Korean culture expands its global footprint from K-pop to art

A man walks past a poster showing images of members of K-pop group BTS at the front of a cafe in Seoul on Dec. 12. AFP-Yonhap

In 2023, Korean culture has seen a spectrum of events that have extended the nation’s influence across the globe.Marked by events like BTS members’ solo ventures before their enlistment, the emergence of K-pop groups without Korean members and the rise of fifth-generation K-pop bands, the K-pop scene has continued to evolve and captivate international audiences.The Korean film industry faced challenges with big-budget blockbusters underperforming at the box office, while streaming services like Disney+ and local platforms brought changes to the competitive industry.In the art world, Frieze Seoul returned for a successful second edition and the country’s experimental avant-garde art garnered international recognition.BTS members flourish in solo careers, start military serviceThe globally celebrated K-pop group BTS, known for their pivotal role in globalizing K-pop, has seen all its members enlist in the military this year. Before their enlistment, each member engaged in various solo activities.The eldest member, Jin, initiated the enlistment process in 2022, followed by J-hope in April this year and Suga commenced social service work in September. RM and V joined the military on Dec. 11, while Jimin and Jungkook followed suit on Dec. 12. The group plans to reunite for group activities in 2025, following their 18-month mandatory service.During the group’s hiatus, each member pursued solo work.J-hope released “on the street” in March, while Jin released the single “The Astronaut” shortly before his military enlistment. RM dropped his inaugural solo album “Indigo” and Jimin also surprised fans with his debut solo album “FACE” in March.

Suga continued his solo journey with “D-DAY” in April, completing a trilogy that included his mixtapes “August D” and “D-2.” He made history as the first member to embark on a solo world tour, performing a total of 25 times in 10 cities from April to June.Jungkook’s solo track “Seven” became a global sensation in July, topping Billboard’s Hot 100 and setting records. He continued his solo journey with successive releases like “3D” and “Standing Next to You.”V last ventured into his solo career, dropping his first album “Layover” in November. Te title track “Slow Dancing” received acclaim. One of the most attention-grabbing phenomena in the K-pop landscape this year is the emergence of groups entirely of non-Korean members. Although some argue that they do not exactly fit into the category of K-pop, many still consider them as novelty acts introducing a broader spectrum of cultural diversity.At the forefront of the new trend is girl group BLACKSWAN, which is made up of Senegalese-Belgian Fatou, Brazilian-German Gabi, American NVee and Sriya from India. It had Korean members when it first arrived on the music scene in 2020, but they all quit the act. After rebranding itself as a quartet in 2022, BLACKSWAN has been hitting high note after high note, with the music video of its May release “Karma,” garnering more than 7 million views on YouTube as of Monday.”We are so glad to form a K-pop girl group that we dreamed of,” BLACKSWAN said through its agency, DR Music.In addition to BLACKSWAN, a plethora of groups like NiziU and HORI7ON are also carving out their own niches in the K-pop industry, enthralling fans with their international flavor. The former is an all-Japanese 슬롯게이밍 group launched by JYP Entertainment, while the latter is a rookie boy band composed of seven Filipinos.

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