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The Chinese Animation Dream: Making Made-in-China ‘Donghua’ Great Again

The Chinese Animation Dream: Making Made-in-China 'Donghua' Great Again

Okay-Pop (Korean pop music) is certainly one of South Korea’s most profitable export merchandise immediately. With bands resembling BTS which are dubbed the ‘largest boy band on the planet’, it’s apparent that the regionally produced Okay-Pop has develop into a globally well-liked phenomenon. Though its reputation is clear, the explanation why Okay-Pop turned so massive, from China to the US and past, are much less evident.

On coming Saturday, October 13, the South-Korean boy band BTS will carry out in an Amsterdam space in entrance of hundreds of followers who’ve been wanting ahead to this occasion for months. Ticket gross sales for the primary live performance of the 7-member boy group within the Netherlands have been bought out inside minutes, regardless of their comparatively excessive costs, with individuals paying as much as €250 ($290) within the official gross sales, and even €400 ($460) and extra for a single ticket within the unofficial on-line gross sales afterward.

It isn’t simply the success of the BTS European tour that’s making headlines; the record-breaking views on YouTube on their movies – the newest being the music ‘Idol’, that had greater than 200 million views in little over a month – can also be attracting the eye of the media.

And BTS isn’t alone. Different Korean pop (Okay-Pop) teams reminiscent of EXO, BIGBANG, TWICE, Shinee, or Got7, have additionally damaged data with regards to on-line video views or Spotify performs.

Though the English-language media consideration for the Okay-pop phenomenon is newer, the Korean leisure business has since lengthy been extraordinarily well-liked in China and on Chinese language social media. On this overview, What’s on Weibo explores the Okay-Pop reputation (specializing in its idol boy and woman teams), its brief historical past, and success components.


BTS and Extra: An Military of Followers


The pop group BTS (방탄소년단), also referred to as the Bangtan Boys (防弹少年团, lit: ‘Bulletproof Boyscouts’), is an award-winning seven-member South Korean boy band shaped by Huge Hit Leisure that debuted in the summertime of 2013. They’re presently hyped because the “largest boy band on the planet.”

Preliminary auditions for the band have been held in 2010, adopted by roughly three years throughout which the band was shaped and ready for his or her main debut, that was promoted on social media months earlier than their precise launch in June of 2013.

The band consists of multi-talented younger males. Singer-songwriter Kim Seokjin (Jin) (1992) was learning movie at Konkuk College when he was invited to audition by Massive Hit; rapper Min Yoongi (Suga) (1993) was an underground rapper earlier than he was signed; dancer and rapper Jung Hoseok (J-Hope) (1994) was a part of a dance workforce in his pre-BTS life.

Lead rapper Kim Namjoon (RM) (aka Rap Monster, 1994) was already lively within the music scene as rapper and producer; dancer and vocalist Park Jimin (Jimin) (1995) was a prime scholar as Busan Faculty of Arts earlier than becoming a member of; vocalist Kim Taehyung (V) (1995) is understood to have one of the expressing voices of the group; and primary vocalist Jeon Jungguk (Jungkook) (1997) was solely 12 years previous when he auditioned for BTS, adopted by three years of intense coaching.

BTS, previously ‘Behind The Scenes’, is understood for its robust social media presence, which helps to unfold its music and hook up with its followers, who name themselves an ‘ARMY’ (additionally stands for Lovable Consultant Grasp of ceremonies for Youth). The band has greater than 16 million followers on Twitter, three.three million followers on Weibo, 12 million subscribers on Youtube, and almost eight million followers on Fb.

Though BTS is the band that’s at present dominating the headlines, there are numerous extra Okay-Pop bands which are extraordinarily common on Weibo and past. The nine-member South Korean–Chinese language boy band EXO, for instance, has dozens of fanclubs on Chinese language social media. Band member Oh Se-hun alone already has virtually 9,5 million followers on his Weibo web page. BIGBANG has greater than 7 million Weibo followers, the eight-member woman band Woman’s Era (少女时代) is on the rise with 1,5 million Weibo followers, Tremendous Junior over one million, and the record goes on.



A Brief Historical past of Okay-Pop: Discovering a Chic Leisure Components


Apart from media consideration, there was ample scholarly consideration for the Korean popular culture phenomenon over the previous decade. The yr 2012 particularly marked a particular second within the historical past of Okay-Pop, when the music ‘Gangnam Fashion’ by Korean rapper Psy broke all YouTube data and have become a worldwide hit.

