How K-pop became a huge hit worldwideK-pop is a mixture of the Western and the Eastern. When you watch video clips of K-pop groups, you will find that their songs are Western style while their performance has an Asian favor. TVXQ would be a textbook example of these East-West mash-up K-pop groups. The group’s name, TVXQ means “the rising of Eastern gods.” As their team name implies, TVXQ’s performance is far from that of Jonas Brothers or other famous Western idol bands. TVXQ constantly do synchronized dance moves and hand gestures when they sing.
Traditional Korean music certainly affected their performance. For instance, when TVXQ performs “Maximum,” one of its members starts the song by triggering the audience just as Korean traditional singers do. On the other hand, their songs sound western. Most of their songs are written by European songwriters and have rapping, Euro-pop choruses and dubstep breaks. This mixture of Eastern and Western culture is effective enough to grab the attention of Asians and Westerners. K-pop combined two different cultures and became a unique brand in itself.
Moreover, the advance of social networking services (SNS) helped K-pop to spread throughout the world much faster and cheaper. Agencies upload their videos on their YouTube official accounts and users share those videos and spread it. YouTube and SNS are much more effective (and cost-effective) than advertisements on newspapers.
Those media played a pivotal role in Psy’s success. When Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video was posted on YouTube, many Twitter users, mostly K-pop fans, share the link of the video clip. Then, the clip started to spread out and derive many parody videos such as “Daegu Style.” Even celebrities like T-Pain shared the video clip via twitter and stimulated the “Gangman Style syndrome.” Kevin Alloca, the YouTube trend manager, said that a video clip should be mentioned by tastemakers, draw participation from SNS users and have unexpectedness to succeed in SNS. Psy’s “Gangman Style” met all of these conditions and get unexpectedly huge fame from all around the world. Without SNS, which helps users share information easily and agencies advertise their music cost-effectively, the “Gangnam Style syndrome” would likely to flourish only in Korea.
Due to its successful mixture of the East and the West and use of social network service, K-pop has become a soft power of Korea and changed Korea’s national image more positively. However, Korean music industry has to make much effort to keep this Hallyu. Otherwise, it will end suddenly as the failed Earlier Hallyu in the early 2000s did.
* Undergraduate student at Dongguk University
By Ha Sun-jin