BLOG: The Korean ‘Hallyu’ wave and its international success

Val opens our eyes to the world of Hallyu if you’re not sure that is then this is sure to be a good read for you…

I am almost certain that nowadays the vast majority of young people have at least once in their lives come across the terms Korean pop or ‘K-pop’, ‘Korean dramas’, or the not-so-recently boomed-up artist PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’. Whether people love it or hate it (or know nothing about it), Korean cultural export has been booming for over a decade now and it is definitely here to stay. Here I will tell you a little more about its background and analyse the current international success.

The so-called “Korean wave” refers to the phenomenon of Korean entertainment and popular culture rolling over the world with pop music, TV dramas, and movies. Another term for this is “Hallyu” (?? in Korean), first used towards the end of the 20th century by the Chinese press when South Korean pop-culture rose after decades of internal censorship and began to be broadcast widely in China, Japan and South-East Asia. It steadily gained influence across Asia and, growing in popularity in these regions, it gradually spread into the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, North America and even Africa in the past two decades.

Although the ‘Korean wave’ initially boomed in Chinese speaking countries with K-pop music leading the way, it recorded the highest success in Japan with Korean dramas which appealed to a massive number of Japanese female viewers. Until today, Japan remains the most important country in the world in terms of the ‘Hallyu’ consumption. It is very common for Korean bands who are reaching out to the Japanese audience to often re-record their albums into Japanese, publish singles and new videos in Japanese and do promotions in the country tailored to the Japanese industry standards for popular acts. What’s impressive is that exports of Korean video games, television dramas and popular music (K-pop) have worldwide doubled since 1999.

K-pop, or Korean pop music, is the one area that is growing more rapidly than any other in the 21st century, which spans dance-pop, pop ballads, techno, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and so on. The rise of K-Pop worldwide started with Psy’s Gangnam Style in late 2012. The song was the first K-Pop title to reach No. 1 on the British Official Singles Chart, took 2nd place on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the US, and also topped the charts in more than 30 countries. This one viral song opened the door for more K-pop acts, who have already earned massive followings across Asia, to connect to Western audiences.

Most recently, the Korean seven-member rapper-vocal group ‘BTS’ recorded a milestone in the Hallyu wave, when they won the Billboard Music Awards for Top Social Artist this May. Being the first Korean band to be awarded at an American ceremony, they have overtaken pop superstars like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes in the category, thanks to their devoted global following of fans (see image) Despite not singing in English, ‘BTS’ have already toured the US and sold out venues in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

Furthermore, it is said that ‘BTS’ are the band within the industry that is changing what K-pop stands for, not only by producing and creating their own music but more importantly, by addressing youth-related and social issues publicly, which is not seen very often in the often disclosed and reserved society of South Korea. This, along with their many qualities has earned them the spot of being one of the best worldwide recognised K-pop acts. [For more information on how they revolutionize the industry, refer to the article:]

‘BTS’ rank amongst many others acts and artists, however, who have debuted before them and have gained considerable international attention. To name a few: ‘EXO’, whose popularity in their homeland surpasses any other artists; ‘Big Bang’, titled ‘Kings of K-pop’, whose fashion-icon leader ‘G-Dragon’ is currently on a solo world tour (coming to the UK too); as well as ‘Girls’ Generation’; ‘Super Junior’; ‘PSY’ and many many more. The world of K-pop is vast, colorful and heavily visually-oriented, and although often too extravagant for the ‘Western audience’, it is also an exciting culture to become acquainted with to see what sells as pop on the other side of the world. To sign off, I’ll leave you guys with some recommendations on popular Hallyu exports!

Top 5 personal recommendations to get acquainted with (modern day) K-pop:
BTS – Blood Sweat & Tears
EXID – Up & Down
SEVENTEEN – Don’t Wanna Cry

For fans of dramas and international tv-shows, 5 K-dramas worth watching:
Cheese In the Trap
She Was Pretty
Fight My Way
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo

I hope this post was informative, and now that we have put down the basics and context of the Korean Wave, in the future I’d like to look closer at how the Hallyu affects the modern youth! Hope everyone has a lovely rest of the holidays, xx V (???)?