Legitimately good question here: a lot of people associate Korea with Kpop, and are interested in Korea because of Kpop. But how popular is Kpop in Korea itself, from the general public’s perspective?

So, let’s start off by saying that Kpop is popular to Kpop fans…that might sound pretty obvious, but the die hard dedicated fans are SO SUPER DUPER dedicated that it makes the whole of Korea seem like it is filled with dedicated fans. You can hear the shouting in the audience as they sing along with the song with their own special fan song during the pauses in the song (seriously: who even plans something like that? That’s dedicated hard work), and you can see the big lineups and soldout crowds for concerts. But that’s among the fan community. How prevalent, though, is Kpop to the general, non Kpop-Crazed crowd.

After all, not everyone is a screaming fangirl. Not sure if you noticed, but those screaming fangirls are mostly highschool and elementary school students, not really college kids, or working men, or mothers of three, or grandmothers and grandfathers. To the uninitiated, general public in Korea, Kpop is something that they’re more than likely aware of and very exposed to, but it’s not something that’s all too prevalent in their lives. A lot of people that we speak to our age aren’t really that into Kpop, and we’re talking about both foreigners and Koreans. They can’t name all of the members of Girls’ Generation; they haven’t seen B.A.P’s latest video; they don’t have a bunch of 2NE1 merch in their apartments.

They’ve HEARD a lot of Kpop, though, that’s for sure, but it’s more than likely unwillingly. Like we mentioned in the video, if you’re walking down a busy public area where there are lots of shops, you will undoubtedly hear buttloads of Kpop songs everywhere. Stores have speakers pointing outwards to the public, and you will hear lots of music when you’re walking. Question to those of you familiar with Korean law: aren’t there any noise pollution laws or anything? We’re not just talking about the music being played outside of stores: we’re also talking about those godawful election trucks (WHICH THANK GOD ARE DONE WITH NOW THAT ELECTIONS ARE OVER!). Anyhow, the point of this isn’t to complain about the noise. We’re just saying that you hear a lot of Kpop and definitely experience a lot of it in your lives, even if you’re not particularly a fan of it yourself.

Incoming Martina rant!
A mini-rant about foreigners living in Korea who absolutely loathe kpop: we often hear the complaint that Kpop is all that they hear blasting everywhere they go and that Korea doesn’t make “real” or “good” music, in which I would say, if kpop is not your thing, maybe you should try checking out the Korean indie scene in Hongdae before you brand Korea as only producing Kpop music. Or…check out our Sunday K-Indie segments *glitter screen with a rainbow*. Whenever we check out a local club to see new indie bands, we see a maximum of eight foreigners in the crowd (and that’s a really really good night). Most kpop hating foreigners don’t seem to be expanding their Korean music horizon, they’re just hating on the kpop genre and making no effort to step outside their personal music comfort bubble. This is obviously not all foreigners in Korea, thank goodness, but there just seems to be a type of anger towards kpop. If you don’t like kpop, just be like, “yeah, it doesn’t really do it for me” but people rant and foam at the mouth about how much they hate it. Did JYP sneak into your house at night, tea bag you, and post the pictures to facebook? Did 2NE1 take a huge dump in your coffee? Did Big Bang personally hack into your ipod and add their music? Did Super Junior because I naughty naughty with your mother? SRSLY. What’s with all the anger people! It’s MUSIC! Just MUSIC! People even leave sassy remarks complaining about how we ONLY make videos about their most hated thing in the world, Kpop. Really? Out of five videos a week, THREE are NOTHING to do with Kpop! But nope, Kpop is the devil.

Martina Rant Out

The point I’m getting at, is that if a Korean person went to Toronto to live for a year and they complained that Canadian music consists only of Justin Beiber, Macklemore, Maroon5, Chris Brown, and Taylor Swift…I’d be like, “but did you check out the bands playing on Queen Street?” Yes, ladies and gentleman, the most popular songs will be blasted in the mall or at major retail chains, while the smaller indie shops will play whatever music they damn right feel like. It’s the same for small indie chains in Korea. That’s where we hear indie music, both Korean and international! A couple days ago we were eating chicken at a funky little shop in Hongdae and we heard Sigur Rós, Radiohead, Groove Armada being blasted! Blew our minds.

