Korean Pop is Going International
South Korean Dong Young-bae says that when he was a little child, he was to embarrassed to tell his parent that he wanted to sing and dance and he used to hide for dancing on cassettes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Now he is a successful 22 years old artist called Taeyang (which mean “sun”) known as an international star. It seems that in Asia everything Korean is considered very cool lately, so that’s why Taeyang is going global.
He’s well known in South Korea as the voice in the band Big Bang, but he released a solo album, “Solar”, online in July. That album hit no.2 in the R&B Tunes sales charts from both U.S. and Canada, which is the first time a Asian artist gets there.
Taeyang says: “In the beginning, it was hard to believe I had fans buying my album so far away. The world is smaller now.” He also says that he didn’t do a promotion for the album in North America and not only that, but the album is in Korean language.
So right now, for a lot of the Korean artists, social websites, like YouTube or Twitter are of a crucial importance because they allow them to get to audiences otherwise very hard to reach, like the U.S. or Europe. Bernie Cho, the president of DFSB Kollective, an agency from Seoul that specializes in international marketing for these Korean pop artists says that they are: “aggressively steering their efforts to go international via the Internet, social-media-savvy K-pop stars are now tweeting, YouTubing and Facebooking their way up music charts across and beyond Asia.”
So here’s what an international, in English language, U.S. based Korean pop blog says, through Johhny Noh: “Korean artists are now out there. People like Korean artists and want to know more about them.” It shows in the fact the the readers of this blog have doubled since last year, from 1 million to 2.2 million.
The company DFSB Kollective started the direct distribution of Korean music on iTunes last year. They began with over 50 Korean artists, but now there are hundreds of those who are available in their online store. So in a few hours after the online release of “Solar International”, a version of Taeyang’s album that also includes English versions of songs, reached no. 3 in Japan, no. 5 in Canada, no. 11 in the U.S. and no. 15 in Australia in the R&B charts.
They will also have it in the music stores from Canada later on, but there is no release date for the Asian market. This is the first time when a South Korean album is promoted offshore, online, exclusively through the social media websites.
So people in Korean are watching this and learning, as YG Entertainment is planning to release the first album of a girls group this time, offshore and online. This group became famous after the single “Lollipop”, with Big Bang, featured in an LG cell-phone publicity campaign in 2009. The 2NE1 have been internationally famous, especially in the U.S.
Even the Black Eyed Peas producer, will.i.am wanted to work with them badly, according to Choi Sung-jun, a chief operation officer for the YG Entertainment. This brought the girls to collaborations in L.A. and London also.
This K-pop online thing its now a great way for the artists to become well known internationally. Another example is Kim Yeo-hee, now 22, who became a YouTube star this March after posting her videos on the name Apple Girl. In the first video she played Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”. In just two days, her name became the most searched for word in all the major Korean search engines.
Later in May, she released a mini digital album. She’s currently preparing for a single release in September. She says: “I wanted to become the Korean version of Justin Bieber. But I never imagined so many people could be interested in what I do.”
So what are they doing next? Creating an image. Taeyang told his designer: “Call the printer and tell them to change the picture. I want to look a bit tough. In the U.S., like this, they’ll think I’m too nice.”11