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 How Does Korean Pop Culture Music Influence Globally in the Music Field


Korean pop culture (KPop) music has asserted its influence in the global music field since the late 1990's and increased heavily throughout the early 2000s. In countries where this movement took hold, it penetrated deeply into a variety of markets. KPop had a personality that was dynamic and vibrant, mixing the modern beat with the sizzle of the traditional Korean sound, language and attitudes. Fan’s described this as “edgy” and critics commented that it would never grow old. KPop had dance moves that were very progressive and very modern and the styles of the bands were in-fashion and very chic (Dan O., 2012, p. 2).
There were a number of factors that drove the Korean Pop Culture Music to assert its influence globally in the music field. This paper examines the influence KPop culture has had. It’s important to note that its influence has not been unilateral in all countries. For instance, the KPop influence in the United State’s market has been elusive, while in Asian markets the KPop influence has developed deeper roots. It also sheds light on the barriers that prevented the KPop from having more of an influence in US markets, a country with unique problems not encountered in other countries and a country that garnishes more than one third of the global revenue sales (Dan O. 2012, p. 1).
The KPop movement was not very successful in its first attempt in gaining a deep influence into mainstream music markets like Japan. This lack of success in KPop’s initial attempt to enter the Japanese music market brought to the forefront many of the problems and obstacles KPop groups would face as they attempt to re-enter other large music markets like the United States. The re-entry of KPop groups into the Japanese music scene can be ultimately seen as a blueprint that could lead to success in how to gain access to other large music markets. If successful, the blueprint being developed would form the basis needed for KPop groups to re-enter the mainstream US music market.
However, KPop group's decisions to re-enter the mainstream music markets may come at a high cost. Considerable pressure often exists on a majority of these KPop groups to let go of what they consider extremely important cultural norms such as language and identity. Research suggests that, if successful, many groups could lose much of what sets them apart from other forms of pop music. The research done in this paper suggests this is a very real possibility. Thus, the real question is, considering the price of re-entry into mainstream markets, is it really worth it?
This project will explore issues in the KPop phenomenon including identity, culture, and music dynamics. This will all be presented through the forum of an online magazine. This is the perfect forum for this endeavor because it allows for a specific focus to be explored through a variety of mediums. In today’s media world, online formats allow a wide variety of interactive tools including video, audio, and interactive personal applications that individuals can download to their mobile devices.


In a mere two decades Korea has transformed its small entertainment and music industry into a global phenomenon and produced an incredibly rich and vibrant and niche genera which the available literature has dubbed, and what we have come to know, as Korean Pop or the Korean Wave. There were a number of factors that drove this movement forward and made it possible for the Korean pop Culture Music to influence the Global music field. It’s believed by many that this influence followed the 1997 International Monetary Fund (IMF) crisis. The IMF crisis caused the Koreans a lot of embarrassment and national humiliation on the world stage. And in response to this humiliation and embarrassment, the Korean Government formed a plan to regain its former economic power. The plan included and acknowledged a very real need for the exploitation of new markets for its products and the need to diversify the products the country was exporting. The Koreans had an attitude change and according to Cho Hea-Joang ‘The Koreans realized that their culture can be as profitable as the semi-conductor or the car.’ (Hea-Joang, 2005, p. 151). Korea’s pop culture industry was one of the keys to obtaining this end. KPop was aggressively promoted throughout both East and South East Asia (Dixon, 2011, p. 5).
Seo Taiji and the Boys marked a turning point in the country’s music and entertainment industry and alternative framework, but the KPop didn’t achieve any type major success and explosion in popularity until the late 1990‘s and early 2000‘s. By the end of 1997 SES had sold over 700,000 copies of their third album “Love” with H.O.T. right on their heels. KPop was an inspired mixture of American Rap, rock and pop blended into the Korean culture and language. For this reason the KPop or Korean Wave enjoyed a large and varied audience base. It had and enjoyed a wide mass appeal that was embraced with open arms. These groups would help solidify the future of the boy bands and female groups and had a major influence on an industry that was beginning to be recognized globally (Chung-un, 2012, p.1). KPop had developed a personality that was dynamic. It was a lot more than the music - it was a lifestyle that fans worldwide envied and embraced with open arms. KPop had penetrated deeply into the Asian music markets. But groups like SNSD and 2NE1, while having success globally including large fan bases in France and Brazil still struggled with cracking the mainstream US music market.
The US corner’s over one third of the total global music revenue and many of the Korean groups have been virtually shutout and getting any access to these revenues. The American Music Industry, statistically, is the largest market for music in the world. It gobbles up more than one third of the entire global revenue sales. This includes consumer consumption of the tangible media and the intangible media, with Japan attracting one fifth of the entire global revenue sales and the United Kingdom rounding out the top three with 10 percent of the total global revenue sales. The United States far and away the largest music market on the global music scene and no other country comes close.

