Thursday, June 16, 2011

K-Pop Wave (Hallyu) Mystery

Girl's Generation, also known as SNSD (소녀시대)
Hallyu (한류) means 'Korean Wave'. The term was coined by Chinese journalist in 1999, noting the rapidly growing popularity of South Korean culture and entertainment in China. So it's like the British Invasion back in the day, except it's Korean. (source)

This Hallyu trend, especially in the forms of K-Pop and Korean soap operas, has been hugely successful in Asia, especially in China and Japan. Hallyu is responsible for over 1 billion dollars in in annual revenue for cultural exports of South Korea. Now, why do I bring this up?

Recently, especially in the past couple weeks, Korean media and newspapers have been RAGING about how Korean Wave is totally sweeping through Europe and the USA. Read more below.
Example : Searched 'Hallyu Europe' in Yahoo news search
Look at the image above. Here are the names of the news articles from top.

"Every media is hurrying to market K-Pop, which has swept through Europe"
"SM unit, spreading the heat wave that is Korean Wave in Europe"
"European musicians now come to Korea to sell their albums"
"Why European girls are so obessessed with DBSG and Shiney" (K-Pop artists)
"Hallyu mascots are spreading through Europe"
"European clubs now play K-Pop Idol songs? Monthly introduction of K-Pop very popular"

As I kept reading, I learned that K-Pop was like a mega-hit everywhere in the world : USA, Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America, etc etc. Hmm. So I went on Google News search in English.

Searched 'Korean Pop' on Google
From top, that's Indonesian media, then Korean, a blog entry from Dallas that talks about how K-Pop stars are forced to work like sweatshop workers, Korean, Korean, Korean, Philippines, Korean. 

There were some K-Pop friendly articles, mainly from Reuters and BBC. However, the vast majority of articles were just Korean media in English, and there were more articles criticizing K-Pop industry (link).

Korean media agencies are known for blowing up many issues out of proportion to get more attention (honestly, what media doesn't?), and maybe it's just one of those exaggerated trend. But as I watch the news every morning and night, I felt like France has been converted by K-Pop or something. (I asked a colleague of mine who is fluent in French, and he said those reports were ridiculous) 

Honestly, I have not been a very avid fan of K-Pop. I listen to metal and rock techno, and I've only become interested in K-Pop in the past year when I moved to Seoul. I do remember, however, when BOA performed in the US (Hollywood Bowl, I think), and Rain has made some debut here and there. I have seen SNSD/Wonder Girls posters in LA downtown. Every major Korean news media went nuts, saying K-Pop is dominating the western hemisphere, blah blah blah. However, BOA still stands for Bank of America, not the Korean musician. Compared to what the news media reported, it was closer to failure.

I'm not hatin' K-Pop. K-Pop has been very successful and popular in China and Japan. Kara's first album in Japan topping music charts and everything. It's just this recent hype about Europe and the USA in regard to K-Pop popularity that bothers me. K-Pop has definitely established fan bases all over the world. K-Pop, has started being noticed by major music industries in the western hemisphere. K-Pop, has NOT started dominating international music industry, not yet. I hope it will one day, but I don't know if it will. I just wish that Korean media will stop this uber-hyped reporting of K-Pop in Europe and the USA. So far I've asked colleagues that know French, German, Spanish and Russian to check news articles about K-Pop in respective countries, but same or similar results came back.

Man, this was more of a rant than an informative post. It's Friday, gimme a break. :]

But hey, if you think differently, or have more informative information, please let me know.

Edit : CNNgo's Esther Oh posted a similar article. For once CNNgo and I agree.

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