[OPINION] 2019 Kpop Outlook in the USA

As unbelievable as it may be, the 2010s will soon be over in just 10 short months! Kpop has had exponential growth in the last few years, which will also determine Kpop’s future for the following decade!

The hallyu wave aka Kpop wave has definitely become more globalized within the last couple years. There is no doubt that in 2019 there will be more Kpop fans as more Kpop idols (BTS, Monsta X, NCT, Oh My Girl, Red Velvet, Blackpink, Sunmi etc.) continue to promote abroad. Especially in the US, thanks mostly to BTS’s success paving the way for Kpop growth this year.

Hollywood is the Kpop market for this year

Based on previous patterns of Kpop idol groups like Wonder Girls, Girl’s Generation, Super Junior, TVXQ etc. many Kpop idols usually extend their fan base to other countries in Asia before pursuing Europe & the Americas. Kpop’s growth in other countries are indeed significant, but given US is home to global names like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ed Sherman, Chris Brown, Drake, Justin Timberlake etc. (as well as Kpoplove’s headquarters) Kpop’s future global outlook will focus on the US market for this article.

Kpop before BTS

BTS on American Music Awards (2017)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH1PVvFj8cE

Just 5 to 10 years ago, prior to BTS’s historical invasion in the US, Kpop was just a new and upcoming genre in the US that originated from a small country in Asia. As a decades old Kpop fan, I can personally attest to instances in the past where people confused North and South Korea and probably couldn’t name any Kpop artist even if their life depended on it.

Other idols’ success in the US

However, this does not mean Kpop has never made its mark in the US. Examining only the idol groups who are no longer “active” meaning either disbanded or no longer actively promoting with all members, idol groups like Wonder Girls and Girl’s Generation have previously tried to break into the US market without as much success as BTS.

JYP’s Wonder Girls (2007-2017) released a single- ‘Nobody’ (2009)- that was No.76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as the 1st Kpop group on the Billboard charts. This provided the opening for the group to enter the US market and pursue international activities. Wonder Girls can be considered to have been at the peak of their career in Korea (and Asia) prior to moving to the US in 2009 to focus on US activities. However contrary to expectations, Wonder Girls was unable to continue their momentum and ended up with changing the line-up and regroup back in Korea.

Wonder Girls on Wendy Williams Show (2009)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHFL-mIeZX4

SM’s Girl’s Generation (2007-present) released a single-’The Boys’ (2012)-officially debuting and promoting in the US a few years after Wonder Girls. Comparing various aspects like promotions, fanbase, hallyu wave’s influence and method, there are so many differences that can explain the different levels of success between the 2 girl groups.

Girl’s Generation on Late Show with David Letterman (2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k1-jOZ7f1w

Taking a closer look at how BTS did not need to promote in the US to have the biggest US debut stage of all in 2017 as the 1st Korean group to perform at AMAs, BTS clearly did something that sets them apart from others. Not to mention BTS performed in Korean while Wonder Girls and Girl’s Generation performed in English. Based on BTS’s sucess, BTS’s momentum can only be expected to grow further this year.

BTS’s significant role for Kpop mainstreamed in US

In 2019, there are very few individuals who wouldn’t know what the 3 letters “BTS” refers to in the US. Even if one is completely clueless about Kpop, there is a big chance someone’s family, friend or acquaintance is a BTS fan or BTS ARMY.

Ilgan Sports

Similar to BTS’s predecessors (e.g. legendary Kpop idol groups Girls Generation, Super Junior, TVXQ), BTS became mainstream in Asia a few years ago and became more globally recognized as they made their mark on the Billboard charts in 2015. But unlike other Kpop groups, BTS didn’t make any special plans to promote in the US market soon after their first placement on the Billboard charts. Instead BTS continued to release more content and focused on their music letting time to gradually increase their popularity all over the world.

Why is BTS different?

