Random Thoughts

Top 5 Countries to Experience K-pop (Outside of Korea)

Kpop is no longer just for Korea. In fact, the Hallyu Wave is spreading fast around the world. Asia in particular has been hit HARD by Kpop fever.

Imagine this: You walk down the street and your favorite Kpop song is playing in the background. You can easily find any Kpop CD that you want to buy in a local store. You can have a conversation about Kpop music and Korean dramas with almost anyone you meet. They may not be fans, but they know the basics! Better yet, you don’t need to hide your fascination with Kpop! When asked the question, “What kind of music do you like?” you can easy say Kpop. It’s just another genre, like rock, classical, or pop.

Sounds like a fantasy world, right? Wrong. This is the case for the following countries. Start packing your bags!

[DISCLAIMER:  This list isn’t based who has the most fans! Instead, I looked at where most of the K-pop concerts occur around the world. I know that the Kpop community is growing especially in Central and South America. European fans have also really been on the rise lately! Unfortunately for worldwide fans, most K-pop promotions are still concentrated in Asia. The list I made is based on how likely it is to see/meet your favorite Korean celebrities. It’s not a definite list, just what I think about the current Kpop market.]

airport

1. Japan

Kpop in Japan

Without a doubt Japan is the biggest hub for Kpop activity outside of Korea. You know it’s a big deal when artists will release their own albums and singles entirely in Japanese. Yes, sometimes this happens with albums in English, but keep in mind that English is used internationally while Japanese is really only used in Japan.  The activities of 2pm, Big Bang, and Girls’ Generation are all shinning examples of how important the Japanese market is for Kpop.

2pm Japan

Look at Big Bang. This month they are embarking on a 16 stop tour that hits 6 different domes throughout Japan. Do you realize how HUGE this is? They even had to add a new date based on demand. It’s estimated that more than 700,000 fans will attend their concerts over this period. Wowwowowow!

 A word of caution: Because of the huge demand, Kpop in Japan is also outrageously expensive. Yes, all your favorite artists will be in Japan at some point or another, but you better be prepared to pay BIG money for your tickets to events.

2. Taiwan

M!Countdown Taiwan

This is the country I have the most experience with its Kpop culture. I was such a happy camper when I lived in Taiwan! All my Kpop needs/desires/wishes were easily fulfilled. While most of my salary from teaching English went towards Kpop concerts, fan meetings, CDs, and random merchandize, I regret nothing! (In retrospect, the money was well spent to embrace this rare opportunity. I kind of wish I did even more while I was there).

Taiwan loves Korea. They love the fashion, they love the food, and they definitely love Korean celebrities. While Japan is a huge market, Taiwan, in my opinion, is a close second! During a 1-year period, I was able to attend almost 30 Hallyu related events. And that’s even excluding the couple of events that I didn’t attend. Kpop hits are constantly at the top of Taiwan music charts and tickets for concerts like Super Junior, G-Dragon, and Girls’ Generation will sell out within 5 minutes. The demand is huge!

Boyfriend in Taiwan

The prices are actually more or less reasonable, especially when compared to Japan! If you want average seats expect to pay about $50-75. Of course, front row does require a bigger commitment. Big Bang for example required for $300 for the most expensive tickets.

Even better, my now giant collection of Kpop CDs only cost about $10 or $15 USD apiece. So much better than the $50+ USD that sites like YesAsia.com sell them for!

My advice: if you want to study abroad/teach English in Asia, do it in Taiwan! You can learn Chinese, earn some money, and also live out your K-pop dreams! You may even be so lucky as to stumble upon Lee Minho filming a commercial!

3. Singapore

smtown-singapore

From everything I’ve read, Singapore is right up their with Taiwan with their Kpop obsession. Lots of events from concerts to fan meetings occur here.

If you don’t speak any Japanese or Chinese, Singapore is your best bet! English is widely spoken and all the Kpop information is easy to access. The Singapore version of Yahoo’s website is a great resource for English speakers wanting their Hallyu news fix. Check it out here.

mbc-korean-music-wave-concert-singapore-2013

MBC Music Wave is heading to Singapore on November 16. Big names like SHINee, B.A.P., FT Island, and MissA will all be in attendance. If only the U.S. could draw so many great acts in one place!

Also take a look at this website. It lists the events that occurred/will occur throughout the year in Singapore. Doesn’t it make you jealous?!

4. Hong Kong

music bank hk

Hong Kong is a definite stop on any K-pop tour circuit. Big Bang, CNBlue, Girls’ Generation, Infinite, SHINee, etc. You could basically just list every K-pop artist, chances are they have been to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is also pretty friendly for non-Asian language speakers.

fans- HK

Big events often occur here. Hong Kong hosted the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) Awards in 2012 and they will do so again this year. It’s quite the star studded city. Be careful though, there are a lot of people inhabiting Hong Kong and the concerts are sure to have spillover from Chinese fans. I don’t have personal experience, but I’m guessing tickets are not easy or cheap to come by!

5. Malaysia & The Philippines (Tied)

Malyasia-Kpop

Both of these countries are top stops for Korean celebrities. Fan meetings and artist showcases seem to be very, very popular. Because I’m not very familiar with K-pop in these countries, I wasn’t sure who most deserves the #5 spot. Needless to say though, Malaysia and the Philippines almost always included on the K-pop world tour roster.

dream-kpop-fantasy-concert-2013

Where does the United States fall?

KCon USA

Sadly the U.S. doesn’t even come close to the previous Asian countries. The demand is growing, but I don’t think the U.S. will ever be at the forefront of the Kpop map. It’s just too different from mainstream American music. Kcon is about as close as you get to a large scale K-pop concert, but even the M!Countdown concert this year was a scaled down version of what occurs at other overseas shows.

In the past, artists have tried to make headway into the U.S. (most notably the largely failed attempt by the Wonder Girls), but it seems that efforts have sifted to focus on the Asian market. It’s not a surprise that G-Dragon’s recent “World Tour” only included Asia. The current Kpop world really is just focused on Asia. The demand is there and people are anxious to line up and spend tons of money. The entertainment companies aren’t stupid. Why waste tons of effort and money going into an uncertain market when Asia ready and waiting?

BAP US

I think that “making it” in the U.S. will always hold some sort of significance, but to the Kpop world it no longer translates to “success”. The heart of Kpop success lays in Asia; America is just a cherry on top.

Acts will continue to come to America, but New York and L.A. are always going to be the hub.  Cities like Washington, D.C. and Dallas have recently seen some activity but I don’t know if future Kpop tours will include such stops. If you want a glimpse at Kpop in the US, it’s best to live in N.Y.C or L.A.

What about China? 

Big Bang China

The problem with the Kpop scene in China is its the enormous population. Demand for Kpop is taken to an entirely new level. You better like bringing binoculars to events because the stadiums you will be sitting in are beyond HUGE. Also be careful of stampedes for tickets. Beijing and Shanghai are the natural hubs for Kpop here, but events have been popping up throughout the country. Once again, the vast population can easily support it. While you may be able to see quite a few Kpop stars in China, be warned that you will be competing against hundreds of thousands of dedicated fans.

Other great places for Kpop include: Thailand & Indonesia

hallyumuseum

What has been your experience with Kpop in your country? I’m very curious about how the Hallyu Wave is spreading across the world.

Rachel

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