Music is a cultural aspect of all human societies that is universal. It plays a key role in all social activities. Be it religious rituals, rite of passage ceremonies, weddings or community choirs, music brings everyone together in celebration. Music is widely created, much like literature and visual art.
The modern western world defines music broadly – an all-encompassing term to describe diverse style and genres. Music is fluid – in that it keeps changing and evolving. In the 21st century, music is helped by technological advances including the development of isomorphic keyboards and dynamic tonality
What is K-Pop?
K-Pop is an abbreviation that stands for Korean Popular music. It originated in South Korea in the 1950s and is the mainstream music of the region, commonly known as K-Pop. To understand it easily, a comparison can be drawn to what Taylor Swift is in the United States.
Part of the South Korean culture, K-Pop includes styles and genres from across the world – pop, hip hop, rock, jazz, electronic dance, folk, country, disco, classical and many more as part of its traditional musical roots.
Previously, South Korean music was called gayo. It was only in the 2000s that the term K-Pop became popular. It is a term that is often used to describe Korean music and artists associated with the entertainment and idol industry of the country. American pop music culture has especially had and continues to have an effect on K-pop.
Modern K-Pop Culture
The hip-hop boy band Seo Taiji made the contemporary form of the K-pop genre in 1992. They were active in the mid-1990s. Their experimentation with different genres and styles of music as well as integration of foreign musical elements modernised and reshaped the country’s contemporary music scene. They were the pioneers of integrating rap into K-Pop music.
This led to the formation of some of the most popular pop groups in the Korean music industry. SM Entertainment was established in 1995, JYP Entertainment in 1997 and YG Entertainment in 1998.
The year 1996 also saw the first ever K-Pop group in existence which was H.O.T. This was the group that started the K-Pop culture that is prevalent and followed even today. With the emergence of BoA and TVXQ in 2003, K-Pop’s popularity soared.
K-Pop’s Effect on South-Korean Economy
Hallyu - meaning the Korean Wave - is a large influx of South Korean music, movies and TV shows into the western world. The speed at which its popularity has grown, especially K-Pop music, helped generate a large amount for the South Korean economy. This helped relieve the stress that the economy was under during the 1997 Asian Financial crisis.
The world-famous song ‘Gangnam Style’ by the South-Korean artist Psy, generated approximately USD 8 million in YouTube revenues on its release in 2012.
The seven-member K-Pop group BTS took the world by storm with their music gaining USD 4.9 billion for the South-Korean economy. The high point was with the release of BTS’s all-English song ‘Dynamite’ which topped the Billboard Global chart for 18 weeks and generated USD 1.43 billion.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and Korea Culture and tourism conducted a joint study that showed the revenue generated by BTS’s hit song would be able to provide approximately 8000 jobs during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This revenue was then utilized to bring these jobs to fruition.
The Hallyu in its totality has helped boost the South Korean economy by developing exports to the tune of USD 9.48 billion. K-Pop merchandise, in particular, made a significant addition to this number by raising revenue to the tune of USD 114.5 million.
K-Pop has also created advertisements to generate revenue for the country’s economy. The better-known endorsement was between Korean Air (South Korea’s National Airline) and the K-Pop group SuperM.
A group of 7 members, SuperM created a futuristic safety video that provided information on the safety feature of the Aircraft, alongside an original song and choreography that was specifically created for the video. This helped boost the national airline’s business and in 2020 Korean Air’s revenue stood at USD 11.2 billion.
Tourism and Culture are the key focus of the South Korean economy. It is highly endorsed by K-Pop groups and idols. Music and Tourism work in tandem to bring money into the South Korean Economy.
Distinctive Features of K-Pop
Generally, an umbrella term encompassing all music from South Korea, K-Pop has some unique and distinctive features and characteristics that define the music style.
The K-Pop idols are known for their colourful and stylish clothing. Their wardrobe ranges from street-type clothing to elegant wear to themed clothing. Many K-Pop idols are fashion influencers driving current trends, particularly the younger generation.
K-pop includes music and musical instruments from various cultures within its structure of music. It blends traditional Korean music with western influences like jazz, rock, hip hop, etc.
Aspiring K-Pop idols are selected for intensive live-in training programmes by entertainment agencies. They receive training in media, choreography, vocal coaching and practising live performances. They are placed into various groups depending on their unique style of personalities, voices and performance skills. Sometimes, the trainees can be in these programmes for a few years honing their skills while they wait to be placed in groups.
K-Pop groups usually consist of at least 7 members. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. They generally are in numbers in a group so that K-Pop fans have a variety of idols to choose from.
Dance routines are a critical and significant part of every K-Pop group. Choreographers work extensively with the groups to create unique routines, that are sometimes repetitive, to complement each song. These motions are created repetitively to appeal to a large fan base.
How K-Pop Went International?
In the early 2000s, bands like BoA and TVXQ started a new generation of K-Pop idols that made this music genre popular in the neighbouring Japanese market and continued to grow from there.
With the advent and help of social media and networking, K-Pop music spread rapidly and gained fans internationally not only in Asia but Latin America, North Africa, South and East Africa, the Middle East and throughout the Western world. In 2012, Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ hit the radios all around the world and K-Pop emerged as a popular style of music.
The last decade has seen K-Pop’s fame and recognition rise significantly, especially with mainstream western audiences. This has largely been due to the massive success of bands like BTS (BangTan Boys), a popular boy band that was formed in 2010 and Blackpink.
These bands have continuously given chartbuster songs. In fact, in 2017, BTS was the first group in the genre to perform at the American Music Awards.
This stage introduced them to millions of western viewers. They continue to ride on their success with the release of their first-ever English-language single called ‘Dynamite’. It topped the charts in 2020 after its release.
Growth of K-Pop
The year 2018 saw significant growth in the revenue of K-Pop. It reached a 17.9% in revenue growth and continued its climb by reaching a 44.8% revenue growth in 2020 positioning itself as the fastest growing market of the year.
According to the International Federation of Phonographic Industry’s ‘Global Music Report’ of 2019, Korean Popular Music was ranked six among the top ten music markets worldwide. BTS and Blackpink were the artists that were leading this market growth.
Some Top Names of K-Pop Music
It is not uncommon for artists to perform as a group for about a decade and then move on to establish solo careers. However, some groups are long-lasting and successful. These groups vary in their music styles, genre, number of group members or even image. The one thing they have in common is great music accompanied by great dance and performance.
Some of the famous K-Pop names in the industry are BTS, Blackpink, Twice, Red Velvet, iKon and Seventeen. There are even solo K-Pop artists who have made a name for themselves like Taeyeon, BoA, IU, Taemin and Jay Park. There are many more groups and solo artists that are known for their music and performances.
South Korea’s popular music is garnering their government’s support as the government also reaps economic benefits from the popularity of K-Pop. The government is now applying cultural diplomacy as soft power. Whatever is said and done, music brings everyone together. And K-Pop example is a great showcase for that truth. K-pop has contributed over $5 billion to Korean GDP, making it one of the big parts of the country.
How much does K-pop contribute to the Korean economy?
K-Pop helped boost the Korean economy by $9.48 billion in 2018 and $12.3 billion in 2019.
How did BTS help South Korea?
BTS contributed about $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy.
How does BTS contribute to the Korean economy?
BTS contributed to Korea's economy during the pandemic when the concerts of the famous band were still going on.