By HANAKO KATO and SAMANTHA STANFORD
2012 was the Chinese year of the dragon and the year of the summer olympics, but many also consider it the year of Korean pop music, better known as K-pop.
The music video “Gangnam Style” by PSY from South Korea has become a viral hit worldwide with more than one billion views on YouTube.
This type of Korean music has broken cultural and language barriers, flooding the ears of many United States pop music lovers.
“American culture tends to be more permeable,” said Dr. Marmy Clason, chair of Mount Mary College’s communications department. “It caught on because it’s different… but it was also popular in other countries before here.”
K-pop can be categorized as a musical blend of rap, pop and techno music with emphasis on eye-catching unique fashion and intense dance choreography.
But the biggest and most obvious distinction of K-pop is that it is sung in Korean.
Despite the language barrier, PSY’s song reached number two on the U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 list within weeks of being released.
“I embraced K-pop mainly for the catchiness and the similarites to R&B, and there’s always something new,” said K-pop fan Kiana Moore. “K-pop represents having fun and being innovative.”
Other K-pop idols, such as Jay Park and Se7en, have tried to break into the American market with limited success.
But PSY’s music has brought attention to other Korean musicians as well.
BIGBANG, one of the most popular musical groups in South Korea, is a hip-hop male group made up of five members: T.O.P., Taeyang, Deasung, Seungri and the leader, G-dragon. The group was formed in 2006 and has gained many fans worldwide.
“Any way you put it, because of PSY, K-pop and many Korean musicians have been receiving a lot of interest,” Taeyang stated in an interview with Fuse TV.
With the growing demand of K-pop and other forms of Asian music, entertainment corporations are finding new ways to market to this specific audience.
In March, YouTube launched the A-Pop Channel, a channel dedicated to Asian pop music.
According to A-Pop’s YouTube page, some of the artists featured will be Chinese musician Wang Leehom, the Taiwanese band Mayday, Japanese pop-rock band Flumpool, Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Korean bands Super Junior, 2PM and SHINee.
To promote the channel, YouTube created “Star Week” from March 8-14 where by signing up for Google Plus, fans could “hang out” and chat with their favorite musician during the week.
In October of last year the U.S. had its first large-scale convention entirely dedicated to K-pop called KCON.
It was a full day event in Irvine, Calif. with more than 10,000 patrons attending autograph signing sessions, celebrity panels, contests and fan workshops.
It was arranged by Mnet, an entertainment brand based in Los Angeles focused on Korean music, television and culture.
Currently, there has not been an official announcement whether or not KCON will return for 2013.
Many are wondering if K-pop will remain on the U.S. popularity radar or eventually fade underneath the next cultural fad.
According to Mnet’s acting president and CEO Ted Kim in a Fuse TV interview, “KCON was a large success that emphasizes the strong direction that K-pop and the Korean Wave are heading in the U.S.”