Korean pop music, better known as K-Pop, has become enormously popular in Asia in recent years, but other parts of the world by and large remained immune to its catchy rhythms and melodies. North America in particular has always been a target market for major music producers in South Korea, but success has been hard to come by. In this interview with Flowsion Shekar, founder of Koreaboo.com based in Los Angeles, we talk about how K-Pop is now turning the tides and steadily becoming viral. We also discuss whether the much touted ‘Gangnam Style’ music video by PSY, now counting over 300 million YouTube views, will bring Korean pop music to the American music mainstream.
AsianTalks: How did Koreaboo get its start?
When I was thirteen or fourteen, I started listening to K-pop singer BoA because I grew up in Vancouver, and J-Pop was popular back then. A friend of mine originally introduced me to BoA, and a couple of years later I started expanding and began listening to more popular groups. But I couldn’t find any resources on the Internet for K-Pop music, which was fast, reliable. That’s why I started Koreaboo, which was launched in 2010.
AsianTalks: Given the sudden surgeof interest in Korean pop music, you must have experienced some strong growth on your site.
Yes. When we first started we had a launch event in Los Angeles. As K-pop expanded internationally our traffic grew with it.
AsianTalks: K-Pop popularity is pretty established in Southeast Asia, China, and Japan. In your opinion what does K-Pop offer that its predecessors did not? I think K-Pop is super-catchy and the production quality is super-high. That’s really important. The music videos are high budget, nicely done, polished, and it’s just super-catchy pop music! The thing K-Pop does differently is that K-Pop has its own trends, its own style. But even beyond that there’s different styles within the genre. And it’s not done in a 90s style of music. They actually keep up with trends and what’s new.
AsianTalks: What’s a general age range for K-Pop fans? very young! I think our demographic is 14-26. We’re holding an event called KCON, and I see postings by 11-year-olds! But there’s older fans in their early to mid-twenties.
AsianTalks: Your blog is a great resource. How do you keep it updated? Most of the writing is done by editors and staff managers. In terms of hits, controversy always gets a lot of views. We try not to report on controversy too much unless it’s fully researched. We make sure it’s 100 percent accurate before pushing out the information. Regardless, if it’s an SM artist, we get tons of visits. When we first released news of SHINee’s comeback we got an enormous amount of traffic. It’s still one of our most read articles.
AsianTalks: How would you differentiate your blog from similar K-Pop websites? We differentiate ourselves by working heavily with the community. We work with all the communities. We put together two of the first K-Pop conventions with our SM town event. The KCON event is our first North American convention. So we’re not just online, we do a lot of community efforts as well.
AsianTalks: Let’s talk about the unprecedented popularity of Gangnam Style. The singer, PSY, has made more stateside television appearances than any other Korean artist to-date. What’s your take on the Gangnam Style phenomenon? When I first saw it I thought it was kind of cool, but it wasn’t really my style of music or what I like. In the US it got started because it was a funny video. That’s how it spread – like most viral videos. In terms of trends I don’t think it’s possible to sustain Gangnam Style’s popularity. I don’t think most people who like Gangnam Style will listen to other K-Pop.
AsianTalks: For K-Pop fans who don’t speak or understand Korean, what do you think is the appeal of the music? I like certain kinds of K-Pop because it’s pleasant to listen to. I listen to mostly ballads and hip-hop. We don’t need to understand exactly what they’re saying, but through music videos you can tell what’s going on. If it’s catchy it doesn’t matter what language it’s in.
AsianTalks: Lastly, what kind of translation do you do for the blog? We get entertainment news directly from Korea. We check with our partner website to see whether our translations differ. We often conduct peer reviews as well. So senior writers will check up on other writers before we publish. And we try to minimize error as much as possible.
For more information and other K-Pop articles visit www.Asiantalks.com
By: Elizabeth Shim