K-Pop, the new Eden ?
Musically different, yet similar, K-pop attracts more and more curiosity seekers. We wanted to know why.
By Carla Cino
The Hallyu (literally « Korean wave ») in hangul, is referring to the cultural diffusion of the korean media. It refers to movies, drama, music, manhwa, as well as video games or animes. On the same principles as the american hegemony after World War II or the emergence of the « cool Japan » in the mid 90’s, the Hallyu also wants its cultural influence. And since few years, this one spread through K-pop.
Let’s not misunderstand. Korean music is not limited to K-pop, far from it. Classical or traditional music reigned surpreme for a long time in the Land of the Morning Calm. However, when it comes to pop music, Koreans were often copying or translating american hits (just like french idols in the 60’s). A way of getting a different musicality till the 90’s, when K-pop starts to take a shape.
In the beginning, korean artists agencies are strongly influenced by their friends and competitors. There, you can feel greatly the influence of the USA, more than in any other of their asian neighbouring countries, mainly because of the US military presence in the korean territory. The idols system is mostly a copy of the japanese one, while when it comes to the music or dance, K-pop is a perfect mix of japanese and american influences. What’s the secret ? The korean touch. Let’s not delude ourselves, Korean recreate more than they create.
However, over the years (and charts regeneration), we can observe a positive evolution of idols group, who become more and more talented. A possible explanation : the systematisation and professionalization of the trainees formation.
Reasons of the success
Why is K-pop currently the leader of the Hallyu? Firstly because music has less language barriers – or those are less unsurmountable – than movies, drama or books.
K-pop also offers a product suitable to internet. Artists official websites are extremely complete and updated. Then Youtube allows to discover video clips, as well as backstage videos, artists’ messages or any other public appearance, almost in live. Nowadays, K-pop videos can be often found in the list of the most viewed youtube videos. Channels of the biggest korean agencies do as good as international established artists or labels. In fact, YG entertainment videos (Big Bang, 2NE1) with 275 millions of views (all clips taken together) since january 2008, and SM Entertainment videos (TVXQ, SNSD, SHINee) with 449 millions of views since 2006, have no reasons to be ashamed face to Avex (Ayumi HAMASAKI, Namie AMURO) with 317 millions of views, or even Beyoncé (444 millions of views).
Finally Facebook and Twitter are the main way to spread informations in english (easier than hangul), for the first one, and a « bond » with the artists whose tweets are often a mix of « personal life » and promotion.
Result of this : agencies don’t have to invest anymore in (direct) promotion. The communication is made by itself. And if it needs some more help, fans set themselves up as a voluntary press agency.
In the « everything, right away » age, those new communication medium are godsend for fans, as well as for marketing. Social network websites are also a way to test the viability of some projects, be it concerts or albums release. Those days where pioneers were venturing on overseas market blindly, without considering the keys of those markets, are over! In the end of may, in KBS program « News Line », Super Junior Lee Teuk said : « we observe our fans responses thanks to the media impact. Everyone affirms that our popularity [of Korean artists] is at its highest level, but I think it’s only the beginning ». Regarding those new marketing strategies, the Land of the Morning Calm is greatly ahead of its neighbouring countries, but also ahead of the western countries who are following bit by bit.
Little by little, the wave is spreading beyond the borders, surprising even its main actors. K-pop has been living a love story with Asia for many years. But the craze hitting Japan since the beginning of 2010 amazed many people. Yet, it started in 2001 with BoA, whose 2 first albums were great hit on the Archipelago. Even now, the songs lyrics are adapted and translated, Japan being indeed the only market to enjoy so much attention.
In the USA, the extreme americanization of the artists and their music is an essential condition to their establishment. Not only they sing in english, but their productors are also american artists. This market approach is until now unsuccessful. Once again, take BoA as example. In 2008, her song « Eat you up » is a failure… despite a dream production. In this territory, we observe that once the artist absorbed all the rules and is using the same language as local artists, the general public can’t differentiate anymore and ignore what in its opinion is « unable to bear comparison ».
Finally, in France, the public craze – many of them are J-pop renegades – is still in its early stage. But the two SMTown concerts in mid-june 2011 may make a difference.
The K-pop wave seems to have gone beyond the music to change it into pop culture. However, despite those widely used marketing plans, a music made to attract a larger public (inside the country and beyond the borders), it would be hasty to say that Hallyu will sweep over the world. Simply because the general public :
1. don’t know those artists
2. is not interested in this musical style (mix of R’n’B, pop and rock)
and 3. don’t understand the lyrics – or even those 3 reasons at the same time.
This year, the Korean Ministry of the Culture, Sports and Tourism saw a rise of 18,1 % of the exportations related to Hallyu. However, even though the exportations of contents (drama, video games, music) to America, Europe and Middle-East exceed 3 billions of Won (approximatively 1,8 millions of Euros), they are just a small part of the 73 billions of Won (more than 46 millions of Euros) gathered by the korean wave. Overall, music stands out, increasing its recognition by about 160% in Europe and South America, last year.
Military service is compulsory in South Korea. Conscripts must serve from twenty four to twenty seven months depending on the choosen army corps. The enlisting age is of 20 years old, but can be delayed till 30 years old. For boyband, military service is like the Sword of Damocles. Enlisting young and reduce his opportunities in the entertainment industry, or enlisting later, take a break in his career with no insurance it can start again after military? In the reality, most of artists (singers or actors) delay it till the last minute.
In 2009, the world of K-pop is shaken : Yoochun, Jaejoong and Junsu, 3 members of TVXQ file a lawsuit against SM Entertainment and ask for the annulment of their contract, which they consider as unfair. Result of this : a group split into two bands, sales dropping, and media ban for JYJ (group formed by the 3 plaintiffs). If this lawsuit is drawing a lot of attention, this is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, just this year, the group KARA is also caught up in the turmoil, but the conclusion is less tragic.
Source : French Magazine Japan Lifestyle “Hors Série Corée du Sud”
Translation Credit : @Jaelenaa
Shared by: JYJ3
Related Article: Jaejoong in French Magazine JapanStyle