BTS contributed to further spreading the hallyu wave rather than having to focus on establishing the Kpop wave. Currently in 2019, nearly everyone has a smartphone as opposed to 10 years ago. Internet is easily accessible to many age groups enabling the daily use of social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. This has allowed Kpop idols, especially BTS, to focus on interacting with fans and growing their fanbase. BTS members are well known for being very active participants as singers-songwriters within the Kpop industry and renowned for sharing many of their content on SoundCloud or V Live which played a significant role for BTS’s success today.

https://twitter.com/BTS_twt/status/1100449341200773121

BTS’s timing may have been what led to BTS’s breakthrough to becoming the biggest Kpop group in the world. Rather than jumping on the first signs of opportunity to pursue international activities, BTS bided their time to focus on their work and to further nurture their talents while waiting for their hard work to come to fruition.

https://youtu.be/D_nyuB8GbM8

As a result, BTS was able to become a household name is the US even prior to their official debut on the American Music Awards in 2017. Afterwards, BTS continued to set more records on the AMAsBillboards, Youtube, iTunes, Ebay Korea, Forbes, Time Magazine, Bloomberg etc. in 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QK-HR7xfEA

The 7 membered boy group became recognized for their global popularity when selected by international corporations like Puma, LG Electronics, Hyundai Motors etc. as global ambassadors and made significant collaborations with Mattel, Medicome Toy, Netmarble Games, Line Webtoons, Line Friends x BT21 and more!

BTS World Tour & BT21

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlTF_iJhvlh/?hl=en

When BTS had their 3rd world tour last summer, Line Friends x  BT21 also officially opened their pop-up store in LA situated amongst Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. As someone who has accompanied various people to this store in August, September, October and December of last year, I can personally affirm the lines were unbelievably long not only when the pop-up store first opened but also for the following months. Amazingly, the lines did not really decrease much every time I had to go.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn8S5QphtwR/

 

https://twitter.com/LINEFRIENDSinfo/status/1054826311938646018

Most of my experience at this store consisted of standing in line for hours while conversing with other people accompanying their niece or cousin to the store. As to why the lines didn’t decrease much even after BTS finished touring in the US would be since BT21 items were often sold out with limited quantities, unpredictable shipments of new items, new seasonal (Halloween, Christmas) items and such.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnshifThY9g/

Initially the Line Friends store was announced to stay for 3 months. Later, due to high demand, the pop-up was extended to January 2019 with plans to locate permanently. Just the fact that BT21 became popular enough to become a permanent store in LA speaks volumes about BTS’s success in the US. Aside from BT21, BTS is renowned for increasing sales for many associated businesses leading to the birth of the term “BTS effect” from major news outlets as many profit from BTS’s influence. BTS has become symbolic as a guaranteed catalyst to enhance micro and macro economics.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BnXnJ-7BF8X/

Lots of Kpop events in 2019

Just within 2 months of this year, there have been so many appearances or scheduled appearances of Kpop idols and artists in the US. Just to name a few upcoming events- Girl’s Generation’s Tiffany will be having her first showcase as Tiffany Young in a few days, Sunmi will be having her first world tour next month, BLACKPINK will be at Coachella in April and BTS will be touring the US again in May. Additionally, Red Velvet, Oh My Girl, Hong Jin Young and Dean have already performed in the US within the last 2 months. 

https://youtu.be/PIMB64pJS3o

BLACKPINK made their official US debut on “Good Morning America”  and announced their North American Tour during the interview just awhile back. With so many activities planned in the US for the first half of 2019, many are wondering whether BLACKPINK will be able to have success similar to BTS. There is definitely a lot of potential but as previous idol groups like Wonder Girls and Girl’s Generation have proven, it isn’t easy to accomplish.

Overall Take

As an avid Kpop fan whose biases are mostly the first generation of Kpop idols, I can’t help but feel happy and excited to see how well Kpop is doing in the US. There are many idol groups who have also contributed to Kpop’s success like Monsta X, EXO and annual events like KCON LA or KCON NY. But amongst everything I have read, seen and heard, I want to credit BTS for really opening the door wide open for Kpop to take on the US. There have been many attempts but no one has been as successful as BTS and thanks to that, I think Kpop fans are able to have more opportunities to see their favorite Kpop idols shine for Uncle Sam.

