Koreas export product wasn’t always a success internationally. It all started when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became a global pop music sensation back in 2012. His notorious music video has been watched for over three billion times and smashed records. Psy didn’t have the looks or posture to be an idol, he did however fit the qualifications to be a global success. “Psy is more like a sumo wrestler than a romantic hero — an unattractive clown, not a heart-stopping romantic idol”, wrote John Lie, professor at the University of California, in his paper about the globalization of Korean Pop. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” is seen as the beginning of The Korean Wave 2.0.
“Hallyu 2.0 is the combination of social media, their practices, and the uses and affordances they provide, and this new stage has been made possible because Korea has advanced its digital technologies,” according to Dal Yong Jin, professor at the School of Communication in Vancouver. Jin argues that the Korean Wave relies on social media. Professors Yoon and Jin agree with him: “instead of purchasing CDs and DVDs and instead of watching popular culture on television and in theaters, these global fans use social media to enjoy popular culture”, they wrote in their journal of intercultural studies.
K-pop groups have always looked for an audience beyond Koreas borders and their global strategies are an illustration of that. Music videos need to be understandable for foreigners with an inability to speak Korean. That’s why you wouldn’t find a song without any English words. K-pop is as much a visual art as a musical one and visuals need to tell a story. “Even at this point, if you’re from a small label, your production for a music video is still gonna be a thousand times better than a music video coming out in The United States” said Tamar Herman of Billboard magazine in an episode of Explained. Psy might have not fitted in, his music video did, and was shared everywhere because of its ridiculousness.
“YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter make it easier for K-pop bands to reach a wider audience in the West, and those fans are turning to the same social networking tools to proclaim their devotion” wrote The New York Times. Idols give stunning videos, perfect choreographies and playful behind the scenes videos. Fans share it all and make the circle go around.