In June 2013, the seven-member boy band released their first music video No More Dream. The song peaked at # 84 on the South Korean government-sponsored Gaon Chart. Six years later, BTS is only the third group in 50 years to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than 12 months.
Recently, his first English single Dynamite debuted at the top of the Billboard singles chart, making BTS the first South Korean singer or group to achieve such a feat. With dismal economic data at every turn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BTS’s success has been good news for South Korea, not only for its cultural pride but also for the tangible benefits that come with it.
A government study projects that chart-shattering Dynamics will generate 1.7 trillion won (US $ 1.43 billion) of economic activity and nearly 8,000 new jobs. In 2019, BTS held three concerts under the banner of Love Yourself. The show in Seoul attracted 130,000 fans and generated an economic value of nearly US $ 1 billion.
The pandemic may have put a stop to travel, concerts and fan meetings. But that hasn’t stopped the surging popularity of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave. SM Entertainment, one of South Korea’s three biggest entertainment agencies, teamed up in May with telecom giant SK to transform the live concert experience into fans’ living rooms.
“COVID-19 has opened up new opportunities for Korean Hallyu to develop and grow further,” said Kim Hun-sik, a pop culture critic in Seoul. “SM Entertainment has been investing in things like virtual reality for about 10 years now. You have artists like Psy with Gangnam Style and now BTS. “
Using a technology known as 3D mixed reality (MR), one of SM Entertainment’s actions, Super Junior, holds live shows for fans around the world. One of the band members, Choi Si-won, initially emerged as the image of MR, filling the 12m high concert hall, before actually joining his bandmates on stage.
“Even if that person is not around, it looks like he is right in front of our eyes and we really do meet in person,” said Jeon Jin-soo, who heads the 5GX Services Business Group at SK Telecom.
Solutions in the midst of a pandemic
The KCON music festival was created in 2012 to promote K-pop among American fans. This year’s edition will be held in New York in June. However, COVID-19, appeared. But instead came KCON: TACT, a seven-day online concert, which featured 33 different K-pop artists. The event attracted more than four million viewers.
CJ ENM, the entertainment company behind KCON, has set its sights on another installment this year, which will run for 10 days in October.
“It’s been a tough year for the live entertainment industry, especially for K-pop because K-pop is really about the interaction and communication between fans and artists,” said John Han, project manager at CJ ENM’s global festival business team.
South Korea, like most governments, is looking for ways to revive an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. To promote Hallyu, the finance ministry will set aside US $ 585 million in next year’s budget. That figure, announced Monday (September 7), represents a 43 percent jump from the 2020 allocation.
In anticipation of the pandemic and its accompanying distance measures into next year, part of the Hallyu budget will be used to help K-pop bands hold online concerts.
While the pandemic has forced concert organizers to dig deeper and innovate, at least one Hallyu export is experiencing growth. With more people staying, Korean dramas have emerged as a home entertainment staple.
A survey in Indonesia earlier this year showed that around 73 percent of people surveyed started watching Korean dramas after the pandemic hit the country in March.
Streaming services in India are also reporting a spike in demand.
“Before (the pandemic) Korean dramas were shown here at home. If it is good, it will be exported, ”said Kim Hun-sik, a pop culture critic. “Lately a lot is being shown on platforms like Netflix at the same time as is seen here. Or maybe a few days later. “
Still, there are setbacks. Several production houses have had to stop filming due to COVID-19 restrictions. For lesser known players, the lack of face-to-face meetings with overseas buyers is also hindering sales.
In the K-pop industry, while artists with established fan bases find ways to avoid a pandemic, newcomers struggle hard. “These so-called trainees don’t have a stage anywhere, and it’s hard to hold an online concert if people don’t know who they are,” said pop critic Kim Hun-sik.
“Several agencies have started to combine them with groups that are more popular. But it’s still difficult. “