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Global K-pop

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Global K-Pop is Korean pop music specifically created and marketed for the English-speaking international market. This includes original Korean music that is distributed worldwide accompanied by English subtitles, English versions of K-pop songs, EDM remixed versions of K-pop songs as well as artists specifically produced to appeal more to the global audience rather than the Korean market but following the main characteristics and trends of K-pop.


Before 1994[edit]

In 1962, after Park Jeong-hee launched a coup and took office, he gradually implemented a policy of curbing the development of the film industry. Under the military dictatorship in Korea, the development of the film industry was sluggish. This period is called the "lost decade" of the Korean film industry.[1] In 1980, with the end of the military dictatorship in South Korea, the South Korean film industry began to recover. The purpose of these chaebols sold their video tapes and VCRs rather than the movie itself.[2] At that time, the Korean film industry was not enough to raise a lot of funds to produce high-cost films. This policy helped to protect the domestic film industry from foreign blockbusters. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) of America submitted a protest to the U.S. Senate aimed at protesting the Korean government's "unfair" policy towards foreign films.

1994-1999: The Beginning[edit]

In 1994, Hollywood’s share of the Korean film and music market had reached 80%, while South Korea’s domestic film share was only 15.9%[3] The rise of the Korean film industry also led to the rise of Korean dramas. The export of Korean culture began with the popularity of Korean dramas in China. In 1997, CCTV broadcast the TV series "What is Love" on the television channel, which caused a sensation among Chinese audiences. In the same year, Korea Uda Company introduced a large number of Korean musicians' works to China. This period was dominated by TV dramas and music, especially the high popularity of the idol group H.O.T’s concert in Beijing, which created idol culture, fan culture, and fandom culture.[4] The term "Korean Wave" or "K-Pop" was actually first used by Chinese media (take the homophonic pun meaning of cold current or cold wind from the north).

2000-2009: Popular in Asia[edit]

In the 21st century, Korean dramas and Korean pop music began to become popular in other Asian countries. In 2000, BoA (권보아) signed SM Entertainment. Two years later, BoA's "Listen to My Heart" topped the Oricon charts in Japan, becoming the first Korean artist with a million albums in Japanese history.[5] With the popularity of Korean dramas, K-pop music has also risen in Asia. TVXQ, SS501 and Super Junior became popular in Asia during this period.[6]

2009–2012: Try to walk out of Asia[edit]

Since the 2000s, the term "K-pop" has become popular. Previously, K-pop music was called Gayo (가요). In 2018, K-pop experienced significant growth and became a “powerful participant” with revenue growth of 17.9%. According to the "Global Music Report 2019" of International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), as of 2019, K-pop ranked sixth in the world's top ten music markets, while BTS and Blackpink are known as artists, leading the market growth.[7]

The popularity of K-Pop music in Asia has led some Korean singers like BoA and Cui Dongyu (세븐) to try to release English songs into the pop music market in Western countries. But these attempts were initially unsuccessful.[8] K-Pop music in the United States is only confined to Los Angeles and New York, which have more Korean populations. But outside of North America, the Korean Wave cyclone is very fierce. The Korean drama "Jumong" is very popular in Muslim countries, and it has achieved over 80% ratings in Iran. In 2009, the Korean drama "Boys Over Flowers" was broadcast in 183 countries and translated into 69 languages. After 6 years, it has continued to be popular with fans all over the world and won the 11th edition of its popularity. In 2015, Soompi Awards Ceremony K-Pop Special Award. Korean star Lee Min-ho and Lee Young-ae won the Seoul TV Festival "K-pop 10 Years of Merit Award" in 2015.[9]

The popularity of K-Pop in Western countries has benefited from modern Internet media. Internet media platforms such as YouTube allow young people to enjoy their favorite K-pop music or movie in any language and form without restraint. As a CNN reporter who participated in the 2012 KCON Music Festival in Irvine, California, said, "If you come forward and ask people here where they learned about K-Pop music, they will say it is YouTube."[10]

2013 to present: K-Pop world[edit]

