From 2PM’s Nichkhun to BLACKPINK’s Lisa, what are the reasons for Thai idols’ success in KPOP?

BLACKPINK Lisa, 2PM Nichkhun, (G)I-DLE Minnie, NCT Ten,… are the Thai singers who are very successful in the Kpop industry

“Blackpink’s Lisa Makes History As The First Solo Female K-Pop Artist To Hit Billboard’s Pop Chart”. This is the title of an article posted on Forbes, a U.S. economic magazine, on the 14th of last month.

BLACKPINK member Lisa.

Lisa’s solo album “LALISA” released last year was a big success in the United States and other countries around the world. The title song “LALISA” ranked 84th in the Billboard Hot 100 in the first week of its release and topped the iTunes Top Song Chart in 72 countries and the Global YouTube Song Top 100 for two consecutive weeks. This is the best achievement ever made by a K-pop female solo singer.

In addition, the sidetrack “MONEY” from the same album ranked 35th on the Billboard Pop Airplay Chart released on January 3rd (local time). This chart ranks songs based on the number of weekly broadcasts by major U.S. radio stations. Regarding Lisa’s success, Forbes said it was difficult for non-English-speaking singers to perform that well.

BLACKPINK’s music video for “How You Like That” released in 2020 recorded 100 million views on YouTube in the shortest time ever. BLACKPINK’s Lisa, Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé [Photo by YG Entertainment]

Lisa’s popularity is just as high in Korea. Her solo album “LALISA,” released last year, sold 730,000 copies, making Lisa rank first in the list of half-million sellers (500,000 copies) for the first time as a female solo artist and first-ever female singer. Lisa’s success story is one of the most brilliant achievements of a foreign K-pop artist working in Korea.

The characteristic of the so-called “KPOP 2.0” era, which began in earnest in the late 2000s, is the emergence of foreign idol group members. Unlike theKPOP 1.0″ era, when Koreans from other countries (mainly the United States), such as Eugene of SES and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation, joined KPOP, the “KPOP 2.0” era is the time when foreigners without so-called “Korean blood” started to debut. As a result, members of various nationalities such as Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Thai can be seen in KPOP.

A scene from BLACKPINK Lisa’s solo song “LALISA”. [Captured on YouTube]

Among them, the success of artists from Thailand is remarkable.

Nichkhun of 2PM made his first start as a Thai KPOP idol. Nichkhun, who made his debut in 2008, gained attention with his solid choreography and dancing skills. Although he was not fluent in Korean, he enjoyed high popularity by appearing in many variety shows and advertisements.

As the radius of KPOP’s activities expanded further, Thai idols such as Lisa (BLACKPINK), Minnie ((G)I-DLE), Ten (NCT), and BamBam (GOT7) made their debuts, continuing the success stories of Thai people in KPOP.

An official in the music industry said, “Compared to Japan and China’s, Thai culture is different from Korea’s and the number of Thai idols’ debuts is small, but the ‘hit’ comes out well.” This means that there is a high rate of success for Thai idols.

… Nickhun…
… Nichkhun…

In response, Kim Jin-woo, a senior researcher at Gaon Chart, said, “First of all, it has been a long time since K-pop gained popularity in Thailand, and the market is large, so the fandom is big. The growth of the Southeast Asian market is steep, and Thailand occupies an important position as a K-pop base among them,” he said. “K-pop agencies will also need to strategically secure the debuts of Thai members.” An agency official said, “Nichkhun became a top star in Korea and received high treatment in Thailand. As KPOP grows, applicants are steadily applying in Thailand, and Korean culture has gained popularity there for such a long time that their language learning and adaptability are fast,” he said.

Thailand has the 20th largest population in the world with 70,078,198 people (as of 2021), showing its solid domestic market. It is the third most populated in Southeast Asia after Indonesia (279,134,505 people, 4th) and Vietnam (98,953,535 people, 15th).

However, its strength is that it has a relatively more flexible culture than Indonesia, where women’s activities and physical contact are greatly restricted due to the strong influence of religion (Islam), or Vietnam, a socialist country.

(G)I-DLE’s Minnie.

Pop culture critic Kim Jung-hyun said, “As a tourist country with a long history, it has an open atmosphere, and the marketability of music and popular culture and its expandability to neighboring countries are great. For K-pop, it is suitable to secure a major base after Japan.” In the list of countries that searched for “lalisa” the most on Google Trend over the past year, Myanmar near Thailand ranked first, and Southeast Asian countries had higher search frequency than Korea, the United States, and Europe.

The frequency of countries searching for “lalisa” on Google Trend.

Meanwhile, in Buriram Province, Thailand, Lisa’s hometown, a complex cultural space where people can easily learn KPOP was opened in November last year. It was organized by the Korea International Cultural Exchange Promotion Agency and YG Entertainment, BLACKPINK’s agency.

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