Culture news Are your loved ones into k-pop and you don’t understand anything about it? Don’t panic, we’ll explain the global phenomenon of the last 10 years so you don’t get too far behind

You’re not a fan of k-pop, but you meet people who love it? In this case, this article will help you understand this phenomenon which is taking up more and more space in the international music industry.

It’s increasingly difficult not to hear about k-pop, as this phenomenon is growing so much over time. South Korean music has been growing in popularity for at least 15 years now, becoming a staple for less than a decade now. Without being completely resistant to it, it is entirely conceivable not to appreciate this particularly prolific industry. However, being surrounded by music lovers from the Land of the Morning Calm can sometimes be a delicate position, especially with complete ignorance of this specific musical environment. This is why this article might interest you, to learn more about k-pop, its good sides, but also to become aware of the most negative aspects.


  • What is k-pop?
  • K-pop, a gateway to discovering a rich culture
  • A prolific industry
  • Behind the glitter

What is k-pop?

With the current influence of South Korean culture, this question is now rare. However, answering it allows us to lay the foundations for a good understanding of this musical universe. This isn’t a big revelation, but k-pop simply means Korean Pop and is a musical style from South Korea that often mixes pop, rap, dance and even electro. But k-pop is not just about music, but also about meticulous choreography and extremely elaborate music videos. Far from being an industry like any other, it is extremely demanding to find the most promising talents in order to compose the best possible group. Every detail is scrutinized to leave nothing to chance.

Let’s come back to this specific point: the composition of the groups. Already, in k-pop, these are very often exclusively female or male groups, rarely mixed, although there are solo artists. Very far from the group of friends who have known each other since high school and share the ambitious dream of making their music known, it is an industry which itself composes the groups according to precise criteria which can sometimes seem dehumanizing.. The truth is that many South Korean agencies regularly organize castings where thousands of young boys and girls participate by singing and dancing in front of a jury. At the end of these auditions, some can become interns in the agency, taking courses and training. However, they are not sure of being chosen to compose the future music group.

Each member of a group has a specific role which defines their function in the group. Leader, main singer, main or visual dancer, that is to say the most beautiful member of the group or at least the one who most corresponds to the criteria of Korean beauties. Often called “the face of the group,” its role illustrates how appearance plays an important role in Korean society.

The lifespan of a k-pop group is around eight years, and few of them last longer than a few years. However, with the global success of BTS and Blackpink, it is very possible that things will change. What’s more, the new ones have younger and younger members among their ranks, which suggests that they will last longer, even if seeing 14-year-old idols does not please all fans.

K-pop, a gateway to discovering a rich culture

K-pop has allowed many fans to discover South Korean culture. Before the influence of this strong music industry, this country unfortunately did not benefit from such great attention. Thus, k-pop has been a gateway for millions of fans to South Korea, and the richness of its culture which is not limited to its music and its series (k-dramas). In other words, the wave coming from the Land of the Calm Morning, called Hallyu, allows you to direct your curiosity to this precise place. Therefore, even if you don’t like the music industry, it has the merit of raising awareness of a country that was sorely lacking in international attention.

With the k-pop wave becoming more and more powerful across the world, South Korea is becoming a particularly attractive place for tourists. Travel, university studies or work abroad, all the reasons are good to take the plunge and decide to finally set foot in this country with its exponential influence.

A prolific industry

Between the new groups that emerge regularly and the comebacks that take place often, a k-pop fan generally has nothing to be bored. Music videos are popping up in abundance on Youtube, as are rebroadcasts of shows where it is possible to see idols in funny situations. Some fans have fun creating content related to their favorite groups or artists, by editing or highlighting them in one way or another on social networks. They do not fail to share their passion and affection, notably going to the few concerts which are lucky enough to occur in France.

This lucrative industry is sure to sell a plethora of goodies. Fans can, of course, purchase albums of their favorite idols, but also other items like lightsticks bearing the image of k-pop groups to support them by making them move to the rhythm during a concert. Some even go so far as to collect photocards, i.e. selfie photos of the members of a group, which usually accompany a physical album.

Behind the glitter

Unfortunately, the k-pop industry is not rosy whether for artists or certain fans. On the stage and light side, many idols do not benefit from ideal treatment. Extremely busy schedules, intensive training, sasaengs (obsessive fans) who infringe on their privacy and security, constant pressure from fans and their agency… There is unfortunately a long list of things that harm mental health and physique of South Korean celebrities. Being under so much pressure and being exhausted can lead to depressive disorders, sometimes even leading to suicide. Key stars of South Korea have killed themselves because of this industry which is still slow to place the well-being of its artists as an absolute priority.

Are your loved ones into k-pop and you don't understand anything about it?  Don't panic, we'll explain the global phenomenon of the last 10 years so you don't get too far behind

Momo from the group Twice

To give you an idea, an idol, for example, underwent a lot of pressure from his agency to lose exactly 7 kilos. At the time, she was only a trainee, and that was the condition for her to be part of the future group… The problem was that she only had one week left to achieve this goal. She therefore decided to eat exclusively ice cubes and to do even more sport to achieve this. Every night she cried because she was afraid she wouldn’t wake up the next day. It is Momo from the group Twice who told this sordid story in an interview a few years ago.

Are your loved ones into k-pop and you don't understand anything about it?  Don't panic, we'll explain the global phenomenon of the last 10 years so you don't get too far behind

Jang Won-young

Unfortunately, this story of ideal silhouettes also concerns some fans. Seeing idols so thin sometimes makes you want to look like them, which can lead to eating disorders. For example, these days there is a trend called “Wonyoungism”, which unfortunately causes more harm than anything else. The name comes from the ultra-popular idol Jang Won-young of the group IVE, who is considered by many to be the ultimate k-pop idol. Tall, slim, very elegant, particularly in demand to collaborate with brands, talented singer, bilingual in English, presenter… In short, the 19-year-old young woman who started her career at 14 seems to have absolutely everything going for her and is an infinite source of inspiration.. This is why many people want to be like him at all costs, including very strict diets. From the outside, this fashion may seem beneficial for “taking back control of your life”, taking up sport and setting goals in order to become the best version of yourself. However, in practice, this can be quite unhealthy for your self-esteem, not to mention the eating disorders that can arise.

In short, being interested in k-pop is above all immersing yourself in a unique cultural phenomenon that is causing a sensation around the world. No one is forcing you to enjoy this type of music, but understanding the fans around you is much more rewarding than you might think.. Seeing the positive and sometimes negative influence of k-pop also allows us to identify beneficial and toxic behaviors.

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