KPOP: Asia’s Popular Music

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Why is music from Korea becoming so popular around the world? Ryan Geertsma and Liz Waid look at Korean popular culture.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight, I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Follow along on YouTube
Voice 1 

This song is called “Pop Pop Pop.” It is sung by the female music group Rania. Rania is a popular or ‘pop’ music group from South Korea. There are six girls in the group. They sing, dance, and create some of the most popular music in Asia. They also travel all around Asia and perform their music. Rania is a “KPOP” music group. The “k” in KPOP comes from the word “Korean.”  But People all over Asia listen to KPOP. The songs are top hits in many countries – countries as far away from South Korea as the Philippines. Today’s Spotlight is on KPOP.

Voice 2 

Korean Popular Music – or, KPOP – is similar to American and British “Pop” music. The term “Pop” music became famous in the 1950s. People used the term to describe popular rock and roll music.  Like early “Pop” music, KPOP uses a lot of very fast beats. The music often repeats and is very easy to remember.

Voice 1 

American hip-hop music has also had a large influence on KPOP. Hip-hop started to become popular in the United States in the 1970s. It had many influences – like jazz and rock and roll music. Hip-hop is different than most music.  In most music, the performer sings the words. But in hip-hop, the performer speaks the words to the beat. The first famous hip-hop song was called “Rapper’s Delight.” It was performed by a band called The Sugarhill Gang. It sounds like this,

Voice 2 

You can hear this kind of singing or rapping in many KPOP songs. It is even in the “Pop, Pop, Pop” song from the beginning of this program. The singer raps in Korean to the beat of the song:

Voice 1 

KPOP music is also very easy to dance to. The rhythm or beat is clear and easy to follow.  Restaurants, bars and dance clubs all over Asia play KPOP for people to dance to. It is rare to find KPOP songs that are slow. This is because making the song easy to dance to is extremely important. The beat and sound are often even more important than the words.

Voice 2 

KPOP shares many similarities with other kinds of global popular music. However, there is one thing that makes it unique or different. KPOP often combines the Korean and English languages. For example, there is a song called “Bad Girl, Good Girl” by Miss A. This song starts in English. It says, “You don’t know me, so shut up boy.” Then it quickly changes into Korean. Listen:

Miss A” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by kiki bondol
Voice 1 

This use of English in KPOP is not surprising.  Most young Koreans speak some English or are learning English. Often, they speak what people call “Konglish.”  Konglish is a mixture of Korean and English. Often Koreans will speak mostly Korean, but use some English words instead of Korean words.  Sometimes, they will even use long groups of English words.  However, these phrases will be highly influenced by Korean.

Voice 2 

Tory Thorkelson is a professor at Hangyang University in South Korea. He says that Konglish often borrows words from English. But sometimes these English words are given new, Konglish meanings.

Voice 1 

A good example is the word ‘meeting.’ In English, meeting means – the act of two or more people coming together.  A meeting can be for work, school, community or even religion. However, in Konglish, “meeting” means a particular kind of meeting. It is a meeting between two people. They are looking for love and they have never met before. In English, people would call this a “blind date.” In Konglish, it is just a “meeting.”

Voice 2 

KPOP’s international success is also changing how some cultures see South Korea. Sue Jin Lee is a Communications student at Elon University in the United States. She wrote a research paper about the Korean wave. The Korean wave is a term people use to explain the spread of Korean popular culture in Asia. She writes,

Voice 3 

“The clearest effect that the Korean wave has had is improving the Korean national image. South Korea is reinventing their national image. Countries in the world are always shaping and reshaping their national images. They do this as they compete with other countries for power and influence.”

Voice 1 

KPOP is a major part of the Korean wave.  And it has helped change the way Asian countries see South Korea.  Lee writes,

Voice 3 

“Many experts and news writers have questioned why Korean popular culture became such a powerful force in Asia. Most people like cultural products that are similar to their own culture. So, it is not surprising that Korean cultural products are successful. Asian people feel closer to Korean culture than to Western culture.”

Voice 2 

However, some people think KPOP and the Korean wave have given South Korea too much cultural influence and power.  Lee writes,

Voice 3 

“When the Korean wave first developed and moved into Asia, Japanese newspapers had a hostile attitude toward Korean issues. Chinese newspapers criticized the increase in Korean television shows and businesses…”

Voice 1 

However, no one can argue KPOP’s global appeal. It is crossing cultural divisions.  And it is building relationships between countries.

Voice 2 

In fact, the spread of KPOP has not stopped with Asia. Its influence is spreading around the world. Donika Sterling is a 15-year-old girl from New York City. She suffers from a disease with no cure. She cannot walk. And she has gone through many operations to fight her disease. Her life is different than many girls her age. But like many people her age, she loves music – in particular KPOP.

Voice 1 

Donika loves to listen to KPOP over the internet.  And in June of 2012, she went on a very exciting trip. She travelled to Seoul, South Korea.  There, she met members of her favorite KPOP music groups.

Voice 2 

This experience was powerful both for Donika and the KPOP groups she met. Donika told the Internet website KPOPstarz:

Voice 4 

“I still cannot believe I am in Korea. I thank everyone who helped me make my dreams come true.”

Voice 1 

SHINee is a member of the KPOP group Taemin. He told KPOPstarz,

Voice 5 

“I was happy to hear about Donika coming to Korea to meet us. I was very amazed to hear that Donika is encouraged by our music.”

Voice 2 

Do you listen to KPOP music? Why do you think music has the power to cross cultures? Tell us what you think. Write your comments on the script page of this program.

