K-pop’s Success Formula

Article was first published on Stardom in Korea (My Kpop Blog) 2 years ago (26 September, 2012 @ 8:34:21). I’ve discontinued the blog and imported its content here.

It is no secret that K-pop’s popularity has been growing rapidly in Europe and other regions of the world but sadly little has wondered why.

After reading Joli Jenson’s ‘Fandom as Pathology’, I have deduced that the key factor to the success of K-pop’s globalization is the well structured marketing strategies and public relations of Korean idols and celebrities.


In Joli Jenson’s theory, it is believed that fans are made up of obsessed, irrational, vulnerable and lonely individuals who often feel alienated from the community and thus have unstable sense of identity. In the hope to gain the prestige and influence they psychologically need in this modern society, many of them seek for contact with prominent figures like the Korean idols and celebrities. By developing loyalty to the Korean idols and celebrities, K-pop fans find themselves belong to a community and feel a sense of belonging.

Therefore, I believe that refine and well structured marketing strategies used in K-pop is one of the key factors to its success. Though the core products of K-pop is music, what is truly promoted is fantasy, relationship and identity. Emotions, dreams and concerns of vulnerable individuals are carefully packaged and sold as a K-pop product. Emotional attachment makes it difficult for one to break free. Furthermore, the existence of web domain and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube has only made it easier for K-pop to dominate the world.


Although marketing strategies have successfully raised awareness of K-pop across the globe, it is public relations that leads the world domination. Korean idols and celebrities agency and public relations create ‘celebrity persona’ that is believed to prolong para-social interaction – the compensation for the absence of social interactions and relationships in real life.

‘Persona’ relations of Korean idols causes fans to fall head over heels for these seemingly perfect stars. It does not only affect fans’ daily life but also destroy their relationships and perceptions of opposite sex. Soon enough, fans are willing to spend a fortune for actual and intimate contact with their idols as psychological compensation.

But then again, perhaps most credit should be given to its major contributors – K-pop fans. Without those who are unable to distinguish the real from the imaginary; let their emotions take control and lose their rationale, K-pop’s globalization would not be possible. Fans are all human after all.


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