Korean pop music out to conquer the world

Tue Nov 29, 2011 7:57am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A host of young Korean stars are taking to the stage in London, New York and beyond in a bid to crack one of the final global frontiers for Asian culture -- pop music.

"K-pop," as Korean pop is called, has made major inroads into Japan, the world's second largest music market.

But breaking into key countries further afield like Britain, Germany, France and, most crucially, the United States, has so far eluded acts who may be household names at home but remain virtual unknowns outside Asia.

Korean bands are not the only ones trying to be the next Britney Spears, Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

Japanese artists, some of them "J-pop" superstars, have also looked overseas for new audiences, although the size of their own market, only just behind the United States in the world rankings, means they have less incentive.

"It is a pain for a lot of these Japanese bands to make the effort to try and penetrate overseas markets," said Steve McClure, executive editor of McClure's Asia Music News and an authority on the region's music scene.

"Time spent doing that is time not spent here and it's a really fast-paced market and you have to work at it," he told Reuters, speaking from Japan.

Foreign music accounts for around a quarter of Japanese record sales, and the top 10 albums on record are all by local artists. Hikaru Utada holds the record with "First Love" from 1999, while Mariah Carey is the biggest international artist.   Continued...

<p>Members of K-Pop idol group Girls' Generation perform during the Korean Pop Culture and Art Awards at the Olympic Hall in Seoul November 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak</p>