음악은 세계의 공용어라고 하지만 수천 수만 외국 팬들이 특별히 케이팝에 열광하는 데는 특별한 이유가 있지 않을까? 아이돌을 키워내는 한국 엔터테인먼트 시스템과 흠집을 찾을 수 없이 완벽하게 꾸면지는 무대, 국내외 팬을 차별하지 않는 팬덤 문화. 방탄소년단(BTS)으로 대표되는 케이팝의 인기는 쉽게 잠재워질 것 같지 않다!
Over the course of the past year, South Korean boy group BTS has made waves throughout the globe; they’ve topped Billboard charts, attended the prestigious American Music Awards, and appeared alongside famous talk show hosts. Certainly, as BTS continues to prosper among the global market, K-Pop’s international popularity and recognition has drastically increased. BTS’ success proves that Korean pop music is steadily and quickly attracting a greater, foreign audience, firmly cementing the idea that South Korea’s music is now a force to be reckoned with. Undoubtedly, K-Pop is rapidly globalizing and expanding worldwide. So, what makes Korean pop music so universally appealing to a young, global audience?
K-Pop is, without a doubt, a far cry from mainstream American pop music. A major, distinctive component of Korean music centers around carefully curated performances and their flawless, impeccable executions. This means that K-Pop idols are held to a strict training standard to ensure that their skills are perfected. While it is uncommon for American singers to possess skills in both vocals and dance, harboring these two skills is considered a common standard for idols, and most of the time, a mere bare minimum. The singing, dancing, and even acting and modeling skills of K-Pop idols are trained under a harsh regime of several years before they are allowed to debut. Before one can become a trainee under an entertainment company, however, one must first pass several auditions – this is a difficult process in itself. The chances of a trainee debuting is extremely slim, and this is a result of the intense, almost brutal competitive nature of Korean entertainment. The existence of K-Pop’s training culture reflects the hard work, passion, and persistence of these idols, and therefore, many fans are drawn to these musicians for their dedication and skills.
This being said, another large contrast between American songs and K-Pop songs is the presence of a carefully curated choreography. Choreographies are so vital to a K-Pop song because it is acts as a visual aid. Thus, every catchy K-Pop song has an equally catchy dance to go along with it. As mentioned previously, idols are trained to dance with immense precision and skill, and this is all in hopes of successfully showcasing an attractive, synchronized dance routine to the public. And of course, the public just can’t seem to get enough of these dances; a quick Internet browse will reveal hundreds of thousands of dance covers – kids, teens, adults, and even huge public flash mobs are all dancing along to their favorite K-Pop songs. Since it is very uncommon for American songs to have personalized dances, international fans appreciate the presence of unique choreographies in K-Pop.
Fortunately, for international fans, the language barrier is of absolutely no significance. The fandom culture of Korea allows for even the foreign fans to feel included and intimate with their favorite K-Pop artists. Idols regularly hold fansigns and fanmeets, release frequent updates to social media, and hold concerts and tours – all essential to forming a close bond between fan and musician. International fans can also participate in online voting polls to help their favorite artists win music shows, and they often work hand in hand with Korean fans to get the job done. The idea of ‘fanservice’ (when idols try their best to ‘serve’ their fans) is arguably one of the biggest and most important elements of K-Pop. Clearly, fandoms have an organized culture of their own in K-Pop, one that rarely exists within American fandoms.
Furthermore, many international fans express their disappointment with how current American music focuses primarily on taboo topics, and thus, they turn their attention to the more appropriate songs of K-Pop. Korea’s stricter censorship laws make it difficult for songs with swear words and controversial lyrics to be played on public broadcast. Therefore, it is quite rare to find inappropriate K-Pop songs, which makes this music genre so appealing for some.
Evidently, there are many differences between K-Pop and American pop music, and both genres are have their own unique traits. Unlike American music, K-Pop greatly revolves around choreography, performance, and fandoms, and is generally more appropriate in terms of content. Yet, still many question the popularity of K-Pop, and wonder how it is possible to enjoy music without understanding it. Music, however, is a universal language in itself, made clear by the thousands of international fans cheering on the artists of South Korea. Truly, it seems as though absolutely nothing will prevent the globalization of K-Pop from occurring.
주니어 리포터 / 박고은 Claire Park
주니어 리포터 박고은 양은 현재 버겐 카운티 아카데미 10학년, 예술을 전공하고 있다. K-pop이외에도 미술, 음악, 패션, 글쓰기 등 다양한 분야에 흥미를 가지고 많은 활동을 하고 있는 재기 발랄한 십대소녀~. 자유시간에는 춤추는 것도 좋아한다는 고은양은 맘앤아이 주니어 리포트 코너를 통해 십대들의 놀이와 문화 이야기를 3달간 연재한다.