Girls Generation

Generalization of Plastic Surgery in Korea

Pretty in “plastic”

Appearance in Korean culture is important, especially in media. While some think of it as shocking, most of people consider it to be no big deal. In fact, the concept of getting plastic surgery in Korea has become generalized, and is now exposed to even young generations.

In the past, getting plastic surgery or revealing the fact that one got plastic surgery done used to be uncommon in South Korea because it applied to such a small number of people. These people, such as actors, actresses, announcers, and other famous professionals, constantly appear in the media. However, currently, “South Korea has the highest ratio of cosmetic surgeons to citizens worldwide” and one out of every five women in Seoul, South Korea has undergone plastic surgery. This trend is also becoming popular in the male population, and many men have gone under the knife. The addition of the male population to the trend goes to show how common plastic surgery has become in South Korea. In the past, the most popular operations were eyelid surgery, which is designed to make the eyes appear larger.

Nowadays, eye jobs are considered as ‘routine’. The public does not even consider this procedure to be surgery. Neither nose jobs nor the paring down of cheekbones are popular procedures for South Koreans, but “double-jaw surgery” has drastically increased in its popularity recently. So how has the idea and practice of plastic surgery become so generalized by the South Korean population? I would say by the incredible and drastic rise of K-Pop’s world and media influence. At first, most people had negative comment on k-pop idols getting plastic surgery. However, as the time goes by; more idols are debuted that already had plastic surgery. This has made the concept of getting plastic surgery a general practice, deemphasizing the seriousness of the surgeries. It is true that most of K-pop stars “are recognized not only for their music, but also for their physical appearance,” and “most K-pop idols are features like double eyelids and high-bridged noses, facial features that many East Asians aren’t necessarily born with.”

Brown Eyed Girls in 2006

Brown Eyed Girls Present

The image above showcases “before and after” pictures of members of the popular music group, Brown Eyed Girls. Surprisingly, regardless of the fact that we are not professional plastic surgery doctors, it is easy to recognize the difference of their faces between the past and the present. It is a general principle that “to succeed in the pop industry, you must be beautiful, in other words you must have those aforementioned features that define beauty.” Today, Brown eyed Girls are K-pop super stars. However, Brown Eyed Girls were not as popular as there are now when they first entered the music scene in 2006. Originally, they were called “faceless singer” unknown by the public because of their plain looks. Their songs were powerful and well known, but not many people knew or liked how they looked. However, after their transformation, they were fully acknowledged as a powerful and beautiful singing group. Therefore, the group used plastic surgery as a way to achieve their goals of success and fame. Using their surgically provided make-overs as a way for the girls of Brown Eyed Girls to achieve their goals is another way in which the practice of plastic surgery has become generalized

Past pictures of Girls’ Generation members

Girls’ Generation present

In addition, one of the top three most famous and popular idols in Asia, Girls’ Generation (Images above), was the main motive and influence of plastic surgery industry in South Korea. Each member has dealt with multiple rumors of whether she is naturally beautiful or went under the knife. As a result of the rumors, people started to post ‘before and after’ pictures, thoroughly comparing them and making assumptions on which members have gotten plastic surgery or not.

For instance, according to an anonymous tumbler user:

I am not a fan of SNSD, but I think I’ve figured out their sugery:

1. Sooyoung – nose job.

2. Jessica – Definitely the teeth. Possibly surgery to shave the her nasal bump.

3. Taeyeon – Nothing obvious. Her eyes are makeup and false lashes.

4. Yuri – Double eyelids and skin lightening. Possibly a nosejob, but it is really good.

5. Sunny – Eyelid surgery and nasal implant.

6. Yoona – Definitely a nose-job.

7. Sooyoung – eyelids and I think TWO nosejobs. Her first implant and narrowing (?) wasn’t too great.

8. Tiffany – Eyelids, nosejob and whitening. She smiles too much in variety shows, so I suspect SM has driven her insane.

9. Sohyeon – No obvious changes, but listening to her talk on variety shows, she has definitely gone insane thanks to SM.