In the 2020 Billboard Music Awards BTS won the awards

As of 2012, the number of views of K-pop music on YouTube has surpassed the 2.3 billion mark, almost three times that of 2010.[11] Entertainment companies have helped expand K-pop to other parts of the world through a variety of methods. Now, K-pop singers need to use English more and more, because the company hopes to occupy not only the Asian market but also to enter the Western market. Most K-pop singers learn English because it is the universal language of the music industry. However, there are also more and more K-pop bands using English names instead of Korean names. In this way, songs and singers can sell to more audiences around the world. In February 2013, Peruvian Vice President Marisol Espinoza said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that Korean pop music and Korean dramas are very popular in Peru and have become one of the main reasons why Peruvians want to learn more about South Korea. And expressed welcome to the development of "Korean Wave" in Peru.[12]

In Western countries, K-Pop fans in France have exceeded 100,000. In the United States, the popularity of K-Pop has expanded from Asian Americans to broader American population.[13]

On February 6, 2013, the US White House official responsible for managing the first lady Michelle Obama’s Twitter account revealed that Michelle Obama made Korean kimchi.[14] The German National Public Radio reported that "K-Pop is conquering the world".[15] France’s largest television station, TF1, reported that K-Pop is becoming popular among young people.

In 2017, the "LOVE YOURSELF" series launched by the BTS not only brought huge economic benefits to the BTS, but also opened up the world market for K-Pop music. In 2018, the BTS appeared on the "Billboard Music Award (BBMA), the American Music Awards, the first Korean idol group to be awarded the Cultural Medal, the participation in the "United Nations" speech, and the cover of the global edition of "TIME"[16] also prove that BTS has contributed to the promotion of Korean culture.

With the advent of the Internet, social networking services and Korean TV programs, the current spread of K-Pop is not only restricted to East Asia and Southeast Asia, but spreading throughout South Asia, Middle East, North Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Famous/Influential “K-Pop” Groups/Artists[edit]


BTS in U.S. Los Angeles

BTS, an acronym for “Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단)” in Korean or “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in English, is a musical group, “boy band” of seven Korean singers and rappers who have seen outstanding success both nationally and internationally.[17] The group comprises RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. Unlike traditional K-pop groups, BTS has “broken the bounds” of Asia with fans spanning from “Chile to California”[18]

The group was carefully formed by their management company, Big Hit Entertainment, from 2010, after discovering Suga and Jungkook, to 2013.[19] Through the process of auditioning, training, and coaching, Big Hit Entertainment whittled a group of 80 performers to the seven that are in the group today.[20]

BTS in 2018 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards

Initially, the group only saw varied within their own country. After the release of their first album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, the group entered the music market in Japan with the production of a Japanese version of their most popular single from the album, “No More Dream”.[21]

It wasn’t until 2016 with the release of Wings EP that BTS saw major international success.[22] With greater success, the group has gained more involved fans. Avid BTS fan and high school teacher Jiye Kim dedicates “sometimes up to 15 hours a day” translating the latest songs and albums from Korean to English. Kim shared that she dedicates her personal time to translating BTS for “my fellow fans who through BTS finds a sense of comfort or joy”.[23]

Jimin of BTS earned the nickname 'King of K-pop' in India since he is able to penetrate and spread K-pop in a nation famous for its language, ethnicity, race and cultural barrier due to high diversity.[24][25] He became the epicenter of Korean Pop music scene with major coverage from mainstream media that included celebrity fans from Indian entertainment industry like A. R. Rahman, Armaan Malik, Ayushman Krurana, Ayesha Kaduskar, Badshah, Bhuvan Bam, Diljit Dosanjh, Deepika Padukone, Disha Patani, Kajol, Kapil Sharma and Nargis Fakhri.[26][27][28][29]


Blackpink photographed at the 27th Seoul Music Awards

Blackpink, the most successful all-girl “K-pop” group of today, consists of four South Korean members: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa. Much like similar “K-Pop” groups, the members were auditioned, trained, and formed by an entertainment company.[30] For Blackpink, it was YG Entertainment that brought the group together. The girls have seen international success from the time of their first single release, “Boombayah,” in 2016.[31]

The name “Blackpink” has a particular significance to the group. For them it is a purposeful commentary “aimed to contradict the misconceptions of the color pink.” They believe that when pink, typically used to portray beauty and/or “prettiness,” is paired with black, used to portray toughness and depth, there comes a narrative that “pretty isn’t everything”.[32] Although the group includes beautiful women, they have “great talent” to offer.

