In Korea there are even a word, sasaeng, that can be applied for the most dedicated fans. Some idols have experienced extreme invasions of privacy from so called sasaengs as a result of their career in the public eye. This includes include stalking, hidden cameras in idols' dorms, attending to personal events of the idol such as relatives' weddings and physical assault.



K-pop has already gathered an audience from the bigger mainland of Asia, and slowly it sneaks into the western music market. Following category is mainly our beliefs, somewhat supported from other sources, on why k-pop is so widespread and popular and keeps gaining a bigger audience. Therefore one can say that this is a conclusion of our main question; What is the appeal in Korean pop music?


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Another reason k-pop can be spread globally, even though other countries in East Asia also have there pop music, is because they are a developed country with the resources, they spends a lot of money on their culture and they take use of digital platforms.

You can thank the South Korean Government for pretty much all of this (read more under "Hallyu (Korean) Wave" in our history category) who plays a vital role in exporting this soft power. They have built up k-pop after an export-template, and since the late 90s they have continuously sponsored initiatives to promote Korean culture, which has enabled them to perform overseas. Example is when the Wonder Girls worked with the Jonas brothers oversea in America. The government’s support in cultural technology and hologram development have enhanced the K-pop concert experience. The rapid spread of k-pop videos on YouTube has gained k-pop fans from all over the world. These can all be collected under the concept "cultural technology" which is the process of spreading k-pop music overseas; firstly by training, secondly to partner up and finally to extend into their collaboration company's music market.

If it then, at the beginning of the k-pop area, was about supporting their economical situation, it is today about something else. South Koreans are very much nationalists. They all wants to show South Korea abroad and are very proud of their culture. Thus, this is partly what motivates them to develop and improve the culture for the world.

Jake Patchett and Amos Kom who are hosts for the tv-show Jjanng identifies similarities between k-pop and how the music market looked like in the UK 25 years ago. While western countries are dominated by solo artists and DJ’s, Korea is dominated by girl groups and boy groups. Just as in the UK back in the 90’s. South Korea have kept with this archetype since it has proved to be working and that is what the audience likes about k-pop.

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From the information we have gathered from our researches, we have noticed that the major factor that contributes to the global spread of k-pop is mostly the fans. As we have heard from our interviews, a lot of the people that listen to k-pop have been introduced to it by close friends who are fans of k-pop, and in that way they have become fans of k-pop as well. The Korean Entertainment business are known for targeting the young consumers in Korea with their marketing strategies, they make out what is in trend and what sells the most with the young consumers and from there they create things that can appeal the audience.

In the latest years there has been a growth of the fans of hip hop and rap music in Korea which led to the creation of many hip hop/rap survival shows to attract the audience. These shows have become a success and they have even had top stars as Snoop Dogg starred in them which helped with the international market. After the investment on the hip hop/rap culture in Korean music entertainment -such as idols coming out with singles which has hip hop vibes- more and more American artists like Warren G, P.D.D, Wiz Khalifa, Silento etc have had collaborations with Korean idols, and this has led Korean idols to have a larger impact on those in the western countries who normally would not listen to k-pop.


Snoop Dogg featuring in korean PSY's song Hangover.


Another way of connecting with their fans is through the choreography. First a music video is released following a video released from the label of how the dance/ choreography came to be. Afterwards, the fans responds with covers of the dance, coming in from all over the world. So the dance and choreography is probably the most vital part because it goes both ways; from the idols to the fans and the fans to the idols.

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Another reason for the global spreading of k-pop is the fast and constant way the entertainment companies produce idol groups. As k-pop is gathering a larger and larger audience, the entertainment business is producing more groups to appeal to different people. As this happens more people get the chance to become a k-pop idol, we have Alex of BP Rania as an example. She is the first ever person without an Asian background to have become an idol in Korea. After she debuted in an idol group, many international fans have started to take a shot at auditions in hope of one day becoming a k-pop star which has made those surrounding them more aware of k-pop in order to show support. This factor has led to a further spread of k-pop, as the music industry is looking for more diversity.


African-American Alex, third from right.

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By the late 1990s, YG Entertainment, DSP Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and FNC Music had burst onto the scene and were producing talent as quickly as the public could consume it. According to Mark James Russell from the global politics magazine Foreign Policy, K-Pop has now spread to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and parts of America. One of the biggest examples of the globalization of KPOP is the emergence of PSY's "Gangnam Style" on the market.


The famous dance from their Gangnam Style music video.


In October 2012, Psy became the first South Korean artist to hit the number 1 spot on top UK charts in a lot of different genres. It is also the most viewed and liked on YouTube. But Psy does not fit into the typical k-pop pattern. He is not very handsome or young or styled (even though the choreography is there). Daniel Tudor, author of Korea: The Impossible Country, said a few years in an interview with Forbes; K-pop can be a niche, but I don’t think it will break through in the West. They try too hard, they are too rigid,”. Today’s situations proves that he was surely wrong, but still no korean pop band’s success can be compared with Gangnam Style. We believe that even though west enjoys the k-pop template of their perfect surfaces and dances, they enjoy the humor and satire that Psy uses in Gangnam Style, as he is making fun of the rich in Gangnam (a wealthy district in Seoul). So maybe Tudor had a point. Maybe k-pop should loosen up a bit, to involve a further globalization.

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Kids as young as ten years old are taken under some agency either by auditioning to join or by being street- casted by the company's employees. The training process can be as “short” as two years or even 10-15 years before the company decides if one is ready to debut. There are some exceptions where some kids who are talented have gotten to debut after just two months training. After debut the kids get their money deducted from their checks to pay for the training fee which can be up to five million won depending on how long the kid have trained under the company. Basically, Korean agencies recruit and manufacture artists. An potential artists is not chosen because of their raw music talent. There is rather a question of what marketing potential the agency think the artist have based on (mostly) how they will look within a couple of years. It is mostly young people who have some sort of experience with the industry such as being a child actor or model that get scouted and later positioned as the group’s “visual” or “face of the group”.