Interestingly, as the time goes on, people tend to question “where” those idols got plastic surgery rather than criticizing “which idols” got plastic surgery. Since most of k-pop groups and actors look “perfect” with double eyelids and high-bridged noses, and soft facial features, people started to compare their own faces to those idols. When one is constantly surrounded by this culture through the media, it is hard not to become a part of it. In fact, they wanted to look similar to the way that they look. Now everyone looks the same with the combination of big eyes and high-bridged noses. Do people care if they look the same? No. They wanted to look prettier than their natural selves and beautiful just like K-pop groups and actors portrayed in the Media. The image below has headshots from all the women from the Miss Korea contest in 2013. This is a great example of people do not care about looking alike. Can anyone tell which one has “neither big eyes nor high-bridged nose”? Probably not.'s+generation&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=3zx_UfWHH6HSywGomoDQDA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=673#tbm=isch&sa=1&q=korean+miss+2013&oq=korean+miss+2013&gs_l=img.3...106043.108871.0.109051.,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWc&fp=a385694d467cf241&biw=1366&bih=673

Korean Miss Contest in 2013

Generalizing the concept of having plastic surgery also influences the actual TV programs in South Korea. In the past, K-pop performers and actors’ truths of getting surgery were secretive and hidden. However, since most of the audience can possibly find those actors’ “before and after” image via the media, they are no longer hiding the truth, and are instead admitting to what they have done. One of the k-pop idol, Kwang Hee from group ZE:A confessed in MBC’s “Golden Fishery-Radio Star,” stating that “I had plastic surgery done on my forehead. The pain was unbearable” He even joked about it when one of the comedians revealed his plastic surgery truth. He responded “I haven’t done many surgeries! Ahh… I guess I did a lot. I even threw away all of my child-hood pictures before I did my plastic surgeries.”

Kwang Hee’s capture image from TV show

Kwang Hee has also mentioned about this extensive plastic surgery experience via another TV program, KBS 2TV’S “1 vs. 100” on April 3. He said “Basically, everything you can see on my face has been retouched. I had my nose done, work done on my forehead, and oh, my eyes, too.” He even joked by saying “I thought that my eyes needed to be subtle in relations to other features. Wouldn’t have been too much if my eyes looked super enhance? I’m a man who knows moderation.”'s+generation&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=3zx_UfWHH6HSywGomoDQDA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=673#tbm=isch&sa=1&q=solbi%27s+past+and+present&oq=solbi%27s+past+and+present&gs_l=img.3...303744.307002.2.307096.,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWc&fp=a385694d467cf241&biw=1366&bih=673

Solbi’s past and present

There is another singer, Solbi, openly talked about going under the knife on the latest episode of SBS’s ‘Strong Heart’ on the July 17th 2012.

During the program, one of the guest-feature, Kyuhyun slightly teased Solbi by remarking, “She is becoming more and more beautiful. I am impressed with her ever-evolving beauty” And then MC Shin Dong Yup also tease her by saying “We have to give her an award for her ability to save money. She saves, and saves and thus, is able to invest in more surgeries.” Solbi showed her good nature and her comedic side as she refuted “ It didn’t take that much money.” Shin Dong Yup further asked, “Don’t you still feel great when people mention that you’ve gotten prettier?”, to which Solbi replied, “That’s why I got it done!” causing the set to roar in laughter over her frank and honest confession.

Following those two confession, Kara’s Goo Hara and Afterschool’s Uee confessed their double eyelid surgery in different TV programs. More k-pop idols and actors began to reveal the truth and it is no longer hidden issues but rather part of joke in the media.

A teenager is having a plastic surgery talk

The rise of K-pop and generalized ideas on cosmetic surgery from the population as a whole has also have encouraged teenagers from South Korea to go under the knife. Today, more and more Korean teenagers decide to get plastic surgery in pursuit of beauty. Due to easy access to mass media, the concept of plastic surgery is exposed easily. The plastic surgery population is mainly dominated by women in their twenties; however, teenagers have recently been over coming twenty year old females. According to an e-Seoul survey, “41.4 percent of teens interviewed said they were “willing to have plastic surgery for beauty.” This trend is also reaching to young girls. According to JoongAng Daily “Even middle school students, female students mostly, are choosing to get their face surgically altered.”

