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The Success of K-pop

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How Big and Why So Fast?

image of Asian Journal of Social Science

Over the past decade, a specific form of Korean popular music—K-pop—has enjoyed huge success around the world. Previous explanations have mostly focused on the demand side, such as intra-Asian cultural relations. This paper shifts the focus onto the supply side. Firstly, it presents new evidence on the scale of K-pop’s success in markets—with price-tags or no price-tag. Secondly, it argues that K-pop firms have been successful because they have made the “right product selection”: They have delivered the performances that have best exploited the comparative advantages that Korea has in global entertainment markets. Finally, this paper examines three major factors explaining the rapidity of this success. Two of them—level of competition and online prices relative to CD prices—have taken place in Korean markets, but have had indirect effects on K-pop’s attractiveness in foreign markets. By contrast, the third factor has taken place directly in foreign markets.

Affiliations: 1: Sciences Po Paris ; 2: Kyung-Hee University


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