[Interview] Europe Has No Dancing Idols – Kpop Boom in Europe

People’s interest in the Korean wave in Europe and its prospects is increasing after French K-pop fans did a flash mob in front of Le musee de l’ouvre on May 1. Their slogan was “One More Date” for the SM Town Live in paris scheduled to be on June 10. SM Entertainment is at the center of this unexpected Korean Wave heat. For it was through SM’s decision to have a concert in Paris that Europe’s K-pop love rose to surface. On April 20, idol group SHINee had a meeting with members of a French K-pop fanclub who visited Seoul.

We interviewed SM Deputy Kim Youngmin and SHINee on May 3, about a month left until Korean Wave’s “Europe Landing.” Kim has been leading SM’s globalization as deputy since 2005.

– Did you expect K-pop will be this popular in Europe?

Kim: Never. I thought we could sell 6,700 tickets for a concert, but didn’t expect the tickets would be sold out in 15 minutes and that people will protest…

SHINee: It’s extraordinary. About one year ago, Korean friends in Europe said, “My classmate wants your autograph.” I thought, We have some popularity in Europe, but didn’t know it’s this much.

– What do you think Europeans find attractive in K-pop?

SHINee: They seem to think it’s different. We heard there are no dancing idols in Europe. We can proudly say Korean singers have everything from singing skills to fashion and dancing. Our albums are also made with the global market as our target. Some of our songs are from Europe, and we dance to the songs. I think that’s why young women in Europe are attracted to us.

Kim: Singers with perfect skills after years of training, a producing system targeting the global market, and marketing using Youtube and SNS, all of these combined in harmony contributed to the success.

– Have you monitored the Korean Wave in Europe?

Kim: A team of about 20 people have checked responses on Youtube and SNS. We pay enormous attention to music videos and video clips on Youtube. A music video is uploaded in the SM Entertainment channel on Youtube before a new album is released. The viewer counts of K-pop music videos on Youtube amount to 2 billion.

– What do you think you can gain through K-pop’s launch into the European market?

Kim: The size of the European market is estimated to be 7 trillion Won. It’s larger than the US (6 trillion), Japan (4 trillion), and China (1 trillion). But our goal is not to be ranked on the European music chart and to sell albums. We aim to attract people’s attention to the Asian music market through K-pop boom in the Us and Europe and to build the ground for Korea’s future as an Asian Hollywood.

– What is your special strategy for the European market?

Kim: To begin with, we’ll try to promote K-pop’s excellent quality rather than to conquer the European market. I want to establish K-pop’s status as one of the popular genres in Europe’s main music industry.

SHINee: From the singer’s perspective, the key seems to be harmonizing K-pop with the local culture. The French reporter said at our meeting with French fans, “You all look alike.” We think each member should develop a more distinct character if we debut in Europe.

– There is a view this is only “temporary enthusiasm by a minority.”

Kim: In the SNS world, what starts in a minor fandom can spread to the whole in an instant. We’ll have to wait and see about Europe, but K-pop’s competitive power is being acknowledged in the whole world.

SHINee: It appealed to a minority in the past, but we see the number of fans increasing with our own eyes. It is a genre that doesn’t exist in Europe. Our music covers a broader range of sensibility than the band-centered European music.

– Europe experienced J-pop, and our singers sing songs composed by Europeans. Don’t you think these factored in the boom?

Kim: That’s possible. But it’s not for European debuts that we buy songs by foreign composers, but because we want to get the best songs regardless of nationality. In case of J-pop, there is certainly a preference for Japanese culture in Europe, but the musical side is not outstanding.

– How would you rate K-pop’s possibility of success in Europe?

SHINee: We do not know about the possibility of success, but we’d like to (debut). It will be fun. The concept of our music and dance is not totally different from the local culture, so we’ll be able to make better contents by mixing up Europe’s excellent music and ours.

Kim: We are most rewarded when we succeed in an uncertain market condition. We don’t have to overstretch ourselves, but Europe is a market worth a try. SHINee will have a European debut showcase in the Abbey Road Studios, called a “Sacred Site of Beatles,” on June 19 after the concert in Paris. We need a long-term strategy, but the current K-pop boom can be semi-permanent if we don’t cling to the ranking in Europe.

[from Chosun Ilbo]

Trans by jujugal

So is this why SM chose EMI for SHINee? SHINee’s live in the Abbey Road Studios is for their debut in Japan, but it’s also a step toward SHINee’s debut in Europe… Wow.

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9 thoughts on “[Interview] Europe Has No Dancing Idols – Kpop Boom in Europe

  1. I gotta give SM a round of applause. Not only is this beneficial towards SM and Kpop in general, this will definitely gain big awareness for SHINee. A+ for thinking ahead SM!

  2. This came as a huge surprise. Debuting in Europe, wow…EMI must be pulling a lot of strings and Miyake-san wasn’t joking about SHINee becoming A-pop. Honestly I don’t know how to feel about this because I really want SHINee to focus in Japan right now. But it definitely looks like SM/EMI has got some huge plans for SHINee. If the boys do debut in Europe then they would be the 1st K-pop artist (or even Asian artist?). That’s an accomplishment of it’s own. Not to mention a huge marketing strategy which will gain attention left and right. I am looking forward to see how this all plays out.

    • From what Kim said at the end, I got an impression that he’s cautious in stressing they wouldn’t mind the ranking. People measure success by rankings on the chart. I wonder what plans and strategies they will work out for SHINee in Europe. I don’t think their focus will be on Europe itself. The main focus will be in Japan. Having a concert or starting with a smaller scale of meeting can be good.

  3. I think I love both EMI and SM a whole lot more now (LOL). I guess this is why SM choose EMI for SHINee – EMI’s global clout will benefit SHINee a lot. SM is experimenting with SHINee again but it’s hard to be upset about it. SM is staying true to their market positioning for SHINee – contemporary, different, leading-edge in music and fashion. They seem to test a lot of their new musical styles and plans on SHINee. For example: SHINee was the first SM act other than Boa and TVXQ to organize a JP stadium even before their debut. That risk paid off big-time. Now they get Abbey Road and some exposure to EU market. They’ve also consistently pimped out SHINee in South East Asia through the korean-xxx friendship shows, which accounts for their high popularity here. SHINee was also the 1st SM act to perform in SG and they’ve come back 3x since then.

    • In a way, wasn’t SM testing new ideas on Super Junior, too? Super Junior’s large amount of members to love was pretty unique in kpop, wasn’t it?

  4. europe? wow! i think sm didnt expect SHINee to have such explosive popularity everywhere. EMI & SM are making a great plan i can tell. ^^
    i just cant wait for their japanese debut. 😀
    anyhow, i think they will focus on japanese market first. it’s like a test(a tease?) to see european fans’ reaction.^^

  5. The thing that stood out most to me was the part where the French guy thought they all looked the same. I admit, when I first got into SHINee, I couldn’t remember who was who. On the other hand, doesn’t it always take a while to get to know the names and personalities of a group? I’m glad to see SHINee debut anywhere that they will succeed.

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