances at the Hollywood Bowl. Notable K-pop concerts in the United States in 2011 include the 2011 KBS Concert at the New York Korea Festival, the 2011 K-Pop Masters Concert in Las Vegas, and the Korean Music Wave in Google, the latter held at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.
At the start of 2012, Girls' Generation performed the English version of "The Boys" on the late night talk show Late Show with David Letterman and on the daytime talk show Live! with Kelly, becoming the first Korean musical act to perform on each show, 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 Girls' Generation-TTS, or simply "TaeTiSeo", composed of members Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun. The subgroup's debut EP, Twinkle, peaked at #136 on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest charting K-Pop album on the chart thus far.
In December 2011 2NE1 won MTV Iggy's Best New Band. In August 2012, as part of their New Evolution Global Tour, 2NE1 held their first American concert in the New York Metropolitan Area at the Prudential Center of Newark, New Jersey.
In November 2012, as part of their Alive Tour, Big Bang held their first solo concert in America going to the Honda Center in Los Angeles, California and the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The dates were originally suppose to be November 3, 2012 in California and November 9, 2012 in New Jersey, but being that the tickets sold out in only a few hours after being released they added an extra day at each venue.
On November 13, 2012, the American singer-songwriter Madonna and a few of her backup dancers performed Gangnam Style alongside Korean entertainer PSY during a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. PSY later told reporters that his gig with Madonna had "topped his list of accomplishments".
In the first Latin America K-pop Competition in 2010, 92 teams from 10 countries participated. In 2011 they were joined by more countries for the second Latin America K-pop Competition.
In 2011, the United Cube Concert was held in São Paulo, Brazil.
In March 2012, the boyband JYJ performed in both Chile and Peru. When JYJ arrived at the Jorge Chávez International Airport in Peru for the JYJ World Tour Concert, the band was escorted by airport security officials through a private exit due to safety reasons concerning the large number of fans. At the Explanada Sur del Estadio Monumental in Lima, some fans camped out for days in to see JYJ.
The K-pop singer Key from SHINee meeting fans in Moscow
In Colombia, Caracol TV and Arirang TV made a K-pop reality show in April 2012.
In September 2012, Junsu became the first K-pop idol to perform in Mexico and Brazil, the concerts sold out well in advance.
The Russian music TV channel Muz-TV has recently indicated an interest in adding K-pop to its programme. High school and college students who fell in love with K-pop through the Internet and YouTube have been making calls or sending letters asking to air K-pop-related content.
During the 2011 K-pop Cover Dance Festival, 57 Russian dance teams took part to win a trip to South Korea. During the second round of the competition, the boyband SHINee flew to Moscow as judges of the competition and they also performed in front of the Russian fans and participated in a flash mob.
Beast performing at the Beautiful Show in Berlin
In London, Beast and 4minute performed during the United Cube Concert. The MBC Korean Culture Festival was also held in London. When SHINee arrived at the London Heathrow Airport for a concert at the Odeon West End, part of the airport became temporarily overrun by frenzied fans. The reservation system of Odeon West End crashed for the first time one minute after ticket sales began as the concert drew an unexpectedly large response. In 2011, the Korean boyband Big Bang flew to Belfast and won the Best Worldwide Act during the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards in Northern Ireland.
In May 2011, Rain became the first K-pop artist to perform in Germany during the Dresden Music Festival. later followed by JYJ performed in Berlin and Barcelona. In February 2012, the boyband BEAST held the Beautiful Show in Berlin. A fan commented that although he does not understand the lyrics of K-pop, "their (Beast's) music is good and thats what counts." The Berliner Zeitung also adds that fans who attended the Beautiful Show came not just from Germany, but also bordering countries.
The SMTown Live '10 World Tour was held in Paris, followed by the Super Junior Super Show 4 Tour, also in Paris. In February 2012, the Music Bank World Tour drew more than 10,000 fans to the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy
In 2012, Big Bang won the Best Fan category in the Italian TRL Awards.
K-pop is becoming increasingly popular in Poland. In 2011, the K-pop Star Exhibition was held in the Warsaw Korean Culture Center, as well as a K-pop party which attracted fans all across Poland. Fans told The Warsaw Voice; "we want to express our admiration for Korean music and our hope that some day they will perform in Poland.” There have also been K-pop flash mobs in other European cities including Prague, and Warsaw.