All I could hope for would be that BTS’s continuous momentum ushers in even more opportunities for other Kpop artists to enter the US market. Till the day Kpop can be heard on various iheart radio stations in the US, “Hwaiting” to all Kpop artists!

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

 

BTS No.1 for Selling Most Albums on Ebay Korea for 2018

BTS has once again proven their global popularity by selling the most albums to foreigners on Ebay Korea for 2018!

Yonhap News

On February 17, Ebay Korea reported their sales for albums and photobooks increased by 62% while idol related goods like t-shirts, mugs etc. went up by 55% in 2018.

BTS’s 3rd album Love Yourself 轉 Tear was reported to have sold the most for 2018. Even though the BTS album as a packaged set with 4 versions could be considered to be one of the most expensive Kpop albums at 65,000 won (~$65), the price did not deter the popularity of the album. It has been reported that 1 out of 5 shoppers on Ebay Korea (aka gmarket global website) purchased the packaged BTS album set that included a photobook, photocard, poster etc.

Unboxing video of BTS’s 3rd album Love Yourself 轉 Tear for the curious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_c0oZG6ObQ

BTS’s 3rd album Love Yourself 轉 Tear, title track: Fake Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C2z4GqqS5E

Other boy groups responsible for increasing album sales by 62% includes Wanna One, EXO, GOT7, Super Junior and Shinee showing off the power of Kpop boy groups.

Congratulations to BTS for setting another record!

Original

By Sara N

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[OPINION] History of Kpop Boy Groups From 1990s

Kpop has come a long way over the years to become globally recognized in 2019. Looking back from the first generation of idols from the 1990s to now, Kpop idols have always had the burden of being adventurous and trend-setting icons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CYZNWjVSGY

With the current trend of older Kpop idol groups making a comeback to the Kpop scene, a lot has changed over the decades. In the 1990s when the first Kpop idol groups started emerging like H.O.T, Sechs Kies, Shinhwa and G.O.D, these idol groups experienced much criticism and love for their music while trying to solidify the upcoming genre, Kpop.

Taking a trip down memory lane towards one’s youth or childhood, there are some groups that can NOT be forgotten! The first generation of idol boy groups who not only created what is today’s Kpop fandom culture but also the foundation for the Hallyu wave! While there are many idols that deserve to be considered legends for each decade (1990s, 2000s, 2010s), these specific groups mentioned in this article were selected based on hours of research, personal memory, today’s popularity/activities and such! As a result, many may not agree with the listing or feel some idol groups should have been mentioned. Please note this is solely the opinion of the writer who may be biased with childhood memories of watching these groups in variety shows like SBS’s X-Men (2003-2007), SBS’s Love Letter (2004-2006) etc!

First generation of Kpop boy groups (1990s)

H.O.T (1996-2001, 2018-present)

SBS

Finding anyone who doesn’t know H.O.T would be rare in the Kpop scene. H.O.T is considered the first ever Kpop idol group that was formed by SM Entertainment. Even TVN’s hit drama series ‘Reply 1997’ (2012) has many references to H.O.T where the female lead is a die-hard fan of H.O.T’s Tony.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZMkmlwgsCY

To signify how much importance H.O.T has in Korean culture, H.O.T had their reunion in 2018 through the famous variety show, MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ (2005-2018).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GqIxImIF7E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgbG-zPpt7w

After H.O.T made their comeback in 17 years on ‘Infinity Challenge’, H.O.T went on to hold their comeback concert in Seoul where fans and idols took a trip back to their youth in the 90s.

Secks Kies (1997-2000, 2016-present)

YG

The second idol group in Kpop history, aka H.O.T’s rival, played an important role for shaping Kpop fandom. The power of Kpop fans gave rise to allowing artists to venture into other fields within the entertainment industry. Secks Kies was the first idol group to film their own movie, perform in a musical and perform at the Blue House for the president serving during that time.