Challenges in Market Penetration

There are unique reasons why the Korean Pop Culture struggled with penetrating the US music scene. One of the reasons why Korean pop groups only had an elusive influence is that globalization and America’s ethnic composition play into context behind the challenges faced by KPop groups within the US music market. Another reason is that there is a stigma when it comes to Asian groups and entertainers within the music industry, something that is now slowly changing as more Asians enter the entertainment industry, the US seems to be fixated on stereotypes and racial identity, which is also slowly changing, to accept Korean pop-culture (i.e. masculinity vs. feminism and the responses to accents). Also, KPop artists tend to be very visual as their image is a very important part of their appeal, but for the US this does not hold true. In the US, audiences would go to a concert for the music and the stage show almost as often as to a concert where you have a group that had visual appeal.
Has the KPop rally succeeded in its attempt to penetrate the largest music market in the world? That would depend on how you would define it. In order to penetrate this market, K-pop would have to give up so much of itself; so much of who they are. But if K-pop remained an underground phenomenon in the United States it could achieve a huge measure of success without compromising its identification (Anderson, 2011, p. 2). But, this success would still be limited. Success for KPop in the United States mainstream music market is a huge deal and would be considered the Holy Grail of international success if this movement wants to have legitimate widespread and lasting popularity on the world’s music stage. But this would be achieved at a considerable cost.