That was followed up by a coffee shop with a really adorable Korean girl working behind the counter blasting “Guess who’s back in the m*therf*ckin house with a fat d*ck for your m*therf*ckin mouth”. Perhaps she personally loves Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun” but she seemed quite taken aback by Simon thrusting around the coffee shop singing along happily. Yes, he knows all the words to that song. Oooooh my.

So, yeah! I hope that kinda answers the question. We can’t really say what’s the actual percentage of people in Korea that like Kpop. All we can say is that we hear Kpop everywhere as do most everyone else who goes outside of their own homes, but we definitely barely know anyone who’s an actual fan of the genre. I’m sure they exist: we just don’t have the best of luck in finding many people with similar tastes to ours :( Except you Angelina! You’re the best! Group hug!

Side note: umm…we’ll just put this link here at the bottom, if anyone wants to click it. We don’t think we have much of a chance of winning since we’re up against YouTube giants, but let’s David the sh*t out of them! Get it? David…and..Goliath…cough…

Nominate Simon and Martina for a social media award in the Shorty Awards!Nominate Simon and Martina for a social media award in the Shorty Awards
  1. My two cents on Kpop.I enjoy listening to some kpop songs too,to be particular songs of EXO,few songs of Crayon pop,2ne1,Bigbang, NCA and MIB,Lip Service.The beats and melody of their songs are catchy and at the same time I like the dance steps. Koreans are very creative which is very obvious when it comes to fashion and concepts of their MVs or even in movies and variety shows.But let me just talked about Kpop.I’m amazed by the group EXO because of their concept as a group. Twelve members with “powers”,add to that their respective symbols and their very catchy MVs and dance steps.But here’s a thing, I’m a 1990s baby and grow up with old school bands like a1,Westlife, NSYNC, HANSON,BSB,911,PLUS ONE, SPICE GIRL,GIRL THING,STEPS and more. These Kpop idols are just like those 90s band it’s just that the former are the trends for youngsters now. Honestly, though K-idols are more hardworking,in a sense they practice for many years before debut,I still find Western bands more passionate when it comes to music. Some of the 90s bands I used to admire create their own songs.I do agree there are many Korean singers who are a lot better (music wise) than some K-idols, as you’ve mentioned Indie musicians.One Korean singer I admire is Ali.One thing I don’t really like about some idols are some of ‘em are more concerned about their image or physical appearance.Say for example most girlbands would hide their face saying they don’t have make up or what have they.I respect the fact that they are celebs and koreans really cares a lot about their looks but still too much is unattractive.One reason I’m not also into kpop girlbands.Well,maybe because also of my type of music.If a girlband has a feel of Spice girls or Girl thing or have songs which are like that of Avril Lavigne then I might be a fan.I can’t deny many Kpop songs have catchy beats and dance steps and nice fashion sense but 5-10 years from now trends are gonna change and so are those preteens and teens or even teens at heart will prolly grow up and so as their type of music will change,maybe even their type of artists. Kpop idols who really have natural talents and are really passionate about it will for sure last long when it comes to popularity or whatever.

  2. I’m a Korean, and I think that this article is very precise.

    Aside from that, personally, I listen to quite a lot of Korean and American(or rather, spoken-in-English) Hip Hop and rock music.
    I don’t have many Kpop idol songs in my smartphone. Just a few, very popular idol songs suffice. I’m not a fan of a Kpop girl groups or boy bands. I do like Leessang, the hiphop duo, but I am not a big fan of them.

    Anyway, just please note that Koreans are not really fanatics about KPOP idols; even many youngsters are not.