Blackpink at the 32nd Golden Disc Awards

The international group features bilingual songs, performances, and ideas. Blackpink prides themselves on “the group’s global domination plan”.[33] Each new song features not only new concepts, but fresh visuals and fashion choices as well. The group’s strong fanbase are at the center of all they do. It is the fans who “count everything from each member’s line distribution on songs to who keeps the center position in the choreography”.[34] These fans also dedicate their time to produce videos “to help with a color-coded who’s-singing-this-line guide to lyrics in Korean, Korean to English translation, and English”.[35]

Unlike other “K-Pop” groups, Blackpink members Rosé and Jennie are fluent in English from a young age. Rosé, raised in Australia, and Jennie, studied in New Zealand, have been a major link to their success.[36] It is thought that “the group has a bit of an edge on the international K-pop scene because both of them are able to communicate directly with English-speaking fans”.[37]

Impacts it has made on society, both politically and socially[edit]

In June 2020, BTS was actively speaking out against racism and police brutality around the world, while raising over $1 million to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Contradictively, on June 20, 2020 the group was allegedly linked to filling an entire stadium with Trump supporters, for the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump. They did this by promoting more Trump supporters to attend the rally, through the use of social media platforms, such as Tiktok. “The mobile-based communication channels favored by the millennial generation provide an effective means to quickly spread their political voices and mobilise support,” said Jung Duk-hyun, a South Korean culture critic. This shows how much power K-pop has on a global level, in that they knew how to market the millennial generation in America, to support American politics. K-pop stars have so much influence, that whenever they would like to support a Country of their choice, they can, and their standpoint will be accepted widely and make a vital impact on that Country.[38]

Global K-Pop impact[edit]

Once the Romanian communist government collapsed, Korean culture and economics were introduced in Romania. K-Pop was first seen economically in Romania, through companies like Samsung and Daewoo establishing local business there, in addition to the introduction of K-dramas aired on national Romanian television. On March 31, 2011, one of Romania’s most prominent music video TV channels aired a K-Pop music video by BoA, for the first time. This led to an increase in young adult K-pop Romanian fans. The spread of K-dramas and K-pop aired on Romanian TV, gave “young Romanians..something new and different..”[39] to search and look forward to.

K-pop has positively impacted native born Korean diasporas living in other countries due to the Korean war. The widespread fame that BTS gained in 2018, securing the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200, shows the global success of K-pop. BTS’s success, in addition to other K-pop groups, has brought healing to native Koreans who had been oppressed and mistreated by the Soviet Union. K-pop has positively increased the material and emotional status of these Korean survivors in Kazakhstan. K-Pop gives the Korean diaspora a way to maintain their culture and pride rather than focusing on the dominating Soviet Kazakhstans. Because K-pop expresses Korean values and mentalities in its music, listeners are able to relate and feel a stronger sense of belonging and hope as well.[40]

K-pop’s global impact was very apparent in 2018, when South Korea hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and had famous K-pop group’s open and close the ceremonies. They had the group Twice singing “Likely,” and Big Bang singing “Fantastic Baby,” and “Gangnam Style,” during the Parade of Nations. These songs represent the main message that the K-pop Wave tells the world; that being, that Korean artists are diverse and have a vast capacity to incorporate all types of artistic styles in their music, such as singing, comedy, rap, dance and much more, to attract people from every nation to their music. This makes Korean culture very appealing and sought after. The K-pop industry sends a message to the whole world, that they have figured out how to perfect pop music to the highest standard - with unforgettable melodies and upbeat, entertaining culturally diverse story lines behind the music.[41]

BTS has made such a huge global impact on North American young adults, by reaching them through Twitter and American TV host, Ellen Degeneres. BTS has over 18 million followers on Twitter, and has received the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards since 2011, beating out American pop star Justin Beiber. BTS has also made a huge philanthropic impact on young adults throughout the world, by speaking at the United Nations General Assembly. (UNGA) At the UNGA, BTS encouraged young adults to speak up and find their individual voices. They also raised $2 million by partnering with UNICEF to promote the LOVE MYSELF campaign to help stop the spread of violence against youth.[42]