However earlier than Okay-Pop turned a worldwide drive to reckon with – that seemingly rose out of nowhere -, it had already made its first worldwide successes in neighboring nations China and Japan because the early 2000s.

In China, the success of Korean common tradition is outlined as Hallyu (韩流)*, the ‘Korean Wave’ since 1997 (Yang 2012, 105). Hallyu encompasses excess of idol bands; it consists of the growth of South-Korean dramas, movies, superstar idols, and leisure packages. In 2002, for instance, the South-Korean cleaning soap opera ‘Winter Sonata’ turned successful in each China and Japan.

The previous Exo (formation has now altered): a Chinese language-South Korean band shaped by SM Leisure in 2011, consisting of twelve members separated into two subgroups, EXO-Okay and EXO-M, performing music in Korean and Mandarin.

The early 2000s mark the ‘first Korean wave’ in China, that primarily revolved round TV dramas produced in South Korea and have been favored by females above the age of 30. It was adopted by the second wave from the mid-2000s to 2010, when the Okay-Pop music style popularized in China.

The third interval, after 2010, marks the second when Okay-Pop was additional included into mainstream Chinese language common tradition, with a ubiquity of Okay-Pop idols in on a regular basis Chinese language popular culture, and the launch of Chinese language variations of Korean leisure packages (Ahn 2014, 47). It was additionally on this ‘third wave’ that you simply noticed the debut of pop teams resembling EXO. Shaped in 2012, that band incorporates each Korean and Chinese language members, performing in each languages.

Though Okay-Pop from South Korea turned considerably much less seen within the PRC through the previous few years, primarily as a result of the business suffered from numerous politically-motivated bans on Hallyu in China, the style’s affect on China’s mainstream popular culture is clear, with some Chinese language teams, for instance, additionally being modeled after Okay-Pop bands.

Leisure Powerhouses

Many research clarify the overseas success of Korean common tradition in Asia, primarily China and Japan, by means of “cultural proximity,” saying that the success of Okay-Pop particularly occurred in China and Japan as a result of they’ve, for instance, linguistic similarities and corresponding Confucian values (Ahn 2014, 47; Messerlin & Shin 2017, 412).

However the newer international wave of Okay-Pop exhibits that cultural proximity is just not the only reply to the style’s success. Apart from, there’s truly nothing historically “Korean” about Okay-Pop, which solely emerged within the 1990s (Shin & Kim 2013, 256).

The style’s success primarily lies within the huge gamers that introduced forth the primary Korean pop idol teams and have excelled (and nonetheless do) in choosing the best leisure “merchandise” to spend money on, with a robust give attention to each on the manufacturing aspect and the market demand aspect.

SM Leisure, JYP, and YG Leisure are the primary main and main leisure homes of the 1990s. Huge Hit Leisure, residence to BTS, adopted later; founder Bang Si-Hyuk (1972) used to collaborate with JYP Leisure founder Park Jin-Younger (1971) earlier than going his personal means in 2005.

-SM Leisure, based 1988 by musician and TV host Lee Soo Man (1952)
-YG Leisure, based in 1996 by musician Yang Hyun-Suk (1970)
-JYP Leisure, based in 1997 by musician and producer Park Jin-Younger (1971)
-Massive Hit Leisure, based in 2005 by producer/songwriter Bang Si-hyuk (1972)

What characterizes these leisure homes is that they’re/have been small when it comes to income and staff (very totally different from huge labels comparable to Sony or Common), and play a number of roles as intermediate between musicians and shoppers, in addition to producers.

Totally different from many worldwide massive gamers within the leisure world, Okay-Pop leisure corporations combine processes of artist choice, songwriting, administration, signing commercial offers, and so on. in-house moderately than leaving these processes to varied events outdoors their very own studio (Shin & Kim 2013, 260). Vital concerning the founders of those leisure powerhouses is that all of them had ample expertise within the music business themselves earlier than beginning their studios.

Lee Soo Man, picture by way of

The story of SM Leisure, which was based by musician and TV host Lee Soo Man in 1988, is essential in understanding the start of the Okay-Pop business. Lee was impressed by the reworking American music market after spending time there within the 1980s, and determined to duplicate US leisure in a brand new approach. In his first studio he introduced collectively the suitable gear, the best experience, and the fitting expertise multi functional place to kick-start his enterprise (Shin & Kim 2013, 263).