  3. My perspective on Kpop has changed over the years. I was introduced through DBSK and was hooked. I also thought it was the best thing ever. Now, I do still like DBSK and JYJ. Over time, I’ve found other songs by other artists. But, I’m not super attracted to these other artists. I have them on my iphone, but it’s because it sounds good. I know there’s all these rookie grops and new bands, but I honestly don’t care about 99% of them. I have friends who have a bunch of bands that have popped up in the few years. But, I feel like the odd one that still likes DBSK… I do enjoy BAP and EXO, but I don’t fangirl about them as much as DBSK. Also, with all these Kpop groups, I honestly can’t remember all their names. I don’t have time to figure out who’s who and who’s the maknae or the leader. I don’t care. Just make a good song.

    My bf has become more aware of Kpop. He doesn’t love it as much as me, but he does like a few songs here and there. He likes anything that sounds good.

  4. I have no idea why people rant about Kpop so much. A teacher of mine included Kpop as a threat to the children being religious like….I felt so offended. I only laugh it off but every time I look at the poster with SHINEE’s pic (my favorite group) at the back, I just… hm :( fine, say anything you want. I love God and she doesn’t have any right to judge anyway.

  5. “Did Super Junior because I naughty naughty with your mother?” (Spit-take) I love you Martina!!!

  6. so freakin true! if you don’t like it..don’t force it..don’t ever think that K-pop is a trend and to be trendy and whatever you force yourself to it. that is not it..if you like what you hear then you like it and if not just listen to other music then! and don’t ever try to judge others that like it because we all are hella different okeyh! XD

  7. My Korean friends always told me, that I knew KPOP better than them.

  8. My Questions: With the establishment of the new EYK Studio and the opportunity to host celebrities/entertainers, have you discussed or have a plan to deal with sasaengs or anti-fans? As the studio’s existence and notoriety grow, will you have to employ your own EYK security? I know the internet can be a harsh mistress to deal with sometimes, but has your own rise in fame and notoriety lead to any scary instances while you both are out and about, either filming or just walking through town? I’m not talking regular fans or people who recognize you, I’m talking the type where you felt for your safety?

    Just the possibility of the lunatic fringe makes me scared for you all at the studio, let alone actually having them up close and personal. I would hate to see a JYJ type sasaeng incidents happen at EYK studio door step, while you are trying to have, for example, Junsu or hell, Shinee, over for an interview. :(

  9. Do you guys watch English drama like Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, NCIS in Korea?

  10. I have been here for six months now, and my interest in k-pop has ebbed and flowed. I am mostly interested in it to connect with my students, but the constant replay on Mnet drives me crazy sometimes. Solution: TURN OFF Mnet. Come on waygookins, you live in Korea, there are much more interesting things to complain about. However! While my husband and I were in a coffee shop last week, freakin BONE THUGS came on the speakers! Then it was “The Informer,” and “Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls,” so, unexpected things happen.

  11. So what you’re saying is… Korean record companies should expand their international marketing to these passionate K-pop starved fans in other countries? Did you hear that SM?! YG?! TS?! JYP?! Cube?! My wallet suddenly feels kinda heavy…

  12. How popular are korean Dramas to the general public there? Is it super exciting like how it is for us international fans to wait and see each episodes every week? How is it perceived there?

  13. I swear kpop and jpop music videos are the only international music videos on youtube where the majority of the comments are in English. I’ve seen French, Italian, Russian and Polish music videos and every comment is in their respective language xD
    Now that my favourite radio show has ended I don’t listen to the latest music anymore. And I think the only reason I know about all the rookie groups and every kpop song is because I watch the music shows. I actually went through a phase last year of not bothering to watch the music shows throughout the summer and I didn’t know about anything new to do with kpop. Only about 2NE1 cos I follow them on Facebook and what you review for kpop music mondays.

  14. I think the thing with following the bands of your generation applies to most people. I myself only follow bands I really got into at the beginning (talking about non-kpop). And with so many groups debuting in korea, it must be hard to keep up even if you were a kpop fan. I think the popular music industry works almost the same way as anywhere else, kpop just gets blown up because it’s gotten recognition in other countries. I’m rather curious at what groups you guys were talking about but I’ll let it go hahaha!

