Apparently Pop Coreano, or Korean Pop, is quite popular.
That niche — an amalgamation of spectacular entertainment and relentless optimism — resonates with teenagers in South American nations. The values these stars represent are almost “Confucian,” says Professor Patrick Messerlin, a French economist who has produced an economic analysis of K-pop and who earlier this year addressed a cultural forum in Seoul on the music’s globalization. In his research, Messerlin found that “K-pop performers deliver a sense of modesty and restraint,” and “insist on working hard and learning more” during public appearances, something Western pop artists do not do. Their music represents a “new, colorful and cheerful start,” and not “an old order,” something that will easily appeal to millions of young Central and South Americans, living where economic challenges are rife and nondemocratic regimes common. K-pop’s positive energy is a world away from the introspective, jaded and at times downright depressing style of much Anglophone rock, indie and emo. “[The Koreans] say, ‘We understand your problems,’” Messerlin explains, “‘We went through it too,’” referring to the Korean War and the economic crash of the late 1990s.
For the fans, there is no contest. K-pop songs “are beautiful, are decent,” says Jenii Ramirez, an 18-year-old K-pop fan from Colombia, where TV station Caracol has been broadcasting a K-pop talent show and where K-pop concerts in the capital, Bogotá, lure audiences of at least 5,000. The singers, Ramirez says, have “dedication and are taught to fight in life, understanding that dreams are attainable.”