Entertainment


Psy opens US gates for Korean music


South Korean pop sensation Psy on the red carpet of the 2012 Mnet Asia Music Awards in Hong Kong. Pic: AFP

Los Angeles: 'Gangnam Style,' the catchy Korean song by rapper Psy, may have danced its way into the American charts but the Korean pop industry isn't horsing around when it comes to capitalising on the singer's phenomenal US success.  

With 'Gangnam Style' topping the current Billboard Digital Songs chart and becoming the most-watched video on YouTube ever with more than 800 million views, fellow Korean pop, or K-pop, artistes are positioning themselves for similar US breakthroughs.

Korea's pop music industry is thriving. Over the past two years, a handful of K-pop acts including girl group 2NE1, boy band Super Junior and nine-piece band Girls Generation have embarked on mini-promotional tours around the United States to build their audience.

"Psy has opened doors and is shining a spotlight on K-pop. People are paying attention to what's being done there," Alina Moffat, general manager at YG Entertainment group, which manages Psy, told a recent entertainment industry conference in Los Angeles.

Psy's vibrant music video, featuring his invisible pony-riding dance, also featured K-pop artists Kim Hyun-a of girl band 4Minute, and Deasung and Seungri of boy band Big Bang, all of whom are attempting to crack the US market.

"YouTube has really changed the awareness of K-pop. Both American kids and second-generation Korean American kids are discovering it," Kye Kyoungbon Koo, director of the Korea Creative Content Agency, told a panel at a Billboard and Hollywood Reporter conference in Los Angeles in October.

For US companies looking to invest, K-pop is being marketed as the next big thing, boasting young, stylish an d influential artists who command devoted fan followings.

Moffat said car companies and mobile phone brands were among those being courted at KCON, a convention held in October in Irvine in Southern California that showcased K-pop artistes.

Kids coming
"Kids are coming, they're engaged, they want to spend money and sponsors saw that," Moffat said. Whether Psy or other K-pop artistes can command a global following to rival Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber or Rihanna remains to be seen, but John Shim, senior producer at MTV World, believes it is the right genre to compete with pop music's biggest names. 

"K-pop admittedly is a very niche genre but I also think it's the best equipped of Asian pop to cater to the US audience," Shim said. Psy has helped to break down language barriers, keeping 'Gangnam Style' in its original Korean form instead of adapting it to English when it became an international hit. 

The singer said he was persuaded to keep it that way  by his manager Scooter Braun, the talent scout responsible for Justin Bieber's success, who signed Psy to his record label.
"I thought, 'Should I translate this or not?' because (the fans) have got to know what I'm talking about, and lyrics are a huge part," Psy said.

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