The most popular surgery among young students is double eyelid surgery. This is due to its low risk and high reward. In case of operations that involve certain bones, such as for nose jobs, it “is not advisable until the student has fully grown because there could be dangerous side effects”. Furthermore, “If plastic surgery is performed on young bones it can trigger problems in the future and may require more surgery.”

According to a famous cosmetic surgeon from Grand Plastic Surgery, Dr Rhee, in the last five years, he has seen an increasing number of young people getting surgery. “Ninety percent of the clinic’s clientele are under the age of 30 and of them, half are under 18.” He also points out that it is mostly by K-pop influence. Dr. Rhee says “K-pop stars and Korean celebrities have influenced the younger generation [to get plastic surgery]. For example, if you look at the before and after photos of K-pop stars you’ll see they have gotten prettier. When people see this change, they want to be pretty as well, they want to look as good as them.”

Dr. Rhee also says that most of the young people come for double eyelid surgery; “where a second eyelid is created to make the eyes look bigger.” Generally, the number of student patients peaks during school vacation season in December and January. “During school holidays, half the class would come in and get surgery done and when they go back to school, their friends would see that they’ve become prettier so in the next break you would have the other half of the class coming in.” Another manager of cosmetic surgery clinic in Apgujeong-dong in Seoul also says that “The overall client age group has decrease. Among teenagers, high school students were the main clients, but these days, an increasing number of middle school students aged 15 to 16 have been visiting the clinic.”

Surprisingly, some parents have a powerful influence on whether their children get plastic surgery. “A female high school student, Lee, got her double-eyelid surgery done and said “My small eyes were the cause of low self-esteem.” “My mom and I made a deal that if I did well on my midterm exams, she would let me have plastic surgery.” In addition, a survey of 250 mothers in Korea by Dove showed that “one if four moms suggested their teenage child get plastic surgery.” When the older generation of Koreans is generalizing the trend in plastic surgery, it has a direct effect on the younger generation. Therefore, the popularity of plastic surgery has increased.

Looking perfect  as one of the k-pop idols is impossible. However, Korean women’s efforts to be “looking like them (k-pop idols and actors)” is possible through plastic surgery. Since the idea of getting plastic surgery has become generalized, most of Korean women try to get plastic surgery to be looking “pretty” and it is considered to be no big deal.


“Anonymous said.” Nellanablog. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.


Daily Kpop News. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.


Hotshotlover30. “ZE:A’s Kwang Hee Reveals His Post-Plastic Surgery Forehead.” Soompi. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.


KoreAm. “December Issue: Korea’s Plastic Surgery Boom Attributed to Rise of K-pop.” KoreAm. KoreAm, 26 Dec. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.


Lee. “Solbi brings laughter with her honest confession about plastic surgery on ‘Strong Heart.'” allkpop. 6Theory Media, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.


“More Teens Having Plastic Surgery.” JoongAng Daily [Seoul] 18 Feb. 2011: n.pag. Print.



Youtube. The K-pop effect – South Korea.

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K-pop Idols in OSTs

Taeyeon performing "Missing You Like Crazy"

Taeyeon performing “Missing You Like Crazy” from The King 2 Hearts

The official soundtrack (OST) to K-drama is considered very important part of a release; one that fans and critics both focus on. These OSTs give K-pop idols the opportunity to be involved with music that is different from their usual role and/or style.

It is very common to have big musicians featured in an official soundtrack. In this essay, we will take a look at three specific popular K-pop idols, Yesung, Taeyeon, and Kim Hyun Joong. All three of these idols have been involved in OSTs, and we will compare the style and role of each idol in an OST and in the idol’s usual role. I have chosen these three idols due to their popularity and they have appeared on a number of “top ten” lists for best OSTs (like this one here).  The idols are all part of different main groups, and have been involved in projects outside of that main group.

K-dramas’ OSTs are very important to fans.  They are often purchased when released and songs featured on OSTs are often high on charts.  Blogs and fans go crazy when they hear news of OSTs because they often feature unique collaborations that do not regularly happen.  Some fans also look at the OST as a type of sneak preview to the k-drama.

