Hallyu is a term I’ve come to shake my head at, overanalyse, laugh at, and despise. But mostly laugh at. There’s no doubt that the effects of the ‘Hallyu’ have been over exaggerated and dramatised by the Korean media, especially in regards to the West. Where, although K-pop has definitely had a boom in terms of popularity, it is still very much a niche interest, one that has yet to make an impact on Western society as a whole. In fact, one could even claim that in the West, K-pop is merely a fad, something that will keep rising and then ultimately crash when it becomes ‘outdated’ or ‘no longer in’.

However, although K-pop has yet to have a truly striking impact on Western society or the music scene, one must consider that the case is quite different when it comes to Asian countries. Specifically South-East Asian countries.

It’s interesting to note that the US isn’t even in the top 10 regions in which K-pop is most searched in (it’s also interesting to note that my suspicions were correct, and K-pop is indeed a lot bigger in Australia than it is in any other Western country. I hope you’ve done your research, SM Town). With regions such as Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia out ranking that of even K-pop’s own origin- South Korea. Of course, I highly doubt the average South Korean actively searches ‘K-pop’ on google when they’re pretty much born submerged in the culture, but it is an interesting point nonetheless.

This is essentially why K-pop acts hold concerts in East/South-East Asian countries such as Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, over countries such as US and England. They’re almost ensured a large turnout and quite a bit of profit. Then there’s the issue of location, location. South East Asian countries are closer to South Korea compared to the US, so undeniably they’re going to be influenced by the Hallyu dramatically compared to that of their Western counterparts. K-pop acts have a bigger chance of making it in these countries than they do the US and Japanese market. They don’t even have to remake their singles or promote in the language in order to make an impact, which is why Super Junior has taken to bragging about how Bonamana has been a consecutive number 1 on Taiwan’s KKBOX for 60 weeks plus. This is backed up by Super Junior M‘s success in Taiwan, which by the way- was one of SM’s smartest marketing decisions of the year.

There’s also the fact Korean albums are being manufactured for special release in the South-East Asian countries themselves, specifically the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia. Whereas in the Western world, the albums are imported from overseas, which means they cost at least three times more.

Not to mention there’s the frequent contact between the nations in terms of entertainment and dramas. With choice South Korean dramas airing on national television channels in South-East Asia, and K-Dramas being popular long before the K-pop boom in 2009. And one mustn’t forget that South Korea had stars like Sandara Park making it big in the Philippines and earning quite a fan base in the country before debuting in 2NE1. Lady Sandara Park even released her own singles, and a movie!

Ain’t she a doll?

However with the popularity of K-pop rising in South East Asian countries, one has to ask, does the local music scene feel threatened? Especially since it’s undisputed that K-pop is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to popularity amongst the youth. And although K-pop has yet to even make a splash in American Pop culture (the troll-a-licious Heart2Heart not included), can the same be said about all else?

Earlier this week, Taiwanese girl group ‘Super 7‘ came under fire for the concept of their song ‘Mai Luo Suobeing suspiciously similar to SNSD‘s ‘Hoot‘. SONE’s in particular had a good go at the girl group, and a lot of nasty name calling was thrown here and there. A bit extreme if you ask me, since the music video and the song bare no resemblance to the ear worm of a song ‘Hoot‘ whatsoever. But I won’t deny that there is strong overlap in the costuming, and the fact Super 7 is referred to as the ‘Taiwanese SNSD’ doesn’t exactly help their case.

However Taiwan itself already has a established music scene, one that is definitely popular amongst it’s people. So despite the influence of K-pop in Taiwan, I doubt that it’d be enough to threaten their music scene completely. However, in the case of other countries, where the local music scene is no where near as popular as foreign acts, the influence K-pop has had on the industry is blatant, with the countries turning out acts which carry striking resemblance to that of typical K-pop and even JPop groups.

The Indonesian group ‘HITZ‘ is the first Indonesian boy band to carry one Korean member who grew up in the country. Lee Jeong Hoon, was previously a famous model in Indonesia before joining what HITZ’ agency describes as being a ‘revolutionary’ idol group act. Revolutionary… I’ll leave that judgement up to everyone else.

HITZ reminds me of B2ST back before they were awesome and were still releasing cookie-cutter pop tunes, and I kind of feel sorry for them. K-pop fans from Indonesia are naturally raising their eyebrows at ‘HITZ’, some even feeling insulted on behalf of the Korean Entertainment industry. However, surprisingly, the general reaction has been almost… understanding. And the mock and ridicule hasn’t been as strong as one would believe, could it be that HITZ might actually make a splash amongst the public? Or is it because the ‘other’ K-pop influenced band taking the ground running in Indonesia has been mocked beyond comprehension. I mean, even HITZ’ rudimentary pop tunes sound ingenious compared to what is the ‘other I-Pop’ band SM*SH:

3,667 likes, 8,198 dislikes. Hmm…

Another case in point is the Philippines. In the Philippines, there’s a trend that goes amongst the youth, where K-pop is easily a lot more popular than local music is. In fact, almost everything foreign from the West and from South Korea is a lot more popular than the local music. OPM (Original Philippine Music) vs K-pop is a topic that has been covered several times by the Philippine media.

