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10 Most Important Events in Kpop History (7-4)

Updated on July 1, 2015

#7 Roh Tae Woo became President

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The sixth president of South Korea, Roh Tae-Woo, is known for the messy anti-corruption campaign that led to him being on trial for bribery a later charged with mutiny and treason (for his role in the 1979 coup and the 1980 Gwangju massacre).

However, it cannot be denied that Roh’s presidency was responsible for massive democratic reforms that helped in allowing foreign influences into South Korea. The economic reforms he implemented opened the South Korea's society to cultural influences. As it is evident, South Korea's entertainment is largely patterned from the West.

It was also during Roh’s term when the country hosted the Seoul Olympics. The Olympics became a major catalyst in exposing South Korea to other culture.

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Impact on Kpop

  • Regardless of whether Roh deserves the more recent issues he and his family were dealing with, it cannot be denied that it was during his term when the country started getting away from being an insular region, and many of the changes that happened during the time made it easier for the country’s economy to improve enough to support a healthy entertainment industry.
  • Additionally, Roh Tae Woo opened the Korean market to foreign products, which meant that South Korea is now exposed to consumer goods from other countries, particularly the West. Kpop owes a lot of its early roots from artists who were influenced by Western musicians, so it is arguable that Kpop owes a little bit of its identity to Roh Tae Woo's move to relax the insular and restrictive South Korean market.
  • The open economy also meant:
  1. Foreign visitors are more welcome to visit the country and bring with them their fashion statement, local products, music and other culturally-related products
  2. Foreign products, including movies and music, are sold openly to South Korea
  3. Access to foreign entertainment is easier.
  4. Foreign entertainment producers are more welcome.

#6 - Yoo Jae-suk Hosts Live and Enjoy Together

Dubbed as the MC of the Nation, Comedian and MC Yoo Jae Suk is one of the most popular personalities in South Korea, and is responsible for boosting or revitalizing the popularity of many celebrities that have appeared in the variety shows that he has hosted. Jae Suk himself has a massive fanbase that extends far beyond South Korea’s borders, as people have taken a liking to his wit, excellent timing, and unique brand of self-depracating comedy that can poke fun at anything and anyone without being insulting or obscene.

However, it’s arguable that Yoo Jae Suk might not be where he is today if he wasn’t given a break in 2002 via the program Live and Enjoy Together. Before appearing in Live and Enjoy Together, Jae Suk spent almost a decade struggling as an unknown comedian. It was Live and Enjoy that brought him to the attention of people who would eventually stick him in other variety programs.

Impact on Kpop

  • Without Yoo Jae Suk, many K-pop stars would not have been given a huge exposure and allowed to build a more relatable personality and character, hence limiting their appeal. Yoo Jae Suk's influence on South Korea has been and his reputation so credible that whatever he says about someone or something is deemed taken seriously. That's why many celebrities, old and new, covets to be interviewed by him or share some airtime with him.
  • He also has the uncanny ability to determine how to make a person shine. He creates situations that will allow the celebrity to shine. That's how he managed to "launch" the popularity of many celebrities.
  • Yoo Jae Suk's uncanny ability to build rapport with others has also helped revitalize careers of Kpop stars that make them relevant and even more appealing to a younger market. For example, it is possible that Kim Jong Kook's career was already on the wane after Turbo disbanded, but being cast in Family Outing and Running Man made him relevant again, and even helped him build a new personal brand that appeals even to non-music fans. The same can be said for Lee Hyori.

#5 - Lee Bong Jo, Kim Dae Hwan and Shin Joong Hyun introduced Western sound to Korean Musi

The 60s was a transformative period for music in general, and the West was spearheading the movement as rock and roll started becoming popular, challenging traditional music and culture with its edgy, rebellious nature. It was also during this time when South Korea adopted the culture via their then-popular pop artists, such as Lee Bong Jo, Kim Dae Hwan, and Shin Joong Hyun.

These pop artists were influenced by the west due to their time playing for American soldiers stationed in Korea. They took the music back to the local industry and paved the way for more Western styles and genres to take root in South Korea.

Impact on Kpop

  • The Kpop industry would be vastly different today without these early pioneers, because Kpop, by design, is a melding of South Korean and Western styles. These early experimentations on music genres and style is the precursor to modern Kpop.

#4 - DBSK/TVXQ Releases 'Purple Line'

Many fans consider ‘Mirotic’ as the epitome of K-pop songs and is also DBSK’s most successful single to date, however, it is important to consider context; it is their song Purple Line that truly broke through the proverbial barriers that kept Korean acts from making it big in Japan

The Beginnings

After BoA penetrated Japan, SM knew they had to follow up with another artist to completely break the barrier between Japan and other artists from other countries. DBSK was already popular in Korea but SM knew that Japan is a different story altogether. They forged a partnership with AVEX in Japan and that's how DBSK started their "crawl" towards the top.

DBSK was subjected to all sorts of difficulties. They were guesting on tv programs shown at 1am where they were asked to do things not related to singing or dancing. They were made to perform on events at 2pm, under the scorching heat. They were made to release one single after another. They were made to actually perform on the streets. It was a proof that BoA making it doesn't translate to other artists from Korea regardless of the talent.

SM estimated that it will them 5 years to put DBSK at the top of the Japanese charts (it was actually written on DBSK's contracts). SM was almost spot on. Purple Line made it to number one on Oricon and Japanese media started to give the group some respect.

  • Purple Line is DBSK’s first Japanese single to reach #1 in Japan’s Oricon Weekly sales chart, which made them the first foreign male group to top the Japanese charts and the second Korean artist to do so (the first one was BoA.)
  • It is also Purple line that is responsible for helping DBSK with their sold out Tokyo Dome concert – the first time a Korean artist managed to do so. It is precisely this achievement that opened the doors of opportunity for other Korean groups like SNSD, Kara, and Shinee to hold their own concerts at the venue.

Impact on Kpop

  • DBSK and Purple Line’s success in Japan softened the otherwise territorial Japanese market, and made it easier for other Korean artists to break through commercially. DBSK wasn't the first Korean artist to perform in Tokyo Dome but they were the first one to fill it up to capacity. That was the stroke that legitimized Korean artists in Japan. DBSK proved it was possible and it prompted producers to be a bit more lenient in giving breaks to Korean artists. Some of the recipients of this are Kara, Shinee, Girl's Generation, Big Bang and a few others. Although only a select few have managed to fill up the Tokyo Dome, more are having a stable career in Japan.
  • DBSK's popularity officially opened Japan as a viable market and it's a market that holds a really strong purchasing power.
  • The popularity of DBSK also set the standard on the kind of work ethic and quality of materials that Japan expects from artists from Korea.
  • Since the success of DBSK, many TV programs have invited more Korean artists that are just starting out in Japan which makes the penetration easier.

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