  15. I watched this video yesterday and today I wake up to the news of Sistar’s stint on Mnet’s School of Rock where they ended up visiting middle to high school students and holding surprise performances for them. All of the students didn’t show a
    response and this caused the SISTAR embarrassment and heartache, as one can imagine. They ended up crying which isn’t very nice.

    I wonder do Kpop Production Companies understand how popular or unpopular Kpop is in Korea?

  16. XD i love the part when you say you never hear SJ n a Club XD

  17. OMG, B.A.P have new song coming out soon called Rain Sound :) I am so happy !!

  18. Thanks for making this TL;DR because this is something I’ve been wondering about, too, and this gives me much wanted perspective! I don’t know why but it makes me feel so much more comfortable to know where everyone else stands on Kpop (specifically the general Korean public!). I see so many huge fans on YouTube and on the internet, so it’s hard to gauge how Kpop actually is in the real world. And when I see super super passionate comments such as fanwarring comments, I get a wonky unbalanced perspective of kpop. Like, that’s what I see, but I know realistically that cannot be the case for everyone, so I’m not sure what to think. I don’t know how to explain it, but Kpop seems a lot more normal/realistic now (as in I can realistically relate it to popular music in my own country and not as some super-loved-by-everyone-and-hated-by-others fantasy genre) now that I know how it’s viewed in its own country. I think that’s why this TL;DR gives me comfort! I mean, I’m not happy because I want kpop to be less successful, I’m just happy to understand better how Kpop is viewed realistically? I hope I’m making sense. Anyway, thank you! haha

    Oh, and when you wrote that people your age often don’t know everyone in SNSD – I’m glad you said that because when you said in your video that you wouldn’t give examples, I was really curious!! I like SNSD, don’t get me wrong (I’m no hater), but I’m just glad you said an example b/c I was so curious!!

    • … A few days ago a Korean Actor, Won Bin was in a fake scandal with an SNSD member, I think Sooyoung and I thought it was kinda hilarious that his company’s response was that he didn’t even know who she was. Many fans seemed to be insulted by it, but it made all sorts of sense to me. He might know of SNSD and may have heard their music but that doesn’t mean that he knows who each of them are individually.

      • I did read about that! I can see that now after this TL;DR. They are a group, so I can see how people would know them as a group, but not really individually. But I’m always kinda skeptical about those articles and about responses from companies. Since they have to be really careful of the artists’ representation in the media, how fans perceive them, and since they want to get good publicity for their artists, I’m just never sure how much is truth and not. I’m NOT saying that is the case here with sooyoung and won bin, don’t get me wrong! I’m just saying all of this is public relations, and none of us actually know these people, so who knows anything? I just question stuff. I’m probably being a bit paranoid though :P. Also, a part of me thinks that shouldn’t people in entertainment kinda know other people from entertainment? But like simon and martina (and like you and I agreed), they are famous as a group, and even then, they aren’t well known by everyone. It’s like popular music in our own country! (well, I mean that is what I gather from all of this, at least)

      • She laughed as well because she wasn’t all that familiar with him either.

  19. I’ve been channeling my inner fangirl ever since I landed back in November and my oh my ahha
    I’ve met several fans in their 20s (and I only friend 20+ fans on Twitter….lol) so a lot of fans are in college, are working, and are even mothers.
    I’ve been listening to Infinite so much and with the whole sungkyu solo thing…my mom’s become a fan! LOL
    She asked me to change her ringtone to “I Need You” by Sungkyu and sings along whenever I play it in the car….
    50s Inspirit coming your way! haha


  21. I bow to the almighty Spudgy befor I ask my question, cause… Well, he rules everything, pretty much! But! Since I will soon start university in US and am looking at taking international studies, could you explain something about how universities are in Korea? Like, GPA and how to apply? :) Hugs!