Though the primary acts that got here from SM’s studio have been no prompt success, Lee was decided in studying via trial and error till he discovered the proper beat and picture that struck a chord with younger shoppers. In doing so, he adopted a technique by which youngsters have been surveyed on what they needed, and by which he targeted on scouting new expertise from everywhere in the nation to offer them intensive coaching in dancing, singing, and appearing on the SM Studio (Shin & Kin 2013, 264).

The band H.O.T. stood initially of the Okay-Pop style. (Picture by Soompi).

In 1996, eight years after Lee Soo Man began his leisure firm, and going via years of adjusting, refining, and enhancing his methods, the primary success was there. The boy band H.O.T., consisting of 5 hand-picked members who every had their very own power, debuted in 1996 and have become the primary main success within the brief historical past of Okay-Pop.

Corporations that adopted after SM’s preliminary successes additional experimented in adopting new methods and making an attempt out new types of music, however stayed true to the thought of in-house coaching of younger, new artists, slightly than choosing famend artists with outlined types (Shin & Kim 2013, 264). With regularly held auditions and coaching programmes that may final for years, some trainees begin as younger as 5 or 6 in order that they’re absolutely outfitted for the leisure business by the point they attain adolescence (ibid., 265).

Greater than being academics, producers, songwriters, entrepreneurs, and so forth., these leisure homes are additionally development watchers; coaching their skills in numerous areas now so as to have the ability to place them in the proper setting and format sooner or later, corresponding with (international) market calls for.

Corporations similar to SM place an emphasis on the export of music, and give attention to interesting to international audiences, making use of a whole lot of composers and specialists from all over the world in doing so. In producing and performing the Okay-pop woman band Woman’s Era’s track ‘Genie’, for instance, SM Leisure used a Japanese choreographer, a Norwegian songwriter, and Korean lyricist (Shim 2016, 38).



The Popularisation of Okay-Pop: A Digital Technique


Though a important explanation for Okay-Pop’s preliminary success lies within the (coaching) methods adopted by the aforementioned leisure homes, there are additionally different main elements which have contributed to its international affect.

The Korean authorities contributed to the preliminary success of Okay-Pop by creating a world-leading web infrastructure (though the objective of creating that infrastructure, clearly, was to not promote Okay-Pop), which helped the speedy rise of the style by means of on-line methods.

In line with some research (e.g. Messerlin & Shin 2017, 422-425), Korean leisure corporations have been the primary on the planet in relation to realizing the potential of the web for the distribution and advertising of their performances; they have been already lengthy awake to its prospects and have been appearing upon them, whereas many massive gamers in Europe and America have been nonetheless specializing in conventional album codecs.

What additionally helped the unfold of Okay-Pop on the time have been the comparatively pleasant and equally balanced Korean insurance policies on points similar to copyright, that have been (and are) much less protecting and restrictive in comparison with America or the EU (Messerlin & Shin 2017, 421).

The primary success (1997-2007) of Okay-Pop and different Korean in style tradition merchandise in China, Japan, and different nations inside Asia, have additionally been referred to as the primary main Korean Wave, whereas the present interval (2008-present), represents the ‘New Korean Wave,’ that’s outlined by the position that’s performed by new media know-how and social media as a platform for Okay-Pop to succeed in each nook of the world (Jin 2016).

On-line methods have been notably related within the context of the (early) Okay-Pop business as a result of 1) it was dominated by comparatively small companies that didn’t have the means to spend money on different main publishing platforms than that of environment friendly on-line distribution and a couple of) they didn’t have pricey crops the place they might produce CDs, DVDs, or vinyl. Having the high-tech Korean electronical market on their aspect, on-line methods have been thus a pure and cost-efficient answer to offer publicity to their performances (Messerlin & Shin 2017, 426). Extra so than specializing in conventional album releases, the discharge of digital singles that include visually engaging on-line movies, for instance, is one essential Okay-Pop manufacturing attribute.

In all probability the most effective instance displaying that this technique works is the worldwide success of ‘Gangnam Fashion’ that was made potential by means of YouTube. By now, six years after its launch, the world-famous track by Psy, who was signed by YG Leisure, has over three,2 billion performs on YouTube.

The income of live performance tickets for Okay-pop performances, its merchandise business, the digital singles, commercial revenue, the various manufacturers eager to affiliate themselves with the star business that Okay-pop has generated, and so forth., makes Okay-Pop manufacturing a money-making machine that exhibits that the mannequin that focuses on conventional (CD) album codecs and promotional single releases has turn into outdated.



