K-pop (Korean pop music) has taken the world by storm thanks to the phenomenon of Psy’s success, and China is no exception. With a mix of popular songs, choreography and comic dances, and strong visual elements in its videos, K-pop’s influence is spreading massively across the entertainment, video, cosmetics, fashion, and electronics industries in particular, and garners intense word of mouth on social networks.
Kyu C. Lee, born in Seoul (South Korea), is the CEO and Producer of Kino33Entertainment, specializing in the film and music entertainment industries. Known as “Q” in Hollywood and in the Korean entertainment industry (he goes by @qflava on Twitter), Lee was at the forefront in globalizing Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style” in 2012.
In the interview below, Lee discusses K-pop’s enormous impact on the China market, its prospects for future success, and the big potential it holds for foreign investors (LVMH’s Singapore-based LG Capital has already invested in Psy’s Korean production company YG Entertainment). If you want to hear more from him, he will be speaking at China Connect on March 5-6 in Paris.
Can you tell us how the K-pop wave has impacted China, and particularly China’s internet?
In addition to Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” I saw a Chinese program in which 100 people follow the choreography of Korean singer Lim Chang Jung’s “Open the Door” behind the artist.
People are waiting and looking for new content that is different from Psy’s. The choreography of Lim Chang Jung’s “Open the Door” is different from that of Psy’s but it shows very comic dance like Psy’s too. This dance has been loved by people a lot.
Recently in China, Chinese singer Rolling Wang announced a kind of [music video with choreography similar to] Psy’s “Gangnam Style” dance with the song “Chick Chick.” Before we say which one is better, the trend of songs focused on dance prevails not only in China, but all over the world, and these songs have been loved worldwide. This is the trend that leads to a new culture.
As the interest in Korea rapidly increased due to K-pop, the number of tourists from the world, including China to Korea, has increased over three times for the last two to three years.
The SNS [social networking service] activity by Korean stars in China is very active. Some of them are actively participating through Weibo. Psy has about 25,000,000 Weibo followers and actor Lee Minho about 23,000,000. And many other K-stars are participating in various activities.
K-pop concerts are held in many places, and one of the most remarkable concerts was for the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of Korea-China diplomatic relations, held last June in China.
Among many past concerts [is] the premiere of [the] “OST Concert” (Original Soundtrack). This means there are many K-drama (Korean TV dramas; similar to soap operas) fans and it is understandable to hold a concert titled “OST Concert” because the music in the drama remains in the fans’ heart since the drama hit the jackpot.
Korean social media apps Kakao Talk and Line were disrupted in China and have been accepted again since August. Currently, WhatsApp and WeChat have more than 400 million members around the world and Naver’s Line is an e-commerce enterprise which has about 400 million users too. Line [has been] preparing active business activity in China for the second half of the year.
Can you name a few brands that have leveraged this huge success well?
Some of the most-loved brands of Korea in China and other Asian countries must be cosmetic and beauty items. Amore and Missha have already attracted much attention and their success in these countries is closely related to K-pop. As K-pop and K-dramas are loved by people in these countries in terms of visual aspects, K-stars feel the urge to become the hero or heroine of these brands’ images. People automatically try to use the same products that are promoted in the songs or dramas. Samsung and LG, which have already been recognized as world-class brands with their excellent quality, accelerated the popularity of Korean brands as they used K-pop stars as their advertising models.
Therefore, it will be worthwhile for foreign investment firms to invest considering the big promising picture of [the] Korean entertainment business.
How long do you think this phenomenon will last?
The success of K-pop is not a phenomenon [that] happened in a short period of time. The content that has been built up for years is now shining and being loved. K-pop is K-culture. Culture does not disappear suddenly. Korea has developed various drama and music content rapidly and they are based on Korean and Asian atmosphere and feelings. K-culture, which may be fresh to some people, will establish itself as a new [form of] cultural content that can communicate with people all over the world, beyond music and drama.
Laure de Carayon (@laure2carayon) is the founder and organizer of China Connect (@ChinaConnectEU), the largest gathering of experts on Chinese consumer trends, marketing, digital and mobile in Europe.