– Bands such as Kara and Super Junior have become household names in much of Asia. They belong to a new hip generation of S
outh Korean artists that has launched the musical genre K-pop.
Coupled with the success of Korean TV shows and films, they are part of a wider cultural movement here that has become known as Korean wave.
– The number of people who visited South Korea specifically to attend events such as album launches, concerts and awards ceremonies doubled to 34,000 in 2010.
Two cents’ worth
Mr Youn says K-pop has proved such a hit in Asia because it offers something different, but is still familiar enough for audiences to relate to.
And the fact that K-pop’s unique style is attracting foreign fans is something that benefits both the people who visit South Korea and the bands whose music they like.
In fact, according to music industry veteran Bernie Cho, K-pop stars do much better financially when they sell their music abroad, rather than just at home. His company, DFSB Kollective, markets and distributes a range of Korean music.
“If you bought a single on iTunes in the US, you’re paying around $1,” he says.
“In Korea, the price was originally 50 cents, it dropped to 12 cents, then it dropped to six cents. And the artists are getting 35% of that – they’re making two cents a download.”
According to Mr Cho, many of K-pop’s top acts are selling 100,000 or 150,000 albums straight after release. It is an impressive number in any major market.
“Music is so heavily discounted in Korea that a lot of them are looking to go overseas, or are relying on their popularity to boost their income in other ways, like acting or advertising,” he says.
That diversity of roles is helping to spread their appeal to other countries, as well as to other areas of the South Korean economy. Many tourists who come for the music also buy the clothes and cosmetic brands promoted by Korean stars.
According to South Korea’s Trade and Investment Agency, income from cultural exports like pop music and TV shows has been rising by about 10% a year. In 2008, it was worth almost $2bn.
[Some unrelated information are omitted.]