‘Korean Pop’ Culture Creates Lasting Impact To Date
By Sofia Gomez
February 14th, 2020
- To date, there are 15.8 billion YouTube views for K-Pop music videos.
- Fans can purchase K-Pop merchandise through shops, online domains, and group orders.
- “Not many people are welcoming to the idea of listening to K-Pop just because it isn’t what we listen to hear in the U.S.,” says Chloe Clements, an employee from Choice Music LA.
SAN DIEGO – “K-Pop is not to be ignored,” said Jack Phan, CEO/Co-Founder of PhanZu and fairly new K-Pop fan. “Music like this can create happiness for the variety of fans here and internationally.”
The term, “K-Pop”, can be referred back to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” or the 7-member male group, BTS. K-Pop, short for Korean popular music, originated in South Korea and encompasses a variety of styles such as Western pop music, EDM, hip-hop, and R&B, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
According to the online site, Aoimirai Statistics, 2009 became the popular moment for K-Pop through YouTube. In 2009, there were 419.6 million views for a variety of K-Pop music videos. Now in 2019, there are 15.8 billion views total for all K-Pop music videos, that’s a 36% increase over the past decade.
Over the last decade, K-Pop has seen a rapid increase in popularity in the United States. This music has created a culture for fans in Korea and internationally.
K-Pop culture now includes accessories, fan-created accounts, streaming groups, and the trading/sales community.
K-Pop merchandise like lightsticks, pins, and albums with photocards of the idols are among the popular items. For example, if one is a fan of the 9-member girl group, TWICE, the fandom name their company has coined for fans is called, ONCEs.
In San Diego, there are no stores that sell K-Pop merchandise. Most fans travel north to Koreatown, Los Angeles.
Searching for K-Pop in SoCal
A K-Pop merchandise store named Choice Music LA, located in Koreatown, Los Angeles, is a popular destination for K-Pop fans. The store itself sells almost anything a K-Pop fan could ever dream of purchasing.
When you walk in the entrance, you can see a screen playing a music video from a YouTube-curated playlist of K-Pop. The walls are covered in various albums, both old and new, with shelves filled with posters, pins, lanyards and artist-created plushies.
Yareli Morales, an 18-year old high school student from San Diego, was visiting the store for the first time in mid-October.
“I took the train to come see the store,” Morales said. “It’s a really cool place I didn’t know existed until I saw their Instagram page.”
Morales walked around the inside of the store searching for a particular album in mind.
“I really want the Jonghyun album, Poet/Artist, because it’s the album I wanted for a long time,” Morales said. “I finally have the money to buy it.”
Kai Jones, an employee at the store who has worked there for six months, mentions a few ways they market to potential customers.
“On our Instagram page, we do a variety of things like giveaways, raffles, ‘shock drops’ and sometimes finding our main face of the store, Steve,” Jones said. “We try to make it really creative and give everyone a chance to participate
“One of the best parts about working here is interacting with customers who might have a common interest through an artist or any programs outside of just the K-Pop conversation,” Jones said.
Two other employees, Chloe Clements and Becky Chun, not only work in the K-Pop industry but are avid listeners, as well.
“I’ve been listening to K-Pop for about 5 years now, so I’m fairly new into the fan base,” Clements said.
“I think I’ve been listening to K-Pop probably since I was born as funny as that sounds, haha,” Chun said.
Aside from stores like Choice Music LA, fans can also find a variety of K-Pop merchandise online from Amazon, Etsy, eBay and social media. There are a variety of individuals who help other fans find limited goods by managing orders for them at a cheap price. Plus, there are shops that dedicate their artwork inspiration to K-Pop.
Networking via Social Media
Finding websites to purchase K-Pop merchandise in the United States can be difficult to find, especially from reputable sites.
Taylor Beatty, a 20-year-old from Washington, runs her own Instagram page called, Zelduh Trades, where she is in charge of group ordering merchandise for fans trying to grow their K-Pop collection. Typically, sets consist of photocards, pins, t-shirts, plushies, or albums.
“Running group orders means finding large order sets of K-Pop merchandise that people collect, having them pay for the items they’d like and have everyone pay together for the whole set,” Beatty says. “I believe it’s a great way for some to save money by not having to buy the rest of the set.”
