From South Korea to the Southern Hemisphere
K-Pop below the Equator
Keywords:fandom, Gangnam Style, K-pop, popular music, YouTube
Among the most salient global cultural phenomena of recent years has been the spread of Korean popular music, as exemplified not only by the viral success of Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ but in flash mob performances, social networking services, YouTube dance cover bands and international media coverage. What, taken in the aggregate, can instances of K-pop fandom (and equally importantly, its absences) in the southern hemisphere teach observers? In this article, I examine the flow of South Korean popular music to various nations in the southern hemisphere in order to interrogate the factors that have led to the uptake of K-pop fandom in specific contexts. In doing so, I test the hypothesis that broadening K-pop fandom indicates that the genre’s appeal relies not so much on cultural proximity as its ability to evoke an interaction between the local and the international that simultaneously bridges two national contexts. I argue that K-pop fandom has become entrenched in much of the southern hemisphere and is unlikely to be dislodged soon. Importantly, however, the evidence also suggests, often in striking contrast to the rhetorical framing of discussions of K-pop, that the genre will not pose an ever greater challenge to other international music industries but rather cater to a steady niche market that sees unusually active participation among a small segment of local inhabitants.
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