Korean pop idol

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A Korean pop idol, or K-pop idol, is a trained K-pop artist[1] who is usually tutored and represented by a South Korean talent agency; most prominent of which are: SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.[2][3][4][5][6] According to The Vancouver Observer, the stereotypical K-pop idol is "incredibly young, good-looking, and able to carry a melodramatic note."[7]


Training system[edit]

K-pop idol Rain

According to ABC News, every week hundreds of "wannabe stars" turn up at global auditions held by SM Entertainment to sing and dance for a chance at K-pop stardom.[8] Those who successfully go through a few rounds of audition will have the chance to sign long term contracts and enter a training programme that lasts for years.[9] The journey to stardom often starts around age 9 or 10, when tightly supervised trainees begin dance and voice classes at night and live together while attending school.[10] The cost of discovering and training one member from the K-pop idol group Girls' Generation amounted to a total of 3 billion won (US$2.6 million).[11]

Besides attending regular classes, trainees spend many hours a day learning music, dance and sometimes foreign languages including Japanese and English,[12] because K-pop music is often produced for overseas export.[13][14] Many trainees prefer to drop out of school in order to devote their time and energy to achieve their goal of becoming a K-pop idol.[12]

Reported earnings[edit]

According to the South Korean National Tax Service, as of 2013, the average annual earnings for a K-pop idol was 46.74 million won ($42,000 USD) in 2013 more than doubling from 26.97 million won in 2010 due to the global spread of the Hallyu wave since the early 2010s.[15][16] Many top K-pop idols have become multimillion-dollar franchises and national household names. Some of the highest earning K-pop idols receive an annual income of a million US Dollars in royalties from album and single sales alone.[17] On June 25, 2015, SBS's "Midnight TV Entertainment" revealed that it is estimated that South Korean rapper G-Dragon earns 790 million won ($710,000 USD) annually from songwriting royalties alone.[18] Many idols have become worth millions of dollars both in Korea and abroad, with revenues coming not only from the music itself but also from commercials, idol-related merchandise, corporate sponsorship deals, endorsements and live concerts. According to The Korea Times, once a K-pop music video attracts more than a million views, it will "generate a meaningful revenue big enough to dole out profits to members of a K-pop group."[19]

Effects on sasaeng fans[edit]

Main article: Sasaeng fan

Sasaeng fans are those who invade the idol's personal territory, such as setting up cameras in their dormitory, or taking pictures of their text message conversations. They will also follow idols everywhere, even to personal events such as a relative's wedding.

To some outside the fan community, it may seem irrational for sasaeng fans to stalk their idols when they can just see them in concerts. However, during public appearances like in concerts, K-pop idols are usually surrounded by their managers who will do almost everything to stop fans from getting too close. Also, competition is high as the idols tend to be surrounded by hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of sasaeng fans, and the chance of a private interaction with their idol is extremely low. However, after these public appearances, opportunities will start to present itself as fans disperse and the idols' managers take a break. According to the South Korean web portal Nate, even celebrities have to pull over at one on a five-hour, long distance route. At this point, the sasaeng fans will then be able to bombard their favourite K-pop idols with gifts and exchange a few words with them, with almost no restrictions and no competition from other sasaeng fans.[20]

According to The Seattle Times, during a K-pop concert at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., "teens swarm against the stage", holding their cellphone cameras "aloft, ready to fire", and describes how in nervous anticipation, a fan girl "squeals, unleashing a torrent of Oh, my Gods! and a wave of synchronized bouncing" and shouting "You're so sexy!"[21] The atmosphere is feverish, and heavy with hormones. The fans – mostly teenagers, almost entirely girls – brandish camera phones with furious focus, and modulate the intensity of their shrieks as each boy-singer appears onstage.[22]


Due to the massive amount of support from their fans, K-pop idols are beginning to receive considerable media attention.[23] For example, the BBC wrote that "Korean stars are beating a path to Japan, America and Europe".[24]

