After tickets for a June 10 show sold out in just 15 minutes, the flash mob picketed and danced to the Korean tunes in a mostly harmless gathering, while demanding another concert be scheduled. They wanted their chance to see their favorite South Korean stars without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money for scalped tickets.
Experts and record label executives here say such a rally won't likely be a one-time event, as Korean pop music, branded "K-pop," continues to ride the wave of video-sharing Web sites, social networking services (SNS) and other Internet tools to international prominence.
The popularity of Korean pop culture, known as "Hallyu," or literally the "Korean Wave," had previously been confined to Asia. South Korean artists would make charts in Japan and would draw big crowds at occasional shows in China or Taiwan, but selling out concerts in Paris is a relatively recent development.
Min Ji-eun, a France-based stringer for the Korea Foundation for International Culture Exchange, said there have been other, similar rallies across France since late last month to call for more Korean concerts.
"During rallies on May 1, French fans were joined by those from Madrid and Barcelona," Min said. "This Saturday, in Lyon and Marseilles, people from Munich are planning to have their rally."
YouTube, the world's largest video-sharing site, has played a major role in the growing popularity of K-pop, officials here say.
Super Junior (Yonhap file photo)
According to YG Entertainment, one of South Korea's major talent agencies, the YouTube channel for its boy band named Big Bang has attracted 5.7 million visits from Europe from December last year to the start of this month.
The quintet, which debuted in 2006, recently broke its two-year hiatus with a chart-topping EP. Big Bang ranked first in an online poll of favorite South Korean boy bands on the Web site kpopfrance.com, a K-pop site for French fans. Another YG acts, 2NE1, topped the list for favorite girl groups.
A male duo, TVXQ, reached No. 4 on the United World Chart operated by a German site, Media Traffic, with its album "Keep Your Head Down" in January this year.
S.M. Entertainment, a rival agency of YG that has produced popular groups such as Girls' Generation and Super Junior, said its YouTube channel has drawn 80 million hits since June 2009.
"Fans from all over Europe -- France, Britain and Italy -- visit our channel and write comments," an official from S.M. said. "International fans stay up to date on our artists through this channel. Last year, when members of Super Junior went to Italy for personal vacations, they were greeted by some 300 fans at the airport. That showed us how popular Korean musicians have become (in Europe)."
In February, a French cable channel called Canal + did a feature on a new South Korean boy band, Teen Top, and a Belgium state broadcaster introduced K-pop groups SHINee and Girls' Generation to the local audience.
Yang Hyun-suk, head of YG Entertainment, said his company has been trying to capitalize on Internet tools to market its acts across the world.
"In this day and age, people find the content they want on the Internet," Yang said. "And for years, we at YG have been marketing our artists through YouTube. In addition to music videos, we also upload clips from TV programs after going over copyright issues. That's brought us fans from the U.S., Europe and South Africa."
Yang said will.i.am, a member of the Black Eyed Peas currently visiting Seoul for a show, told him that he was surprised to meet so many fans of 2NE1, an all-girl quartet, in Brazil, where he'd recently performed.
2NE1 (Yonhap file photo)
Kim Young-min, head of S.M., points to the high quality of Korean pop music.
"We've been producing global contents using our wide networks," Kim said. "A top European composer would write a song, an American choreographer would build dance moves and a Korean producer would put together the whole package. And a Korean artist would sing in different languages, too. These contents are competitive in the global market because they've been produced through global networks."
Yang said the French fans' rally at the Louvre was "great news" for Korean pop culture as a whole.
"That contents of Korean pop culture are so loved in Europe is encouraging in terms of expanding our horizons," Yang said. "The power of cultural contents leads to other added values, such as improved national image. The world Hallyu isn't enough to aptly describe this phenomenon."
Credits: Yonhap via Omonatheydidnt