Is K-Pop Popular in Korea? (You Can’t Believe…)

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Korean popular music, or K-pop, has become a worldwide phenomenon for about the last decade. 

These youth bands use a combination of beats, sounds, and music samples in a catchy and foot-tapping way. 

Even as recently as 2021, one very famous band, BTS, made it on Billboard’s Top 100.

But, is K-Pop popular in Korea? Yes and no, it depends on who you talk to. When you walk around Seoul or Busan, there are posters, advertisements and other promotional materials splayed throughout the city. So, it does have some popularity, but it’s waning for many reasons.

Even still, Koreans are very busy people, concerning themselves more with their studies and work along with other obligations and responsibilities. 

They do love music and movies, like anyone else. 

But, they don’t worry about the daily lives of people in a particular group or run out to buy the latest album release.

Let’s dive deeper.

About K-Pop Popularity in Korea

Pop music in Korea has been around since 1925. The first album released in Korea was “This Tumultuous Time” (“Yo Pungin Sewol”) from Lee Ryu-saek and Park Chae-seon. 

While it’s a far cry from what K-Pop is today, you can hear the foundations of it.

The first K-Pop album released in the USA was in 1959. The Kim Sisters did a cover of “Charlie Brown” that reached #7 on Billboard’s singles charts that year. 

They also had some 21 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

But once Koreans heard the pop music of Swedish band, ABBA in the 1970s, they have taken the genre beyond the world’s expectations.

By the mid-1990s, K-Pop took hold in Korea to what we now know it to be. By the 2010s, it gained worldwide renown, having kids from the West screaming for it.

Modern Korean Pop Music

The popularity of K-Pop in Korea is much the same as pop music in the USA. Some people know who the stars are and others could care less. 

K-Pop is merely one type of music in Korea. They have traditional styles of music along with rock, jazz, techno, hip-hop, and many others.

However, even if people don’t prefer K-pop for personal listening, they appreciate the attention it has drawn to Korea in general. 

This translates to more exports and a higher GDP, among many other benefits.

K-Pop’s Declining Popularity

One of the main reasons why K-Pop is declining in popularity is because of the newer bands. 

When Korean pop music first came onto the scene, the artists were initially popular in Korea. 

But now, there are K-Pop stars that first get their fame in places like the UK or US before they hit Korea.

For example, groups like BTS, Blackpink, EXO and Winner were already well on their way to stardom in Korea long before American audiences heard them. 

Koreans loved this music and sang along with them on a regular basis. 

Now, there are K-Pop bands only targeting overseas audiences and could care less about what actual Koreans think of them.

Everglow is one such example of this kind of newer K-Pop group. They do well in the US but most Koreans have never heard them.

If they have, these minors display overt sexuality inappropriate to their age. Many older Koreans frown on this behavior severely. 

Also, boy bands project this “flowerboy” attitude, which feminizes masculinity in ways people don’t prefer.

Koreans’ Current Feelings about K-Pop

While Koreans recognize the importance of K-Pop putting their country and culture on the map, it’s also influencing their society in negative ways. 

For instance, because some groups nailed a concept or gimmick with their act, others are trying to appear just like it. 

This creates boredom and monotony.

What’s more, many Koreans don’t seem to care for this newer music, and they don’t often bat an eye at overseas popularity. 

Maybe they’ll pay attention if a group hits the top 100 charts. Other than that, the newer groups are not in the Korean mainstream. 

Besides, most Koreans are too busy with their daily lives to take too much notice.

Also, this newer music doesn’t speak to Koreans and what’s important to them. 

The music isn’t necessarily for them, and neither are the lyrics. No one anywhere in the world wants to listen to music that doesn’t speak to them in some way. 

New K-Pop groups that get their start overseas fall short.

Other Reasons for the Decline

With the recent exposure of scandals and revelations of a dark underbelly in the K-Pop world, some Koreans are reconsidering their feelings about it.

Sure, it’s shining a light on Korean culture, but to what end and at what cost?

With everyone attempting a different take on similar gimmicks, these things may give foreigners the wrong impression about Koreans in general. 

But, at the same time, K-pop highlights other fantastic things about Korean cultures, such as food, beauty, philosophy, education, and typical daily life.

To illustrate, many older Koreans feel that the image, music, and attitude projections of the bands are not painting a positive picture of Korea. 

They perceive K-Pop to be very shallow and hedonistic, with the stars appearing rather plastic and fake. But they love how kimchi and corn dogs are becoming favorite foods worldwide.

Conclusion

So, while K-pop is popular in Korea, in many ways, it is not. It seems as though it had more popularity in the country prior to its global explosion. 

This is because the music and idols targeted Korean audiences. 

But now, there are newer groups that cater solely to overseas fans.

Even if they do like the artists, Koreans have very busy schedules and don’t have time to keep up with what their famous counterparts are doing. 

They definitely enjoy music, but they aren’t usually crazy about their K-pop idols. 

However, Koreans do appreciate the attention they’ve drawn.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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