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Hallyu – The History of a Modern Phenomenon

‘한료’ or Hallyu means Korean Wave, a term that is being used more frequently year on year. It all started in the 1990s in China where Korean Drama What is Love? amassed a total of more than 150 million viewers. Then later in 2000 a Korean boygroup called H.O.T held a concert in a gymnasium in Beijing. Packed with fans, a commentator called this enthusiasm for K-Pop the ‘Korean Wave’. The wave has now spread all over the world and is showing no signs of dying down anytime soon.

K-Pop as we know it started off with a trio of idols called ‘서태지 와 아이들’ or ‘SeoTaeji and the Boys’. They cleverly combined the contemporary Western music style with Korean lyrics. This was a big hit in Korea. Seeing how popular this new concept was, several entertainment companies decided to create their own groups following this model. This formed the first generation of K-Pop were groups such as H.O.T and Sechs Kies, who is still active today.

With the second generation of K-Pop, many elements of the first generation were passed on. Everything from the crazy fashion sense to the complex choreography still exists today. Although we are in the 5th generation, the formula for creating an idol group hasn’t changed after almost 30 years. Besides the fashion and styling tweaks to conform to current trends, the foundations are the same. After all, why change a good thing?

Previously, K-Pop groups would mainly hold concerts in South Korea only. Occasionally there would be special performances in neighbouring Asian countries such as Japan or China. Today, they’re being held all over the world. With KCON, a Korean Wave convention, taking place not only in the United States, but in France and Abu Dhabi as well, and concerts happening everywhere from London to Sydney, K-Pop has truly become a worldwide phenomenon. No wonder K-Pop has become so internationalised, with the chance to see your favourite group perform at a venue near you, which back in the 90s wouldn’t have been possible.

Even within Korea itself, K-Pop has grown in popularity. Recently, EXO has been certified platinum in Korea for selling over 1 million copies of their album ‘EX’ACT’ which is a huge achievement. Not only one of South Korea’s largest exports but also a big player in its domestic market, K-Pop has taken the world by storm and only time will tell how long we will be riding this Korean Wave.

Featured Image Source: KCON USA, 31.01.17,

Natalie Mierswa

Writer and dreamer. German mind, American heart and Asian soul. Member of Kim Jongdae Appreciation Society and proud donator to the Park Jimin Jams Fund.



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