K-pop in Korea: How the Pop Music Industry is Changing a Post-Developmental Society

Ingyu Oh, Korea University
Hyo-Jung Lee, Yonsei University
Girls' Generation Japan Tour, 2011. Used with permission from SM Entertainment.
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Abstract: 

Korean popular songs, or kayo, are evolving from a musical genre created and performed only by Koreans into K-pop, a global musical genre produced and enjoyed by Koreans and those of other nationalities. This new development has revolutionized the perception of the popular music industry in Korea’s post-developmental society, as Korean children dream of becoming K-pop idols rather than entering traditionally esteemed careers in politics, medicine, or academia. The Korean government is also actively promoting Hallyu and K-pop, as though they constitute new export industries that could feed the entire nation in the twenty-first century. While the K-pop revolution has a lot to do with YouTube and other digital means of distributing music on a global scale, Korean television stations are now eager to tap into the booming market by showcasing live K-pop auditions in order to circumvent declining television loyalty among K-pop fans, who prefer watching music videos on YouTube. K-pop in Korea therefore illustrates three important aspects of social change: changes in social perceptions of the popular music industry, massive government support, and television stations actively recruiting new K-pop stars. All three aspects of social change reinforce one another and fuel the aspirations of young Koreans to become the next K-pop idols.

Keywords: South Korea, pop culture, K-pop, social change, mass media

Links to YouTube videos referenced in this article: