10 things you need to know about the Korean pop culture aka Kpop

It has been almost two decades since the first Kpop idols made their names out of South Korea. The Hallyu Wave now has become more than a trend, it’s become a thing, and Kpop has become a gender on music stations.

1. Psy’s Gangnam style reached 2 billion view which is roughly twice Justin Bieber’s Baby

Getting a 11-digit viewcount on YouTube is not common even to Justin Bieber (wahhh imagine the ads money they earn lol), but Psy crossed it like a badass. Psy is a twisted, talent and educated artist that is well respected in SK, but I think SK people are tired of other people asking them about Psy as an ice breaker (at least we Vietnamese get asked about ‘pho’). K-pop may hardly be recognized elsewhere in the world outside East Asia, but I’m sure these huge agencies *coughYGcough* are investing millions to break away from the South Korean border. Try check out ‘CL’ on YouTube, do you like her?, because YG has already start media playing.
Notable K-pop singer Psy (싸이) reached 2 billion view on YouTube with Gangnam Style (강남스타일) MV

2. The big three of Kpop can do whatever they want because they do goddamn good business

Just like how Apple can sell their products, a beautiful face needs a good agency to start with. The YG I mentioned above is Yang Hyun Suk’s entertainment agency that houses Big Bang, 2NE1, ‘CL’ (well she’s technically 2NE1), Psy, and many hip-hop, sharp, fierce and swag-like artists. SM houses H.O.T, ShinHwa, BoA, DBSK, Super Junior, SHINee, EXO, Girls’ Generation, f(x), Red Velvet woww imagine the money they’ve made from these super duper popular groups. Contrary to YG, this company produces more singers and faces.

The big three entertainment agencies SM, JYP and YG led by Lee SooMan, Park JinYoung and Yang HyunSuk respectively

SM has turned Girls’ Generation into the most successful girl group out of a much scandalous and hated group in their early days. After all these years I still don’t get the hype around Girls’ Generation but I guess, hmmm, first mover’s advantage? Trendsetter? Versatility? The success of SM until is, I think, much owed to their ability to create trends that slowly became the norm of Kpop. They’re the first agency to put forward variety-dols that are extraordinarily funny on variety shows (Super Junior EunHyuk, LeeTeuk, HeeChul and hmm maybe Sunny?). They’re also the first to promote a 13-member idol group that seemed like a crazy idea ten years ago (now we have what, Seventeen which does not have 17 members, TWICE which does not 2 members, mmmm maybe UP10TION who is finally a group properly named). It was also SM that led the foreigner scouting trend, followed by JYP and now even YG has mixed/foreigner idols, or one, I’m not so much of a YG follower. The cross-dressing and girl group mimic dance trends also started from Super Junior HeeChul and look now all boy groups do that. I can’t name all the trends that SM initiated, because there’re damn a lot of them.
BTOB Minhyuk and NU'EST Ren team up to become Boys' Day, dancing Girls' Day's Something. T.O.P of Big Bang and Lee SeungHoon of WINNER cross dresses in funny drama parodies. Lastly is Super Junior's Kim HeeChul, the creator of cross dressing trend.

Sidetalk: If you are looking for videos of boy groups dancing girl group songs, I think they are all cute and hilarious:
Still cut of CN Blue Jung YongHwa dancing to EXID's Up and Down. More videos of Kpop boy groups dancing to girl group songs on YouTube

Sidetalk #2: Ever asked why Girls’ Generation pull off every concept? Because when they need sexy, they put Yuri in the middle; when they need cutie, they put Sunny in the middle; when they just need singing, they put TaeYeon in the middle, and when they need, well, big boobs, Sunny’s in the spotlight again. 

Have you ever thought T-Ara would’ve made it through the scandal had they were under SM? SM is rich to start with, which helps them to buy off negative media and create new good ones. When there’s no negative media, it’s alright because they can create one. Like making TaeYeon and BaekHyun date each other? Ugly pre-debut photos of Girls’ Generation discovered by ‘netizens’? Beautiful pre-debut photos of Victoria ‘surfaced’ on the Internet? Cheers to ‘netizens’ who take all the credit and the blame for everything agencies’ marketers do.

3. Kpop idols perform on music shows 6 times a week to promote new releases and produce new music all-year-round before the public forgets their names

hmmmm…. maybe except these guys
Winner, who debuted under YG Entertainment in 2014, only made a debut stage once and have never made a comeback ever since.
The Show, Show Champion, M! Countdown, Music Bank, Music Core and Inkigayo, importance roughly ranked from least to most. Getting #1 on a major music show is a dream for all rookies.. Believe it or not, Inkigayo ranking is an informal fame indicator of an artist in South Korea. I’m not sure about the points calculation as of now and I’m lazy to do a research, but as far as I remember a few years ago Inkigayo was the only show that gave a major weight to digital sales. Digital sales = public, album sales = fandom. Business aside, no matter how much money they are earning from the international markets, I’m sure some parts of them need recognition at home.

4. Big Bang has been in the market for 10 years straight without ever shrinking in popularity

I’ve talked to a few SK friends of mine and they all admit to Big Bang’s unparallel popularity whether being fan (of Kpop) or not. Rumors have it that many SM and JYP artists are fans of Big Bang, but they are not allowed to admit to it on broadcast, because of course.
Big Bang has been in the market for 10 years straight without ever shrinking in popularity. Picture is derp photos of Big Bang members

5. Idol groups that debuted today are the fifth generation of Kpop idols

The first generation H.O.T, Shinhwa, FIN K.L, G.O.D. Second one Dong Bang Sin Ki (DBSK), Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, SHINee, FT Island (2003 – 2008). Third one EXO, F(x), Beast, 4Minute, AOA (2009 – 2012), Fourth one BTS, GOT7, Gfriend, TWICE, Red Velvet (2013 – 2015 OMG this group is climbing up their fame ladder so fast).

