CNNGo, which is CNN’s lifestyle website covering trends throughout Asia, recently published an article titled “K-Pop taking over the world? Don’t make me laugh“. The author, Esther Oh, proceeded to explain why the notion of Korean pop expanding overseas is completely overblown.
Despite the compelling (if controversial) title, Oh’s explanations are disappointingly brief — and selective. Her claim that the notion of K-Pop going international is a joke is based on two artists in a single market: BoA and Se7en, two artists who attempted to cross over to the US and failed. “Instead of covering a variety of K-Pop artists, let’s just talk about these two, and instead of asking whether they went worldwide, let’s just talk about whether they succeeded in the US. It’s pretty much the same thing, right?” BoA’s long history in Japan evidently wasn’t worth mentioning; likewise for the scores of Korean idol groups who have successfully expanded their careers throughout Asia with multiple number-one hits and albums. Rain’s headlining film career in both Korea and the States, as well as his ongoing inclusion in the prestigious TIME 100, is covered by Oh’s brush-off that she “cringes” whenever the Korean media claim that he’s a “world star”.
Rain, a world star? No way!
Oh also takes issue with the fact that Korean American Jay Park is being labeled as a “hallyu star”. Never mind that Park debuted in a legitimate Korean boy band and still sings in Korean; apparently he cannot be considered a real “promoter of K-Pop” because he’s not a Korean citizen and he also releases songs in English. Good to know! Until now, we hadn’t been aware that an American passport and the ability to perform in English precluded one from participating fully in the Korean entertainment industry!
Well, we thought he was singing in Korean.
Okay, okay. We actually agree with Oh on some levels! Having lived in the US our whole lives, we can assure you that K-Pop has not come anywhere near taking over the entire country. We do think that the US market constitutes a considerable portion of the worldwide entertainment industry, so BoA’s and Se7en’s unavailing efforts to make a dent in it, while understandable, should not be ignored. And we realize that many Korean media outlets do tend to overstate their stars’ level of recognition on an international level. Still, it’s all about the audience, right? Last time we checked, Korean people were interested in reading about what their favorite entertainers were doing overseas, and about the international fans who share the same love for the same artists, dramas, and music. Perhaps the reporting could be done with a little less dramatization — but that seems like an issue to take up with the Korean media, not with the international audience who undoubtedly comprise CNNGo’s audience.
After this rally, SM decided to hold not one but two concerts in Paris. All 14,000 tickets sold out either within minutes or hours (depending on the report). But that’s nothing! In September, SM will head to Tokyo, where they will perform another sold-out concert for over 100,000 fans.
Besides, although K-Pop overseas expansion might not be impressive (to Ms. Oh) by virtue of sheer figures, the feelings of love and devotion displayed by Korean entertainment fans worldwide is pretty much the most sincere and ardent that you can ever hope to see. Is K-Pop taking over the world? Maybe not to Oh and many others, but the fact that the fans and media are even able to make them consider that a viable question is proof in itself that K-Pop is not a laughing matter!
What do you think? Is K-Pop taking over the world, or does Oh have a point? And how about the future generations? Do you suppose 2NE1, Rania, or other K-Pop artists who are positioning themselves for a US debut have a chance to prove the naysayers wrong?