India’s K-Pop wave: Young genre enthusiasts on Korean popular culture  

The K-Pop wave in India now has thousands competing for the online ninth edition of the K-Pop India Contest this year. India has become a hotspot with a huge and growing fan-base

Photo courtesy: Twitter/ @NEW_KID_twt
Photo courtesy: Twitter/ @NEW_KID_twt


From South Korean musician Psy's upbeat song 'Gangnam Style' going viral in India in 2012, to present day, when the youth across the country are enthusiastically consuming K-Pop content, the K-Pop wave in India now has thousands competing for the online ninth edition of the K-Pop India Contest this year. and even trying their hand at the genre,

Just the latest example of the unrelenting enthusiasm this genre is building, the Contest is organised by the Korean Cultural Centre India. According to We Are Family, the 2018 LG K-Pop Contest winners from Delhi, " K-Pop is like a world unto itself; it is a lifestyle".

"We first got to know about K-Pop from YouTube. The songs, the idols and K-Dramas, they sparked our interest in K-Pop. We love how addictive the melodies are," the group told IANSlife. Akanksha Kacker, the third place winner of 2019 Delhi Regional Round says that she first came across K-Pop through Psy's Gangnam Style, as most of us did. "However, at the time, I had no idea what it was. A few years later, in March 2016, I happened to watch BTS's music video for a song called Dope, and it basically changed my life forever."

Mumbai-based Kshitija, who participated in this year's Mumbai Regional Round, says K-Pop has been her "pace maker for years".

"Looking ten years back in time still makes me emotional. K-pop surely brings out most of my emotions, hyping me up, shattering me down, immensely motivating and endlessly inspiring. That's how this journey has been and I will walk this road forever. K-pop has always had the most "out of the box" music, lyrics, video directing, choreographies, cinematography, styling, make up and the list goes on. Really there's so much one can admire about K-pop industry."

"What stands out the most about K-pop is the amount of passion and hard-work that artists put into work. Its mind-blowing and absolutely admirable. K-pop helps me get back on track whenever I feel like I'm losing my way," she told IANSlife.

Sweta, a Contest participant from Chennai, recalls: "It was in 2011, when I was in my 10th grade, that I heard a Korean song. Our school conducts Foreign Language Songs Competition every year, and one of the teams happened to sing the song "No Other" by Super Junior. This was the very first Korean song that I listened to, and it developed a great amount of curiosity to dig deeper into this boy band and their songs. Fortunately it didn't end there, and I started listening to other artists such as DBSK, Girls Generation, Big Bang, U-Kiss, Rain and much more. This was my earliest encounter with K- Pop."

While most of these youngsters' accidentally found out about the nationwide K-Pop contest - that sees dance as well as vocal competitions - all of them thank themselves retrospectively for taking the opportunity. Many have also started to learn the Korean language and pick up the subtler nuances of Korean culture.

Subiksha, another Chennai-based participant, says she "got interested in K-pop because it was a unique type of music to listen to at that time (2009), was super catchy, amazing music videos and was slowly getting popular!"

Ignited Spirits, 2019 regional round winners from Andhra Pradesh's Guntur, says: "I first got to know about K-Pop by myself while I was surfing through YouTube. The first group that I encountered was BTS and I was so excited watching the songs. After knowing about Kpop, I was really fascinated and thought to make a dance cover of BTS - Boy with Luv, then, got to know about K-Pop contest by some of my friends... and then the journey of started."

Paris, a group member of 'The Chaser', which won Lucknow round last year, told IANSlife "K-Pop in India has grown immensely popular in the last few years and promises to go only uphill from here. After Gangnam Style, BTS and Blackpink brought incredible exposure for all the music enthusiasts in India. However, the mainstream Indian audience is yet to recognize K-Pop for its incredibly talented artists."

Anupriya, from the same group adds: "Being a fan of Anime the idols looked more like anime boys dancing around and they were really cool. Also these idols broke the stereotype of how a male should look or behave. Also the way they were portrayed in front of media and their relationship with the fans were more appealing plus their hard-work. All these were new to me so I was captivated."

Her team member Snigdha shared that all of her friends know about K-Pop and most of them have their Spotify filled with their kpop artists. Ishitaa says: "As compared to when I first got into K-Pop, there are actually a lot of people around me who know about it! I do think it is slowly but surely entering the mainstream more."

Calling India a hotspot with a huge and growing fan-base for K-Pop, the participants are confident that things are only going up from here.

"I'd like to say that whoever hasn't been hit by the Korean wave is missing a lot in life. Lucky are those who have been blessed with K-pop, K-drama and Korean Food! For over six years since I got into K-pop I did not know anyone who was into K-pop until I got them into it. But since past few years I have seen how K-pop fans have increased in numbers and are finding their happiness and inspiration in K-pop and Korean dramas," concludes a participant and fan.

After the Contest's regional rounds in Delhi on Friday, it will be held in several other Indian cities till mid-August.

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