Nine-member (formerly twelve) male group EXO made their debut in 2012 and is now considered as one the top performers in Korean pop music.

A sea of people huddled together, with coordinated chants, sometimes even singing along to the live music. Girls and boys waving light sticks in a sea of color. One can see tears, another looks around and sees smiles that have never been seen before. Those who are lucky enough to be close swear to not take a bath for the next months, and those who are far try to be contented to their heart’s desire.

This was the scenario during EXO Planet #2 – The EXO’lution concert last January in Manila at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. The two-day concert was packed with fans from all over the Philippines and some even came in from other countries. And although this was the most expensive stop in their world tour, this has become the first concert in the Philippines to sell out tickets in less than 24 hours.

This only depicts the emergence of Korean pop music in the Filipino market. What started in the year 2009 as a minor fad is now an embedded part of the Filipino social circles.

K-pop has redefined the way we think about music in a whole new perspective. K-pop, in a closer view, encompasses more than just music. It transcends to fashion, beauty, household, and even food.

To most, K-pop simply refers to South Korean pop music, however this actually encompasses a multitude of genres other than pop. K-pop is more of bubblegum pop infused with electronic, R&B, hiphop and rock sounds. Moreover, K-pop also transcends to fashion, other performing arts, and even food. K-pop focuses more on group acts rather than solo performers, wherein some groups range up to more than 21 members.

The emergence of YouTube as a music platform and the surge of social media helped cement the presence of K-pop in the global market, which was started with Girls’ Generation’s Gee in 2009. The popularity of K-pop rose to even higher standards in 2012 when Psy’s Gangnam Style reached 1 billion views on YouTube, the first video to ever reach that number on the popular video-sharing site.

K-pop has significantly contributed to cultural exports and the economic boom of South Korea over the past years. In the mid-90s, South Korean President Kim Young-Sam identified culture as the next growth driver after he observed the commercial success of the film Jurassic Park, which was “equal to the export sale of 1.5 million Hyundai cars”.

As of 2012, K-pop was able to rake in to an estimated total of 794 million U.S. dollars, an increase of 25 percent from 637 million in 2010.

In the mid-90s to the 2000s, Korean dramas have been gaining momentum overseas, therefore paving the way for cultural exports in the coming years. The growth of Korean dramas in Asia and North America helped the music industry grow by playing soundtracks repeatedly during episodes. The most notable example for this is SHINee’s Stand by Me from the 2009 drama Boys Over Flowers.

K-pop started its overseas presence in Japan, where singer BoA made her debut in the early 2000s and had cemented her place in the Japanese music market, the second largest after the United States. Other Korean acts soon followed suit to this success, with male groups TVXQ and Big Bang and female acts such as Girls’ Generation and 2NE1.

The first presence of K-pop in the Philippines was by the female group Kiss in 2003, when their song Because I’m A Girl entered the MYX charts. This would not be duplicated until 2009, when Super Junior’s Sorry Sorry  rose up to the top ten of the MYX charts in 2009. Other hits such as Girls Generation’s Gee and 2NE1’s Fire followed soon after, developing the streak of K-pop songs in Philippine TV.

The first major K-pop concert in the Philippines was Super Junior’s Super Show 2 in April 2010. Since then, the Philippines has been a major stop for K-pop acts in their concert tours, the most recent with EXO’s concert last January 23-24.

To Koreans, the most important overseas crossover is to North America, as the United States is considered to be the biggest music market in the world. Solo act Rain was the first K-pop artist to hold a major concert in the United States in 2006. The entertainment agency SM Entertainment was the first agency to hold a family concert outside of the Asian continent when they performed in Los Angeles in 2010.

The first appearance of a K-pop song in a U.S. chart was when Wonder Girls’ Nobody entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 76. Other notable appearances in the Billboard charts were with Girls’ Generation, Big Bang and most recently, EXO-K on the Billboard Top 200 Albums in 2014.

This unprecedented emergence of the Korean pop music system is far too deep and has become an organic machine all on its own, coming in to slay and to stay.



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