The beginnings of Korean Wave are typically linked to the term 'hallyu', denoting South Korean cultural exports to China and Taiwan. The ability of South Korea's cultural producers to seize these export opportunities was facilitated by early 1990s changes in domestic consumption and production, which soon made South Korea's recorded music industry the second largest in Asia, despite the Asian financial crisis that followed. Today, the South Korean music industry has shifted from a fan-oriented service business to business servicing, and to a model in which music is made freely available to consumers – as 'Gangnam Style' demonstrated. However, theories explaining the Wave struggle to catch up with reality. Accounts of Korean Wave typically situate it within frames of post-colonialism, nationalism and neoliberalism, and there is an increasing divergence between foreign and local commentaries. My presentation looks back to K-pop in the early 1990s, and charts through two decades to Psy's 'Gangnam Style'.
Keith Howard is Professor of Music at SOAS, University of London. He was formerly Professor and Associate Dean at the University of Sydney, and has held visiting professorships at Monash University, Ewha Women’s University and Hanguk University of Foreign Studies. He has written or edited 17 books, including Music as Intangible Cultural Heritage: Policy, Ideology and Practice in the Preservation of East Asian Traditions (2012), Korean Kayagum Sanjo: A Traditional Instrumental Genre (with Chaesuk Lee and Nicholas Casswell; 2008), Creating Korean Music: Composition and the Discourse of National Identity (2006), Preserving Korean Music: Intangible Cultural Properties as Icons of Identity (2006), and Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave (2006). He lectures worldwide, and has been a regular broadcaster on Korean affairs for BBC, ITV, Sky, NBC and others.