The Korean Wave: How South Korea’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Idol Industry Works

If you’re thinking, “Of course … BTS!” And you’re about to recite their names; I’ll tell you that we went to explore their world.

If neither the faces nor those three letters mean anything to you, I’ll tell you that they are part of a phenomenon that is difficult to ignore known as La O la C oreana, which is turning into a tsunami.

For the uninitiated, two words: Gangnam Style or Gangnam Style.

That music video by artist PSY, which was the most viewed video on YouTube from late 2012 to mid-2017, is just one link in a chain of successes that K-pop has accumulated in various parts of the world, from China to Chile. , from Ukraine to Uruguay.

The Korean wave is not just music. Korean television series, known as K-dramas, are also expanding across the globe.

What will be the secret of your success?

For a beginner’s guide to K-pop, we turned to Stacy Nam, a Korean-American who works in the South Korean capital Seoul in international marketing and public relations for the music industry.

“The names of many of the major agencies in Korea are the initials of the person who founded them, such as YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, both also former singers,” he explains.

Those three dominate the industry. However, that does not mean that the others have no chance. In fact, group BTS’s agency is small, and yet they managed to top the charts in the United States.

What role do these companies play?

In K-pop, if applicants are selected by a company, it takes care of everything. If they need any kind of touch-ups – like fixing teeth, improving their skin, some plastic surgery – the firm pays.

In addition, they teach dance and acting classes, teach them how to speak at variety shows, and pay for language courses.

Before and after

They may start young, but it will take up to 9 years to train before they are finally released to the public.

Ah! And having boyfriends or girlfriends is a big NO … highly contraindicated.

A perfect image, a lifestyle dictated by others, a restricted private life … too much?

“Once you enter the company, you have to show your value, and you have to sell. If that is what the public demands – a certain body, a certain face – you must do it,” Kim Ye-seul tells the BBC, an aspiring idol.

Given the spirit of submission, it is perhaps not surprising that the South Korean entertainment industry has had its fair share of abuse allegations.

One of her stars committed suicide, leaving behind a letter that said her agent had forced her to have sex with more than 20 VIPs.

And art?

Such stories are not enough to discourage thousands of applicants, or parents like Kim Ye-seul’s, who pay up to $ 500 a month at idol schools – places where they groom young people who aspire to be selected by agencies, which then they will train them.

Organic success

K-pop isn’t actually Korean-style music; it’s more like British or American pop.

For her, the global appeal of K-pop stems from the mix of familiarity with something new, and the success of South Korean pop culture as an export has been organic, with the government acting simply as a facilitator.…

Read More