What The Heck Is K-Pop, America’s Latest Obsession?


The Independent and the Huffington Post are just a few of the publications that are calling it: K-pop has officially landed in the United States. K-pop—short for Korean pop—has been around for decades. It’s not a new genre in terms of music, but it is a new presence on the American scene.

Here’s everything you need to know before you start seeing K-pop everywhere!

10. This Genre’s Popularity Is The Result Of More Than Just Music

K-pop’s presence in the global music scene may seem like a new development, but it’s the result of many cultural events that have taken place in the past couple of decades. This global phenomenon, called the Korean Wave, is the result of South Korean culture’s increasing popularity since the 1990s.

9. Regional Popularity And Then Worldwide Fame

That’s right: This explosive movement didn’t begin with Psy’s 2012 smash hit “Gangnam Style.” Korean television dramas and music first spread throughout Asia; once it established a regional hold, its popularity turned global. YouTube and social media have given way to a new era in which our world is smaller than ever before.

8. Speaking Of Psy…

If you’re one of the ten people reading this who haven’t heard of “Gangnam Style” by now, it’s definitely time for you to listen to it at least once. The fantastically weird music video has had the most views of any YouTube upload since December 2012. It holds the record for the longest reign as YouTube’s most viewed video, too.

7. The Internet Helped K-pop Reach A Wider Audience

Korean music had a tough time making its way into the American market until social media helped it reach a much wider audience. Today, it’s much more well-received.

“Around 8 years ago or so, it was very rare for K-pop artists to tour in the U.S.,” Paul Han told The Independent. Han is the co-founder of gossip site allkpop. “Now, it has become quite common.”

6. Industry Folks Predicted Wrong

Morgan Carey, a Los Angeles music consultant, told the New York Times in 2012 that K-pop had “co-founder significance here.”

Carey was correct, but only back then. Seven K-pop groups made concert appearances in the United States in 2013. That number doubled over the following two years, though, and reached 20 in 2016. 14 performances have already taken place in the first half of 2017 alone.

5. Korean Pop Has Grabbed Serious Attention

Here’s a signifier that this genre has started to secure a hold on the United States market: For the first time in Billboard Music Award history, a K-pop group has won an award. Seven-member group BTS beat out artists like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and won this year’s Top Social Artist prize.

4. There Are No Guarantees, Though

All celebrities know that growing fame comes with growing pains, though. K-pop artists aren’t guaranteed any blowout success when they hit the scene, and here’s proof. In April 2017, a four-member group called EXP Edition garnered quite a bit of negative press after their initial debut…

3. An Interesting Twist On Typical Music Drama

Not one of the band’s four members speaks Korean, though they have moved to South Korea in order to study the language and record their first album.

That’s a stark contrast from other groups who spend time training rigorously at K-pop academies from a young age. Some groups spend over a decade studying before making an official debut in the cutthroat industry.

2. That’s Not Stopping Anyone, Though

Buzzfeed, of course, can offer you 26 reasons why K-pop is better than American pop; the Washington Post and the Huffington Post have offered several takes on the genre, its musicians, and its fans. The numbers don’t lie, either. This is a $3 billion industry and it’s got plenty of people lining up to try and snag a share.

1. Here’s What’s Next For K-Pop

Going forward, it looks like Korean pop music will keep a cultural hold on regional and international music markets. Once a genre has found its niche, after all, fans can be fiercely loyal—let us not forget Beatlemania. As such, how can we predict the future of Korean pop? It all comes down to audience reception, and right now, the future looks bright.

Korean pop music and entertainment aren’t the nation’s only exports. In recent years, South Korean beauty products and rituals have secured a serious hold on the health and cosmetic industries. The South Korean beauty industry boasts annual sales of $10 billion!

And what about South Korea’s neighbor to the north? The nation of North Korea is famous for its restriction of citizen access to the internet, entertainment, and so much more. Still, South Korean pieces of entertainment have made their way across the border. The spread of Korean pop has spurred tourism, too. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, monthly tourism numbers have jumped from 311,883 in 1996 to 1,389,399 in 2016.