K-pop has had a huge impact globally in our current era, introducing South Korean culture to the world as well. We can now see Korean cuisine, fashion, cosmetics and more trending all around the world.
K-pop has become a hot topic around the world, but how did K-Pop come to be? K-pop has existed since the 1950s, with The Kim Sisters being its pioneers. The Kim Sisters were a group of three female singers who debuted together. Due to their exceptional talent and impeccable style, they caught everyone’s attention. They were a Korean-born band with no foundation in English but they still made it onto the Billboard single’s chart in 1962, reaching no. 7 on the chart. They are considered to be the inventors of K-Pop. The ones who laid its foundation.
What does K-Pop encompass?
K-pop can be understood as pop music produced in South Korea. The music produced includes many genres such as R&B, hip-hop, and subgenres like tropical house as well. Producing a K-pop song is far from easy as it requires many producers and a long period of time. The composers can either be local or non-local. South Korean entertainment agencies invite composers, songwriters and producers from other countries just to achieve the kind of sound they want. Different types of music may require different composers to produce. For example, a company may invite Martin Garrix to produce an EDM track as he is well-established in the EDM world. There are many composers and producers recognized worldwide in the K-pop industry such as Teddy from YG Entertainment, JYP from JYP Entertainment, Kenzie from SM Entertainment, etc. Furthermore, as the world has become more technologically advanced, distance is no longer a barrier for composers and producers all around the world to communicate and collaborate.
With the ever-growing influence of K-pop, the world begins to recognise it. Many famous American late-night talk shows such as ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ and ‘The Late Late Show With James Corden’ have invited K-Stars to be on their show. Now, there are also plenty of Western celebrities who would like to collaborate with K-pop stars as well.
How has it grown?
Following its beginnings in the 1950s, K-pop saw the emergence of its first generation of stars in the 1990s. Seo Taiji and Boys, a boy band consisting of three members was established in 1992. The mixing of music with hip-hop choreography was one of the highlights of them which brought K-pop a level higher. Other groups who were a part of this first generation were boy band H.O.T. and girl bands S.E.S. and Fin K.L. and several others.
K-pop continued to grow in the 2000s and 2010s and the idols debuted during this period are considered as the second and third generations of the genre. Legends like PSY, BIGBANG, SHINee, Girls' Generation, EXO, BTS, SEVENTEEN, NCT, BLACKPINK and more bands debuted. The late 2010s and 2020s saw the dawn of the fourth generation of K-pop groups such as aespa, ITZY and TXT. They have influenced the globe with K-pop culture along with dance, different genres of music and the Korean language. The views of their music videos are counted by millions. Also, social media such as Instagram, Twitter or TikTok has brought a big advantage for both media and entertainment.
The expansion of K-pop comes from trainees who come from other parts of the world as well. Trainees may come from Thailand, Taiwan, United States, etc. They face more challenges due to the unfamiliarity with places and the language. They have to put in 101% of hard work and effort to achieve their dreams. As there are trainees who come from other countries, K-pop also gains attention from the locals of the idol’s home country as well. It is another way K-pop grows.
How did it influence the world?
As K-pop has grown worldwide, the Koreans would introduce their culture to the foreign countries that they are living in. For example, Korean restaurants will play K-pop music to show their appreciation for Korea. To improve product sales, merchants would collaborate with K-pop idols or South Korean companies as well. An example of this is the collaboration between McDonald’s and BTS, one of the biggest K-pop boy groups, where fans showed their loyalty by framing up the packaging of the nuggets but the virality did not stop there.
BTS gave their fans a chance to invest in the band when their agency, Big Hit Entertainment, went public on the South Korean stock exchange in 2020, leaving fans eager for the shares. In an interview with BBC, a fan of the boy band who planned to purchase one stock stated that she does not plan on selling it if she does get it. She would be keeping it for eternity as it is a way for her to show her heart. This can give fans the opportunity to have a side income and possibly change their lives. Another way that K-pop fans show support for their favourite idols is by celebrating their birthdays by purchasing advertising space on billboards and digital screens. This trend started in South Korea and has spread around the world and now we can even see our favourite idol’s birthday being celebrated on the famous digital screens of Times Square, New York.
Agency companies in South Korea have been training the trainees by putting them up to survival shows, and now China and Malaysia are following suit. In these survival shows, many entertainment companies send in their trainees to compete among hundreds of other trainees for a spot to debut in a group. Trainees have to undergo an intense process, with guidance from highly experienced celebrity mentors, to avoid being eliminated. The trainees who successfully make it to the end of the show are put together to form a new K-pop group, ready to debut.
Nevertheless, the South Korean entertainment industry is not just expanding musically. South Korean filmmakers have also been recognised by the Academy Awards. The 2019 South Korean film, ‘Parasite’ won awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay in 2020. South Korean movies, dramas and music are also introducing the world to K-culture. They have changed the perspective of audiences and impressed the world with Asia's talents.
South Korean media shows traditional celebrations authentic to the Koreans and their lifestyle. For example, Koreans only drink cold water throughout the year, they do not eat anything at the start of the day, and they cannot live without Kimchi. Koreans celebrate days like Chuseok (harvest festival celebrated on the eighth lunar month), Seollal (Korean New Year) and Hangul Day (day of remembering the creation of Hangul, the alphabet of the Korean language).
South Korean culture has also had a huge impact on the cosmetic and fashion industry. For example, in South Korean homes, parents would let their kids use sunscreen from a young age. Therefore, it is a trend among cosmetic companies to add sunscreen to beauty products. This is also beneficial to the skin as using sunscreen not only shields us from UV rays but also prevents our skin from ageing.
There is no doubt that K-pop has influenced the world significantly and it goes beyond music. Thanks to its massive popularity, it has changed the lifestyles of many and we can see its influence all around us in the food that we eat, the cosmetics we use and the clothes that we wear. So how have you been impacted by K-pop and its cultural influences?
By Debbie Chooi