Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Esther. Esther Wonders, “What is Kpop?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Esther!

Do you have a favorite type of music? Maybe you enjoy hip hop, country, or rock and roll. If you’re a fan of pop music, you may already know about the musical sensation that’s the topic of today’s Wonder of the Day. What are we talking about? K-pop, of course!

What is K-pop? It’s short for Korean pop music. K-pop is a large part of a phenomenon called Hallyu, which translates to “Korean Wave.” Hallyu refers to the growing influence of Korean culture around the globe. From food and film to gaming and music, Korean influence can be seen just about everywhere.

This wasn’t always the case. For decades, radio and television in South Korea were heavily censored. That meant the culture had little opportunity to influence or be influenced by the rest of the world. In 1987, though, reforms loosened censorship. Soon, music and other entertainment from around the world were flooding into South Korea.

With these new influences, South Korean pop music began to evolve. In 1992, a band called Seo Taiji and Boys played for the first time on a televised talent show. They quickly rose to the top of the music charts in South Korea and stayed there for 17 straight weeks. Many fans today consider Seo Taiji and Boys to be the first K-pop band.

Soon, more musicians joined the K-pop movement. Bands like H.O.T. and solo artists like BoA released major hits. K-pop’s three major agencies—SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment—were soon recruiting more talent to launch both bands and solo careers.

What makes K-pop special? It’s characterized by catchy beats and exceptional dancing. Fashion is also central to a K-pop star’s success. The industry’s entertainment agencies work hard to produce high-quality videos that quickly gain Internet followings.

Are you WONDERing how people become K-pop stars? For most, it starts in childhood. Kids in South Korea who dream of becoming famous audition between ages 10 and 12. If they’re chosen by a music agency, they enroll in a special school. 

At these schools, they learn more than reading, history, math, and science. They train in singing and dancing for hours each day hoping to become K-pop stars. Once they’re part of a band or launch as a solo artist, K-pop musicians sing and record music videos for songs created by their agency. 

Do you ever dream of being famous? It’s not always the life you might imagine. K-pop stars often have to sign contracts that control more than just their career. These contracts can have specific requirements for each star’s private, public, and dating life.

Still, many think it’s worth it. For kids who dream of stardom, it may be. Many K-pop stars become famous not only in South Korea but around the globe. Videos like Psy’s “Gangnam Style” have become worldwide sensations. And he’s not the only one—BTS, Stray Kids, Twice, EXO, 2NE1, and BLACKPINK  are just a few K-pop groups that have seen global success.

Are you a K-pop fan? What are your favorite groups and solo artists? If you haven’t listened to K-pop, consider giving it a try. You may just find your new favorite type of music!

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