Since the early 1990s, a new star of global popular culture has emerged from the unlikeliest of places, South Korea. While traditionally it has been countries like Japan, Britain and the United States that have exported their popular culture, Korea has risen to be the front runner of Asia if not the world. The surge of popularity for South Korean music, television and style began in the 1990s with the production of many well-packaged and effectively marketed K-dramas and K-pop music. Korean popular media was quick to be embraced by other Asian countries gaining massive followings in China and other south and southeastern Asian countries. While the talent is due their share of credit, it would be wrong to ignore the massive role social media and social networking sites have played in t boom that became known as the Korean wave, sites such as YouTube became the ideal platform for K-pop to flourish.
While Korean television, film and style have all risen in popularity, it is certainly Koran pop music that has truly become a worldwide success. K-pop music is characterized by its strong audiovisual elements and although described as pop, touches on and draws upon a myriad of music genres from rock, hip-hop, jazz and any number of styles. K-pop has managed to gain a footing with western audiences due to the incorporation of foreign sounds and even English phrases with lyrics, with artists such as PSY managing to make it massive with foreign audiences. Despite a number of acts making it popular overseas, K-pops recruiting and training style for up and coming artists has garnered some criticism. Record labels are known to hold massive auditions where they sign young artists into binding contracts that has them live with other artists in a controlled environment where they spend many hours a day learning elements of music, dance and foreign languages. These labels are often known to have a considerable amount of control over the groups that are created with influence over what the sound like, what they sing and even what they are called. This corporate influence over the music is what perhaps has acted as the biggest hurdle in winning over western audiences who tend to place a significant value on the authenticity and personal expression in music.
That is not to say the K-pop has not thoroughly conquered the Asian market, in particular the massively popular group ‘Super Junior’, formed in 2005, have been names the top selling K-pop artist for years in a row. Consisting of thirteen members at their peak, ‘Super Junior’ has managed to rack up an impressive collection of accolades including thirteen awards at the Mnet Asian music awards, “Best Fandom” and “Best International Artist” at the Teen choice awards as well as possessing a massive and dedicated fan base.
While there is certainly still room to grown with Western audiences, K-Pop and South Korean popular media has become an incredible global phenomenon that continues to wow audiences from all walks of life.
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