If you’re one of the 430 million people who watched PSY’s “Gangnam Style” on YouTube recently, you are probably both curious and confused by the international phenomenon known as K-Pop. You are not alone!
Luckily, John Seabrook of The New Yorker just published a fascinating article about the carefully choreographed process that fuels the fast-growing world of Korean pop music—and its top PR teams’ plans to win Western fans with their dizzying mix of contemporary production, eclectic stage shows and a shocking amount of plastic surgery.
South Korea’s top three entertainment PR firms have essentially come to run the K-Pop industry by adopting the British/American boy band business model…on steroids. And they’ve completely dominated the Asian music market by beating predecessor J-Pop at its own game and winning the Chinese public over with their bizarre videos and promo events.
Now music publisher and promoter SM Entertainment—whose Twitter profile reads “Follow us for 10 years, we’ll make you pretty and famous”—plans to take over the United States, one flashy tour at a time. Founder and former entertainer Lee Soo-man is often described as the creator and mastermind behind the K-Pop phenomenon who made good on his plans to recreate American pop for the Asian market, and he inspires conflicting emotions among fans.
The industry is hardly limited to music; K-Pop idols frequently star in ad campaigns, soap operas and feature films. There’s even a term, “hallyu”, for the incredible influx of South Korean culture that has blanketed the continent over the past decade, and the country’s government has aggressively promoted its distribution as a form of “soft power.”