  22. you make us want to go to korea,is better than any advertising that Korea could do. the government should PAY you

  23. what are sports like in korea? we have a lot of sports bars in america and people always get together for the super bowl…are there any big events like that?

  24. I was talking to a Korean foreign exchange student about k-dramas and many of the ones that are popular with the i-fandom (you’re beautiful and the like) aren’t really popular with the early 20’s crowd. The only ones they seemed to recognize were pasta and some of the newer ones. I didn’t have the heart to ask about what kpop groups are popular.

    • It seems to me that the dramas that have low ratings in Korea have a huge international fan base. I’m not sure if Faith did super good out there, but I know the i-fandom is ridiculously huge.

      • The cable dramas are really popular I’ve heard. I didn’t ask about Faith but since the girls I hang out with have been living in the US for a little over a year now they might not know.

        • Isn’t TvN a cable network? If so then that’s why Shut Up! Flower Boy Band, Boys Over Flowers and such have been popular. Right they’re airing Flower Boy Next Door. They also had The 3rd Hospital which was good.
          Faith is my ultimate favorite drama.

  25. i always learn new things here… not always necessarily good things… but interesting all the same… though sometimes I wish my curiosity didn’t so often run away from me… So thanks Martina… I didn’t know what tea bagging meant… and so I looked it up… yeah… I don’t want that particular image running through my mind right now as I try to get back to studying pathology…. I still <3 ya though!

  26. You were mentioning the blue frames and that you were trying to come up with an idea of what to do with them. I thought it would be really neat if every time that you had a k-pop group visit the studio for an interview, you would have them sign their signatures in the frames (more than one per frame of course). It would be a sort of “Wall of Kimchi” so to speak. what do you think?

  27. Is it weird that every time I read your summary I picture Martina narrating it?! who writes them most of the time, Simon or Martina? Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to K-pop and K-indie music! It’s AWESOME!!! Both are very artsy and entertaining. It’s frustrating how expats/immigrants go to a foreign country and hate the food, the music, the people, etc Why leave your homeland in the first place, and if you were forced, learn to LOVE your new home! Of course you guise have done the opposite and shared your experiences and love with the rest of the world :)

    • I believe that whoever is not working on the video or uploading the video types up the post. But it is completely random. I still can’t tell which of them I am speaking to over emails soo… Yep. Good luck trying to figure it out.

  28. Oh Martina and Simon, you guys are so funny…you wouldn’t be found murdered 5 days later…that would be too obvious =)) muhahahahaha…lol I joke. Super Junior!!!

  29. “Did YJP tea bag you?” Oh my God! LOL

  30. Very Very interesting TL;DR! I troll this site as one of many I have discovered over the past year or so, due to my discovery of Kdrama and, ergo, my research into all things Korean…for the moment. My friends and family firmly believe I have lost my mind and am ready for that nursing home. Yes, I am in THAT age group. My music of choice is firmly in the heavy metal/punk metal/etc genre, played at ear splitting, tinitus causing volume. Now you guys have introduced me to a form of music that, by all rights, given my age and music preference, I should detest…but, I don’t!!:) Granted, much of my enjoyment of this music has to do with the stunning dance routines and spectacular videos, but, without the song and the beat to go with that, they would still be unable to grab my attention as they have. I have found ones that I literally laugh out loud at/with and ones that made me shed actual tears. I don’t understand the ‘hate’ mentality. Unless you have an elitist agenda, there is no need for that. Everyone has different tastes in music and ‘hating’ on someone else’s is just STUPID. But I wanted to thank you for opening my eyes and my mind to a different kind of music. How long it will hold my interest, I don’t know. But, for now, I’m a fan! And, God help me, I can recognize and name all the members of Big Bang now, as well as TVXQ/JYJ…and know the story behind that too! :( AND…I miss SS501. I am doomed and ashamed. ;(

    • Lol. Welcome to the madhouse. I am happy to hear that older people are not ashamed of their Kpop love. Makes me wonder how many Nasties there are who are over the age of 30, 40 or 50.