In comparison, American entertainment companies identifies musical talents and works with him or her to produce the music. To find talent there are auditions or survival shows such as Xfactor, (ic) Idol, (ic) Got Talent etc, that can contribute to someone becoming a singer or people can be discovered (Justin Bieber) or just start something on their own.



While both industries are very popular, the structure of them both are strikingly different. The main focus of the Korean music industry is the performance, stage presence and overall appeal of the idol. They are rather "entertainers" than singers. In the Western industry on the other hand, the focus are on the quality of the music rather than the artist. We can state that the difference is that one focuses on talent while the other focuses on the producing the perfect idol. K-pop artists are supposed to be physically attractive or at least go through a plastic surgery which we have noted is not very unusual (rather very normal). How catchy the song is, is more important than the vocal abilities and the dance is just as important as the song.

Also, the trainee-system is non-existent in America or anyways are they having a very much more mild perception of how to make an artist grow. Individuals aren’t picked out by entertainment companies to train and become singers, rather than that they are expected to already possess the skills that are required to achieve stardom. In that sense, there’s a large focus on inborn talent of English musicians, in comparison to the Korean school of thought where hard work rather than natural talent is key, since the existence of the training system highlights the underlying believe that you don’t have to be born to be a singer because you can train to be one.

This gives rise to differences in the way singers are known in the two different industries. In contrast to USA where you mostly have to be talented to be called a singer, the Koreans uses the term idol instead to illustrate the position of the so called artist because idols do not need to have a great singing voice but instead they must possess the ability to dance, act, model, MC etc. Because compared to the US, the idol career is short lived where many do not stay in the spotlight after 7 years. This is the main reason why many idols expands their field to mostly acting or even modeling.

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Increasingly more K-Pop groups coming out these days have at least one member of Chinese background. This is a fast way to appeal to the massive potential of the Chinese audience who are one of the largest k-pop consumers. Super Junior, f(x), Miss A - they all have at least one Chinese member. Although Sandara Park of 2NE1 is Korean, she was at her earlier years a pop artist and actress in the Philippines. Also, YG have had a lot of merges with Japanese entertainment companies to extend into that market. So basically, korean pop groups are put together based on how well they can expand into other countries, as part of the korean wave.


Korean band 2pm. Thai Nichkhun from third left.


The US pop industry do not need to do much to appeal to a broader audience. The only example is of Christina Aguilera releasing several of her (very early) songs in Spanish, to appeal to the growing Hispanic community in the US. This is part of the more modern CT-model, using the imported artist to promote their music in their homeland (read more about cultural technology under “Hallyu (Korean) wave”).

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YG Family


In Korea, there is a very strong sense of family within each music label, you could also call it an utterly loyalty to their respective agency. The major ones also known as the big tree; SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment are - more usually than not - called "SM Family", "YG Family", "JYP Family". In Korea the label aka company is what carries the idols unlike in the western music where the label/company is almost never mentioned. Each entertainment label sometimes has some sort of "family concert" event, where all the artists of the entertainment company takes part of. At several cases in e.g. music awards, artists from the same record label can be seen performing a suite of songs together in some kind of "tribute". E.g. several years ago, DBSK, several members of SuJu, and The Grace - all from SM Entertaiment - did a medley of songs from H.O.T., Shinhwa, and S.E.S (whom are all former big k-pop stars, from SM Entertainment), respectively.

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To appeal to as broad of an audience as possible. In addition, artists will move to a foreign country - e.g. Japan - and perform and release albums there exclusively for a few years (in that language), and then make a "comeback" to Korea with a new Korean album. Compared to the US where a “comeback” is when a certain artist has been inactive for a lengthy time, and is to release a new album. Usually artists that spend a lot of time working overseas, lose their popularity in Korea, therefore Koreans view working too much in other countries as being inactive and they look for new idols to watch and pour their love onto.


So the Korean music/Kpop is growing at a faster rate and becoming more global, even adjusting their music into that country. However, these language are just a few and they are in the East-Asia area. Therefore western music is still generally more popular than Korean music as it has the advantage of using English as English is the “universal language”, and it boasts of a larger speaking population and hence a larger audience. Furthermore, while Western culture has become more widespread due to globalization, Asian culture remains largely foreign to the outside world, especially Korean culture which places an even stronger emphasis on values such as respect for seniors and elders.

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One big difference between the Western music industry and the Korean music industry is the history. The western music industry had it’s start between 1930 and 1950 whereas the Korean music industry had it’s sprout in mid-late 1990’s hence to the financial crisis. Although the western music industry has been running for a much longer period of time than the Korean music industry, the Korean music industry has been catching up by spreading in a fast pace in the Asian continents. The first and biggest difference between the Western music industry and the Korean music industry is the history.

Western singers rarely crossover to another field, they prefer to focus on their field of work which gives them them the ability to improve. In the western music industry it is almost preferable for the artist to write their own songs therefore there are more songwriting singers, it is almost shunned upon if -for example- a rapper uses a ghostwriter or producer to write his/her songs but in Korea it is almost the norm for the idols to be given an already written song to perform. This is the main reason there is very few songwriting singer in Korea in comparison to in the West.

As a whole, the differences in fundamental structure leads to differences in the end product. Korean music is appreciated for its performances such as synchronized dances whereas American music is more edgy and loved for it’s vocal quality. But in the end of the day, both appeals to different people of different backgrounds, and also bring different people together which makes both western and Korean music relevant in it’s own way.


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