Korean Pop gaining popularity in America

Morgan Clark

Music is a popular pastime for people all over the world. On Augie’s own campus, it’s quite common to see students walking around with headphones in—myself included. What I typically listen to, however, is much different than most: it’s K-Pop. Many Americans listen to popular music on the radio or music apps usually in the English language. Korean Pop music, for example, has made its way into the music circle outside of South Korea and is becoming increasingly popular. K-Pop songs receive airplay on American radio, and K-Pop groups perform at live events such as award shows and even at the most recent Olympic Winter Games.
Korean culture is not new to America. Korean cosmetics, Netflix K-dramas, and Korean cuisine have been popular for some time. K-Pop, however, only became popular relatively recently and has grown in popularity in America for the past decade or so. While K-Pop has become popular, many still do not know exactly what K-Pop is. The answer is in the name: it’s pop music that is sung in Korean. The K-Pop industry brings in billions of dollars of revenue each year and has become the face of Korean culture.
Why has K-Pop gained so much popularity? Some may be put off by the idea of anything to do with Korea, considering its political tensions, but that’s just one reason why you should be more interested in Korean culture. We cannot understand how other cultures operate if we don’t attempt to learn about them. K-Pop is an easy inlet to doing so. The trend picked up momentum six years ago with Psy’s now trademark song “Gangnam Style,” which quickly became popular and started a new dance imitation trend. Some die-hard K-Pop fans would argue that Psy is not considered your typical K-Pop musician, and shouldn’t be branded as one of the main faces of K-Pop in America. This arguably checks out—the industry mainly consists of larger boy and girl groups rather than solo singers. Psy’s style of music is practically the polar opposite of most K-Pop idols. Last year, BTS, a Korean boy group, became popular in America and shows no signs of slowing down in the music charts. They earned the number one spot in the Billboard charts and even won a Billboard Music Award last year. They have appeared on many shows, including “Ellen,” and showcased their incredible dance skills and unique personalities. They’ve also collaborated with Steve Aoki, Fall Out Boy, and—most recently—Nicki Minaj.
As a K-Pop fan myself, I know that there is much more to K-Pop than just the music, flashy outfits, and dance moves that most people could never do. Once you delve deeper into the culture surrounding the industry, you’ll find that Korean Pop isn’t something that should just be glanced over. There’s lots to learn from the industry itself, giving us a way to relate to similar cultures as well as improve our own music industry. The K-Pop industry is very different from the American music industry. For example, there’s a lot of long-term training before even getting placed into a group, and even then, there are even more hardships such as being pushed into getting unwanted plastic surgeries or staying on restrictive diets to keep a certain physique. Several musicians are forced to white-washing their skin-tones in order to appear more “attractive,” which is a common problem in America as well. K-Pop could be used as an example for how we treat our music artists today, and can be used as an easy way to help us understand other cultures through a medium to which almost everyone can relate: music.