Below I will focus on the three idols I mentioned earlier, Yesung, Taeyeon, and Kim Hyun Joong.

First, lets look at Yesung.  Yesung is a singer and musical actor most well-known for being part of the boy band Super Junior and two of Super Junior’s subgroups (Super Junior-K.R.Y and Super Junior-H).  Yesung’s real name is Kim Jong-woon and was born in 1984.  Yesung debuted with Super Junior in 2005 under SM Entertainment. After a number of albums, a radio show, and performing in musicals, Yesung contributed to the soundtrack for Cinderella’s Sister, which came out in 2010.

Cinderella’s Sister is a romantic melodrama TV series that has twenty episodes.  In addition to Yesung, the OST featured members of f(x) and Pink Toniq.  The show was nominated and won a number of awards that year.  Yesung’s song, “It Has To Be You” was the most recognized track on the OST and won awards, as well as being the show’s theme song. “It Has To Be You” ranked high on the charts and seems to be very popular with fans.  The song’s composer specifically picked Yesung because of his voice.  The composer thought he would be the perfect fit.

In 2010, Super Junior performed their hit song “BONAMANA” on Music Bank and during the same episode, Yesung performed “It Has To Be You.”  This serves as an excellent comparison of the Yesung in Super Junior and the Yesung solo.  Kjpop from writes about the show saying “While he offers a charismatic and upbeat image on stage while performing BONAMANA with the rest of Super Junior, Yesung takes on an entirely different image as he belts out his silky smooth vocals for the audience when performing It Has To Be You.”  Super Junior together performed a fun pop song, but Yesung solo displayed a slow and deep ballad.  From the same article on, the author writes, “Seldom do we get to see the boys perform ballads, so this is a real treat!”  The performance shows how this is not Yesung’s average performance.  Since this was Yesung first performance, he wanted the rest of Super Junior on stage with him.  This can be seen in a few clips of the video (they are dressed in white standing on the side of the stage).

Since Yesung was featured in the OST, he had the opportunity to do something different.  He is known for his beautiful voice, and in “It Has To Be You” Yesung gets to prove it.  Before this song, Yesung never performed solo on stage.  After that first solo performance, Yesung saw a number of other opportunities available.  It might be said that “It Has To Be You” opened up a number of doors for Yesung.

Kim Tae-yeon is a member of the girl group Girl’s Generation as well as presenter, actress, and dancer. Sometimes she is known as the “Queen of OST.”  Taeyeon was born in 1989 and made her début with Girls’ Generation in 2007 who have seen huge success.  Under SM Entertainment, the 9 member group have risen to become a prominent figure in K-pop. Below is one of their hit songs, “Gee.”  It is a quick tempoed song with lyrics about a girl who has fallen in love.

Recently, Taeyeon recorded a song for the K-drama series The King 2 Hearts in 2012.  The show ran for twenty episodes and was critically popular.  Taeyeon did the song “Missing You Like Crazy” which hit number one on almost all charts when it was released.  The King 2 Hearts had previously reached out to Taeyeon, but she declined offers due to her busy schedule.  During the same time period, Taeyeon also appeared on a number of other OSTs.

In one comment about “Missing You Like Crazy” from a “top ten” blog, the unnamed user writes, “You can really feel the emotions coming from her.. It also shows that she is capable of controlling her voice and pitch well.”  The author of this comment is able to hear Taeyeon’s voice sing a ballad compared some of the more poppy music Girls’ Generation puts out.  Due to Taeyeon being part of this OST, fans are able to hear another side of Taeyeon.  The quality of her voice is not always fully displayed in Girls’ Generation’s music due to the style of the music.  By Taeyeon taking part in OSTs, she is able to break out of her usual style, and show the world how well she can really sing solo.

