“Hallyu” is a Korean term that roughly translates into “Korean Wave” that surfaced around the turn of the 21st century to describe the surge in popularity in Korean pop culture abroad. With the continued rise of K-Pop in particular, it seems like the trend is not going anywhere anytime soon so much so that the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) has an entire webpage dedicated to this phenomena, and there’s even something called Hallyu tourism.
As a Korean American, I am very much aware of this cultural phenomena, as it’s becoming easier and easier to find and watch Korean movies and dramas online through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. This is a far cry from the days when I was growing up, where the only place my parents could get the latest and most up-to-date drama episodes was at a local Korean video store that was usually housed within a Korean market (usually the only one in town). If you think about it, it’s quite amazing how things have changed in less than two decades.
When it comes to K-Pop, unfortunately, I’m not as well versed in it (I do know some of the groups from the early days of K-Pop craze) other than the fact that there is an army of girl bands and boy bands, referred as “idols,” being produced mostly by three major music agencies, SM, YG and JYP respectively. This lack of interest on my part has more to do with the fact that I, personally, am not very keen on manufactured pop groups that gain popularity through precise choreography and cookie-cutter good looks. On top of that, I spent most of my formidable years in the Midwest, so I wasn’t exposed to all the conveniences of living in a more diverse environment such as LA, Chicago and NYC.
K-Pop is an interesting genre, as its definition of pop is slightly different from what we normally consider as pop music here. It has taken on its own flavor so to speak by combining classic pop elements and incorporating other genres such as hip hop, rap, electronic and so on. It’s a hybrid of all the hip songs you would find here with a touch of Koreanness.
Despite my initial lukewarm reception of K-Pop, I became equally fascinated and impressed by the sheer fandom of some of the latest popular idol groups. I remember, a couple of years back, when I saw a bevy of young teenage girls queuing up at the Warner Theater entrance. I was curious as it was unusual to see so many young girls in the D.C. downtown area. It turns out, an all-male Korean idol group named Block B was in town.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that BTS short for Bangtan Boys — Bangtan meaning bulletproof — was part of the line up for “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2018.” Clearly, the exporting of K-Pop seems to be gaining more mainstream visibility. I ended up looking them up online just to see who they were and listened to some of their songs not expecting much. Although the music itself is not my cup of tea, I could understand its appeal. I give a lot of credit to the talented choreographers and songwriters for creating infectious songs with stylish dance moves and catchy hooks that are easy to remember.
So does this mean, I’ll become hooked on K-Pop from now on? To be honest, I’m not so sure. Unless you’re an avid fan, it’s hard to keep up with the speed in which new idol groups are being churned out every year, but I’ll definitely try to be more open-minded in exploring the genre, and how it will evolve in the near future. With that, enjoy Steve Aoki remix of “MIC Drop.” I’ll be interested in your thoughts!