BTS and EXO: The soft power roots of K-pop
K-pop has slowly taken over the globe with slick production, military-level discipline and years of training for the promoted pop stars. Boy bands like EXO, which debuted in 2011, were dizzyingly successful due to state-level backing and control.
Psy’s record ‘Gangnam Style’ became an international craze, garnering 3.5 billion Youtube views and praise from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Boy-band BTS became best-selling artists worldwide, earning USD 4.65 billion in 2019 for their country.
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It’s hard not to like K-Pop(Pop music from South Korea), with its infectious tunes, doll-like stars, high-production values and great dance moves. In the last few decades, South Korean culture has stormed across the world. This ‘Hallyu’, or the ‘Korean Culture Wave’ is not an accident, but a deliberate promotion by those in power.
The Original K-Pop Stars, The Kim Sisters, were a hit in the U.S. back in 1959.
In the mid-90s, Seo Taiji & Boys became the first ‘modern K-Pop’ stars. K-Dramas or Korean soaps also started gaining traction in Asia and beyond. The South Korean government started exporting popular media culture as an economic initiative, making it a major source of foreign revenue.
Be it music, TV, or films, South Korea’s culture is sought after across the world. South Korean movies, high on emotional content, were always a favourite of many, and recently ‘Parasite’ won Best Picture Oscar, even though it was not an American film.
Cosmetic and Skincare products from South Korea have a global demand, selling in billions. Travel and food industry has seen high growth, owing to the popularity of Korean music and TV soaps.
North Korea, where most people do not have the kind of freedom that South Korea enjoy, feel the impact of the foreign media the most. The people who have escaped the prison-like regime of North Korea get a culture shock when they realize that life isn’t what the propaganda machines have been drilling in their minds for decades.
Watching pop culture content in North Korea carries a huge risk, which can also amount to public execution in some cases. Yet by the use of technology like pen drives and mobile phones(which are only with a small fraction of the population), the residents are able to watch the foreign media secretly.
Culture is a soft weapon, with the power to influence people’s minds by emotions and targeted information. Culture shows the sides of life not seen otherwise, exposing people to love, truth and dreams.
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K-Pop, or Korean pop music, became a rage across the world in the last few decades. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
It started when in 1992, a band Seo Taeji & Boys created h...
In the late 90s, K-Pop started getting international fame when artists like Clone made it to China and other Asian countries. Then in 2002, during the soccer World Cup, BoA topped the charts in Japan.
In 2008, K-Pop made strides across the western world with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, making itself available on international platforms.
The perfect storm happened in 2012, when a Korean record by Psy, became an international Youtube phenomenon with over 1 billion views at that time(now 3.5 billion views).
K-pop wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and the Korean music producers knew how to package catchy music, doll-face models as stars, colourful backgrounds and great dance moves
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