Eyes to glued to a phone, earbuds in, and mouths silently forming the words to the latest pop song emulate the modern teen. With pressure to maintain academic excellence and social expectations, teenagers often use music to unwind. Everyone has a style of music, and foreign music is gaining traction amongst teens. K-pop, or popular Korean music mixes Korean and American music with synchronized dance moves and addictive lyrics. The combination makes K-pop irresistible to teens around the globe.
K-pop emerged in 1992, when Seo Taiji and The Boys, a popular dance group that incorporated American rap into Korean lyrics, rose to stardom in South Korea. When entertainment industries saw the value of this new mix of Eastern and Western music styles, the first Korean "idols" emerged. Because of groups such as HOT and Sekseke, K-pop evolved to express new styles through their music, outfits and dance moves. K-pop slowly spread into Japan and other Asian countries.
In 2012, Psy's “Gangnam Style,” with its flashy costumes and glitzy dance moves, began its worldwide domination, leaving Korea and arriving in the US. But K- pop was not successful overnight. The first event, Kcon attracted only a few hundred fans. Later, that number grew to more than 125,000, still only a small number of fans compared to in Korea, but that number continues to grow.
Erika Ishikawa ‘23, an avid “Hot 7” K- pop group fan, says “people may find it strange listening to music that you can't understand the language of. But it sounds nice to me.” Ishikawa was introduced to K-pop by her classmates Marika Takai ‘23 and Louise Kamaka ‘23. Together, the three of them have bonded over their love of k-pop.
“K-pop is a different community you can be a part of. Most people who listen to K- pop are very welcoming and interesting. Plus, it's fun to learn about Korean culture,” she said.
Despite its limited popularity at `Iolani School, Ishikawa still enjoys K-pop and wants to spread awareness and appreciation for the music genre.
“It really is something special. But be warned; it can take over your life. I want people to listen to it, but you have to be responsible,” Ishikawa said with a grin.
Today, K-pop does more than provide a fun way for teens to relax. Its positive influence is helping to combat teenage suicide rates, which have risen a shocking 70 percent from 2006 to 2016, according to a study done by Centers for Disease Control and Depression. Jang Moonbok, who was mocked by all of Korea for his terrible Superstar K audition, contemplated suicide. He said that K- pop songs with positive lyrics helped him to “get out of his dark place.” K- pop groups like BTS also write songs that spread positive messages like “love yourself” and “be your own person.”
If you are interested in Asian culture, synchronized dance moves, or are just feeling down, pop in your earbuds and check out some popular K-pop music!