The last idol I will look at is Kim Hyun Joong, who is the main rapper of SS501.  Kim Hyun Joong seems to stay very busy.  In addition to SS501, Kim Hyun Joong is also a solo artist and accomplished actor in several K-dramas.  He is unique compared to Taeyeon and Yesung because as well as being on the OSTs, he is often an actor in the series.  His most popular role is from the series Boys Over Flowers, but has had several different roles. Below is an example of an SS501 song, which was one of their popular singles.

Since Kim Hyun Joong has been involved in a number of OSTs, I will choose the song “One More Time” from the show Playfull Kiss.  He appears on the soundtrack as well as being one of the main characters.  Reports stated that the show was unsure if Kim Hyun Joong would have time to record the song.  In an article, the author describes the song as “ a slow-beat ballad genre that expresses Kim Hyun Joong’s impressive vocals.”  “One More Time” allows Kim Hyun Joong to slow down and showcase his voice.  This is not something he usually got to do in SS501.

One commenter, named JunJae, of the article shares his/her opinion by writing, “why didn’t DSP showed off this voice before?! Then they’ll be there with DBSK in terms of talents. They should have tried and cultivate what their artists had.”  JunJae is referring to the label DSP Media who managed SS501.  In their comment, JunJae feels like Kim Hyun Joong had limited opportunity to show off his voice with SS501.  Luckily Kim Hyun Joong has had many chances to do just that in OST songs like “One More Time”

In my examples, many members of pop groups trade their “dancy” beats to record slower ballads the give opportunity to show off their voice and expand into genres they may not regularly get to be in.  Like we have seen with Kim Hyun Joong, Taeyeon, and Yesung, OSTs give K-pop idols opportunities to be involved in music that is different from their usual style.  They move from bigger groups to solo performances that draw a large amount of fan attention.  These OST opportunities might also open the door to being featured in other types of music.


Wikipedia contributors. “Yesung.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “Kim Tae-yeon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “Kim Hyun-joong.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

“Best Korean Drama OST.” The Top Tens. 29 Apr 2013. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

kjpop. “Yesung performs It Has To Be You on Music Bank.” All KPop. 4 Jun 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

maestro-J. “Kim Hyun Joong’s Playful Kiss OST track ‘One More Time’ revealed.” All KPop. 7 Sep 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2013.

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K-pop Idols in OSTs by Miles Camp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

What is South Korean Tourism without K-Pop?

taken from image

This collage includes images central to the success of K-pop such as different idols, Internet resources like YouTube, top talent agencies like JYP entertainment, and architectural landmarks from South Korea. Collage is courtesy of

Korean popular music, or K-pop, is an essential component of South Korean tourism. It has become an effective and profitable method to attract tourists because of the endorsement and aid of the South Korean government, the Internet, and the utilization of Idols in campaigns. However, recent events suggest that K-pop tourism will flat line if the government cannot resolve diplomatic issues with the North. Additionally, K-pop idols should specifically tailor their image to appeal to Western ideals in order to harbor growth in European and American tourist markets.

The South Korean government has played a central role in the production and marketing of K-pop since the beginning of the Korean Wave. After the ‘national humiliation’ of the 1997 IMF crisis, one of the government’s main strategies to regain economic power included, “the need to identify and exploit new markets for its products and also diversify the range of products exported” (Dixon).  The culture industry was specifically targeted as the government mandated an aggressive international promotion of K-pop (ibid). On the other hand, it took the government much longer to grasp the importance of international tourism.

Statistics show that the development of tourism in Korea began after the Korean War (S. Kim et al.). The first inbound tourism figures were produced in 1962 and recorded 15,184 visitors (ibid).  In the same year, the government established what is now referred to as the Korean Tourism Organization, or KTO. Some scholars argue that South Korea was viewed as an unfavorable tourist destination because of student riots and perceptions of political instability, specifically, “the images of Korea typically portrayed in overseas news media reports are those of ongoing tensions between South and North Korea and the latter state’s possession of nuclear weapons” (ibid). This all changed after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which allowed a large global audience to see Korea differently.

