The Development Of K-pop And Its Influence On East And Southeast Asian Countries


Kpop has developed to be the South Korean government’s showcase to the world. Stating that Kpop is one of its many “perfect” examples. However, Kpop is not all it has been made out to be, with labor abuse, past government censorship, and maldistribution of money, it shows its flaws. Slowly developing from post war conditions, South Korea was under heavy influence from Western culture (Primarily the U.S.A, due to being a Neoliberalized country). In contrast to traditional Korean Music, a small sect of the Korean public began listening to this “new” age music. A certain group started it all, and then the term “Kpop” was born, changing the social norms of South Korea. This internal assessment will focus primarily on the development of Kpop and its effect on East and Southeast Asian countries. Through back channel methods of publicizing music, misconceptions about Korean Musicians being brought to an end, and government censorship changing for the flourishing of Korean Pop Music, it spread.


Development means a specified state of growth or advancement. Therefore, the development of Kpop needs to have a specified source, and from that source advancement needs to occur. The source of Kpop, occured in 1992, when the group “Seo Taiji and Boys” showed the Korean public the various different genres founded by Western culture. Such genres included hip hop, electronic music, and reggae. They would wear ruffian fashion and dance with a new style of hip hop which shocked the Korean public for one reason. Kayo, otherwise known as the more traditional sound of Korea, was the only form of music allowed to be sung, at least the only one that was supported by the Korean government. Therefore, when Seo Taiji and Boys were starting the new wave of music, the government censored it as best it could. “Government censorship, television and radio domination over singers, and outright piracy by back-alley distributors and audiences devastated the livelihood of many singers, both famous and unknown.” This quote exemplifies the lengths and pursuits the Korean government would go to in order to suppress this new uprising of music. Furthermore, the Korean government censored the payment Korean musicians obtained. Most of the managers of the organizations were, and some still are, “How dare you ask for money, you should be thankful just to be on stage.” The common perception of this new uprising in music was that people were hungry in their profession, that even though they are poor they should work passionately. This perception aggravates musicians who stay silent despite not being compensated for their work. A back channel method that Korean musicians traversed this censorship was through the digital age and internet, (which will be further discussed in the internal assessment). Some of this censorship still goes on today, but, at a much smaller level. Kpop still prevailed due to the majority of the Korean public taking a liking to the new music introduced through Seo Taiji and Boys. “However, it was not Seo, but SooMan Lee, the founder of SM Entertainment, who realized the huge potential of Korean pop music, which he later called K-pop, in Japan and other parts of Asia.” Due to the majority of the population liking this new trend, Kpop began to soar to the top of the charts in not only South Korea, but other nations such as Japan and Southeast Asian countries. As it became more popular, the Korean government began to realize they could profit off of the new age music, and therefore spent parts of their national budget to help the industry flourish and grow. This sparked the three big companies of Kpop at the time. Through the planned success of BoA (an all girl Kpop group) in Japan by SM Entertainment triggered a revolution in the Korean pop music industry, and YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment joined the bandwagon starting in the mid-1990s. One of the most important factors, if not, the most important factor for Kpops success would be the invention of the internet and the digital music industry. Kpop exported to the new age of social media, primarily though YouTube, Kpop singers were soon viewed as professional, creative and sophisticated.

“Against the wishes of their parents, younger Koreans definitely hold positive images about K-pop stars. In a survey conducted in 1981 on the future goals of elementary school students, 21.2 percent said they wanted to be scientists, 13.1 percent doctors, 12.2 percent professors, and 11.0 percent public officials. None of the respondents wanted to become singers or entertainers. Starting in 1990, according to new surveys, children’s career dreams began changing, first gradually and later drastically. In 1990, 27 percent of elementary school students surveyed answered that they wanted to become teachers, while the figures for doctors and entertainers were 13 percent and 9 percent, 115 respectively. The numbers for 2012 reveal a shocking outcome: 42.5 percent of the respondents aspired to jobs as public officials, while 38.8 percent hoped to become entertainers.” This shows the new found respect and influence Kpop has on the youth. Therefore, Korean culture, and Kpop spread to East and Southeast Asian countries. Influencing them through the public, “Kpop fans are eager to learn the Korean language and travel to Korea.” Since Korea is one of the worlds epicenter of new technologies, another being China, major companies have invested in the “Korean Wave.” An example would be when LG Electronics distributed a large amount of funding to Vietnamese television companies with multiple Korean Dramas for free, even paying for the cost of dubbing. Another example of how Kpop has spread to other East Asian nations would be BoA’s success in Japan’s Oricon, essentially the Japanese version of the American Billboard charts. However, it is not just Kpop that was popular in the Asian market, Korean drama was the hype in 1999. Furthermore, the first Korean blockbuster, “Shiri” was shown in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore receiving critical acclaim and managing to draw large crowds. Therefore, Kpop rapidly begane to become a powerhouse of film and music culture, so the government kept contributing to the profit making industry. “The itemized budget for Hallyu indicates that the ministry will allocate 8.7 billion won for Hallyu promotion, 6.6 billion won for Hangul (Korean alphabet) promotion, 10.8 billion won for supporting traditional cultural genres, including gukak (Korean classical music), and 9 billion won for supporting ancient palaces, history, culture, and tourism.” Kpop, through struggles, finally managed to prevail over all the odds.


In summary, Kpop has gone through many struggles in its making, from government censorship, to exploitation of money. However, overcoming all of the the adversities, Kpop begane to grow in popularity, through the help of the government in its later stages, through the beginning of the internet, and through expansion to other East and Southeastern Asian nations. Contributing to the overall popularity of the Korean Culture and expanding the horizon for crossovers between cultures in the future.    

16 December 2021
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