The hip-hop genre that emerged in New York in the 1970s has evolved from being a niche music style to a mainstream genre heard in languages and music from all around the world. The Billboard charts in the United States, with a history of over 100 years, have become the global standard for measuring influence. In South Korea, artists like Psy, BTS, BLACKPINK, and NCT have all made their mark on the Billboard charts, further elevating the status of K-pop.
The success of K-pop wasn’t limited to just a few artists; it became a widely popular music genre that drew the interest and appeal of fans worldwide. K-pop enthusiasts globally began seeking out more songs from various K-pop artists. As the K-pop education system expanded worldwide, and global K-pop talents were discovered, K-pop became a universally enjoyed genre.
With the overcoming of the COVID-19 pandemic, the K-pop market and industry have been growing rapidly. Major K-pop entertainment companies like HYBE and JYP, as well as specialized institutions like the World K-Pop Center, are making significant moves to usher in the era of global K-pop. They are focusing on creating a foundation where K-pop artists can be nurtured from anywhere in the world, even without any South Koreans involved.
This shift has also led to heightened economic expectations. K-pop album sales continue to break records, with an increasing proportion of revenue coming from overseas rather than domestic sales. For example, HYBE reported that 63.3% of its 1.316 trillion won (approximately $1.1 billion) in sales in the first half of this year came from overseas. This trend has led major international record labels and collaborators to actively engage with the K-pop market.
For instance, HYBE, in collaboration with Geffen Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group, embarked on girl group production through the project “The Debut: Dream Academy.” Over the past two years, they scouted 20 trainees out of 120,000 applicants from all around the world and recently unveiled them. These trainees are planning to engage in activities on a global scale, targeting markets not only in South Korea but also in the pop-centric U.S. music industry.
Japan, the world’s second-largest market after the United States, is also focusing on K-industries by promoting K-pop rather than its own J-pop. Sony Music Korea, the domestic subsidiary of Sony Music based in Japan, signed an exclusive contract with MONSTA X’s I.M last year. Additionally, Sony Music Japan is collaborating with JYP Entertainment on the “Nizi Project Season 2” to discover and debut a joint boy group. Previously, this project successfully debuted the girl group “NiziU.”
Educational institutions like the Hallyu Training Center, Produce 101 series, and global K-pop auditions have consistently nurtured K-pop talent. The World K-Pop Center is currently running a large-scale project to select a national representative K-pop unit girl group, called “Bling One,” from 32 countries. Leveraging the advantage of representing individual countries rather than multinational groups, they have successfully conducted launch events and preliminary rounds in regions like South America, specifically Peru, where K-pop auditions were previously scarce. They are dedicated to resolving the K-pop blind spots and exploring uncharted territories.
Considering that the proportion of the global population using the Korean language is only 0.6%, Korea’s influence on the world music market is substantial. As global K-pop auditions without Koreans gain popularity and global K-pop talents are actively nurtured, the spread of K-pop and the arrival of the era of global K-pop seem even more imminent.