Beyond Gangnam Style

The popular music groups BTS and Blackpink are known for performing which genre of music?

And the answer: K-pop.

Members of BTS, one of the most popular K-pop groups

Originating in South Korea, K-pop is a popular music genre that mixes elements of rock, hip-hop, reggae, electronic dance, country, and more. Part of the so-called Korean Wave, K-pop started gaining attention outside of Korea in the 1990s, and is currently enjoying widespread popularity on every continent.

Beyond its popular music influence, K-pop fans and artists have created a world of activism stretching across global communities. While American pop culture has long since ingested and enjoyed Korean films and music, the rise of social media and online culture has escalated this influence and paved the way for incredible mobilization.

In the K-pop scene, fans are encouraged to root for one or more individuals as "idols," inspiring unaltered support and passionate campaigns for their success. Oftentimes, the groups with the most organized fanbase were those who enjoyed the most success. The more organized the fans, the more cohesive their demands for their idols would be, in many cases ultimately becoming so powerful as to influence the K-pop artists schedule, music output and general presence.

In the 90s, the fans' passion for their idols lost some glow as media outlets criticized the intensity of their bargains. The devotion was seen as "dangerous," and placed pressure on the idols to perform exactly how they desired. The gifts and other gestures of gratitude sent to artists were expected to be appreciated, and if they weren't, fans responded with anger. However, K-pop idols soon realized that redirecting the fans' passion for gift-giving to charity and donation satisfied both ends of the deal. By the 2000s, K-pop fans were donating in bulk to necessary organizations such as elder care, orphanages, and homes for the disabled.

Today, K-pop artists represent pillars of activism and civic duty (most of the time without even phrasing it as such). K-pop fans have emerged as socially conscious, organized and passionate individuals who are able to sway the tide on popular hashtags, political conventions, and online campaigns.

Learn more about individual K-pop groups and their fans here. And check out the video of Blackpink's hit "How You Like That" below:


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