In the past few years, K-pop has shown a creeping global influence[6] ever since Korean films, soap operas and "K-pop" music idols took Asia by storm over the past decade. But the Hallyu – or “Korean Wave” as the phenomenon is known in Asia – is now spreading to continental Europe, the United States[25] and the United Kingdom.[26] Social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter have become crucial tools for K-pop idols to reach audiences in the West.[27]

Usage of the term[edit]

The English language state-controlled newspaper China Daily calls Super Junior and Miss A "South Korean pop idols"[28] and the Borneo Post calls Big Bang a "K-pop idol".[29]

The Wall Street Journal also acknowledges Danny Im as a "former K-pop idol",[30] and The Seattle Times published an article with the headline "American teenager with illness meets K-pop idols".[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fuhr, Michael (2015). Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13-884001-0. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  2. ^ Sun, Jung. "K-Pop Idol Boy Bands and Manufactured Versatile Masculinity: Making Chogukjeok Boys". Hong Kong University Press. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Kim, Yonghee. "Redefining the Real Korean Wave". LIST Magazine. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Fisher, Max. "Visual music: How ‘Gangnam Style’ exploited K-pop’s secret strength and overcame its biggest weakness". Washington Post. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Seabrook, John. "Cultural technology and the making of K-pop". The New Yorker. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Caramanica, Jon (2011-10-24). "Korean Pop Machine, Running on Innocence and Hair Gel". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Beth Hong (2012-08-07). "Bizarre 'Gangnam Style' K-pop music video blows up worldwide". The Vancouver Observer. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  8. ^ "K-Pop Boot Camp". ABC News. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "Nightline from ABC News : K-Pop Boot Camp". YouTube. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Woo, Jaeyeon. "Journey to K-Pop Star, ‘I Am.’". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Triple treat: Chinese pop music's A-list". Jakarta Post. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "The Price of Fame in South Korea". Toonari Post. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "In any language, JYP spells success on the global stage". Joong Ang Daily. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  14. ^ Leung, Sarah. "Catching the K-Pop Wave: Globality in the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of South Korean Popular Music". Vassar College. Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Average annual incomes for K-pop idols rise significantly thanks to the Hallyu Wave". Allkpop. January 22, 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Jeff Benjamin (January 19, 2015). "K-Pop Star Earnings Swell in Recent Years". Billboard. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "G-Dragon is richest star again - Yahoo!". My.entertainment.yahoo.com. 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  18. ^ Tamar Herman. "G-Dragon's Annual Earnings From Song Royalties Add Up To An Impressive Sum". Kpopstarz. Retrieved 27 June 2015. 
  19. ^   (2012-08-24). "Successful social marketing translates into profits for K-pop acts-The Korea Herald". View.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  20. ^ ""택시비 40만원, 아깝지 않아"…스타 쫓는 사생팬의 두 얼굴 : 네이트 뉴스". News.nate.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  21. ^ Kang, Cecilia (2006-11-29). "Entertainment | K-pop stars become a big hit with teens | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  22. ^ Williams, Holly (2011-11-26). "K-pop craze: The K Factor". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Mahr, Krista (2012-03-07). "South Korea’s Greatest Export: How K-Pop’s Rocking the World | TIME.com". World.time.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  24. ^ Williamson, Lucy (2011-06-14). "BBC News - The dark side of South Korean pop music". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  25. ^ "South Korea’s K-pop takes off in the west". Financial Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "London is going K-Pop crazy". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  27. ^ "Korean Pop, with Online Help, Goes Global". Time Magazine. 2010-08-26. Retrieved 7 September 2012. 
  28. ^ "A last hurrah!|Music|chinadaily.com.cn". Usa.chinadaily.com.cn. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  29. ^ "Kpop idol Big Bang made history on MTV Europe Music Awards – BorneoPost Online | Borneo , Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News | Largest English Daily In Borneo". Theborneopost.com. 2011-11-15. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  30. ^ Yang, Jeff (2012-08-28). "'Gangnam Style' Viral Popularity in U.S. Has Koreans Puzzled, Gratified - Speakeasy - WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  31. ^ "American teenager with illness meets K-pop idols | Entertainment | The Seattle Times". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-10-29.