(Click on picture for 2NE1’s “I am the Best” Music Video)
For a relatively new industry made in 1996, K-Pop is quickly becoming one of biggest Korea’s tools to communicate their culture. Global sales, according to BBC, were over $30 million in 2009. It will surely grow over the next few years as SM entertainment, JYP entertainment, and others team up with foreign music companies.
The Korean government is convinced that these sugary pop-stars will not only help tourism lure in consumers but will increase consumers in other industries; the department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea increased their budget (from 17 million won to 53 million won or $1.7 million to $4.7 million) for expanding the “Hallyu wave” to other parts of the world this year. Activities in promoting their stars include shipping calendars to 170 embassies in order to introduce Kpop to new customers.
Though it seems like a big investment for tax payers, it seems to be working:”A survey on 300 companies conducted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed 51.9 percent of the respondents sayi
ng the Korean wave contributing to greater sales abroad.” Furthermore, the survey also claims that “86.7 percent of cultural content businesses had better sales, with numbers reaching 85.7 percent and 75.0 percent for tourism and retail. The pop singers publicizing Korean manufactured goods instill a good image over seas. Kpop and other components of Hallyu also has induced a great rush of tourism. In 2011, 9.79 million foreign visitors entered South Korea, which is a 11.3 increase from the previous year. The Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Korea aims for 11 million tourists this year. (Korean pop culture beneficial to business: poll) As the Korean brands tended to hide or use other images that strongly associate with other countries, this may be a chance for Hyundai, LG, Samsung to use kpop stars.
From a pop star perspective, K-pop spreading to other countries is not only an ego booster, but a hopeful salary booster. K-pop stars do much, much, much better economically when their music is sold abroad. For instance, a CD that costs 15,000 won (about US $14) in South Korea costs more than four times in Japan. Bernie Cho,Korean music industry veteran, continues “In Korea, the price [of a song bought online] was originally 5o cents, it dropped to 12 cents, then it dropped to six cents. And the artists are getting 35% of that – they’re making two cents a download.” (BBC) In fact, Cho continues in another article, “many top artists make more money from one week in Japan thant they do in one year in Korea.” Illegal music downloads are pretty common in Korea, as it is ranked No.2 in online music piracy in 2010. Though fangirls squirm and wave handmade posters at concerts, these signs of affection do not necessarily reflect profit. Pop-stars surely want fame in the other countries, but that may not be the only thing they see when they look at their international fans.