Western pop music has traditionally dominated the global music charts. For years, pop songs from countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have enjoyed global recognition and critical acclaim. In the 2010s, however, the world saw the emergence of another viable contender: Korean pop music, or K-pop.
K-pop rose to prominence in the last decade thanks to its catchy tunes, elaborate music videos, vibrant costumes, and slick choreography. The South Korean music industry has also received plenty of financial support from the government, who has made building the country’s cultural influence and improving its image abroad one of its top priorities following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
In order to expand its reach, the K-pop industry put a lot of effort into appealing to an international audience. Lyrics and song titles often contain English words or phrases, and these songs are often translated into other languages.
The K-pop industry also uses the internet to its advantage, heavily promoting artists on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, as well as international music platforms like Spotify.
To secure a fanbase in certain countries, entertainment companies have formed groups that included foreign members. The all-female group Twice, for instance, features three Japanese members and one Taiwanese member, while the all-male group Got7 includes one Hong Konger, one Thai, and one Taiwanese-American.
K-pop artists have also increasingly been collaborating with Western artists. The popular boy band BTS has recorded songs with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Halsey, and Lauv. In 2018, the girl group Blackpink teamed up with British singer Dua Lipa to record the song Kiss and Make Up.
All these efforts appear to be paying off. K-pop has become an important component of the South Korean economy, contributing billions of dollars to the country’s GDP each year. The popularity of K-pop in international markets also created a spillover effect that has benefited the tourism and manufacturing sectors, further cementing the country’s position as an economic powerhouse.
Global interest in Korean culture has also increased. Korean universities have reported a surge in the number of foreign students, and Korean language courses have become more popular than ever.
The rise of K-pop in the last decade proves that music does have the ability to transcend language barriers. As long as you keep an open mind, there’s always great music somewhere in the world waiting to be discovered.