Beatty says that because of the countless hours she puts into organizing group orders, buyers have become her close friends.
“I didn’t have any friends over the internet before collecting K-Pop merchandise or being active in the community,” Beatty said. “Now I have a lot of people I talk to daily, it makes me so happy.”
Besides group orders, fans can purchase K-Pop inspired merchandise made by independent artists like 29-year-old Danielle Yagodich.
Yagodich, known as Idol Collective on Instagram, has developed her own personal domain where she sells a variety of products such as enamel pins, keychains and buttons based on popular K-Pop artists.
Since 2016, Yagodich has gained over 10,000 followers on Instagram because of her K-Pop inspired artwork and online shop.
The shop and brand Yagodich created for herself, The Idol Collective, has had over 124 different pin designs that she has created in almost 4 years.
“My 4 year shop anniversary will be April 20th, 2020,” Yagodich said.
Yagodich created her shop because of a gift she received on her birthday.
“I had gotten a new leather jacket for my birthday in March 2016 & couldn’t find any places selling K-Pop enamel pins to put on it,” Yagodich said. “I was actually the first K-pop enamel pin shop to exist (that I know of) alongside Bosscheoreom.”
Even though there are fans who have had positive experiences for their taste in music, there are those who haven’t had the best impression of the K-Pop community.
Informal Survey Shows Majority of Fans Have Good Impression of Community
A short informal online survey conducted by this reporter has shown the results of the personal experiences that K-Pop fans have encountered.
Based on this informal online survey, between November 13 – 14th, there were 50 individuals that left responses about their experiences in the K-Pop community.
According to the data, there is diversity in the age range of K-Pop fans, with 74.51% of fans being between the ages of 18-24.
This informal survey concludes that 50.96% of fans are dominantly male.
There are 39.71% of respondents that have been listening to K-Pop for about 2-4 years.
In terms of artist preferences, there are significant percentages that show that 76.81% of fans listen to multiple artists. 59.42% of fans stated that they prefer to listen to female artists.
While 63.8% of respondents have stated they have not had a negative experience, there is still 32.9% of fans that have said otherwise.
The Untold Stories
Even with the popularity of K-Pop internationally, fans can have negative experiences for their appreciation of the music.
“I’ve had fans ‘attack’ me online because of a tweet that was taken out of context,” Phan said. “Since I have become a recent influencer with K-Pop fans, their expectations of me can lead to disappointment.”
Phan sees both the positive and negative sides of the online K-Pop community.
“Overall, the fanbase(s) I have been a part of recently have been tremendous,” Phan said. “But you have to be patient because most of the fans I’ve come across can get offended easily.”
Beatty has come across many people at her job who have had their own opinions about her music choice.
“Some co-workers usually tell me that I have ‘bad taste’ in music because K-Pop is ‘horrible,’” Beatty said. “They can be very judgmental about it.”
Yagodich has also seen how people in the community can be negative.
“I do feel like there are fandoms within K-Pop that are very toxic & foster a super judgmental/victim-minded mindset,” Yagodich said. “That is something that can be pretty negative.”
With K-Pop, individuals can be judged for taking an interest in the music.
“It should be okay to like this type of music,” Phan said. “There are fans that are not students or young adults who feel that they shouldn’t express their passion for K-Pop.”
There are even instances where listening to this music can affect relationships.
“In the past, I dated a guy who broke up with me because I listened to K-Pop,” Chun said. “It showed me how dumb it was to date someone who couldn’t even let me enjoy the music I liked.”
The Good Outweighs the Bad
Even though some fans have experienced negativity, there are still fans who have negative impressions of the K-Pop community.
“I was lucky to have friends who were just as interested in this genre,” Jones said. “I know there are people who were bullied or mocked for listening to it because of the language barrier.”
But fans continue to express how difficult it is to meet individuals who enjoy the same music.
“Not many people are welcoming to the idea of listening to K-Pop just because it isn’t what we listen to here in the U.S.,” Clements said. “After a while though, you’ll find people who like the same groups as you, which helps a lot.”
Fans continue to express how much of an impact K-Pop has had on their lives.
“K-Pop has 100% changed my life for the better,” Beatty said. “I want to experience going to more concerts and events in the future.”
“I’m just happy that I get to be a fan of K-Pop because it’s something that makes me feel like I belong,” Morales said.