The Hallyu Wave Washes Further from Korean Shores with Social Media
Korean singer and rapper Psy is the latest and perhaps most seasoned K-pop star to make international headlines with his song, “Gangnam Style.”
To date, the “Gangnam Style” video has received over 46 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded on July 15. It’s been featured in major media like TIME, the Wall Street Journal Blog and CNN. It’s been tweeted about by the likes of Robbie Williams, T-Pain and Josh Groban. Nelly Furtado even recently did a cover of the song at her concert in Manila. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen this viral hit, you can see it below:
The incredible and incredibly quick success of Psy’s video got me wondering: how’d a 34-year-old, cute but chubby K-pop artist get this level of international exposure? Especially since Psy has been a popular artist in Korea for over a dozen years.
My initial thoughts (not that I’m an expert) are that it’s a one-two punch combination of Korea’s ridiculously wired population and the global presence of social media.
Photo Credit: ThoughtPick
The video reached viral status within days here. It doesn’t hurt that South Korea’s high-speed wireless Internet penetration rate recently topped the 100 percent mark for the first time among member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (That’s right, Korea has more wireless internet connections than it does people!)
Going beyond Korea, Psy’s official YouTube channel got the video in front of more eyes around the world as it’s open to any of the 800 million viewers that visit YouTube each month. Psy’s Facebook page and YG Entertainment’s (his agency) Facebook and Twitter channels also helped to push the video to fans who used social media’s sharing functions to show it to all their friends and followers. The artist and company’s presence on social media, which didn’t exist 10 years ago when Psy first debuted, reached a greater audience that it may not have been able to through traditional means. Case in point: the Twitter handle Psy recently opened (Aug. 14) now has 67,975 followers.
According to an article by CNBC, online social networks are the biggest medium that K-pop fans around the world use to follow their favorite bands. According to a report by YouTube, K-Pop video clips were viewed nearly 2.3 billion times in 235 countries in 2011. The views have jumped threefold since 2010.
In the same article, Sun Jung, a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said, “People can share, distribute and consume foreign pop cultures much more easily these days,” Jung said. “It’s very significant how Korean language K-pop is popular somewhere like South America and European countries. Internet and social media technology kind of enhance those flows.”
Similarly, other K-pop acts have been able to reach mass audiences globally with the boost of South Korea’s cutting-edge technology and the expansive social media network.
Take Psy’s labelmates, 2ne1, for example. The four-member girl group held their first U.S. concert on Aug. 19, which was big enough to grab the attention of media like the New York Times. Over the years since the group’s debut, the members have been very active on social media and post frequently to their personal accounts as well as 2ne1’s official Facebook page and Twitter. They have been so successful with this approach that they were invited to the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival to give a special presentation about the emergence of K-pop in the digital era.
Photo Credit: AllKpop
Additionally, the group will be the first Asian singers to travel to Facebook’s headquarters in the U.S. to carry out an interview for “Facebook Live,” an Internet show hosted by Facebook that has interviewed influential figures like U.S. President Barack Obama, Madonna, Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Oprah Winfrey.
With groups like 2ne1 and artists like Psy, it appears that the use of social media and technology will only help the Hallyu wave wash further from Korean shores. We’ll be staying tuned to see how far our favorite K-pop stars can go!