Singers, young, handsome… and Korean? Kpop catches the Spanish youth
Spanish teenagers love Korean music. Commercial groups with catchy music and choreographed dances. It’s the Kpop phenomenon.
Two weeks ago, Trending Topic in Spain had the words Atleti & Chelsea (football match) and also the tag #GHDevuelveNuestroDinero (about a TV program), but also a hashtag that most of us didn’t understand: #SpainWantsBTS. Under this phrase, thousands of messages called for a group of young Asians to perform a concert in our country. They don’t appear in the list of best-selling albums, they radios don’t play them every day, the Spanish media don’t talk about their scandals, but they are part of a worldwide phenomenon called Kpop, music made in Korea, sung in Korean.
They sing in Korean, yes, but they aren’t that different from other groups created by the industry: young people who wear the latest trends, catchy melodies, coordinated choreographies… It also happened with New Kids on the Block, Take That, Backstreet Boys or Spice Girls. However, Korean distinguished herself from the American in the ability to create such groups. A few years ago, 20 groups debuted in a year; now 50 did it. They don’t hide that the big companies recruit them through castings, boys and girls, -although most are male groups – that dance and sing well to create, under their criteria, a group that will drive fans crazy. They spend a lot of years being trainees to get fame but not everyone gets to live from this.
In our country, most of the followers of this type of music are teenagers, but they are not the only ones. Itziar Sanz is 28 years old and is one the founders of BTS’ fanclub “BTS Spain”. She confesses that the club encouraged fans to create this type of hashtag to catch the attention of the Korean industry, but now are the followers themselves, individually, who create and promote those hashtags. The club sends letters and even surveys to the company of the group to prove that coming to Spain for a concert is profitable. “What has happened here with BTS hasn’t happened with any group before. BIGBANG are very famous but no everyone is their fan”**, tells Itziar. In a year, she has seen doubled the number of followers in Twitter: now they are more than 20K.
** This only applies to Spain’s fan phenomenon. Itziar was asked if there was another group in Spain that generated that expectation: She said that there are very famous groups that everyone knows because their songs are very catchy, but not everyone is fan of those groups (belonging to the fandom, for example: BTS’ ARMY). For this reason, she mentioned BIGBANG as an example. But she didn’t mean BTS are more famous or better than BIGBANG, she was talking about the union of fans of BTS in Spain, about the continuous hastags created… And of course, she was talking about Spain from her point of view as part of BTS Spain.
To understand this phenomenon, more data: Han-A Association brings together several associations with the aim of promoting Korean culture. In the fan club section there are more than 70. Some of them are active, some aren’t. Music groups grow fast but also disappear at the same speed. Some of them debuted more than 10 years ago, but many end up experiencing the curse of the five years: separations, dissolution, etc.
This phenomenon is a lot bigger in other parts of Europe. In London or Paris this groups fill stadiums. BTS, for example, entered United Kingdom’s charts with their last album. “I got hooked to this [K-Pop] years ago because there wasn’t a group like that here. Now I’m living my adolescence,” admits the founder of the fanclub.
Itziar started reading manga. In a forum she heard a song and started investigating what was that. “Later I discovered dramas and films.” Something similar happened to Nuria Fuentes, one of the founders of Han-A. Seven or eight years ago she watched films and dramas, where the OST was pure K-Pop. And one thing led to another. Now she has 30 years old and has noticed the generational leap, there are more and more fans of this movement and the association has five headquarters in Spain. “This isn’t going to stop, there’s more and more people who likes it. The social media helps having a lot of information about the groups, knowing things about their lives…”
These singers are ambassadors of korean culture. Usually their followers end up learning the language —Itziar has being learning Korean for six years— and even wanting to travel to the country. This interest in knowing Korean culture has drawn attention of asian government. Five years ago the Korean Culture Center of Madrid was opened and this summer they organized the K-pop Academy with professors who train famous groups. It’s not anything trivial, “It is as if Real Madrid’s coach came to Korea to teach our football players.” The places were insufficient to meet the demand.
“It was a ‘shock’. The professors themselves were surprised with the amount of followers,” confesses Seungjun Lee, in charge of K-Pop related events. Lee has a theory for this phenomenon. “In Spain you don’t have this type of music and it’s easy to sing and dance. It has good quality.” Nuria adds the music videos, flashy, with catchy choreographies that ends hooking you up. “Also they always have some english phrases so you can follow it”.
Lee confesses that he is a big fan of this type of music. “But I am from another generation, from the 2000s”, says in a perfect Spanish. The groups nowadays, assures, are more rebel, they don’t hold back, say whatever they want. “Also, they are closer to their fans, they show that they are humans, not gods.” Actually, Itziar explains that she prefers this type of music because singers publish part of their lives on internet, they are closer “you sympathize with them”, something that, in her opinion, american artists don’t do.
According to the book ‘K-pop beyond Asia’ edited by Korean Ministry of Culture, this movement started in Korea in the 90’s when singer Kim Gunmo managed to sell 2,5 millions of copies of his album. At the same time, singer Kim Wansum became the first woman to sell more than one million. On 1992 debuted the first group classified as K-Pop and on 1997 came the first generation of K-Pop. Talking about the history of this music is inevitable to stop on 2012. The world tried to sing in korean while dancing as if riding a horse. The phenomenon of Gangnam Style was global. PSY made it into Billboard and his music video has more than 2.5** millions of views on YouTube. Do you understand it now? Catchy music and funny dance. If you add young and trendy boys to that, how can the teenagers not like something like that?
** This is an error on the original article, as the actual number of views its more than 2,5 billion.
One more element for the winning combination: the‘merchandising’. The new groups release new albums every five or six months with a few songs. Special editions in China, Japan… Itziar showed us several BTS and other groups’ albums that she has bought via internet: books with dozens of photos, pictures, photocards… And the unconditional ones buy everything. “When my father asks me why I listen music in Korean I always answer the same thing,” says Nuria. “You listened to the Beatles and didn’t know english.”
Source: El Confidencial
Eng. trans: BTS Spain
**Repost with proper credits**