The Korean Wave: K-pop, A Global Craze


Kaitlyn Xiong, Copy Editor

In America, there has been a wave of Korean music and culture. Korean pop, known as K-pop, has been gaining widespread attention, flooding social media sites, YouTube, and music-streaming services.

Some K-pop bands, such as Red Velvet, Twice, BlackPink, Seventeen, and especially BTS, have been gaining international popularity for the past couple of years. According to Bloomberg, on YouTube alone, “views of videos by the top 200 K-pop artists have tripled since 2012.” The views have totaled up to 24 billion views, with 80 percent of views coming from outside South Korea.  Music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music, and AccuRadio, have dedicated K-pop channels, and Spotify says streams of Korean music doubled in the first half of 2017, with listeners in the U.S. making up one-quarter of the audience.

Colin Le, a freshman at Vista del Lago High School, is a dedicated K-pop fan. “K-pop has changed pretty drastically from not really being appreciated to widespread popularity,” said Le. “Musical taste has changed, and it’s probably because K-pop has a unique sound and its own genre. Choreography also plays a part.”

America’s attention has turned from PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012 to the boy band, BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys. According to Bloomberg,  BTS has more page views than Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, or Drake on YouTube. As of 2018, their total views on Youtube add up to a total of five billion views, with an average of 9.8 million daily views.  

BTS at the 31st Golden Disk Awards

Last year, BTS, made their debut in the U.S. at the Billboard Music Awards, accepting the award for Top Social Artist, which Justin Bieber has won for six years straight.

Destiny Ataboh, a freshman at Vista, is a fan of BTS. “The international fans support so much and spread the word, and [BTS] came on the rise and made it to America,” said Ataboh.

During the 2017 American Music Awards, BTS performed their hit song “DNA” from their latest album “Love Yourself: Her.” The performance featured the members’ vocals and high-energy dance moves, leaving fans chanting, audiences raving for more, and social media sites flooding with BTS.

“K-pop bands started without many concepts. They’re exploring their options and we’re loving it. They use more international concepts, everything from their music to their dances,” said Ataboh.

BTS has also been breaking their own records. On the Billboard Top 100 songs chart, BTS broke their record of No. 67 for their song “DNA” on October 1, 2017, ranking No. 28 with their song “MIC DROP,” featuring Desiigner and remixed by Steve Aoki, on December 16, 2017. According to Billboard, The songs “DNA” and “MIC DROP” claims the honor of “highest-charting Hot 100 hit by a K-pop group.” PSY, is the only other K-pop singer to hit the Top 40 100 entry charts, ranking No. 2 for seven weeks in 2012, and adding another hit “Gentleman” in 2013 at rank No. 5.

Before their debut on live television, BTS had two worldwide concert tours. The last worldwide tour, “2017 BTS Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour”, covered 12 countries including Brazil, the United States, Australia, Japan, and Hong Kong. The tour gathered 550,000 fans from the start of the tour on February 18, 2017, to the end of the tour on December 10, 2017. Tickets that went on sale in North America sold out within minutes, so due to the high demand, two more shows were added, gathering a total of 60,000 additional fans.

Though listening to K-pop is one way for fans to connect to the bands, events such as KCON allow fans to come together to celebrate music, Korean trends, and K-pop dances. KCON is an annual convention that takes place in LA, New York, Japan, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Mexico City, and Australia. It includes musical performances and meet-and-greets with the bands. In 2017, the LA event drew over  85,000 visitors over three days in August.

KCON 2012

TWICE, a nine-member girl group, is one of the bands that performs at KCON. Well-known for their cute visuals and performances, they earned their first No.1 on the World Albums Chart and World Digital Songs Chart in 2017, according to Billboard. Their hit song “Likey” has gained widespread attention, with 3,000 downloads at the start of the release. According to Billboard, TWICE is the “first female K-pop act to lead on both Billboard‘s World Albums and World Digital Song Sales chart.” The only group to ever pull off that act was BTS, winning Billboard’s World Albums and World Digital Song Sales chart three times.

K-pop is undeniably spreading worldwide, and its fans constantly share videos throughout the web. On YouTube, ‘K-pop in Public Dance Challenges’ have taken over. Dance cover videos posted from all over the world have become the newest public challenge. Videos from France, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, and the U.S., to name a few, have millions of views. These covers inspire others to dance to K-pop in public and also allows people to share their love for the K-pop culture.

K-pop is rapidly growing in the music industry considering how big the fan bases are, the pace of new albums and songs being released, and the K-pop events that take place worldwide. Considering the speed of its growing popularity in 2017, K-pop has had a big influence on international fans.