KPop Lessons from the Japanese Market

In many ways KPop’s fate in the Japanese music market does bring to the forefront many of the issues facing KPop in penetrating larger markets. Japan has the second largest music market in the world. It accounts for one fifth of total worldwide sales. Many KPop artists have done this, but have been challenged to maintain their identity. Most groups have had to re-record their hits in Japanese, and make Japanese versions of music videos in an attempt to better suit the tastes of a Japanese audience. Language was one of the main fundamental cornerstones of the KPop movement when it originally started. This importance to promoting their language to the world in the music and entertainment field, in part, gave the movement an important part of their appeal and uniqueness. The KPop movement started as a way to promote culture, language and national identity to the world by using the world’s music and entertainment stage as the primary media of choice.
For instance, “BEAST” is one these KPop groups that has decided to re-enter and take another crack at the mainstream music market in Japan. In doing so it has re-recorded many of its hits and made music videos in Japanese. Their hit entitled, “Shock”, stands out in that it was actually very bland. It didn’t stand out, it didn’t grab your attention and pull you into the music video. The colours were dreary and drab at best, with a lot of black and limited shades of grey. The music video lacked the trademark dance steps and movements that one has come to expect from the KPop movement. And whatever dance steps that were present in the video were rather simplistic and looked mechanical, as though they had been staged. This group seemed to have gone one step further and had actually transformed their sound to match Japanese style. This was sound was much different than their earlier Korean recordings.
The video lacked the personality one expected to see from a KPop group, the traditional Korean sound, language and attitude that made the KPop movement dynamic and very vibrant. The style of the band was not progressive nor was it in. This band had taken on the appearance of every other band and it didn’t stand out in any way. This music video was compared to a music video of a band that made it big in Japan and had a long and deep influence on the mainstream music market in Japan. The comparison music video was Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”
In contrast to the “Shock” movie put out by BEAST, this music video just took you and literally grabbed your attention, with its vibrant colours of blues, pinks, greens and reds, and brought you right into the music video. The colours were bold and they really stood out. It grabbed your attention and held it there through the entire music video. The dance steps and moves performed by the band in this video looked completely natural and just seemed to have a flow to them. The whole music video just seemed to flow and go together from beginning to end. There was nothing that seemed out of place in any part of this music video. The esthetics of this movie was good and pleasing and made this music video a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.
This may be a prelude and a blueprint for what may be ahead when KPop groups attempt another entry into the mainstream music market of the United States. What has been shown in KPop’s re-entry into the Japanese music market is the tremendous price these groups will have to pay for their success. For these groups to succeed they had to lose their language, they had to give up their vibrant and progressive dance steps and they had to change their sound and their appearance and attitudes. What is left from the original movement is only a hollow shell of its former self. The only thing that remains from that era is their culture.
The objective of this project is to document and increase the level of influence of KPop in countries where the KPop movement has already had some level of influence, and to increase its influence into new markets. The online magazine that is created will examine what factors are working behind the scenes that have fueled this movement. This will help to increase an understanding of the dynamics at work here. The audience for this project will be music enthusiasts and anyone who is interested in the subject of Kpop music and culture in general. Other targeted audiences would also include students who are studying American or any type of history.
There are a number of methods that will be used to execute this plan. Several high functioning online magazines will be examined to develop a “best practices” approach to creation development of the site. There will be documentation of both the online presence of these sites as well as contacting personnel to gain insight into the inner workings of the online zines. Adobe software, especially photoshop and illustrator, will be the two main software packages used to create this online magazine’s article spread .
There was also a need to present, in a straight-forward and professional way, the factors and forces that are at work driving KPop forward as aggressively as we are seeing in many countries. There is also a need to better understand why it has not done that well in some of the countries where the music market has a large part of the global music market revenue, countries such as Japan and the United States. The online magazine will explore issues of culture, music, and identity. In this way, the Ezine will address the factors that drove the Korean Wave, or KPop, to its ultimate pinnacle of success and influence. I used a revised two-dimensional genre model incorporating media elements into the concept of genre. The final vision of this project is that it would be a successful interactive online presence for KPop enthusiast as well as artists and reviewers.
The concepts that inspired me in this paper were use of online publications as a new form of media technology. There are so many possibilities with online media; including social networking, video, and now interactive technologies that individuals can download to their phones, it’s amazing. National Identity, population demographics, the growth and spread of the Korean music and entertainment industry are also extremely interesting to me. Other concepts that also intrigue me are national and cultural pride and cultural and national influence on foreign societies and cultures. This project will ultimately open up new avenues for conversation about the influences of foreign music on other cultures. It will stimulate new ideas and questions by presenting new avenues for asking more questions. And it will add new, more and updated information to what is already there.


The process for this project is a rather straightforward one. I will be using the available software and skills I have acquired to develop this online magazine. I will be recruiting other interested parties to help as writers for this online magazine. I will also use the Internet to look at sites that are credible and trustworthy including Korean magazine sites, and use sites like these to look at current articles and literature that is available.
The time line involved in this paper is as follows:
• Preproduction research (including the reading over of the two PDI files) 2 weeks
• Preproduction Planning of Magazine Site – 5 days
• Website Basic Development – 6 days
• Graphic Design for Site – 3 days
• Writer Recruitment – 5 days
• Proof reading, spell and grammar check – 2 days
• Developing Generation Strategies – 2 weeks

Postproduction work will include a continual maintenance of the online magazine. This will include recruiting and managing writers, developing ongoing ways to bring traffic into the site, and updating content on a regular basis.


