big 3

Thoughts on the Korean Wave

Last night in bed a sudden thought came over me: Why Korea? Several years ago the U.S. went through a Japanese boom, with almost every young person reading manga, watching anime and listening to some genre of Japanese music. It soon died down with only the die hards (like me) still keeping an interest in it, and then came Kpop. Now, we all know the major impact Korean Pop culture, specifically the music, has had on the WORLD these past couple of years. What about Kpop is making teenage girls and boys lose their sh*z at the mere mention of their bias, rush to buy tickets like it’s a life or death matter, and get super serious when it comes to protecting their favorite celebrities?

I realize there’s really no answer to this, but I thought it would be interesting to bring up for discussion sake. Why didn’t Japan have this kind of impact, and why is Taiwan/China not nearly as popular as either of the two? We can’t even get into other Asian countries and their music industry (like Thailand, for example) because their Pop music is virtually unknown in the West. Is it the years of intense training that Korean idols go through that makes them such a force in the entertainment world now? Or maybe it’s because they’re the trend setting, representative faces of Korea and its youth culture? That’s actually a common dispute, but I personally think Kpop idols ARE spokespeople for Korea. They’re taught not just how to sing, dance and act but how to speak. How to present themselves, and their image is extremely important or they suffer career crippling scandals. Or worse. If they weren’t strong representatives of the nation then why would their actions have such dire, life ruining (seriously) consequences.

Perhaps it’s the Korean record label strategy to push their artists to other countries like Japan and China for debut, and then tour the rest of the continent, that makes them so impactful. You know, since they’re reaching so many different people. What I mean is, maybe the constant reinforcement of Korean idols Asia-wide rubbed off on everyone over the course of time, and now we have this surge of interest that was birthed by a slow marination. I’m really just hypothesizing with all of this, as you can tell.

We all know the cycle: do well in Korea and get a chance to debut in Japan, and ccasionally you’ll get the group that does something in China (although these seem to only be SM groups). Maybe Jpop could have had a stronger (lasting) influence if it would have tried to push it’s popular artists, like Utada Hikaru, Namie Amuro, EXILE, etc. to Korea and other countries similarly to what Korea’s doing now.

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Unlike Korea, Japan, China etc. aren’t nearly as controlling when it comes to managing their artists. Maybe Japanese artists, seeing as their celebrity life is more like the West’s and they have more free will, didn’t want to debut in Korea, while Korean ones really have no choice. Maybe Japanese singers and their labels were unsure if Korean citizens would be receptive of a Japanese artist. Actually though that doesn’t make much sense, cause when you have a singer like BoA who went over to Japan hella young, mastered the language and started selling albums like it was nothing you’d think Japan and other Asian countries would take notes and be like “Hey… maybe we can do that too! Let’s at least give it a shot.”

I believe everything goes back to the label and management. The Kpop strategy has always been extremely well thought out and it’s only gotten better since other countries outside of Asia have started to show interest. Korean labels are recognizing their foreign fans and sending their artists to these countries for world tours and showcases, something that Japan RARELY does despite the significant amount of foreign fans they still have. Is Japan just being lazy? Surely they know by now that people outside of the Asian race enjoy Asian pop culture!

I will mention that Taiwan is taking a few hints. Show Luo had his Japanese debut a while ago (it was sooo good btw), so at least they’re trying. I don’t know how he did chart wise, but I give him and his company big props for the effort.

So I ask again, why Kpop? Why Korea? What about the country’s idols are so appealing that they’ve far exceeded the successes of other Asian acts, and why aren’t other countries following suit? I’d love to hear your opinions so please let me know! When you really think about it it’s pretty interesting!


(Photos: kpopstarz & gurupop)