K-pop takes America by storm

K-pop takes America by storm

Korean pop music may have been subtly barred from China, but another powerful market has opened its doors to this Asian phenomenon. "China is no longer a viable market for K-pop touring acts," said Ellen Kong, CEO of Elf Asia, a Hong Kong promotion company specializing in K-pop. When a door closes, however, a window opens, and this time the odds are in K-pop's favor big time.

The doors to the US market opened wide for the colorful Korean music genre after K-pop band BTS made history by beating Justin Bieber and becoming the first K-pop group to win the Top Social Artist prize at the prestigious Billboard Music Awards. This marks a turning point for the band which debuted in 2013 wit a contemporary K-pop sound that fuses hip-hop, electronica and rock.

China's barring may have backfired as the pop genre does mainstream in the West. Despite not singing in English, BTS have already sold out venues in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. As it is expected, the the US market is a gateway to the worldwide market, which has welcomed the band with arms wide open. After their sold-out US tour, they toured the world, including countries like Australia and Japan.

BTS member Kim Nam-joon, known to fans as "Rap Monster" took to the stage to accept the award and thanked their friends.

"We still can't believe that we're standing here on this stage at the Billboard Music Awards," he said. "It is so great to see all the artists we admire, and we feel honored to be in this category with all these great artists right in front of us."

"And most importantly, this award belongs to all the people around the world that shine their love and light on us by the millions and make BTS proud. Please remember what we say, love yourself."

The seven-member K-pop band had a lot to thank their fans for, as they were the ones to rally a petition to an invitation for BTS to the awards. Known as ARMY (Adorable Representative MC's for Youth), BTS fanbase voted for the award on Twitter and on the awards website more than 300 million times.

"BTS was one of the first groups to fully embrace social media and completely open themselves up to fans," said CEO of Koreaboo, Flowsion Shekar, a popular content platform specializing in K-pop with a reach of over 50 million.

BTS's music infused with socially-aware lyrical themes of anti-bullying and mental health have earned them 9.7 million followers on social media and YouTube videos that have over 100 million views each. Billboard described the success of their title track "Spring Day, which reached No. 15 on the Billboard "Bubbling Under 100" chart, as "unprecedented given K-pop's history on Billboard's singles charts."

"International fans were able to really relate to them and feel like they truly knew the members individually. Most rookie groups are held tightly behind closed doors and everything is filtered or sanitized before it's shown to the public."

Although BTS is the first K-pop band to win a Billboard award, they are not the first Korean artists to do so. Unsurprisingly, it was PSY the first K-pop solo artist to win one of those prestigious awards back in 2014, for Top Streaming Song, "Gangnam Style."

From seven K-pop concert tours in the US in 2013, the number raised to 20 in 2016. While the so-called Korean Wave of pop culture has long dominated East Asia, until now it had gone unnoticed in the West, except for the global hit "Gangnam Style," which remains the most viewed video on YouTube.

The tables have turned and even Jaden Smith -the 18-year-old son of actor Will Smith, revealed plans to launch his own K-pop career and has shown his support for G-Dragon's new album on Twitter. He has also called the BIg Bang rapper his "inspiration". He uploaded a cellphone screen shot of G-Dragon's new EP "Kwon Ji Yong" as seen on the U.S. iTunes store. The image was enough to show his devotion to big bang and to spark a series of comments by Big Bang's fans. G-Dragon has also started touring in the US, regularly.

Due to South Korea's past diplomatic spat with China - China's opposition to the US-backed missile shield that is now housed in South Korea - a growing number of K-pop acts started touring in the US, according to industry experts. Good tensions are calming now. Love the World - we are one.

Co-founder of K-pop gossip site allkpop which has 10 million monthly readers, Paul Han has stated: "Around 8 years ago or so, it was very rare for K-pop artists to tour in the US, but now it has become quite common."