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[Editorial] K-pop in Europe

Two sold-out performances at Le Zenith de Paris concert hall last week marked a successful venture for K-pop groups in Europe, which we attribute first to the talents of the singers and then to their management’s “culture technology” of aggressive marketing. Of course, YouTube, Facebook and all other high technology tools helped introduce the stars to Europe before they landed in Paris.

TVXQ, Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, SHINee and f(x) may be far from being household names but their fans are growing rapidly across Europe as downloading becomes simpler and cheaper thanks to technology advancement. For the Paris shows on Friday and Saturday ― which was added to the original one-night schedule in response to “demonstrations” in front of Louvre Museum ― fans came also from Italy and Spain. Organizers estimated that only about 2 percent of the spectators were Koreans.

Officials at the Korea Overseas Information Service and the Korea Tourism Organization which also played a part in arranging the K-pop shows like to call the event “Hallyu” in Europe. But this Hallyu is totally different from the movies and TV dramas that were chiefly based on traditional culture and emotions and have been popular in Asia. The K-pop performances are more like contemporary Korean products such as Samsung cell phones, Hyundai cars and LG smart TVs. They will have to win over world audiences with continued development in quality and marketing.

Lee Soo-man, representative of the pop bands’ Seoul-based agency S.M. Entertainment, said Korea’s “culture technology” will be developed in three stages: first is exporting Korean cultural products overseas, second is expanding the market through joint ventures with overseas firms, and third is localizing K-pop and sharing added value. That strategy reflects his confidence in the quality of the products, which had its first test in the Paris shows last week.

The nation is opening a new horizon in this new industry. When consumer trust in the Korean products of other industries grows stronger, overseas acceptance of Korean pop culture could also rise, and vice versa. As sales will be recorded by the number of downloads instead of the number of discs, great challenges await our K-pop talents and their managers.
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