“One in a million! Annyeonghaseyo, Twice imnida!” The official greeting of the two-time Golden Disc Awards winner, Twice, may be familiar to some ears. Some people like the catchy rhythm of Korean pop music. Other people may think the heavy beats are overplayed, but nobody can deny K-pop’s raging popularity in Hong Kong.
Korean culture has swept Hong Kong and many parts of the world in recent years. It has inspired an unmatched devotion from fans. Hong Kong’s support for K-pop is so huge that the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards chose to host the show in the city for four consecutive years.
So what is it about Korean culture that attracts so many Hongkongers? I spoke to three passionate fans at my school to delve deeper into this fandom culture.
“To me, the attractiveness of the Korean idols was what drew me in. Then I began to realise the talent behind their looks,” says K-pop fan Winsome Cheng, 18. Her walls are completely decorated with posters of K-pop boy group GOT7 , and her bias’ – K-pop slang for “favourite member” – name, Park Jin-young, is constantly on her lips.
It’s simple, really. Humans are drawn to beautiful things, and Korea is an expert at making things beautiful. The glitz and glamour of Korean idols has a major influence on fans, so along with the rise of Korean entertainment came the rise of Korean fashion. Popular online shopping website Zalora even has a K-fashion category, which is testimony to the Korean fashion’s large market in Asia.
“I learned Korean just because I wanted to understand what my idols were saying. I watched so many of their videos that I just picked up the language,” says K-pop fan Andrina Au, 17.
Hitomi Chu, 18, thinks differently: “It’s their perfectly timed dance moves. They’re an inspiration for me to pursue my dream of dancing”. Hitomi is an aspiring dancer and the hard work that K-pop idols put into their choreography inspires her and many others.
“We practise for 12 hours every day. We really work hard,” says member of K-pop group Bangtan Boys (BTS), J-Hope, in an interview with Front Row Live Entertainment. Some K-pop idols train for 3 years before they debut, with vigorous training schedules in singing, dancing, acting, modelling and more. Many respect their determination.
Hong Kong fans’ dedication is no joke. A Korea Eximbank study in 2012 found that for every US$100 (HK$780) spent on the production of Korean entertainment, Korean product export rises by US$412 (HK$3,200). The fans would do almost anything for their idols; pre-ordering albums to boost a group’s popularity is almost a prerequisite for a K-pop fan.
The booming market in Hong Kong also attracts fan meetings. Both Gong Yoo and Lee Dong-wook, known for their roles in Korean drama Guardian, are holding fan meetings in Hong Kong, adding to the K-wave craze taking over the city.
“K-pop is a great mix of music videos, performances, choreography and social media. The chemistry in our videos is apparent and it’s very easy for the fans to get to us,” says Rap Monster, leader of BTS, when explaining K-pop’s growing popularity in the world to iHeartRadio.
Judging from the many sold out K-pop world tours, it seems nothing can stop the charming looks and sweet personalities of these Korean idols.