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How did K-Pop take the world by storm? [Ep #76]

By Jordan Zakarin

You haven't noticed the seemingly sudden explosion of K-Pop, you haven't been paying attention.

In October, the Korean pop group BTS featured on the cover of Time Magazine, amidst a massive world tour and a year after reaching the top of Billboard's Social chart. In February, girl group Blackpink graced the Billboard magazine. And if you have any teenagers in your life — especially teen girls — you probably have seen the flashy music videos that distinguish the genre and are unlike anything else being committed to film right now.

The ascent of K-Pop in the United States hasn't happened overnight, but it's been a relatively rapid rise from niche interest to astral phenomenon, with a fervent fandom that fills stadiums nationwide. But with lyrics (mostly) in other languages and a whole cultural context that is far from secondhand for most American audiences, it can be a bit hard to penetrate or understand at first. That was the case for us here at The Fandom Files, which is why we had two experts from help us out.

Grace Jeong is the editor-in-chief of Soompi, which is the publishing division of, which is in turn owned by the telecommunications giant Rakuten. Jenny Zha is the company's strategic engagement manager. Together, they helped explain both K-Pop and K-Dramas (Korean TV dramas) and how they've become so big so fast. Spoiler alert: It's in large part thanks to their obsessive fans.

Jeong and Zha also offer up some recommendations for newbies (such as ourselves) and give you everything you need to know to get into it. Their interview starts at around 20 minutes into the podcast.

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