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  • Written by Dorian G.

Has K-Pop Reached Universality

The idea of a pop band booming around the world isn’t unheard of. We all know One Direction and Spice Girls, but the numbers generated by BTS and Blackpink are on another level

Has K-pop reached Universality by Weather and Palette
Divine Treasure, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

From the 90’s, K-pop has been influenced by the Western world so much that, in my opinion, it has completely dominated the world. The one band in particular that comes to mind when you first think of the rise of K-pop is the one and only 7- boy group: BTS.

The idea of a boy band booming around the world isn’t unheard of. We all know One Direction and The Backstreet Boys, but how has BTS’s rise paved the way for other groups such as BLACKPINK, The Boyz and TWICE, all while sparking an interest not only in the East, but in the Western world too. For K-pop to be listened to in the West, the music has to appeal to the audience.

From hip-hop to R&B, there are thousands of song choices to listen to; but what makes a K-pop song stand out amongst the familiar beat of Western pop songs is the combinations of different genres into one which often leaves the audience feeling happy and uplifted. I think this is what gives K-pop the edge over their Western counterparts.

Now, in terms of how K-pop managed to spread to the rest of the world, we have Twitter to thank for playing a huge role. Since the rise of social media, promoting something new has never been easier! Think of it this way: instead of selling your content directly to the customers, sell it on the social media platforms. And what way better than Twitter: the quickest route to spread the word of emerging artists with just a hashtag, not to mention that it’s super easy to connect with your fans. Just leave it to the teenage K-pop fans and a phone, and fame is guaranteed.

We can all probably agree that social media is the major reason behind the "K-pop Sweep". If we look at the figures and put them into perspective, K-pop is almost uncatchable. In May 2021, BTS's "Butter" broke the record of biggest first-day view with 108 million views. As of today, "Butter" received 559 million views. The latest no.1 single of Drake, "Girls Want Girls" is raking 1.4 million views in two weeks since the launch. The Kid LAROI X Justin Bieber viral hit "STAY" received 190 million views in 2 months since the premiere. These numbers not only demonstrate the popularity of K-pop, but it may also suggest K-pop has reached "universality".

As for the way K-pop is influencing the world, more and more people are beginning to talk about Korean culture. K-Drama, K-Beauty, K-Drama, people are craving everything created from South Korea. However you look at it, the rising interest is not only in South Korean culture, but also in all the Far East culture as a whole.

I’ve noticed how flawless all of the Idols’ skin is, and I know it’s not thanks to photoshop. K-beauty is booming and has made its way around the world, attracting both female and male audiences. What makes K-beauty stand out is that it’s not afraid to experiment with ingredients. A considerable amount of research is done on new ingredients before the launch of a product and it’s all for surpassing rival companies. Whether it’s snail mucin or donkey milk in your moisturiser, you can bet it’ll do wonders for your skin!

See, K-beauty is not only for adults, but for children too. In South Korea, children as young as three are enjoying beauty treatments; younger and younger people are using make-up as a result of this. On the one hand, I think it can raise awareness of self-skin care from a young age, however, it can also pose a problem with expectations of how young people should look. The beauty industry has had criticism for the pressure they are putting on people to look a certain way.

What’s more, there are also South Korean beauty standards spreading worldwide because of their Idols’ appearance. Fair skin, perfect V- shaped faces and large eyes are just a few features male and female K- pop idols are expected to have and the list goes on and on. One can only imagine it is virtually impossible to embody all of those features naturally. These looks are becoming more and more prominent in not only the K-pop industry, but in the public too, especially among the younger fans. This influence is pushing these high beauty standards onto the younger impressionable people today which can cause them to feel plain or unattractive in comparison to these Idols.

Of course, the rise of any new phenomenon has its drawbacks. Young people today shouldn’t feel that they have to look one way to fit into what is seen as ‘normal’, and instead, live their lives the way they want to without fear of judgment from society. I think this growing interest of Eastern culture in the Western world is, overall, a wonderful thing and is a way for people to broaden their horizons, learn something new all the while having fun!

Major Milestones of K-pop

1992 - The more modern form of K-pop first emerged by the group known as Seo Taiji and Boys when rap was incorporated into the music.

2010 - Big Hit Entertainment discovered what was to be one of the most famous K-pop groups not only in South Korea, but worldwide: BTS.

2012 - Psy’s music video for “Gangnam Style” became the first YouTube video ever to receive 1 billion views.

2017 - South Korea’s beauty industry was worth approximately £10billion. BTS won the award for ‘Top Social Media Artist’ at the Billboard Music Awards based on Twitter voting.

2018 - BTS won the award for ‘Top Social Media Artist’ at the Billboard Music Awards based on Twitter voting.

2019 - September 1st, ARMY celebrated Jungkook’s 22nd birthday all over the world on social media, breaking Twitter due to the overcapacity. BTS won the award for ‘Top Social Media Artist’ at the Billboard Music Awards based on Twitter voting.

2020 - K-pop experienced almost a 45% growth and was the fastest-growing major market of the year.

2021 - K-Pop is currently a $5 billion global industry and is still continuing to grow.


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