Last week, BTS wrapped up their immensely successful concert in Australia, to a sold out crowd of 11,000, making them the fourth highest grossing international concert so far in 2017 according to Billboard’s Boxscore.
The success of an Asian artist in Australia is a path that’s been carved out over the past decade, with the rise of the Korean Wave.
So, what’s happened so far, and how have Australians embraced the Korean Wave?
What is the Korean Wave?
The 'Korean Wave' is also known as Hallyu. It's a cultural phenomenon that can be further divided into three waves. While it started off with consumption of Korean dramas (first wave, around 1980 to 1995), the rise of idol groups in the late 90s led to a growth in popularity of music, or K-pop, and the decade following saw an influx of idol groups (second wave, around 1995 to 2010).
In more recent years, the Korean Wave has expanded to cover games, fashion, cosmetics, tourism, food, traditional culture, and language; expanding beyond just entertainment into the crux of Korean culture (third wave, 2010 to present).
The beginnings of the Korean Wave in Australia
The entertainment focus of many Asian-Australian community groups in the early 2000s was primarily on various Asian dramas and anime (Korea’s My Girl, Taiwan’s It Started With a Kiss, Japan’s Fruits Basket etc.), which marked the seeding stages of the first wave. Korean drama I’m Sorry, I Love You was partially filmed, in 2004, in the streets of Melbourne, and the appearance of yet relatively-unknown actress Im Soo-jung (recently in Chicago Typewriter) and So Ji-sub (Oh My Venus, Master’s Sun) caused a stir in the local Korean communities.
However, the influx and debut of K-Pop groups around 2005 to 2007 – TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, 2PM, KARA, Wonder Girls, Girls’ Generation – was when more widespread Aussie consciousness of the Korean Wave embedded itself into predominantly Asian communities; the beginning of the second wave. It was April 2007 when Rain held his ‘Rain’s Coming’ concert in Australia, at the Acer Arena. This was the first K-pop concert in Australia, and coupled with the rising use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, information about these groups became easier to seek out for passion communities.
Aussie acceleration of the Korean Wave
2011 was a watershed year for the Korean Wave in Australia. In January 2011, ‘Super K-Pop in Sydney’ brought across idol group SHINee, g.o.d.’s Son Hoyoung, and solo singer Shin Seung-hoon to perform at the Sydney Town Hall. Later that year in November, the ‘2011 K-Pop Music Fest in Sydney’ took place, which marked the first large-scale K-pop event in Australia. It's also been the most robust lineup so far with Girls’ Generation, KARA, Secret, 2AM, SHINee, Miss A, 4Minute, TVXQ, CNBLUE and Beast. Held at the ANZ Stadium, it drew crowds of around 30,000 people and Prime Minister Julia Gillard acknowledged that the Korean Wave had reached our shores.
This concert demonstrated Australia was a viable location to bring groups because there were enough people in the passion communities to draw an audience. So groups and soloists such as CNBLUE, 4Minute, XIA, B.A.P, B1A4, NU’EST, Beast, BTS and BIGBANG came between 2011 and 2015, for concerts, fanmeets, dance contest judging, and more. 2016 brought over Boyfriend, JJCC, B.A.P’s second concert, and SEVENTEEN.
Not limited to purely idol groups, a range of singers more popular within the expat community like Lee Moon-se, Lee Seung-chul and Kim Bum-soo held concerts here as well. Variety shows like Running Man brought cast members and crew over to Australia to film special ‘away’ episodes, touting Australia as a prime tourist location.
Australia as a talent contributor
Not only did talent come to Australia, we can't forget the talent from Australia that have made it to the K-pop stage as well; Peter Hyun of One Way, Prince Mak of JJCC, Rome formerly of C-CLOWN (now working as Christian Yu in DPR), Hanbyul who was the lead singer of LED Apple, Hayana Yoon of EvoL, Rosé of BLACKPINK, and of course our very own Kevin Kim from ZE:A.
No doubt, it's a circle of influence – by seeing respected groups live in concert, and from witnessing the growing popularity of the Korean Wave locally in Australia, more of the Korean-Australian and wider Asian-Australian community begin to hold dreams of joining their idols on the international stage. Throughout the time that the second wave boom was taking place in Australia, entertainment companies brought audition opportunities over, scouting Australian waters for potential talent. The big three – JYP, SM Entertainment, YG – held several auditions, and even shows like K-pop Star and MBC Star carried out a round of casting here.
Simultaneously, the growth of passion communities led to the growth of local dance groups and studios covering and teaching K-pop choreography. For example, AO Crew, who went on to represent Australia at the K-pop World Festival in 2013, 2014, and 2016; and IMI Dance Studio, who will be opening the stage for the RapBeat Show later this year.
What’s next for the land down under?
The Korean Wave has come a long way in Australia. Things have absolutely amped up in 2017, especially in terms of live performances, concerts, and events – we're not even halfway through the year and we've already had so many amazing appearances, including Ailee, C-JAMM, Kim Bum-soo, GOT7, Yiruma, and most recently, BTS, who sold out the Qudos Bank Arena.
What’s on the horizon? First up is the RapBeat Show on July 3, featuring Jay Park (who previously visited Australia to perform in Melbourne and Sydney in 2012), Zion.T, Loco, Heize, and Ravi of VIXX. Rapper Changmo from Illionaire Records will be in town on July 21, and G-Dragon from BIGBANG is touring Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne for ACT III, M.O.T.T.E on August 5, 8, and 12 respectively. K-CON will be coming for the first time to Australia, and if the line-up is anything like LA or Japan, it’ll be a treat for multi-fandom fans.
We’re going to have a packed couple of months ahead. Don’t worry, we’ll be with you every step of the way.
Which event are you looking forward to the most in 2017?
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