Advertising greater than a Band: Lively Followers and Fascinating Characters


Whereas South-Korea’s revolutionary music enterprises have been essential for the worldwide launch of Okay-pop, its worldwide fanbase has now additionally develop into a motor driving its persevering with success.

Totally different from the preliminary unfold of Okay-Pop in China or different Asian nations – the place Okay-Pop has develop into widespread in on a regular basis popular culture -, is that many shoppers of the style within the US, Europe, or elsewhere, absolutely rely on the web and social media to entry Okay-Pop, as it isn’t a style that’s prevalent within the mainstream well-liked tradition of their very own nations.

The truth that followers of Okay-Pop in these areas should actively search for the newest info and releases of their favourite teams, additionally signifies that they’ve grow to be participatory and engaged shoppers within the unfold of Okay-Pop – virtually turning them into the ‘troopers’ of fandoms such because the BTS ‘military’. They’ve turn out to be a part of monumental (on-line) subcultures in numerous nations throughout Europe and America.

Extra than simply listening and watching Okay-pop, these followers turn out to be members of the ‘tradition’ by translating materials, circulating it to associates, or integrating it on their very own social media channels (Jin & Yoon 2016, 1285).


What additional strengthens this fandom is that the profitable Okay-Pop bands are something however one-dimensional. Extra than simply constructing on their synced choreography, flawless singing, trendy seems, and visually engaging movies, the band members of teams reminiscent of BTS, EXO, or TWICE, have their very own identities, voices, and objectives that transcend music; their numerous characters and roles inside the group resonate with their totally different followers.

The truth that many Okay-Pop teams and members even have an androgynous and gender-bender look additionally makes them extra fascinating to many followers, with many Okay-pop boys being ‘fairly and cute’ and women having a ‘robust and good-looking’ look, breaking by means of typical female and male stereotypes.

Amber from F(x) has an androgynous look.

Heechul from boy band Tremendous Junior.

Moreover, greater than pop bands, these Okay-Pop teams have nearly turn into ‘platforms’ with their very own streaming channels, web sites, tv exhibits, merchandise outlets, energetic on-line communities, tales, and so forth.

Of their current look on the US Tonight Present by Jimmy Fallon, BTS frontman RM defined the group’s mission in good English, saying: “It’s about talking your self, as an alternative of letting different individuals talking for you. Trigger with a view to really know ourselves, it is very important firstly know who I’m, the place I’m from, what my identify is, and what my voice is.”

Many discover their voice in Okay-Pop. And that may be a sound, from an area Korean product to a worldwide pressure, we will anticipate to develop a lot louder sooner or later.

By Manya Koetse
Comply with @whatsonweibo

* For readability: notice that because of scope this text focuses on the event of the Okay-pop phenomenon, and doesn’t discover the anti-Hallyu or anti-Korean wave motion in China, and the earlier bans on Hallyu within the PRC.


Ahn, Jungah. 2014. “The New Korean Wave in China: Chinese language Uders’ Use of Korean Well-liked Tradition by way of the Web.” Worldwide Journal of Contents, 10 (three): 47-54.

Jin, Dal Yong. 2016. New Korean Wave: Transnational Tradition within the Age of Social Media. College of Illinois.

Jin, Dal Yong, and Kyong Yoon.2016. “The Social Mediascape of Transnational Korean Pop Tradition: Hallyu as Spreadable Media Follow.” New Media & Society 18 (7): 1277-1292.

Messerlin, Patrick A. and Wonkyu Shin. 2017. “The Success of Okay-Pop: How Huge and Why So Quick?” Asian Journal of Social Science 45: 409-439.

Shim, Doobo. 2016. “Hybridity, Korean Wave, and Asian media.” Routledge Handbook of East Asian Well-liked Tradition,Koichi Iwabuchi, Eva Tsai, Chris Berry (eds), Chapter three. London: Routledge.

Shin, Solee I. and Lanu Kim. “Organizing Okay-Pop: Emergence and Market Making of Giant Korean Leisure Homes, 1980-2010.” East Asia 30: 255-272.

Yang, Jonghoe. 2012. “The Korean Wave (Hallyu) in East Asia: A Comparability of Chinese language, Japanese, and Taiwanese Audiences Who Watch Korean TV Dramas.” Improvement and Society, 41 (1): 103-147.

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