Korean tourism saw a significant growth in 1988, with more than 2.3 million foreign tourist arrivals and foreign tourism receipts that exceeded $3.2 billion (ibid). However, the government did not fully recognize the importance of tourism until after further economic growth following co-hosting the 2002 soccer World Cup with Japan (ibid).  For that year the country recorded 5,347,468 visitors and $5.9 billion spending (ibid). The graph below displays the steady increase of tourist arrivals from all over the world between 2000-2004.

korea article image 2

Fast-forward to 2011, where it was estimated that the Korean Wave contributed more than $3 billion alone to the South Korean economy (Cox).  Despite a shortage of nearly 26,500 rooms in Seoul during the summer of 2010, the government is still aiming to attract more tourists. In an effort to harness K-Pop for tourism, the KTO paid SM Entertainment, one of the country’s largest entertainment companies, approximately $264,000 to stage a concert in France in 2011 (Frances Cha, Harnessing K-Pop for tourism). According to a KTO survey of 3,775 K-pop fans in France, 9 out of 10 said they wished to visit Korea, while more than 75 percent answered that they were actually planning to go (ibid).  Because K-Pop draws a lot of foreign tourists to Korea, the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism is developing a multi-functional theme park that will include a K-Pop Town, a K-pop concert hall, and a Hallyu Star Street. The entire project will be completed by 2022.

The future of South Korean tourism will still depend on the actions of the government especially in overcoming historical challenges. During the last quarter of 2012, Japanese tourism to South Korea saw a sharp decrease because of war threats from North Korea. A strong tourism industry is directly proportional to a strong economy, making it crucial that South Korea resolve diplomatic matters quickly to ensure the least amount of damage. The tensions with the North prompted the government to question: how can Seoul be promoted as a safe destination in the foreign media? (Frances Cha, Don’t be afraid, Seoul’s message to tourists). Similar to the situation prior to the 1988 Olympics, North Korea expert Andrei Lankov says, “the problem is that the foreign media believes North Korea’s threats when they should not” (ibid.) Lankov advised the government to flood the media with images that contradict this notion such as ones that display, “…how the day to day lives of South Koreans have remained unaffected by North Korean threats, and how its residents remain unconcerned by the hostile rhetoric” (ibid.) Lankov’s suggestion demonstrates the weight and power the public’s perception has on a country’s tourism industry.

Along with the influence of the government, the Internet and social networking services (SNS) play a significant role in the growth of South Korea tourism. Bored during Christmas break, Kayla Ann Villanueva browsed the Internet looking for an episode of a new show. Without realizing it she clicked on a link to an Asian drama. Soon she finished the season and wanted more. She searched for the names of actors, songs from the series, and for another entertaining show. Villanueva said, “Before I knew it, my computer was full of SHINee songs and my walls were covered in SS501 posters. With my new interest in Korean culture came a desire to learn the language, and with my fervent fascination with Korean pop music came a longing to attend concerts and go to the popular music shows I could only see through my computer screen” (Villanueva).

“It’s the gateway drug,” laughs Lavinia Pletosu, a 22-year-old from Italy. “The more you get into the music, the more you want to know about the language, the history, the culture, the food …”(Cox). 

Canadian Mary Zhang agrees: “When I was 15, I wanted to learn Korean so I could write to singer Kim Junsu: he’s a total god. After years of listening to K-pop and practicing the moves, though, I wanted to come and learn about the country” (ibid).

Capitalizing on an opportunity to maximize the reach of K-Pop, tourism officials have used YouTube to attract fans like Kayla Ann Villanueva. The graph below depicts the explosive online popularity K-Pop experienced in 2011. During the year, views for K-Pop videos reached 2.3 billion in 235 different countries (Min-Soo). 

korean article image 3

In 2012 when PSY’s Gangnam Style became YouTube’s most viewed video of all time, tourism officials posted a guide to the real Gangnam in an effort to ensure that current interest lasted longer than a one-hit wonder.  As of December 2012, the video had received more than 400,000 views (Cox). Taking it a step further, in February 2013 YouTube launched the “A-pop channel” which features a top 20 list of the most popular video clips that highlight pop idols in Korea, Japan and China, as well as a calendar that posts information for online fan meetings and events, according to the YouTube’s Korea blog. Users can also view the top 20 list by country, K-pop, J-pop and C-pop, as well as visit featured channels run by top talent agencies such as Korea’s S.M. Entertainment and Japan’s Avex (YouTube launches Asian-pop channel,