Egyptian K-pop fans holding banners written in Korean to show their passion and support for their favourite bands
Africa, India, and the Middle East
In Turkey, Korean culture is catching on quickly and Internet-savvy generation of Turks are using their computers and phones to explore cultures around the world and a large chunk of the pre-teen demographic is flocking to South Korean culture. Turkish boys and girls are watching Korean movies and television online, downloading K-pop songs, and even starting Korean culture clubs.
The boyband ZE:A appeared for a meet and greet session for fans in Dubai and a concert in Abu Dhabi. In Israel, local K-pop fans met South Korea's Ambassador to Israel Ma Young-sam in July 2011. Israeli fans traveled to Paris for the SMTown Live '10 World Tour in Europe.
In Cairo, hundreds of K-pop fans came to Maadi Library’s stage theater to see the final round of the K-POP Korean Song Festival, organized by the Korean Embassy. Fans drew banners in Korean and many were screaming along to the Korean songs.
Concerts in Australia include the 2011 K-Pop Music Festival, at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, featuring Girls' Generation, TVXQ, B2ST, SHINee, 4minute, miss A, 2AM, and MBLAQ. While, in New Zealand, a K-pop Festival is planned to take someplace sometime during the summer of 2012/2013, starring Girls' Generation, 2PM and Kara and the South Korean Embassy will be backing New Zealand's first national K-pop competition, to take place this year. NU'EST visited Sydney in August 2012 at Sydney Harbour and at the University of New South Wales, as they were judges of a major K-pop concert that was being held there.  Psy toured Australia in October 2012, after his single 'Gangnam Style' reached number one in Australia on the ARIA charts, New Zealand and Great Britain on the BFTAS.
Appeal and fanbase
Fan rice towers from Super Junior fans, in Germany as a gift to Eunhyuk
According to some opinions, the music itself is not the decisive factor in the popularity of K-pop. A publication in New York Magazine calls K-pop "catchy but derivative" and states that Girls' Generation fans admit to liking the group for its members' looks and their personality, radiating what the magazine calls "humility" and friendliness to each and one of the fans. A fan stated to the magazine that when Girls' Generation performs on stage, you get the illusion of the girls sometimes looking right at you and interacting with you personally.
Many K-pop fans travel overseas to get the chance to see Korean bands. Tours from Japan and China bring many fans to see K-pop concerts. A K-pop group tour from Japan had more than 7000 fans fly to Seoul to meet the boyband JYJ. During the Korean boy band JYJ's concert in Barcelona, fans from many parts of the world camped overnight to gain entrance.
K-pop fans purchase bags of Fan rice as gifts to their favourite bands in order to show their love and support. According to Time Magazine, for BIGBANG's first show in months, 12.7 tons of rice were donated from 50 fan clubs around the world and stacks of rice bags were lined up like shrines to the "K-pop idols". There are businesses dedicated to making sure the rice gets to the idols. Roh Seung-gu got into this industry when fans just bought bouquet towers for the bands. Now he has 24 offices around the country helping source and ship rice from South Korean farmers to various venues.
Another way for a fan to show devotion is sending lunch to the stars, and there are special lunch providers in South Korea for this purpose. The trend started when fans picked up complaints that the stars do not eat properly due to their busy schedule. K-Pop was also mentioned during a U.S. State Department briefing on October 3, 2012, when a reporter asked spokeswoman Victoria Nuland if she had heard about Gangnam Style, to which Nuland replied: "No, but I bet you my daughter does. She loves Korean pop."
Music and appearance
New York magazine calls K-pop songs "catchy but derivative".
There is a recognized concern of K-pop fans turning to obsession and compulsive behaviors such as stalking and invasion of privacy. These fans are called sasaeng, or "private" fans. These fans are most notable young females. Some sasaeng fans hire taxis to follow their idols. There are taxi services catering specifically for these fans that are willing to speed after the vans transporting idols." Korean public officials recognize this as a unique but serious concern.
Junsu from JYJ told reporters that obsessive fans have even installed GPS trackers under his car to monitor his every move
During a press conference, the boy band JYJ confirmed they were victims of invasion of privacy and stalking. There were instances of breaking and entering where fans would take pictures of and steal items in members' households.
The members of JYJ have been harassed by sasaeng fans since the band's formation in 2009. Some sasaeng fans have installed CCTV surveillance cameras near Park Yoochun’s home. In another incident, the Korean Broadcasting System reports TVXQ member Yunho drank a beverage containing super glue from an strange woman and received medical attention. The anti-fan turned herself in the next day.
