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Kpop: the Billion Dollar Industry

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It may come as a surprise to know that the ever growing Korean music industry is estimated to be worth $5 billion, so how exactly has the kpop industry grown so big. In the 1990s, the korean music scene wasn’t how we know it now. It was during a time of censorship when the first ever kpop group formed. Seo Taiji Boys, primarily dubbed as the godfathers of Kpop.  The Seo Taiji Boys were heavily influenced by American hip-hop but they put their own twist to it, making it appeal to the younger generation of South Korea.

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Seo Taiji were a great success, all three of their albums sold over 1.6 million copies and their fourth album sold nearly 2 million copies. Despite being so successful, they faced criticism from the old. They were seen to be “deteriorating the minds of the youth” because the group was extremely vocal on societal issues from academic pressure to the government. To put it briefly Seo Taiji Boys were the first to defy societal norms in conservative South Korea.

To this day, Seo Taiji and boys still remain prominent even whilst many more groups are flooding the industry. On that account, it can’t be denied that Seo Taiji and Boys helped to pave the way for groups like SES, HOT and TVXQ. The second generation of kpop helped to spread Kpop internationally, it was in the mid to late 2000s when the ‘Hallyu wave’ began. Thus this time is known as the golden era of Kpop. Popular idol groups from the second generation, who played an extensive role in spreading Kpop worldwide include acts such as BOA, Bigbang, SNSD, 2NE1, Shinee and Wonder girls.

BoA is dubbed as the queen of kpop, for being the first kpop star who broke into Japan, notably whilst still a teenager. Consequently she became the only foreign artist to have three albums sell 1 million copies in Japan. Wonder girls were the first to taste success in America, the group’s hit single titled ‘nobody’ was the first song from a south korean group to land on the Billboard hot 100 charting at number 76. They continued to appear on American shows to perform their hit singles and even toured with the Jonas Brothers.

It was in the year 2012 when Kpop exploded in the western world. The major hit song ‘Gangnam style’, as what can only be described as an odd, comedic, satirical song about the bourgeoisie district Gangnam of Seoul had achieved overnight success and became the most viewed youtube video for 5 consistent years until it was dethroned in 2017. Still it stands strongs with over 3 Billion views.

Another historical moment in the history of kpop took place in the year of 2017, when BTS (being the first to do so) won the Billboard top social artist award beating their opponent, The Justin Bieber. BTS’ success came as a big surprise to both the West and Asia. Compared to many other well established idol groups, BTS came from a no name company and unless you were from one of the top 3 agencies (SM, YG and JYP) it was pretty difficult to make it big in the Korean music scene nevermind internationally.

The huge success achieved by BTS further prompted more acts such as Blackpink, NCT 127 and Monsta X, to walk the bridge across to the West. Another way the Kpop industry is becoming big in the West is the innumerable collabs between big artists in the west with Kpop stars. For instance just BTS alone has collabed with big names such as Nicki Minaj and Halsey. Their counterparts Blackpink have collabed with popular British singer Dua Lipa and recently with Pop icon Lady Gaga.

Whilst talking about the major success that Kpop is experiencing, it’s impossible to not notice the vital role fans play in further propelling their favourite idols to more success. Kpop fans have shown a remarkable involvement when it comes to anything involving their faves ! From covering the groups songs or dances to voting. It’s safe to say that they’re the major driving forces behind any group’s success.

Additionally as well as album sales, the kpop industry has huge revenues in merchandising. They can sell anything across to eager fans, from clothing, accessories to lightsticks which include many different designs and colours depending on what group the lightsticks represent. In all Kpop has managed to grow into a multi billion industry by utilising everything in their clutch e.g TV broadcasts and social media to help them reach more audiences and gain more and more fans.

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