In addition to YouTube, online fan clubs and agency/tourism organization websites also depend on Twitter, Facebook and other SNS in promoting K-pop. Yeon-soo Chung, Executive Director of the Overseas Marketing Department of KTO pays special attention to SNS in regards to a marketing strategy for Chinese tourists. He says, “Bearing in mind that the influence of social networking services (SNS) is growing in China and about 70 % of the total foreign students in Korea are Chinese, we launched a SNS reporters group staffed by Chinese students studying in Korean in a bid to effectively deliver tourism promotional messages to prospective Chinese tourists” (Sung-Mi). These online resources deliver promising results in the expansion of K-pop’s reach and are essential to the heavy marketing of Idol campaigns.

Tourism campaigns that feature K-Pop Idols are not only extremely popular, but they are also the most practical way to connect K-Pop and tourism.  The method is successful because it garners participation from fans that are not in geographic proximity to South Korea. For example, KTO’s 2012 global campaign, “Touch Korea Tour Campaign,” advertised the chance for 15 lucky fans to win an all expenses paid trip to Korea during which the winners would meet the goodwill ambassadors and embark on a “mission” together (Frances Cha, Harnessing K-Pop for tourism, With Miss A and 2PM as the goodwill ambassadors, the campaign drew participation from 1 million foreigners across the globe (Sung-Mi). Similarly, to celebrate the launch of MTV K in 2013, the network sponsored a “Fly to the Stars Contest” in which contestants had to “Like” the MTV K Facebook page and upload a video explaining why they deserved to meet their idols. Votes will determine the winner who will then receive an all expenses paid trip to Korea to meet their favorite idol.

In promoting these idol tourism campaigns, tourism officials rely on online buzz. “We hope fans of K-Pop around the world will promote this campaign via SNS such as Facebook and YouTube, and offer an opportunity for them to visit Korea and experience it for themselves,” said Shin Pyung-sup, a representative for the tourism brand product team at KTO (Frances Cha, Harnessing K-Pop for tourism, But what about people like Kayla Ann Villanueva who stumbled upon K-pop? Although the popularity of K-pop is spreading across Europe and the United States, the number of tourists from each respective region is lower than regional tourists from Asia. Rather than wait for someone to come across the plethora of Internet resources, it is best that the industry develops a specific marketing strategy to engage Westerners in the world of K-pop.  In developing this strategy, special attention should be paid to the success of PSY.

Despite previous attempts by Rain and other Idols, PSY was the first K-pop artist to become a viral sensation. The failure of Rain was attributed to his ‘Asianness’.  Shin Hyunjoon analyzes, “the ‘Asianness’ was never a merit to appeal to a non-Asian audience. What was a ‘sensitive and delicate’ aesthetic of the Asian artist, sounded ‘soft and dewy’ to the ears of the American music critic. Thus, it was more than ‘language barriers’ that led to Rain’s temporary setback” (Hyunjoon).  Based on this analysis, PSY was able to achieve an unmatched level of recognition because he is not the traditional K-Pop idol. BBC reporter Lucy Williamson said PSY was unpolished and unpredictable, but also the most powerful star in Korea topping UK and US music charts. The ‘PSY effect’ is crucial for the development of K-pop tourism because it suggests that traditional idols and idol groups like Girls’ Generation must adopt a different style and image to garner significant attention in the United States and Europe.

To conclude, K-pop has become an effective and profitable method to attract tourists because of the endorsement and aid of the South Korean government, the Internet, and the utilization of Idols in campaigns. However, recent events suggest that K-pop tourism will flat line if the government cannot resolve diplomatic issues with the North. Additionally, K-pop should abandon the traditional idol system in order to appeal more to potential Western tourist markets.