Clip of H.O.T vs. Sech Kies fan war from Reply 1997 Kdrama

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNoNi_BkWaM

Secks Kiss also made their comeback in 2016 as guests on MBC’s ‘Infinity Challenge’ through a guerrilla concert. It was reported news of Secks Kies’s reunion was shared only 5 hours before the concert, which still managed to gather 6000 fans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQPNoDDDVR0

To really get an idea for what it was like in the 1990s during the reign of H.O.T and Sechs Kies, I HIGHLY recommend watching TVN’s Reply 1997. It is pretty accurate in depicting how severe or passionate Kpop fandom culture already was back then. Not to mention, this drama in addition to the rest of the Reply series (1997, 1994, 1988) are really great dramas to watch whether to understand Korean culture or to reminisce about your past.

Shinhwa (1998-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rQGj_ztOOM

The role model of many idols, the longest active boy group in Kpop history, Shinhwa is the idol group who showed versatility to be possible for Kpop idols. It is common for idol groups to keep to their “color” or “style” but Shinhwa has proven the key to longevity to be due to the constant rebranding and continuous creativity among other things. Shinhwa formed their own company Shinhwa Company with Minwoo and Eric as co-CEOs managing their activities as a group confirming the brotherhood among the members.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsDlbial4SQ/

Shinhwa members are well known for their talents in various areas in the entertainment industry. Not only are they immensely popular for their appearances on variety shows, each member has successfully proven their talents in various areas like dramas, movies, musicals, producing and much more!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=figebKjmTFo

Shinhwa is extremely talented and everyone has such a great relationship, it is no wonder the group has made history by being the longest active Kpop idol group! They spend infinite amounts of time and effort for fans, one of the most noteworthy would be that they have a concert every year. In 2019, it will be their 21st anniversary since debut.

G.O.D (1999-present)

Google

JYP’s first idol group G.O.D has never disbanded, however they were previously on an extended hiatus as each member pursed their solo careers. G.O.D is known for their iconic songs that really reflected Korean culture in the early 2000s amassing fans from various age groups. Labeled as the “nation’s idols” that used lyrics described as  “storytelling,” many of their songs are still remembered as iconic Korean songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72BqCAmhnxk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXkhIODcvuM

G.O.D is considered to be part of the legendary first generation Kpop idol groups among H.O.T, Seck’s Kiss and Shinhwa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6RXGKRmO6I

G.O.D’s songs are one of the best songs to sing in karaoke regardless of how old the songs are. The songs are still relatable and relevant amidst the 4th industrial revolution, simply “classic songs.”

Kpop Boy Groups of the 2000s

Super Junior (2005-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAaWj_C2iPE

The iconic Kpop idol group that broke the stereotype by consisting of many members even 13 at one point. Super Junior can be considered to be one of the earliest hallyu idols that paved the path for Kpop to become globally recognized. Not only are they a household name today in 2019 but their everlasting popularity in Korea and abroad is something many idols aim for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6QA3m58DQw

Super Junior can be considered one of the examples of successful subgroups that has proven to create more opportunities for the idols to showcase their talents outside of their group activities. After dominating Asia, Super Junior has proven their reigning power as iconic Kpop idols by their amazing success in Latin America even releasing songs in English, Korean and Spanish!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbB4SYJNuTo

Super Junior was one of the first idol groups with so many members creating the opportunity to market to so many different preferences. Each member had their own unique remarkable characteristics that would appeal to nearly anyone. Frankly, it was a genius move by SM and now we have idol groups that follow this strategy! (Thank you SM!)