(Summary: Them talking about the popularity of K-pop in the Philippines (specifically SuJu, 4Minute, and they mention the ‘Nobody’ Wonder Girls craze) and how it’s a threat to OPM.)

With the rising popularity of K-pop, some have come to question whether OPM will last or not. But what’s interesting to note here is, Western music has been a lot more popular than OPM for a long time, so it can be said that OPM is at threat regardless of K-pop or not. But what is it about K-pop that actually has people talking? Well, to the untrained ear, OPM actually does sound a lot like Western music, and the influence is definitely there, but subtle. But with Western influences it’s hard to pick out straight away, due to the large diversity of image and genre in the music scene. With K-pop, as much flack as I give it, there’s definitely something about the music that is so distinctively K-pop- especially when it comes to image. Which is why, when ‘P-Pop’ groups such as ‘Pop Girls‘ come out with songs like below, it’s hard not to compare and shake your head:

The description reads:

If you’re an anti/hater, please go take your crap somewhere else ^_^ we love youu XP

This as well as the fact the rating system has been disabled, obviously means the video has been met with a boatload of negative reception.

The thing with Indonesia and the Philippines is, although they’ve very much been struck strong and hard by the ‘Hallyu’, it’s clear that the respective audience for these I-Pop and P-Pop groups aren’t taking to the idea so well. And why would they? K-pop fans may come across mindless sometimes, but they can identify knock-offs from the genuine thing. I don’t blame the Philippines and Indonesia for trying to recreate K-pop in their own way- with K-pop’s popularity rising as quickly as it is, it’s easy to feel threatened. And when something is popular and being so well-recieved by the public, the easy thing to do in order to catch back the public’s attention is to recreate it right?

Not really. Honestly, backlash such as the one above is predictable. The thing about K-pop (and even JPop) is, and this is going to be the epitome of me using double standard, but when it’s knocked off or copied, it just looks… weird. Especially since all these groups are doing is stuffing as many K-pop cliches into one video in order to make a splash. And as shown by Heart2Heart in their prime trolling, that just doesn’t work. If you’re going to knock off K-pop, then knock of classy K-pop. Why are these groups trying to follow the same path as early B2ST instead of copying much more classier alternatives?

The thing with cheap knock-off bands like Pop Girls and SM*SH is that they’re almost ultimately going to be short-lived. Why? Because they’re riding off something that’s also looking to be short lived- the thing with K-pop is, whether people realise it or not, in terms of pop music it is very behind. I mean the dub step trend has only just been utilised in K-pop. And that alone in Hyuna‘s ‘Bubble Pop‘. During what is the most awkward dance break ever. So essentially what these countries are doing is copying something that’s copying the West from eight years ago. They’re moving backwards.

And as someone who’s pretty much Indonesian by association, I have to say, although it’s true most of the Indonesian acts my friends have exposed me to aren’t exactly stellar, there are the occasional gems. And aren’t these gems beautiful gems indeed. As popular as K-pop is, I doubt it could rival the influence of famous local acts like ‘Peterpan‘. The same goes for the Philippines, although OPM is threatened by like… almost everything, there are brilliant musicians in the country. And when these musicians do come around, they can create fantastic bands like ‘The Eraserheads‘. So if record industries really want to enrapture the youth, work on recreating legends, not K-pop bands that have a lifespan of 5 years.

Yes, K-pop is big. But here’s some food for thought

Question: What’s even bigger than K-pop in South-East Asian countries?

Answer: Western Music.

The thing with K-pop is, if it really wants to be a threat to the industry, it’s going to have to make it big in the US first. Which is a topic Seoulbeats have covered through and through. Now, the only thing left is for record companies to realise this themselves, and understand that K-pop is not going to be a threat to something thats already been long overshadowed by Western music.

As a finishing note, I’m going to make something like a public service announcement. Just because a country is copying K-pop for a few acts, it does not mean it’s ‘uncreative’ or ‘has no culture’. This applies to all countries, not just South-East Asian ones. Watching K-pop fans jump to such extreme conclusions is upsetting, and frankly, quite a bit embarrassing. Case in point, the Indian BakerFresh advertisement:

Blatant plagiarism, yes, but some of the comments people are making? (Copied and pasted in the raw.) ‘India has no creativity. Why does everyone try and be like Korean, get your own music culture’ 

Excuse you. India has it’s own melodramatic, absurd, unrealistic, and ridiculously beautiful music scene. Thank you very much. I’d like to see Rain and Wheesung run through an unnamed desert towards his lover with the same passion as Shah Rukh Khan.

So what do you guys think? Are the South-East Asian industries fretting over nothing? Am I wrong and is K-pop actually a force that can change the industry? Which one is the lesser of two evils, Pop Girls or SM*SH? Share your thoughts!

(TheABSCBNNews, koreanupdates, soundcloud, popreviewsnow)