The South Korean government has played a central role in the production and marketing of K-pop since the beginning of the Korean Wave. Recognizing the importance of tourism after further economic growth following co-hosting the 2002 soccer World Cup with Japan, the South Korean government promoted K-pop as a cultural export. In 2011, the Korean Wave contributed more than $3 billion alone to the South Korean economy, and many foreigners cite K-pop as their reason for traveling to South Korea. But this well-oiled machine has recently shown signs of struggle. According to data from the last quarter of 2012, Japanese tourism to South Korea saw a sharp decrease because of war threats from North Korea. Above all else, the government’s direct responsibility in ensuring the growth of K-pop tourism is to resolve diplomatic tensions as quickly as possible.

Internet and social networking services (SNS) play a significant role in the growth of South Korea tourism. Capitalizing on an opportunity to maximize the reach of K-Pop, tourism officials have used YouTube to attract fans like Kayla Ann Villanueva. During the year, views for K-Pop videos reached 2.3 billion in 235 different countries. In addition to YouTube, online fan clubs and agency/tourism organization websites also depend on Twitter, Facebook and other SNS in promoting K-pop.

These tools are used to help market Idol tourism campaigns such as KTO’s 2012 global campaign, “Touch Korea Tour Campaign,” which advertised the chance for 15 lucky fans to win an all expenses paid trip to Korea during which the winners would meet the goodwill ambassadors and embark on a “mission” together.

Although the popularity of K-pop is spreading across Europe and the United States, the number of tourists from each region is lower than regional tourists from Asia. Rather than wait for someone to come across the plethora of Internet resources, it is best that the industry develops a specific marketing strategy to engage Westerners in the world of K-pop. In doing so, special attention should be paid to PSY’s unconventional image in correlation with his viral success.

In order for K-pop Tourism to sustain itself and transcend time and place, it must be able to overcome cultural, political, and technical obstacles.


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This work by Meredith Browne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Infusion of Western “EDM” in “I Got A Boy”

EDM - Zedd

EDM – Zedd

SNSD- I Got A Boy

SNSD- I Got A Boy

Infused into this




With Girls Generation‘s new release of their new album and single, both entitled “I Got A Boy,” we can start to see an infusion of EDM. EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has recently become a craze in Western music, and it seems now it has moved into K-Pop.

The new cover title song I Got A Boy by Girls Generation has a very different vibe than most of the female K-Pop group work that I have heard of in the past month or so. As the Western “pop” world is changing dynamics, and moving to a mix between the pop culture that has been successful, and infusing electronic dance music (EDM) to give a more “club-like” atmosphere to the music. It seems that K-pop isn’t far behind this change in trend. I Got A Boy has many different vibes, and BPM (Beats per minutes), which is typical of EDM pop music. They move between roughly three different scenarios throughout the music video: with the ‘boy,’ in a urban outdoor dance scene, and a slowed down forceful and emotional section.

In the video of I Got A Boy we see very different scenes, outfits and presentation styles. It starts out as a ‘bubbly,’ and for lack of a better word ‘girly.’ Then it breaks out into the ‘known too well’ choreography of K-pop, where all of the members dance in unison, dressed in my opinion like over-agressive rappers. But all of that aside, I think that the addition of EDM was an interesting move for the group, and was ultimately a good move for SM Entertainment. I think that the executives at SM Entertainment have seen the success that pop music that is infused with EDM has worked well in the Western markets and they felt that it would and should work in the K-Pop industry.

Having talked about the influence of Western culture on the Korean music industry in my Korean Wave class, I would have to say that this example fits perfectly into those discussions. They have taken what they have seen to be working in the other markets, and simply applied it to their marketing and “business” scheme, in regards to how they are going to portray their clients. In this instance, especially  in the music video, it gave the group a bit of edge, from the ‘girly’ image that they portrayed the group with at the start of the video. It also take another turn in the video when the tempo of the song slows down and then one of the singers says “Don’t stop, let’s bring it back to 140.” Here she is talking about the BPM (beats per minute) and 140, is a pretty up tempo song.

Not being an expert on the K-Pop industry, I feel that using the techniques that work in the Western industries has proven to be effective and will continue to be. Also, if K-Pop groups want to become more ‘global’ than they are already, then they will continue down this path.




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Infusion of Western “EDM” “I Got A Boy” by Taylor Scott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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