Why is K-pop appealing?

“…Even though we might be from different countries I feel connected…”
The Influence of K-Pop Survey,
March 2012

While K-Pop is more often associated with music artists and groups, it is important to realize that K-Pop not only refers to the genre of music, but to the Korean popular culture in general. TV dramas, variety shows, films, and fashion are all part of the scope that is K-Pop. If you are a fan of K-Pop, then you are fan of the music, the lifestyle, and everything that comes with it. “Fandom is a way of life,” says Sarah Kristine M. Alanzalon in her dissertation Kpopped!: Understanding The Filipino Teens’ Consumption Of Korean Popular Music And Videos. “Much like daily activities such as eating, walking, watching television, reading books and the like, fandom is a habitual activity for a fan.” This applies not only to South Korean fans, but to fans that live in other parts of Asia, Europe and the United States, as well.

In March 2012, I conducted a survey to gauge the influence of K-Pop on fans. The survey asked questions relating to the frequency and ways of consuming K-Pop, the cultural offerings of K-Pop, and the entertainment value of K-Pop. The purpose of the survey was to see the habits of young K-pop fans, and what they gain by adopting the identity of a “kpopper.” I distributed the survey via my tumblr blog, K-Pop Fangirl Problems, and it yielded a wide range of ages and ethnicities of respondents, indicating that reach of K-Pop is indeed farther than just South Korea, China and Japan. The majority of respondents were from the United States (56%), Europe (17%) and South East Asia (12%). When asked about their routine of K-pop consumption, 76% respondents put that they spent 10 hours or more hours a week on K-pop. In addition, respondents said that they would be willing to spend an indeterminate amount of money on K-pop merchandise. Given the comparatively small international fan base, this percentage is indicative of the dedication and time put into being a fan of K-pop.

Outside of buying merchandise and spending hours watching music, there is a trend in k-pop fans getting a cultural benefit.

Has consuming K-pop contributed to your knowledge of South Korea?

Does the language barrier effect your enjoyment of K-pop and related materials?

Are you learning Korean (formally or informally) as a result of K-pop?

For many of the respondents, K-Pop has deeply influenced their identity. When asked how K-pop has influenced their identity, one anonymous respondent is quoted as saying:

K-pop has really changed my life. I feel like I can connect with it, and the artists, better then any other type of music. Listening to it has helped me get over a fair amount of trauma in my life; it’s been one of the things that has helped me pull through and helped bring my friends and me closer together. It inspires me to work hard towards my goals, and not give up easily, that even though there will be times that are hard and it feels like nothing is worth fighting for, that if I keep pushing on I’ll get there eventually.

Other respondents responded in a similar fashion. More specific values include friendship and loyalty, regard for elders, cultural tolerance and regard of family. Not only is K-Pop giving young adults and teens a form of entertainment, but they get also are given a chance to create, or recreate themselves with the added identity of “kpopper.”

A summary of the most popular fanclubs and their member numbers, taken from The Influence Of K-Pop Survey

For teenagers all over the world, feeling acceptance is an important part of life, especially at a time when things are changing, physically, socially and mentally. For a kpopper, being part of an official fanclub is that circle of acceptance. As a member of such fan clubs, I must say that it’s really nice to be able to fangirl (squeal, shout, generally spazz — the term is used regardless of gender) with other kpoppers from around the world. Personally, I am a HUGE Shawol (the nickname for fans of SHINee) and Exotic (the nickname for fans of 12 member boy group, EXO). I am a part of many other fan clubs, but those are the two that I would say I identify with the most. Other K-pop fans would agree that being part of a specific fan club impacts the fan experience. There are perks to being an official member of the fanclubs: increased chances of winning tickets to fan meets, discounted official merchandise, access to exclusive web-content, etc. I have a nice sized collection of merch, though most of my memorabilia is in the form of digital fantaken photos and albums downloaded from iTunes.

My collection of K-Pop stickers, photocards, and mini notebooks. SHINee, TEENTOP, 2PM, INFINITE, SUPER JUNIOR, B2ST/BEAST and EXO.

For next time:
Perfection (Too Perfect): The Importance of Image in K-Pop
I’ll be looking at the overall importance of image in the S. Korean music industry and how idols are expected to perform, both on stage and off.

On a side note, I am also a big fan superheroes, so let’s watch a music video that combines both superheroes and K-Pop! EXO (the group that performs this song) is a 12 member group, with two subunits consisting of six members each, EXO-K (which is marketed primarily in S. Korea) and EXO-M (which is marketed mainly in China). The cool thing about this group is that they record their songs in both Korean and Mandrin. The video starts off with a long narrartion with questionable Engrish, but once you get past that, the video is fantastic. Lots of great CGI and special affects. The dancing is top-notch, and it doesn’t hurt that the guys themselves look pretty darn good-looking (Oh, look. My fangirl is showing). This song in particular is really dynamic, with cool chanting in English at the beginning, catchy orchestra back beat and amazing vocals and rapping. Even better is that the two versions of the videos have different visuals. Later on, I’ll talk about the lyrics and their meaning, but for now, let’s just enjoy the videos! I suggest watching them in the highest quality possible because the visuals are that great.

EXO-K MAMA- Korean Ver.:

EXO-M MAMA- Mandarin Ver.


Alanzalon, Sarah Kristine M. “Kpopped!: Understanding The Filipino Teens’ Consumption Of Korean Popular Music And Videos.” Diss., University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, 2011.

Wynn, JaQuess N. “The Influence Of K-Pop Survey.” Interview By Author, March 7, 2012.

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