      • I have to say I do hide it from my friends. ;) They cannot be convinced. Too closed minded, so I don’t even try. My son thinks his mother has gone to the dark side, but tolerates my glee whenever I discover a new video I ‘must’ share. I know he never clicks on them tho :(. Little snot. Last summer he came home for a visit and said Hey mom, I got a video Chris (his Chinese friend) sent me that he said to show you! It was Psy…I’d seen it weeks earlier! HaHA!!! So there! It might be fun to test your demographics someday…. when “you have nothing better to do!!!” Double/triple HA!

  31. Two reasons why I listed to KPop:

    1. I like the sound
    2. I don’t have to listen to lyrics that annoy me.

    I would like more top 40 songs in the US if I didn’t have to listen (and understand) what they are singing about.

    I don’t speak Korean, so I don’t have that problem with KPop.

    I also like bubble gum pop because the lyrics are often silly or goofy.

  32. I came to find k-pop after looking for Drama OST’s and fell in love with it and just as quickly began to be very selective about what songs I listen to. Im 25, so my taste ranges between k-indie, Urban Zakkapa,Busker Busker and I forgot the names of the other bands to Shinhwa, Dj Doc, 2NE1, Big Bang, Sistar,K.Will, Nell, Secret, Super Junior and the like – Rookie music has not been as good, except for a few songs, Mama, History, Face and stuff – But I feel like their songs are nowhere near the level of their seniors. That being said, I hate it when people think because I listen to k-pop, I dont listen to anything else?!! Its a common misconception but ugh, it pissed me off. I listen to all kinds of music and people are surprised whenever I recognize a western song or something >>

    • OMG Thank You!! I’m 23 and started listening to K-pop after seeing SNSD on Live! With Kelly last year. It started with them then I began following other groups, though they’re still my favorite lol I love SISTAR, 2NE1, K. Will, KARA, T-ara and such. I like a few rookies like Ailee, AOA, & SKarf. But I had an argument with someone who swore I was “disregarding my race” because I listen to K-pop(I’m Black btw), but it’s not that case. He thinks that’s all I listen to because that’s what I just happen to be playing whenever he sees me. I have a wide variety of taste in music, I really love Country music & old school R&B. He became shocked when I mentioned something about Aaliyah, I was like yes I know who people are lol I am in the same boat as you, people think that I have no idea who many American singers are because of my love for K-pop.

  33. Dang, I wanted to vote you for shorty award but I don’t use twitter :(. Sorry guys even my love for you can’t make me get twitter. What a jip they only let you tweet votes!

  34. I love you guys, but you’re cutting the vid like every few seconds… Who cares if u make a mistake while filming? That’s what makes it so fun!!!!!!!!!

  35. Wait, Macklemore is popular now? Living in Seattle, surrounded by militant hipsters I thought he was just popular around these parts.

  36. I have kind of a weird question. I have read that many kpop idols were scouted on the streets and asked to audition because of their looks. This really shocked me and I thought it seemed kind of risky. Not sure about Canada, but I feel if someone in the U.S. were to do that, pick someone off the street based on their appearance, things wouldn’t work out that well. As a good population of the people here are not that great at dancing or singing, using American Idol as an example of the mass number of people who are not great singers. So in your experience, are Koreans on average just better singers and dancers than people in other countries? I have also watched a lot of break dancing competitions and the crews from South Korea usually place very high or win the whole thing. Or do you think it is purely because of the rigorous training that companies put their trainees though? Or because Koreans are really hard workers?


  37. Poop….I want to vote for you guys…but I don’t have a twitter…..this sucks….


    LOL jk. But thank you guys so much for answering my question! :D

    (this is from my allkpop/discus account)

  39. I think i’m a much bigger Simon&Martina Fan (A Nasty :b ) Then I am like a Baby (B.A.P.), or VIP (BIGBANG)… Hehe. Although I will be a die-hard BlackJack. (2NE1. Just one of those groups that is like amazing to you…)

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