‘Hallyu’ in Ireland

Music has been connecting people and bridging cultural gaps. Using its universal language, it brings different cultures together under one umbrella, and at the same time, speaks for each culture, representing various enthralling art forms of the world.

South Korea is amongst the fastest growing economies and home to tech giants like Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, to name a few. But it has also been exporting something much more than just technology- The Korean Culture.

It has been partaking to develop the cultural sector since the 1990s, promoting Korean Dramas and Korean Pop Music. Especially during the past two decades, South Korea has marked its presence around the world with the Hallyu or Korean Wave.

The Korean pop music, popularly known as – KPOP has been successful in seizing the attention of millions, from east to west, winning hearts and several major music awards. With the advancements in social media platforms like YouTube, the flow of music culture has mounted tenfold. Proving yet again that music transcends linguistic walls, Kpop artists like Psy and BTS have been able to garner both attention and love from diverse groups of people.

BTS: Fire
Giphy via YouTube

From Gangnam style becoming the first YouTube video to hit a billion views to Kpop groups like BTS and Blackpink securing some of the biggest music video debuts in the history of YouTube, the music genre has thrived internationally.

Blackpink: Boombayah
Giphy via YouTube

The Korean wave is spreading rapidly, topping charts across the globe, and Ireland is no exception. The Kpop fanbase in the country is increasing by the day, and it’s evident as the twitter handle of the Kpop Group BTS – @BTS_twt made it to the top Twitter trends of 2018 by being the most tweeted about music handle along with various top music hashtags on Irish Twitter.

Although Kpop is more popular than ever in Ireland, the love for Kpop is not new. The Circular came across one such Irish Kpop Fan who has been following Kpop since the time it was still new in the global market.

To understand the Kpop phenomenon in Ireland better, The Circular interviewed Carrie Moon. In search of other Irish Kpop fans, Carrie, now 31, started a Facebook group – Kpop Ireland (케이팝 아일랜드) in 2010.

The group which initially had 10-15 people, now has about 2,358 members. The group has hosted/co-hosted many events over the years and serves as a platform for Kpop enthusiasts and people who love Korean culture to interact with each other.

How did you get into Kpop?

I started listening to Kpop around 2005/2006. Just after when Super Junior released “Sorry, Sorry”. I used to use a website called JpopAsia to listen to anime music and J-rock, and one day Super Junior popped up on my feed, and that was that. I was hooked.

What made you fall in love with Kpop?

For me, Kpop brought back my love of boybands. I was always a huge fan of boybands who danced – such as NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. That kind of scene died down for a long time in the later 2000s in Western music, and when I saw Super Junior for the first-time dancing in unison, dressed in somewhat matching outfits and singing/rapping, it all came rushing back. I started researching more groups, fell in love with Rain, TVXQ, SHINee, Girls Generation. Since then I’ve also fallen in love with other Korean musicians and singers from all genres. I love the rock singer Kim Kyung-ho, I even have some of his cassette tapes from the 1990s. I’m also a huge fan of Kim Dongr-yul and the band Jaurim. As founder of Kpop Ireland, I always tried to keep up with groups and singers so that I can keep up with the members tastes and what is popular, but the last “new” groups I really paid attention to would have been B.A.P and EXO. BTS were around a long time before I listened to them, but that again was me trying to keep up with our members and their likes.

As a fan community, how did you promote Kpop in Ireland?

We have done flash-mobs, which you can find on YouTube, we have run our own version of the Korean show Running Man which we named Running Girl. We’ve also held monthly meetups in the past for our members to experience Korean food, and to show members from around the country where to find Korean-related merchandise/food etc. in Dublin. We participated in the Korean Culture Charity Festivals a few years ago too, and we try to work together with Kpop related groups and businesses in Ireland.

Source: Kpop Ireland via YouTube

We are a community first, it’s all about bringing the fans together in one place and sharing resources. 

How do you think Kpop became popular in Ireland?

Many people came to Kpop through PSY and found other YG groups through that. They joined our group and found more groups, and more friends who enjoyed Kpop too. BTS also kickstarted a boom like this too. I think Kpop has become a lot more mainstream in Ireland in the past few years. A lot of the Kpop audience was also quite young when Kpop Ireland started, some of our members have been with us for the whole 9 years, starting when they were teenagers into adulthood. Even outside of Kpop Ireland, I think this is also a reason the Kpop nightclubs are so popular here too. The Kpop fans can finally have a place to go and party with the music they’ve loved growing up. We are still a small scene compared to other countries, but we’re starting to get noticed on a more international scale more than ever.

Why do you love Kpop? What do you think makes it so popular?

These days I still love the talent and dedication behind Kpop. I love seeing all the different concepts that groups come out with, whether it’s sexy or cute or just plain weird. A Kpop song/album is not always just one small thing, it’s a whole piece of art sometimes. Between teasers and the buildup, it’s almost like waiting for a new movie to come out. Then it makes you want to learn the dances, learn the words and the meaning behind the lyrics that you can’t instantly understand. Then you end up studying the fashion and style connected to it. There is so much to Kpop, it can overwhelm you, and I love that.