K-pop (an abbreviation of Korean pop or Korean popular music) is a musical genre consisting of pop, dance, electropop, hip hop, rock, R&B and electronic music originating in South Korea. In addition to music, K-pop has grown into a popular subculture among teenagers and young adults around the world, resulting in widespread interest in the fashion and style of Korean idol groups and singers. Through the presence of Facebook fan pages, availability on iTunes, Twitter profiles, and music videos on YouTube, the ability of K-pop to reach a previously inaccessible audience via the Internet is driving a paradigm shift in the exposure and popularity of the genre South Korean popular culture is today serving as a major driver of youth culture all across the Pacific Rim, with special reference to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The genre is currently moving towards a position in the region, similar to that of American music in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
1920s-1950s: Birth of Trot and Introduction of Western Music
In the mid-1920s, Masao Gouga, a Korean-Japanese composer, mixed traditional Korean music with Gospel music that American Evangelists brought with and have taught since the 1870s. This type of music became known as Enka in Japan, and later in Korea as Trot. In 1932, a controversial plagarism was caught and condemned by an article in the Japanese magazine “New Young Adult”, Gouga’s “Sakewa Namitaka Tameikika” was blamed for copying off the work of Korean composer Su-Lin Jeon, which his version was named “The Calm Jang-Ahn”. This event triggered a wave of Korean musicians to flourish with talented composers such as Nan-Pa Hong, Gyo-Sung Kim, Yong-Hwan Kim, Joon-Young Kim, Ho-Wol Moon, Mok-In Son, Shi-Choon Park , and Jae Ho Lee becoming the very foundation of Trot music in its early stage. Trot has been transformed over the years using a variety of instruments and mixing different styles of music to become the dominant genre in the Korean music scene until the late 80’s. To this day, Trot music still remains as a popular genre for many; mostly with its very sad melody and heart-touching lyrics. As Korea was liberated from Japanese annexation in 1945, Western culture was introduced to a small crowd with the few Western style bars and clubs playing Western Music. After the Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950 and lasted for 3 years, the country was separated into two nations; North Korea and South Korea. U.S. troops remained in South Korea for protection. With the staying of U.S. troops, American culture and the cultures of the world began to flush in. During this time, Western music became more accepted to a wider crowd of young adults.
The debut of Seo Tai-ji & Boys in 1992 was a turning point for popular music in South Korea, incorporating elements of rap rock and techno. Hip hop duos such as Deux were also popular in the early 1990s. The founding of South Korea’s largest talent agency, S.M. Entertainment, in 1995, by Korean entrepreneur Lee Soo Man led to the first K-pop girl groups and boy bands. By the late 1990s, YG Entertainment, DSP Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment had burst onto the scene and were producing talent as quickly as the public could consume it. Groups such as, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, H.O.T, Sechs Kies, G.o.d, Fly to the Sky and Shinhwa had huge success in the 1990s, not only in South Korea, but also outside of the country as well. Especially, artists such as H.O.T, Kim Wan-Sun, Clon, Baby V.O.X, NRG saw a huge success in China and Taiwan in the mid-90s. Also during this period was the emergence of hip hop and R&B music in Korea, leading to the success of artists including Drunken Tiger.
2000s: Popularity in Asia & Globalization
By 2011, K-Pop has become the mainstream genre in most East and South East Asia, including Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Vietnam. Through the internet, recently, K-pop started to expand to the rest of the world as well, but it yet has not become well known enough to be mainstream in those countries.
Many of K-pop’s biggest idol groups and solo acts, including TVXQ, JYJ, BoA, Rain, Super Junior, SS01, BIGBANG, Girls’s Generation, KARA, 2PM, SHINee, BEAST, After School, Brown Eyed Girls, Se7en, U-KISS, T-ara, 4minute, Secret, MBLAQ and 2NE1 began targeting the Japanese market. The group members conduct interviews and sing in Japanese. K-pop is steadily gaining influence in foreign markets outside of Asia, however, most notably in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In 2001, Bumsoo Kim became the first Korean singer to place on the U.S. chart with his single, “Hello Goodbye Hello”. In 2009, Wonder Girls, one of Asia’s most successful music artists who sold millions of singles including the international #1 songs “Tell Me”, “So Hot” and “Noboby”, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. In a push to further globalize the genre, K-pop artists are increasingly working with talent outside of Korea. In the United States, Korean artists are touring with groups such as the Jonas Brothers and collaborating with well-known producers including Kanye West, Teddy Riley, Diplo, Rodney Jerkins, Ludacris, and will I am. In 2011, Billboard implemented the K-Pop Hot 100 Chart.
Today, apprenticeship is the universal strategy for nurturing girl groups, boy bands, and solo artists in the K-pop industry. To guarantee the high probability of success of new talent, talent agencies fully subsidize and oversee the professional lives and careers of trainees, often spending in excess of $400,000 to train and launch a new artist. Through this practice of apprenticeship, which often lasts two years or more, trainees hone their voices, learn professional choreography, sculpt and shape their bodies through exercise, and study multiple languages all the while attending school.
Main articles:List of K-pop artists and List of South Korean idol groups