Big Bang (2006-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAKGzAIl0mY

YG’s first idol group aka “Kings of Kpop” and the MVPs for setting the Hallyu wave ablaze internationally, especially outside of Asia, Big Bang is the group who continuously redefined what ‘KPOP’ is by experimenting out of the norm while expressing their individuality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzCbEdtNbJ0

Big Bang is renowned for writing their own songs which plays a significant role for their success.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ips2mM7Zqw

Not only is the group incredible for having so many No.1 songs but also their success promoting as subunits and soloists unbelievable that has become something to strive for the following generation of idols. Is there anyone who doesn’t know Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips or GD’s Coup d’etat?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwuAPyOImoI

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8T6771Sdj8&index=25&list=PL0D12C278EAF39032&t=0s

Just thinking of Big Bang, the concept of swag, hip, fast beats, clubs and parties come to mind. While is it sad to see that most of the members are still serving mandatory military service, it won’t be long before they will be back!

SHINee (2008-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJq_1x-m9sY

The boy band of SM aka the “Princes of Kpop” who set the standard for live performances with complex dance moves, Shinee contrasts crucially with other groups of the 2000s. Not only is this group experimental with their music exploring various genres, they are also considered the “aesthetic,” “artistic,” “beautiful” group through their choreography, concepts and wardrobes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dww9UjJ4Dt8

With the sad passing of member Jonghyun (RIP) in 2017, Shinee will never be the same. However, Shinee’s songs as a quintet, Jonghyun’s legacy remains as numerous fans continue to love and cheer for Shinee.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J41qe-TM1DY

Shinee will forever be that scarred part of my Kpop love. They have had to regroup after the unfortunate experience of losing a member, however I fervently hope that they will be able to recover not only for themselves and fans but also for the legacy of JH to not be forgotten in the future.

Kpop Boy Groups of Today (2010s)

With less than 10 months before the end of the current decade, there are so many boy groups who debuted and deserve to be listed as THE boy group of 2010s. While many would want to nominate for their favorite group, I would say based on the past 110 months (2010-2019.2), EXO and BTS are the ones who will be considered the “legends” of 2010s in Kpop history years from now.

EXO (2012-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HizQP02WL1s

BTS (2013-present)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6UlRDcA93g

Is there anyone in the Kpop scene who doesn’t know EXO and BTS? EXO is the 3rd generation of SM’s beloved idol boy group taking on the baton from their seniors H.O.T, Shinhwa, Super Junior and Shinee. BTS is without a doubt the “titans of Kpop” if my 90 year old grandmother knows who they are because of the Korean news. So many records were broken and so much history was made by these two idol groups during this decade, I personally would like to bet some dough on whether BTS or EXO will show up in the history or business books in the near future. Having heard that UC Berkley is offering a DeCal class on BTS from a friend attending UCB, my odds of winning are very high. 

Looking back on Kpop idols from the 1990s, Kpop itself is still pretty young with so much potential for growth. As a passionate Kpop fan who grew up with the first generation of Kpop idols on my TV screen in the 1990s and 2000s, I genuinely hope that there will be a day when Kpop music can be heard on the radio (outside of Korean radio stations) abroad.

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

Upcoming Season Premier of EXO’s Reality TV Show ‘Travel the World on Exo’s Ladder’

Kpop idol group EXO’s reality tv show Travel the World on EXO’s Ladder will be returning January 21 (KST) with its second season on OKSUSU.

OSEN

The second season of EXO’s reality tv show will be premiering on Monday January 21 on OKSUSU with exciting scenes for viewers. Compared to last year’s first season, OSEN has reported all decisions throughout the show will be based on the results of the ladder game. This means everything related to traveling like destination, food, lodging, spending money etc. will be relying on luck.

Youtube
First season screenshot

Before filming for the show, EXO members are said to have met up with the crew with different plans for new season. Interestingly, every member had their own unique preferences for travel that strongly contrasts with other members. As a result, in the process of choosing the first travel destination was filled with anticipation and nerves.

During the first ladder game of the second season to pick the first travel destination, it is said EXO members were in disarray as the first conflict occurred foreshadowing the not so smooth travels ahead. EXO’s first travel destination will not be spoiled on this article but if you want to know watch the trailer below. EXO-Ls are you ready?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fl6y7zYY_1w

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By Sara N

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EXO’s Kai Is A Director On MBC’s ‘Under Nineteen’

EXO’s Kai starred as a guest director in MBC’s ‘Under Nineteen’ to support aspiring idols.

OSEN

On January 12, EXO’s Kai made a surprise visit on MBC’s Under Nineteen as a guest director to offer advice and support for the contestants. Kai shared his experience of feeling more nervous performing for senior artists than on the stage after watching the contestants perform EXO’s iconic song Growl. He also offered advice on how the concept behind Growl was innocent students and to use their age (all under 19) and experience to their advantage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9ZITRoOAok

Kai gave an inspiring reminder for the contestants. He said “while the results does matter, happiness comes first.” He continued by stating although there are going to be hardships and stressful times, to never forget why you decided to become an idol which is to be happy.

Kai promised to watch their performance while surprising everyone with sandwiches. What do you think of Kai’s advice as a senior?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAxb3phv9Vk

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By Sara N

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Greek TV Show Hostess Under Fire for Ridiculing K-pop Artist

Greek TV show “Eutixeite” hostess Katerina Kainourgiou was attacked on social media for insulting BTS’ V, Wanna One’s Kang Daniel, and EXO’s Sehun by making racist and disrespectful comments about their appearances.

YouTube

In the recent episode, a Greek TV show, “Eutixeite” covered TC Candler’s list of 100 Most Handsome Faces of 2018. One of the fans of BTS shared a video clip of the episode to YouTube, pointing out problematic remarks made by the hostess, Katerina Kainourgiou.

Four K-pop idol members, including BTS’ V, Wanna One’s Kang Daniel, and EXO’s Sehun made it on the list. While going through each person on the list, hostesses and panels of the show made rather racist and inconsiderate comments about the K-pop artists’ appearances.

YouTube

Some of such comments include, “She is a woman,” “Too much make-up on,” “He is Chinese,” and “I can’t believe there are women who voted that thing to be number 5.”

Many fans of the mentioned artists criticized the show and its hostess for disrespectful attitude. On January 6, Katerina Kainourgiou took on social media to apologize about her behavior.

Instagram

“I am receiving terrible and threatening comments and messages on my social media and I don’t think this is appropriate,” she opened up. “I want to apologize to everyone who felt insulted from our humoristic comments on yesterday’s tv show and to the fans of Wanna One Kang Daniel, Exo Sehun, and BTS Taehyung and Jungkook.”

However, fans are growing more furious about her attitude, pointing out how she is trivializing her own behaviors as humor.

 

Original article

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Park Shin Hye Updates Instagram With EXO’s Chanyeol

Park Shin Hye updated her Instagram with a picture of her on-screen brother EXO’s Chanyeol.

OSEN article

On January 4th, Hallyu Actress Park Shin Hye updated her Instagram with a picture on set with EXO’s Chanyeol. With the picture she captioned with #helloseju #helloemma #memoriesofthealhambra  “What can you not do (Chanyeol)? Such an amazing person”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsNUPfKl1KS/

Park Shin Hye is currently starring as the female lead with Hallyu Actor Hyun Bin on TVN’s Memories of the Alhamba. EXO’s Chanyeol stars as Park Shin Hye’s younger brother.

Original 

By Sara N

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[OPINION] Why South Korea has the Most Established Fandom Culture

South Korea probably has the most established fandom culture in the world. The K-pop fans are no doubt the most dedicated, loyal, supportive, and sometimes, a wee bit crazy group of people, who are not afraid to show affection for their “idols.”

Unlike other countries, the K-pop idols and fans have a special connection between them. The celebrities hold various events to meet and greet their fans, who return the favors with gifts, letters, cute nicknames, and votes. In the past 20 years, the fandom culture grew and grew every day that without it, you can’t explain K-pop. So why and how did South Korea get to have the most established fandom culture in the world?