6. G-friend shot to stardom by falling on slippery stage 8 times during a performance

G-friend is a 6-member girl group that debuted in early 2015. They gained attention country-wide, not to mention worldwide, from a fancam back in September last year, where members Yuju and SinB fell flat on their face almost literally 8 times in just over 4 minutes.

I’ve watched Yuju a few times on stage and variety shows and the bitter truth is, you know, capable girls like her always end up being the less popular members. JYP said on the Sixteen Show when crossing that singing girl’s name off the TWICE lineup: “An idol and a singer are a little different. Singers, they have the freedom to unfold their music in a serious subtle way; but idols, they need to quickly grab the audience’ attention” (English by subbing site KShowOnline). He made it sound just like inspirational quotes on the Internet, but what we all understood is that she needs to work a little more on ‘the look’.
Kpop group G-Friend (여자친구) performs on a slippery stage, where members fell off 8 times during the performance. Yuju fell 7 times, while SinB fell once.

7. The debut age is getting smaller and smaller

When Lee Taemin debuted with SHINee in 2008, or Hyuna with Wonder Girls in 2007, I thought of myself when I was 15 picking up bread crumbs on the table. Solo artists aside. Now SM is debuting boys that are barely 14. I guess that’s how they expand their audience, because 10 year-old girls grow up so fast that’s why. Looking at these boys now I feel like a pervert. Are they too young or am I getting too old already?
The debut age is getting smaller and smaller. From left to right: TaeMin of SHINee, JiSung of NCT, and Zelo of B.A.P, all making debut at a very young age.

8. Kpop celebrities don’t talk about their dates on the news

… Unless it gets leaked. You would never know how many boyfriends Taylor Swift had if she belonged in the K-pop industry, because she’d be told not to. There’s that newsite called Dispatch, who hires all the having-nothing-to-do-on-Saturday-night paparazzis in South Korea to sneak on celebrities and commercialize their dating photos. They say dating scandals are used by the government to distract public attention when it’s needed and there’s no truer truth than that. If you’re curious about who is dating whom, read K-pop rumours on the Internet (you can find some on allkpop.com) but make sure you keep your head cool 🙂
Celebrities don't talk about their date life on the news until their scandals are leaked on Dispatch. They fear their popularity will not remain the same to fans.

9. The slave contracts thing has been over-dramatized

The first scandal broke out in 2009, when a Chinese Super Junior member HanKyung (Han Geng) filed a lawsuit against his agency SM, accusing them of slave contracts.  Recruiting Chinese members gets them in touch with the huge fruitful Chinese market, but when it backlashed, I don’t know if these profits pay off.
Super Junior, DBSK and EXO all have members leaving the group for 'slave contracts' reasons. Most of them are Chinese members, or really popular members both in South Korea and overseas.
However, I guess the answer is yes. EXO became huge in China with 4 Chinese members, out of which 3 left. Still Chinese members in the newest group NCT but I guess they’ve learnt the lesson. If fans are spreading vicious blames on SM for what they are believed to have ‘done’ to their idols, then they are just doing it in vain, because SM will not go bankrupt because five or six idols left them and fans of these five or six discontinue to buy merchandise. Second, all the dramas these fans were talking about, well, idols are being treated like shit, idols are receiving just a tiny share of the profits, idols this and agency that, I guess these teenage fans never got out there to earn their living. Most idols don’t earn much after they reach their 30s, so what’s wrong with pushing themselves to the limits while they can? They were undergoing hardships, but the compensation is so worth it. If I can become a slave who drives a Lamborghini like Xia JunSu, I would gladly become one.  All in all, they are just bunches of ungrateful idols who get to be on TV elsewhere than South Korea where SM can’t interfere, and who are rich enough to pay the lawyers that tell them what to do.

*Correction: I don’t now about B.A.P case, but kinda lazy to remove YongGuk’s photo so… Peace B.A.P fans.

10. Music-removed (MR) videos were once used to measure talent and we need to stop this bullshit

Music-removed videos, as the name says, are videos with background music removed, leaving only the singers’ voice and some audience cheers haha. Some idol groups were accused of lipsyncing, hence fans post MR videos to prove otherwise. This clearly doesn’t make any difference from lipsyncing because technically yes they were singing live on stage but on a really really loud backtrack. BangTan Boys once earned huge credit for having stable voices and hitting the right notes despite harsh choreography (I have nothing against the boys I’m their fan and adore their trademark choreo), but I don’t see how it is considered ‘talent’. One, BangTan also sings on a really really loud backtrack. And two, I’ve never tried singing while jumping up and down, lol, but I’m sure some of the most beautiful voices in the world won’t pass that test. Man, the fact that they hit the right notes while dancing on stage does not mean they are some ‘talented af’ idols.

Screenshot from comment section below EXO Monster MR video. OP mention Xiumin and Sehun

That caption has all I need to prove my point. ‘Look Sehun is not lipsyncing I’m so proud!! :o’ I don’t know if that’s sarcasm intended but I feel sorry for that SeHun already.


More to Kpop, I really find it an interesting and aggressively competitive industry that is. My favorite news site is allkpop.com, and I also hang out on onehallyu.com quite often. New international fans if you catch this blog, these two are great places to dig in on your Kpop tastes.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. These was so helpful as I just joined the kpop community.I am an Army

    Like

    1. It’s very nice to know an Army 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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