One area that is growing more rapidly than any other is 21st century K-pop, or Korean pop music, which spans dance-pop, pop ballads, techno, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and so on.
K-pop is a generic term for popular music from South Korea, which was originally called gayo, meaning pop music.
Recently, the term “pop,” which originally referred to British and American pop music, has been used to refer to popular music in other countries by adding it to the first letter of the country's name, like "K-pop" of Korea. For example, popular music in Thailand, Japan, and China is called T-pop, J-pop, and C-pop, respectively.
In the same context, Korean pop music is called K-pop.
In the mid-2000s, idol groups such as TVXQ, Kara, Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, and 2NE1 gained explosive popularity in Asia including China, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, which consequently triggered global interest in K-pop.
In 2009, the girl group Wonder Girls became the first Korean singers to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 with the English variant of “Nobody.”
In 2012, as Psy’s “Gangnam Style” maintained its ranking as No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks and finally reached three billion views on YouTube, the K-pop craze began to spread around the world in earnest.
The worldwide success of “Gangnam Style” was followed by a surge of K-pop boy group, BTS.
BTS topped the Billboard 200 chart in 2019 and won the Top Social Artist award for the third consecutive year at the Billboard Music Awards.
This attracted attention from the world, resulting in the global recognition of K-pop as a genre.
After landing atop the Billboard 200 chart in February 2020, “Map of the Soul: 7” maintained high ranjkings for 23 consecutive weeks.
BTS has achieved various Guinness World Records titles, including a title for most viewers for a music concert livestream.
In August 2020, BTS made history by becoming the first South Korean act to top the Billboard Hot 100 with its first English-language song “Dynamite.”
KPOP HISTORY IN 20 MINS: FROM SEO TAIJI TO BTS
The influence of K-pop is further expanding. In 2019, Best K-pop, was launched as a new category at the MTV Video Music Awards, an award show presented by the cable channel MTV to honor the best in the music video medium.
K-pop features remarkable feats of idol groups. Among more than 150 idol groups active in South Korea, the representative ones include BTS, BLACKPINK, TWICE, EXO, Red Velvet, SF9, NCT, ITZY, MONSTA X, and more.
K-pop has special value in many areas and not just limited to music.
The popularity of K-pop lies in a splendid performance that harmonizes excellent singing skills, stage manners, and flashy dance moves.
The songs and choreography of the idol groups for perfect performance are not built in a day or two.
They are attributed to years of thorough planning in conjunction with systematic training programs and sweat during their trainee periods.
Active communication with fans also accounts for K-pop’s ever-growing popularity.
Idol group members are devoted to real-time communication with their fans from around the world by means of social media, thereby quickly building stronger intimacy and bonds with them.
Fans are contributing to the growth of the singers and, furthermore, K-pop through active fan club activities. Fans do not think of singers as just their stars.
Fans who have supported idol groups since their debut or early days watch them grow up to be adults from boys or girls, and feel like they are also growing together. This naturally leads to forming stronger bonds by sharing satisfaction and rewards.
Recently, K-pop has been pursuing diversification. While the idol groups still play a pivotal role, indie pop musicians are constantly active in making their music careers.
Collaboration between idol groups and indie musicians has been done to explore genre diversification.
Idol stars such as IU, Sunmi, (G)I-DLE, BTOB, and Seventeen are moving a step forward as singer-songwriters who create songs in person without relying on existing composers or lyricists.
In addition, major entertainment companies are developing and selling products such as idol goods through secondary content based on idol groups, thus maximizing the added value of K-pop.
The representative examples include books with graphic lyrics of BTS’s “Butterfly” and BLACKPINK’s AR avatar service. These provide K-pop fans with new joy and value.
K-POP: The Global Phenomenon Explained in 4 Minutes