K-pop artists turn to the US

Boyband BTS recently became the first K-pop group to win a prestigious Billboard music award for Top Social Artist.
Boyband BTS recently became the first K-pop group to win a prestigious Billboard music award for Top Social Artist.PHOTO: BTS/INSTAGRAM

SEOUL • The United States has taken over from China as the promised land for South Korean pop stars seeking fame and fortune abroad.

The management agencies of these entertainers have had to cast a wider net after Beijing put the brakes on South Koreans hoping to tap the huge and lucrative Chinese market.

Since last year, K-pop artists have not been allowed to perform in China after Seoul angered the Chinese government by agreeing to deploy a US-backed missile defence system.

While that is a move to protect South Korea from North Korea's unpredictable government, according to Seoul, Beijing is not happy because the system is sited close to China.

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The fallout from the Chinese boycott has been swift, with media reports in September last year citing Chaebul, South Korea's leading stocks website, as saying the dispute had caused more than US$140 million (S$194 million) of damage to entertainment companies so far.

"The impact has been substantial," Ms Ellen Kong, chief executive officer of Elf Asia, a Hong Kong promotion company specialising in K-pop, told CNN.

"It's meant China is no longer a viable market for K-pop touring acts." Which is why the artists are now looking at the US market, reported The Telegraph.

The industry got a boost recently when boyband BTS beat the likes of Justin Bieber to become the first K-pop group to win a prestigious Billboard music award.

And despite not singing in English, BTS have already sold out concerts in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. It is another sign that Americans are now ready to embrace more Korean acts apart from Psy, whose Gangnam Style video is the most-watched ever on YouTube.

The statistics support the growth. In 2013, there were just seven K-pop concert tours in the US. Last year, there were 20. There have been 14 already this year, including one recently announced by K-pop icon G-Dragon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'K-pop artists turn to the US'. Print Edition | Subscribe