Tech-savvy, High Internet Speed Surroundings

As most of you know, South Korea is known for having the world’s fastest internet speed. In 1990’s, the South Korean government “set a priority that it would be a highly connected country with a high degree of Internet literacy,” and planned for a widespread adoption of Internet. Moreover, the government also deregulated internet service providers, letting them to compete by lowering prices and raising speed.

https://youtu.be/-9kP9jhZO88?t=52s

Ever since then, South Koreans became the world’s most tech-savvy people. In addition, most of them utilize public transportation to get anywhere, and what they do while transporting themselves, is being on their phones. This allows easy communication among K-pop fanatics, whether it’s watching their artists on V Live App, engaging in social network communities, or gathering/sharing cute zzals (Korean version of memes) of their idols.

South Koreans are also exposed to the fast-paced environment, which applies to the fandom culture, as well. You need to know the hot gossips and comeback updates/schedules for your artists as soon as you can. You need to able to stream and vote so that your star can remain and/or reach for the top, and you need to be able to have a quick access to various online contents featuring your artists.

Image Source – YouTube channel “seokve”

It’s like being on a baby monitor 24/7, making sure your idols are on the right track to rise to the top. Because of the fast-paced, tech-savvy environment, Koreans simply have the advantage to do it easier than the international fans.

Sense of Uniformity Helps Establishing Identity

Belonging in a group often helps people to develop self-identity. Whether it’s a club they joined in school or religious acts, people tend to shape their lifestyles and formulate opinions based on communities they belong to. And one of these communities is the multiple K-pop fandoms. The fans invent and use unique group color(s), lightsticks, fan chants, and nicknames not only to distinguish themselves, but also sift outsiders.

When looking back at the history of K-pop, the word “fandom” first came in use in mid-1990’s, with H.O.T and Sechs Kies. With these two rising stars, the fans became more and more active. They bought uniformed raincoats to identify themselves – H.O.T in their white raincoats, and Sechs Kies in their Yellow raincoats. I’m sure everyone remembers the famous fight between the two fandoms, portrayed through 2012 tvN drama “Reply 1997.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz4-G7hez7Y

So why is it so important that Koreans feel a sense of belonging?

It’s because we are born into a society that emphasizes collectivism. In this collectivist society, people tend to value the needs of a group as a whole more than that of an individual. By standing on the common ground, people work together, maybe even sacrifice their individuality, to achieve one shared goal. And when that goal is achieved, people proudly put a label on themselves.

Fandom culture works the same. People gather to support their idols, making sure their paths to the top are smoothly as they can be. And when this goal is achieved and idols express gratitude towards the fandom, you and your work as an individual is recognized, because you identify yourself with the fandom.

https://youtu.be/mdIU2E4iLCE?t=2m55s

Easy Access to Become Man with Authority

Fandom culture also allows an easy access to become a person with much authority. While the culture began as a group of teenage girls idolizing singers at first, it’s become quite more than that. Present day fans expect more from their artists, in return for the time, money, and effort they put in. It gives them the power to select and consume, which is the ultimate definition of “authority.”

Mnet’s survival program “Produce 101” is the exemplary outcome of these social demands. Last year, South Korean citizens went crazy and fanatically participated in voting for the program. This even included the “muggles,” who don’t normally show much affection towards the mainstream K-pop culture. The reason behind that is because the program gave them the authority to pick and choose the idols they wanted. Consequently, this allowed the public to have a domineering title for themselves – a “national producer.”

https://youtu.be/K_7BgePe_QY?t=1m30s

The youth community in Korea doesn’t get many opportunities to make their own decision.

The majority of them has a path already planned and polished by their parents, on which they can do nothing but walk. As a result, this passive lifestyle tends to make them to crave more power and free will. By allowing them to choose whom to support and how to do so, South Koreans finally have a channel in which they can exercise their authority.

It’s also no longer a vertical relationship; a mutual respect exists between a star and a fan because they know they can’t live without each other. However, it can sometimes let the fans to have too much power, and oversee the handshakes amiably offered by their celebrities.

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.