Idol Singers Lead K-Pop Invasion in Japan

Korean media TV Report published an interesting article yesterday about idol singers leading the latest K-Pop invasion in Japan. According to the report, until last year DBSK and BoA were the only two Korean artists to top the Oricon Weekly Charts; this year, however, in a little over five months, three artists (DBSK, KARA, Jang Geun Suk) have already ranked #1, while BEAST and SNSD went as high as #2 on Japan’s most prestigious music chart. Altogether, K-Pop idol singers have already sold more than a million records in Japan this year, and their popularity and influence in Asia’s largest music market is just continuing to grow by the day.

The report said the most notable difference this year is the fact that not just the established names like SNSD, DBSK, and KARA are leading the K-Pop phenomenon in Japan, but up and coming stars such as Jang Geun Suk, MBLAQ, and even FT Island have made a name for themselves. MBLAQ immediately reached #1 on the Oricon Daily Chart on May 4th upon the release of its Japanese debut single, “Your Luv.” No group in the history of K-Pop has ranked #1 on the day of its Japanese debut, and with the lack of a no big name competitor this week, TV Report predicted MBLAQ to reach the top spot on the Oricon Weekly Chart as well. Last Week, Jang Geun Suk sold 120,000 copies of his debut single, “Let Me Cry,” taking the #1 position of the weekly chart, while FT Island sold approximately 34,000 singles in the week before, finishing second on the May 2nd weekly chart. Jang Geun Suk in particular became the first solo male artist to rank #1 with his debut single in the first week of release since Kondo Masahiko in 1980.

KARA has a large following in Japan and their latest single, “Jet Coaster Love,” was the #1 song on the weekly chart on April 18th, selling over 120,000 copies in a single week. That made KARA the first Korean female group to rank #1 on the Oricon Weekly Chart, and the first foreign female group in Oricon’s 43 year history to rank atop in the first week of its release. SNSD has sold about 100,000 copies of “Mr. Taxi” last week, ranking second after Jang Geun Suk, and their Japanese mini-album “Hoot” has sold around 120,000 copies.

But the highest-selling K-Pop group in Japan so far is of course DBSK. According to the report, the duet’s newest single “Why?” sold more than 230,000 copies in just six days since its release, and took the top spot for daily, weekly, and monthly charts, respectively, in the month of January. The first week sales of “Why?” is the second highest figure for a foreign artist since 2010 when (who else) DBSK sold 256,000 copies of its 29th single, “Break Out.” 

The so-called wave of Korean pop culture, or “Hallyu,” in Japan has started out as a TV drama-based phenomenon in the early 2000s. But since the mid 2000s, these idol groups have taken charge and started to lead the 2nd wave of “Hallyu” in Japan. It still remains to be seen how much longer the K-Pop idol craze will last in Japan but it sure doesn’t look like it will die down any time soon.