K-pop seems to be much more successful (compared to other Asian genres and even most countries in the world) in spreading its influence rapidly across the globe. What are some reasons behind this success? i have heard that the higher education institutions play an important role in producing great actors/actresses, but wouldn't this also happen in other developed countries?

EDIT: this question is asking for factual reasons (reasons that are evidence based) rather than simply subjective, un-reasoned opinions.

EDIT #2: if you prefer to discuss one or two aspects/reasons only, that would be fine, if your explanation is clear. Clear does not have to mean long.

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    For those considering a close vote : It's fairly clear that K-pop is successful at the moment - look the "K-pop (in Korea) global music market rank" chart in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-pop#Sales_and_market_value . And there are some pretty concrete reasons you can point to. It's at least as objectively answerable as musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/184/…, which has no close votes.
    – user16
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:17
  • Thanks @topomorto. K-pop has spread to the Western world as well, though its greatest number of hits are still in Asian countries.
    – mey
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:29
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    ^^ you might consider replacing 'secrets' in the title with something implying less 'unknowability'!
    – user16
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:32
  • @topomorto Thanks for your suggestion- have just edited. Does it look OK now?
    – mey
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:35
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2 Answers 2


Back-story : 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup
Before the 2002 World Cup, the average person outside of Korea probably had very little awareness of Korea; the World Cup made a big difference and set the scene for more awareness of Korean culture overseas. Initially this was more noticeable in the success of some Korean films, such as Oldboy, whose success then in turn further enhanced overseas interest in Korea.

Government Support
Given South Korea's geographic situation - a 'Shrimp Between two Whales' - and strong desire to develop economically, it has been seen as advantageous for Korean culture to be viewed positively worldwide. The Government has been very supportive of 'Hallyu' - the 'Korean Wave' of exported film, tv series, and music

See section on Government Support of K-pop: https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/e-journal/articles/oh_lee_0.pdf

Evolved for internet age
South Korea's domestic internet technology is among the most advanced in the world - they had speeds 10-15 years ago that others in the world are only just getting now. The rapid growth in the music industry has taken place in a context where streaming and filesharing have been widespread, so the business has long taken a lot of its cash from appearance and sponsorship / tie up fees.

Talent Pool and Development
Young Koreans study really hard. After school is over they will go for another few hours to study more music, maths, English, sports... so there are some very talented young kids who are already have a lot of the raw skills needed to do the job of a pop star by their early teens. These kids get signed up and developed further to the point where a 'finished product' star can still be very young and marketable for many years.

Ready-made markets in America and Japan
There's a small but significant number of Korean Americans, and Japan has a lot of cultural similarities to Korea allowing works to translate to that market quite well.

Kangnam Style
For all the product development and clever marketing, the way this video went viral was not necessarily the product of Korean marketing expertise. The kids in South Korea aren't that interested in PSY - he's seen as a washed-up old man! But the video propelled the song to becoming arguably the most successful of this millennium, and that naturally leads to people looking for more in other Korean artists' works.

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    Thanks for the link to the government support article.. and nice to know that an American based prestigious university has taken a great interest in researching this! +1.
    – mey
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:39
  • The success of Gangnam style would be an encouragement to any artist who is not getting as much local recognition as he/she expects. If this artist wants to try another avenue he/she may as well get better success.
    – mey
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 10:43

For brief history and notable artists, I'd like to recommend this blog post (really good):
50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists Series Index

This book has many interesting facts about Korean Cool:
The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

I'm a Korean live in Seoul. I can't explain/describe properly (miserable English writing) but have a few opinion on toto morto's answer.

  • Government support can't be the reason, it's began afterward not before

  • Japan is really big market, K-pop's first target was Japan. In East Asia, Japan's been trend setter. We'd pour best boys/girls of our own into Japan, luckily they gained stardoms.

Also note that, Korea has one of most advanced plastic surgery industry. http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/1vui94/make_a_wish_at_the_korean_jower_jawtower_korean/

  • Kangnam Style is just one hit wonder. Pick any one-hit wonder from South America. One song can't build a trend.
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    Thank you for the interesting "insider" facts. People from outside Hanguk might not know about these. Kamsahamnida.
    – mey
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 4:33
  • I was thinking of mentioning the surgery aspect but wasn't sure if it might be impolitic! I think many of those faces would be plenty marketable these days without the tweaks...
    – user16
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 10:11
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    And though I agree that one song on its own can't build a trend, calling Kangnam Style a one-hit wonder slightly downplays how massive it was. Where I live, most people's awareness of Korean music starts with that track.
    – user16
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 10:14
  • @topomorto I think I was wrong about that. Kangnam Style might be the good reason behind K-Pop success in the countries outside of East Asia.
    – 9dan
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 11:09
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    @mey The Obligatory Gangnam Style Post askakorean.blogspot.kr/2012/09/…
    – 9dan
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 2:07

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