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “KPOP: Asia’s Popular Music.”

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Do you listen to KPOP music? If you do, what do you like most about it? If you do not, would you want to? Write your answer below.

Join the discussion

  • I don’t listen to the music, I only listen to the Quran, because I’m Muslim and I’m thankful to you for this spotlight

  • Unfortunately I don’t know about loop music before this article. I adore Arabic music and I am much interested in Old Arabic poem.

  • I love k drama, but I am not used to listening K Pop. I like one famous K-pop music called “Kill this love” by female group music Blackpink. K pop dancing has such a perfect performance extremely right, it’s so beautiful, but sometimes it’s so harmful to performers.

  • I hear Kpop everyday. In fact, I see the Kpops
    Kpop stars are so beatiful and their dances also are amazing
    I love Kpop for their bueaty

  • Yeah, I did hear it, this sons ware so popular sonce 2005, in mu country people sang them and dancing for 3 or 4 year, in mu opinion this music kpop is succesful because korean people is the same american people in The soul, in the body and in the dreams. I’m in Bogota – Colombia, from hear we see the same people.

  • SHINee is a member of the KPOP group Taemin
    –> Sorry but the true here is Taemin is a member of the KPOP group SHINee.

  • Actually ,Don’t like to listen music
    I always listen my favorite Quran
    I’m Muslim and I am proud of that it .

  • Yes, I do i like it very much because it is interesting and renewed. All the groups pf
    k-pop music have different character and this what i like in k-pop music.

  • Honestly,i listening kpop all day,all month even all years =)) cause it very suitable for me =) especially female groups! I really like them! I liked Kpop becuase just them music,charisma,luxury,…on MV each groups.Oh! I’m suprised Taemin is here =)))

  • I really love Kpop music because the beat of that songs is easy to sing and dance. Thanks for uselful information about Kpop.

  • Yes I listen to K-pop music and special Group name is BTS they are Soo Cool , they are learn me how I love my self and believe my self ,also don’t care about what people says because that is not really important , and for me I Think that it’s really interesting 🙂

  • I’ma big fan of Kpop when I was a child. The beat and the rythm are so amazing and beatiful. I can sing or dance in Kpop music everywhere .

  • Yes, of course. I listen to KPOP music every day to relax. For me, the thing I like the most is KPOP’s music. Do you know that why is it popular all over the world? I like many groups in South Korea: BTS, Blackpink, Momoland,… and other solos- singers like IU, Ailee,… Especially, there are a lot of handsome boys and pretty girls in the group. I like dancing to KPOP’s music, too. It’s very easy to dance and to remember it no matter where they live in the world through a special rhythm.

  • I often listen to K-pop music. My idol is BTS. I have learnt lots of from their music, they teach me how to love my self, follow my dream and never give up.

  • i like listening to kpop music. actually, i like listening to pop music and kpop is my favorite genre, kpop idols make me happy and motivated to do more things.

  • Well, listening to Kpop music is very satisfying, even more so when you understand the meaning of the lyrics when you are feeling down. Through Kpop music, it helps me to feel better and I can continue to push forward and strive for the best in everything that I do. Like what some people may say, when you are happy you enjoy the music, when you are sad you understand the lyrics.

  • With the rise of KPOP , also known as the Hallyu wave, the style of music is becoming increasingly popular and exerting a significant influence on young people. Kpop idols are regarded as ideal role models in the eyes of their followers. i’ve noticed that young. Vietnamese people are drawn to the fashion of thier idols’ outfits, and they sometimes
    dress in the manner ò their idols. It’s encouraging to see that more people are finding inspiration in Kpop and using it to make their lives better.

  • I often listen KPOP music, but I listen only my favourite group. They are Blackpink group. They have 4 girl singer, and I love Jisoo so much. She is so beautiful.

  • The best podcast 🙂 because I really love kpop music I started to listen to kpop in 2017 I lesting to bangtan boys or the popular name is BTS , ther songs are make me happy they have positive energy all days , the members of BTS they are so kind and friendly with their fans and l saw them in real life!!! They are visited my city Riyadh at 2019 , I can’t believe I saw my favorite member he is min yoongi or SUGA I really love him sm I wanna see him again in the future , and then I knew a lot of groups singers after BTS and I wanna travel to south korea.

  • I see KPOP all the time. I even saw a little tablet that kids use to watch videos on it. Before the kids play watch, there was a little KPOP video about plane safety!

  • I hardly ever listen to KPOP music. I like most their dancing skills and the rhythm , but I think some of them their voices are not great . Korean people just focus in dancing and beauty faces.

    • I’m Korean but agree to your opinion. the lylic are just not meaningful and not delivered well. this opinions exist here too especialy from older generation.
      However, it looks It’s worth respecting their endless effort to make new trend to global no matter what it is.

  • I don’t know too much about at music but I like to lising
    bolero music when bad feeling. My husband is Catholic , he very likes hymn music. Every morning , he often lising hymn music and singing along when we have breafast ,drink coffee . I think this a special way to ejoying music on the life .

  • I first listened to Kpop music around 2012. I started with Super Junior and Girls Generation. I think both groups are amazed. The lyrics of the music, his rhythm and his stile were the best.

  • i’m a big fan of kpop music and i listen to this everyday. It sounds so addictive and attractive that make me in love with it. my favorite kpop songs is “Bet on me” by ITZY. The melody of this song is very good and the lyrics is so meaningful, that make me love myself more than before, and it push my power so much,. I suggest that you should listen to this song and it will make you happier and more optimistic. Thanks a lot for reading my bad english here. But it’s all my effort!

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