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Letters from Europe
K-Pop Sensation Begins to Sweep Europe
Korean Pop Music Becomes Global Phenomenon
By Antonina Veljanovska
EU Correspondent
"Blackpink," the four-member South Korean girl group, has become the biggest K-pop girl band on the face of the earth. They are Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa.

In recent years popular musicians like Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga are no longer broadcast on radio and TV stations or in shopping malls in the Balkan. It is all because of the Korean Wave hitting Europe. The K-pop is conquering Macedonia.

The Korean Wave has arrived in the Balkans, so groups like "Blackpink" and "BTS" are popular in Macedonia. The Korean music groups have also their own large fan groups that are promoting their songs in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

In the Balkans, K-pop has just begun to gain popularity, but it is doing so faster and faster. Thanks to the activity of the Balkan fan community, K-pop artists began to be published in magazines, their songs to be played on the radio, to be given in popular shows, such as some music programs throughout the Balkans, and most often in Bulgaria.

In 2018 the latest hits "Fake Love" and "Idol" of the mega popular group BTS were promoted, but their charm continued in Macedonia where their latest album "BE" was released on all radio stations like Antenna, Fortuna, and Life, and on television programs like MTV and Alfa. But not only BTS, the female group "Blackpink" had great success and their songs were also played everywhere on radio stations.

All this means that, after appearing as a genre of music, K-pop has grown into a whole subculture with millions of fans among young people around the world, including the Balkans.

The Hallyu or Korean Wave has been building for two decades, but K-pop in particular has become increasingly visible to a global audience in the last five to 10 years.

South Korean artists hit the Billboard Hot 100 at least eight times after the Wonder Girls broke through in 2009 with their crossover hit "Nobody" — released in four different languages, including English — and K-pop exports emerged as the South Korean music industry to an impressive 5 billion US dollar industry.

The beginning of the 21st century marked the beginning of the global Korean Wave. Over the past 15 years, interest in Korean culture, especially entertainment products such as Korean TV dramas and Korean pop music, has skyrocketed beyond Asia, to America, Europe, and all the way to the Balkans.

K-pop or Korean pop music has become a truly global phenomenon in recent years, with acts such as BTS and Blackpink often surpassing the most famous American or British bands.

K-pop artists are confidently moving not only to the Asian market, but also to the rest of the world. The Internet has allowed idols to become stars around the world.

The Korean idols have grown into a cult. Their concert tours are everywhere in the world — USA, France, Germany, and Chile. The K-pop fever is spreading fast throughout the world regardless of geography.

K-pop can be used for all popular music in Korea, but is often used to describe a specific genre that has dominated the Korean music market for the past 20 years. This genre includes elements of Western pop, dance, electronics, R&B, and hip-hop.

Like many Southeast Asian countries, South Korea has been under strong foreign impacts that have influenced the creation of its own popular music market. During the Japanese occupation (1910-45), local and foreign composers developed a mixture of traditional Korean music and the gospel, which is still popular until today.

K-pop has been around for about 30 years. But its roots hark back to the 1950s. At the time, Americans were giving concerts in South Korea introducing the Western culture. As a result, a host of young bands of American style of music were formed. They played rock and pop music.

South Korea's music industry began to flourish in the 1960s. At that time, the first labels began to appear, the first singles were released, and talent contests were organized. The era of hippie folk pop and the DJ culture emerged in the 1970s. The 1980s were known as the "ballad era."

Artists mixed American music with the Korean language, creating K-pop. K-pop became especially popular about 30 years ago. This was due to the group "Seo Taiji and Boys," which was a huge success throughout Asia.

What we know today as K-pop is a phenomenon from the 1990s. Then, new bands created state-of-the-art, catchy songs with lyrics that touched on the problems of Korean society.

This paved the way for modern sound. In the mid to late 1990s, many music labels were established that dominate the market today. At the same time, the underground music movements of hip-hop and rock began to become increasingly successful and popular.

In the wake of the brutal Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Western music landed on the peninsula.

Radio broadcast and clubs for the US soldiers stationed in South Korea sprouted on its soil. Back then Both the Korean general public and musicians became interested in various genres of Western music.

Rolling Stone magazine once described K-pop as "a mixture of trendy Western music and high-energy Japanese pop."

The songs are performed in Korean, but English is almost always present in the lyrics in K-pop. Usually these are simple phrases that are often repeated and attract listeners, especially foreigners.
The main theme of the songs, as with most pop music, is about love and relationships.

Not only South Korean pop culture but also movies (K-dramas), series and Korean food recipes have become very popular in the Balkans. The first South Korean musicians to make the Billboard Top 100 were the Wonder Girls in 2009, with the hit "Nobody" released in four different languages.

One of the most popular groups is BTS, which in 2017 became one of the biggest new phenomena in the US, but soon spread to the Balkans, where they are considered one of the best Korean groups. The global popularity of Korean pop music has become a major headache for American and European artists.

Perhaps the most famous K-pop song is Gangnam Style, which was a global hit performed by Korean rapper Psy. The song and accompanying video went viral, spreading Korean pop music to a wider audience.

By the end of 2012, the song topped the charts in over 30 countries, leaving a huge social and cultural impact. The then US President Barack Obama was seen performing the dance. The video has been viewed over 3 billion times on YouTube alone.

The Korean pop is entering our lives faster and faster. After Psy's convincing success, everyone turned their attention to the South Korean pop.

Besides Psy, BTS is one of the most famous and influential K-pop groups. BTS stands for Bangtan Boys. The band has existed since 2013.

Currently, they are considered legends of Korean pop music. They have fans all over the world, the group has millions of fans on social networks. They are the first Korean artists to debut on the Billboard charts. The group of seven boys recently graced the cover of the American Billboard magazine.

Another group who is also popular is EXO. They have existed since 2012. The group consists of Korean and Chinese singers. Their albums are the most popular of all K-pop albums. The band "Big Bang" is one of the kings of the stage. They are often called "the biggest band in Asia."

As in the Balkans, the K-pop sensation is popular in Europe, where artists hold concerts. Two years ago in Paris the famous Korean group GOT7 had their last Keep Spinning concert. Composed of
seven boys (JB, Mark, Jackson, Jinyoug, Youngjae, BamBam, and Yugyeom) they were met by huge crowd at AccorHotels Arena on Oct. 19, 2019.

A growing number of young Macedonian ladies are becoming infatuated by the K-pop as it is sweeping aroud the corners of the European Continent.

"The first song I heard from K-pop was Psy's "Gangnam Style," said a young Macedonian known only as Jovana. "It was becoming a global trend and was viral at the time"

"Then, I saw BIGBANG in a proposal, and then I heard their song "bang bang bang, which became my favorite hit," she went on. "Back then, I really loved BIGBANG, and I always listened to their songs"

Another fan of K-pop was of the same opinion. "It was last year that I actually started listening to K-pop," Angela said. "I fell in love with K-pop and became a maniac for GO7T, TXT, Seventeen, Stray Kids, BTS, EXO, ATEEZ, MONSTAX, and Day6 AB6IX"



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Antonina Veljanovska, based in North Macedonia, serves as EU correspondent for The Seoul Times. The Macedonian journalist has written for the local new media. She is interested in the Korean culture including K-Pop and fashion. Her hobbies include reading.

 

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