In 2002, Time reported that television producers were arrested for "accepting under-the-table payments guaranteeing TV appearances to aspiring singers and musicians. According to Seoul District Prosecutor Kim Kyu Hun, the arrests of Hwang Yong Woo and Kim Jong Jin were just the first in a wide-ranging investigation into systemic corruption in South Korea's music business" Companies investigated included SidusHQ, SM Entertainment and others.
K-pop companies are also criticized for taking advantage of their "idols" through overworking and restrictive contracts. In July 2009, SM Entertainment was taken to court by TVXQ and a Super Junior member alleging that working conditions had caused adverse health effects and other problems. Court hearings are still proceeding .
Sales and market value
K-pop (in Korea) global music market rank
Year Physical* Digital
2007 32 23
2009 24 14
* includes albums, singles and DVDs sold
Most K-pop groups are owned by a handful of entertainment agencies. To guarantee the high probability of success of new talent, talent agencies fully subsidize and oversee the professional lives and careers of trainees, often spending in excess of $400,000 to train and launch a new artist. According to The Wall Street Journal, S.M. Entertainment and other South Korean entertainment companies have created a process to train singers and dancers in its groups. In many cases, idols enter the system at age nine or ten and live together in a house under tight rules. They attend school during the day and take singing and choreography classes at night.
The Korean music industry grossed nearly $3.4 billion in the first half of 2012, which amounts to a 27.8% increase from the same period last year, according to Billboard. Before the digital market took hold, the South Korean music industry was nearly destroyed in the early 2000s by the large amount of illegal file sharing, a problem threatening other countries at the time as well. In 2006, however, South Korea's digital music market surpassed the physical market, with more than half of revenue coming from digital sales. K-pop's social media presence on Korean and English websites such as Facebook and Youtube have also had a major impact on the size of its global market. Viki, the video and music streaming website, has influenced global K-pop trends by providing translated subtitles for music videos.
In 2011, 1,100 albums were released in South Korea. The hip-hop genre had the most among them at two-thirds of the total albums. One-third of the albums were from other genres, including rock, modern folk, and crossover. This shows that there is a variety of genres in South Korea outside that produced by K-pop idols.
Of the 2.28 billion worldwide K-pop YouTube views in 2011, 240 million came from the United States, which was more than double that of 2010 (94 million).
By country, about 47 percent of views for the viral video "Gangnam Style" came from the United States, 7 percent from the United Kingdom, 6.8 percent from Canada and 4 percent from South Korea.
List of most viewed K-pop music videos on YouTube
Rank Artist(s) Title Year Notes Views
1 PSY "Gangnam Style" 2012 770
2 PSY feat. Hyuna "Oppa Is Just My Style" 2012 154
3 Girls' Generation "Gee" 2009 91
4 Girls' Generation "Mr. Taxi" (Dance Ver.) 2011 Japanese version 68
5 Girls' Generation "The Boys" 2011 62
6 Wonder Girls "Nobody" performance 2008 Live on M! Сountdown 59
7 2NE1 "I Am the Best" 2011 58
8 Girls' Generation "Oh!" 2010 58
9 Super Junior "Mr. Simple" 2011 55
10 Big Bang "Fantastic Baby" 2012 51
11 Super Junior "Bonamana" 2010 44
12 Girls' Generation "Run Devil Run" 2010 43
13 Super Junior "Sorry Sorry" 2009 41
14 Hyuna "Bubble Pop!" 2011 41
15 Big Bang & 2NE1 "Lollipop" 2009 40
16 KARA "Step" 2011 39
17 SHINee "Lucifer" 2010 37
18 SHINee "Ring Ding Dong" 2010 36
19 Sistar 19 "Ma Boy" 2011 Practice video 36
20 f(x) "Electric Shock" 2012 34
21 Big Bang "Haru Haru" 2008 32
22 2NE1 "Fire" 2009 32
23 Big Bang "Blue" 2012 31
24 Big Bang "Tonight" 2011 30
25 G-Dragon "Heartbreaker" 2009 30
26 TaeTiSeo "Twinkle" 2012 30
27 Super Junior "No Other" 2010 29
28 2NE1 "Lonely" 2011 29
* rounded to the nearest million
Last update: November 11, 2012
(Scroll to bottom of the page for past rankings)
List of K-pop artists
Main articles: List of South Korean idol groups and List of K-pop artists
Korean hip hop
2000s in music & 2010s in music
Contemporary culture of South Korea
South Korean music
List of South Korean bands
List of Korea-related topics
Cinema of Korea