Entertainment management[edit]

YG Entertainment[edit]

File:YG Entertainment building.jpg
YG Entertainment building in Seoul

YG Entertainment is an entertainment agency founded by singer Hyun-suk after his group disbanded. It started acting management in 2009 and was reinforced by comprehensive entertainment in 2014 with the recruitment of a number of actors. This group has contributed to promoting K-pop the most. Among the singers are Big Bang, 2NE1 and Black Pink. YG also collaborated with other companies. Recently, a large digital live streaming platform was created, combining Big Hit Entertainment, YG, Universal Music Group, and KISSWE.[43] VenewLive is expected to secure a global top-notch artist lineup and high-quality performance content representing Big Hit, YG, and UMG, while also expanding its platform by utilizing original technologies such as multi-view live streaming.[44]

Japan is the country where Big Bang began to become famous except for Korea. Following Big Bang's recognition in Japan, 2NE1 received a love call from ‘Will I Am’, the leader of the famous American group’ Black Eyed Peas’, and worked on music together in the U.S. In July 2011, YGEX was created in partnership with AVEX, Japan's largest agency, to facilitate artists' activities in Japan. In 2012, YG USA and YG ASIA branches were established in the United States and Hong Kong to facilitate the overseas expansion of their artists.[45]

Since then, Psy has recorded more than 1 billion views worldwide while working on the song "Gangnam Style." The number of views was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for YouTube videos, and it became a hot topic as many celebrities, including Scooter Brown, who is famous for Justin Bieber's manager, as well as actors Robin Williams, singers T-Pain, Nelly Furtado, and Katy Perry, gained huge popularity abroad. Psy traveled to the United States to meet with Justin Bieber's producer, Scooter Brown, and immediately prepared to go abroad. "Gangnam Style" is the first Korean singer to reach the second place on the Billboard 100 chart, one of the Billboard's main charts. This is one of YG's global achievements.

SM Entertainment[edit]

File:Smentertainment logo.jpg
Company logo until October 2017

SM Entertainment is a large entertainment agency founded by Korean singer Sooman Lee. His background is in the entertainment management and record business, but he has recently participated in TV programs and record production. Some famous SM Entertainment singers include Kangta, BoA, TVXQ, Super Junior, Girls' Generation, SHINee, EXO, and Red Velvet. With the successive overseas expansion of its entertainers, the company surpassed 90 million dollars in annual sales in 2011 for the first time in a Korean history. SM Entertainment also hosts programs for children. In 2020, SMile Musis Feistival Online Class was recruited. It is a program that builds skills through professional training conducted online and keeps team videos.[46]

As well as Korea, SM Entertainment has been making a continuous effort to enter China talent market because Korean idol groups, including Chinese, have been very successful. TFBOYS, a Chinese Idol group debuting in 2013 at SM Entertainment, has been very successful in China so far.[47]

CEOs Sungsoo and Sooman Lee have played a big role in creating SM Entertainment’s music. CEO Lee Sung-soo joined the company in 2005. SM explained that as the head of the production headquarters in charge of music production, he led the development and globalization of the music and content production system leading the industry.[48] They have led collaboration projects with writers from multinational countries to identify trends in the industry to use at SM Entertainment. Because of their effort, Sungsoo and Sooman Lee have more successful artists and albums than similar agencies.

JYP Entertainment[edit]

File:JYP Entertainment building in the Gangdong District.jpg
JYP building in the Gangdong District

The agency was also founded in 1997 by singer-producer Park Junyoung. JYP is the name of the company made with his initials. JYP has been leading the expansion of K-pop influence and popularity by introducing its artists to the global music market through networks of overseas branches such as JYP JAPAN, JYP CHINA, and JYP TAILAND.[49] The agency is well-known for its success as girl group. Wonder Girls received good reviews for their three consecutive hits. In a short period of time, the band maintained its popularity by topping music broadcasts, while TWICE also maintained its high album sales. Boy groups include god, 2AM, 2PM, and GOT7. Singer Rain who debuted at JYP and is currently active in acting and singing entertainment.