My qualifications for the development of this project are extensive. I have been doing graphic design work for over 5 years using a variety of online and software applications. I have created graphical designs for a number of small news publications and worked extensively on honing my skills through a number of different formats over the years. I’ve taken a wide variety of classes and additional opportunities to develop these skills. Beyond these graphic design skills I have participated in helping to develop a number of online websites and publications. These have ranged from small blogs to more in-depth sites that include sophisticated content and traffic development techniques. I’ve learned the skill set that is required to pull off a successful website launch and maintenance. Artistically I’ve utilized these skills on a number of smaller projects including blogs and single use websites.
Over the last 10 years I have also developed an intimate knowledge of the KPop music scene. Besides being familiar with the backstories of a number of the most KPop groups, I have a firm understanding of the different musical paths they have taken as their careers developed. I’m in a strong position to develop interactive resources that explores the identity, culture, and influence of this genre of music using an online format. In addition I’ve developed writing skills that let me interact with an audience successfully. All of these skills combined make me the perfect person to develop a project like this.


This project will benefit the artist in a variety of ways. For starters it will allow me to utilize my graphic design skills as well as my appreciation of KPop music to further explore two things I am passionate about. It will also benefit me by enhancing and increasing my skill base. My past work as a graphic design artist has helped me to develop the needed skills to get to this point. Mainly that has involved the lengthy amount of time it takes to master software such as Adobe Illustrator. I would now like to marry those skills with my interest and artistic understanding of KPop music by using an online medium to express this. In addition to further developing my graphic design skills, I’ll be improving my writing and critical thinking regarding art, culture, identity and music. This will come from directing both others and myself in creating an interactive online presence about KPop music.
While there is information out there about the development and influence of KPop worldwide, it has largely been an underreported phenomenon. Furthermore, little has been written about the issues of culture and identity loss for artists. Much has been written about the musical progression of KPop, but far less has been discussed about the correlation between musical progression and cultural identity. It’s important to further explore these issues as the world becomes more and more integrated. That is why this Ezine will provide such a big benefit to audiences out there. Furthermore, the influence of Korean Pop Culture Music on the global music field has been somewhat inconsistent. While it has been strong in some areas, it remains elusive in others. As KPop progresses it will be important to explore those artistic barriers to integration.
For starters the main component for dissemination will be to create a graphically pleasing and informative online magazine. The a variety of tactics will be used to try to draw visitors to the website. This will include utilizing online marketing strategies and “gorilla tactics”. Videos will be used as well as social networking applications. The online magazine will contact and cross coordinate with other KPop and music based websites. This will help to create a larger social presence for the magazine. We will also attempt to interview KPop artists to further draw in readers. This will not only increase traffic, but add to the legitimacy of the website. Overall this Ezine will become a central online location for exploring issues of identity and music.

The budget for this project includes the startup costs for creating a website and creating the content that will go on the site. This will include everything from developing a writing network, to producing videos for the site. A proposed budget is below:
Project Budget

Title Cost

Preproduction research 500
Planning 2000
Website Development 1000
Video Content Development 3000
Writer Salaries 10,000 per year
IT Services 500 month

$ 17,000.00 aprx

A website researcher will be hired to help develop this project. Since this will be a contractor the costs should be minimal at around $500 for two weeks worth of solid research on the industry. A site development and traffic team will likely be hired to create this application. While I plan to administer the site myself, there will need to be initial costs in developing the back end systems that will help to promote and control traffic to the site. This planning and website development cost will likely be around $3000. The site will also feature a variety of online videos. While a majority of these can be taken from free video resources like YouTube and Realz, some quality video production will also take place. This will likely be completed by outside contractors at a total cost of around $3000.
The most expensive portion of this endeavor is creating high quality and consistent content. This will require more writing than a single person is capable of. In order to do this a variety of contract writers will be hired and paid on a per piece basis. The monthly budget for these pieces is $830 bringing the yearly total to $10,000. Overall this budget is reasonable but also strong enough to make this a respected and well-trafficked E-zine.


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