What does K-pop stand for? Why is K-pop so popular?

As well as being highly talented, hard-working, and starring in beautiful MV, KPop idols are known for incorporating various cultures into their songs….

  • Time period: Modern times
  • Category: Conceptual Term
  • Field: Art – Sport/Popular Music
  • Summary: Kpop is Korean music that is popular overseas.

Beside appealing to Asian fans, KPop artists nowadays are more accessible to audiences in the West.

What does Kpop stand for? Why is Kpop so popular?

In general

Kpop has been widely known in foreign countries as Korean pop music. However, as most of the Korean dance songs nowadays are referred as Kpop, it is popular in the global market that Kpop can be defined as Korean dance music.

What does Kpop stand for? Why is Kpop so popular?

The transition

Kpop began to gain its popularity in 2005 when artists such as “BoA” and “DBSK” topped the Oricon Chart in Japan. After that, “Kara” and “Girls’ Generation” also entered the Japanese market.

Additionally, the company concert held by SM Entertainment with the participation of all of their artists in Paris, France in 2011 was sold out, proving that Kpop had spread widely beyond Asia and even to other regions such as Europe and the Middle East.


Kpop used to make no remarkable achievement in the US market which is a country with large consumers and various cultural contents. Based on the development of Kpop, many big Korean agencies wanted to enter the US market.

In February 2006, all seats for the concert of “Rain” from JYP – one of the top 3 companies, at Madison Square Garden were sold out. It was analyzed by the Korean media that the Internet development had allowed people from anywhere around the world to have access to their favorite kinds of music and performances. With this improvement, the young Asian people living in the US could also join the Korean Wave.

What does Kpop stand for? Why is Kpop so popular?

Since then, various artists had opened the door for Kpop to enter the US market such as singer “BoA” in 2008, “Wondergirls” in 2009 and “Girls’ Generation” in 2012. After appearing on the CBS program called “David Letterman’s Late Show” and the morning live “Live, with Kelly” broadcasted by ABC channel, Girls’ Generation received enthusiastic reactions from the audiences. Yet, the influence of Kpop on the North America’s market was still low as it could not achieve any remarkable success there. In short, no Kpop singer was able to make a firm success in the US market.

However, in the mid 2012, the song ‘Gangnam Style’ by “Psy” became a hot fever in the US, appearing on some famous programs such as NBC’s “Ellen Show”, “Today Show” and “Saturday Night Live”. In addition, “Psy” also performed the song with the famous pop star Madonna and MC Hammer, proving the huge popularity of the song. ‘Gangnam Style’ even charted No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, the first time a Korean content made such a big success in the US market.

Psy’s popularity and Kpop as a whole received great attention from the major local media sites. The Washington Post reported that ‘Gangnam Style’ had helped in improving the brand reputation of Korea. In addition, they said “While foreigners are becoming more interested in Korean singers, they will get to know more about Korea and purchase more Korean products”. After 2013, artists like EXO and BTS continued to make Kpop more popular through their music activities.

ABC News once introduced the process of how a Kpop star is born. They said “It is due to the Kpop’s addictive songs, the sharp choreography, the training progams that made Kpop successful”. The report also mentioned that Kpop was gaining popularity in the US and many people even started to learn Korean words enthusiastically to enjoy the Korean culture.

Current Situtation

According to a survey conducted by a website about Korean Wave called “soompi” (www.soompi.com) with 1,569 US members participated, 41% of the survey participants said that they learnt Korean from Kpop and K-dramas. Additionally, 26% of the surveyed people said they had tasted Korean food, and 16% of them purchased Korean products. These figures confirmed that through the popularity of Kpop, the Korean living culture also spread more widely.  

In addition, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism and the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange participated by 400 American people, it showed that Kpop had positively contributed about 33% to the improvement of the Korea’s national image.

Significant Remark and Evaluation

As of 2010, the amount of $726 billion was recorded in Canada and North American markets and also $4.53 billion referred to the music market. Korea became the country whose products gained the largest consumption in the content market of this region. This proved the competitiveness of the Kpop popularity in these big countries and the change in the oversea music market. However, referring to the current trend of contents and the reactions from local people, Kpop’s popularity was still nothing more than a success of one particular singer named “Psy

In order to secure the popularity of the whole Kpop industry, original and diverse contents should be produced. Meanwhile, to strengthen its popularity in local regions, it is necessary to analyze the local people’s preference for Kpop accurately. In addition, researches on the objective views related to Kpop from different aspects must be taken in order to come up with suitable strategies.

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