Along with the original work of the art planning industry, such as music and video planning and production, online, mobile and overseas businesses, it is also striving to discover and foster creative and active talents suitable for the entertainment industry.[50] Originally, the agency was divided into departments such as casting, A&R, and management, just like other agencies, but after TWICE's launch, the independent team changed to a system dedicated to planning and management.

JYP celebrities often receive songs composed by Jinyoung Park himself. Jin-young Park is also excellent at composing and dancing, so he can make various genres. His choreography is also at a high level of difficulty, and his entertainers are known to learn detailed dance from the basics. JYP loves black music so much in the 80s and 90s that the singers he produced can also see this characteristic well. Looking at Wonder Girls alone, they have long liked black music, including their debut song "Irony," which has strong hip-hop beats, as well as "Nobody" and "Be my baby."

The agency is practicing trainees from various countries by making casting global. Their singers also belong to many singers from various countries. Nichkhun went to a Korean Wave concert with his friend, and the casting team found him, and Mark was cast while playing with his friends in the U.S. In the case of TWICE, Sana and Mina are Japanese and Tzuyu are Taiwanese. The three were casted directly by JYP.


What we're obsessed with today is in the '90s. The influence of Western culture and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Marilyn, and the Beatles was a major part of both K-pop fashion and music. Even American movements such as hippie culture played an important role in shaping K-pop. Over time, however, K-pop began to form its own trademark style of music and K-pop fashion. Today, K-pop is so huge that it ranks first in the U.S. and European music charts. And because of that, their K-pop fashion also now has huge fans all over the world.

As music develops, K-pop fashion also develops. The year 2018 has been a wonderful year in terms of K-pop music and K-pop idol fashion, with music videos such as Red Velvet's Bad Boy, Momoland's Spring Bom, and Sunmi's heroine released. Skirts that match two-piece sets, leisure, spring jacket, knee-deep socks, and snapback, which were seen in recent K-pop music videos, are all very immersed now.[51]

Similar to Asian fashion designers, K-pop groups have begun to implement the “bold” characteristic elements of their music into their fashion as well. This conscious decision has gained great popularity throughout Korea in response to the conservative mindset of the 1980s. These K-pop artists showcase luxurious accessories, miniskirts, and long hair, all fashion choices that rebel the conservative outlook.

As the phenomenon of globalization continues to evolve with each passing year, South Korea’s influence on global popular culture grows with it; more specifically, the influence of K-Pop.[52] K-pop fashion has emerged in response to the themes of the music itself as well the resistance to traditional Korean clothing. The globalization of Korean culture, the “Korean Wave,” has created a boom of asian popularity worldwide. K-pop fashion as a growing industry now rivals with the once dominating Japanese brand, Harajuku, in the international marketplace.

Fast forward a couple of years, K-Pop stars are dominating the fashion and beauty world. With their international success, fashion brands began to notice them. In 2012, the girl group Girls Generation were invited to the Burberry show in London, which helped further promote the genre.[53]

In September 2014, YG Entertainment attracted $80 million (approximately KRW 82.7 billion) in investment from LG Capital Asia, a private equity fund affiliated with the world's luxury brand Louis Vuitton, a special purpose company with a 100% stake. YG CEO Yang Hyun-suk said, "Over the past 18 years, YG has produced artists loved by the public, including Big Bang, 2NE1 and Psy, as well as recently debuted Winner and IKon, and they are establishing themselves as global brands. "We have also prepared new businesses such as cosmetics and fashion," he said. "We believe the partnership with L Capital will be a big starting point for YG's growth in creating new trends." Ravi Takran, CEO of El Capital Asia, also said, "YG has been a pioneer in Korean music and culture enjoying high popularity in Asia and the world, and is weighing new businesses such as fashion and beauty through young generation's understanding and exchanges." YG's chief producer Yang Hyun-suk said, "I think fashion and music go together. K-pop is now very popular all over the world, but I always felt sorry for the lack of a representative fashion brand in Korea. In that sense, I want to promote Korea through music and fashion," he said, expressing his feelings about the cooperation between the two companies.


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