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Riding the K-pop wave: From Indonesia to ‘glocalization’

Fitriyani Purwaningtyas became enamored with K-pop in 2009 when she discovered TVXQ, the boyband she considers her first foray into the Korean wave. “They’re all-round idols – their voices and choreography are great. I’m still a fan,” said the Jakarta-based employee.

Fitriyani, who also listens to boybands NCT and Stray Kids, said K-pop had become a realm of escape from her daily routine. “When I’m stuck with work during the work-from-home period, I watch their concert videos and videos about people’s reactions to their performances on YouTube,” she said.

Michael Patent, founder and president of brand advisory and integrated marketing agency Culture Group, said K-pop appealed to young Indonesians with an element of escapism and a sense of belonging.

“They can experience something outside the realm of what they might enjoy on a day-to-day basis in their daily life, but, most importantly, that leads to a sense of community. So, as people become fans of K-pop, they become members of a larger K-pop community, and that leads to their love lasting longer,” Patent said during an interview with The Jakarta Post on Nov. 24.

He also highlighted the system created by South Korean record labels and management companies. “K-pop is an art, but it’s also business. The management companies have created a system in which a product that gets delivered to consumers is of really high quality. It’s been produced to specifically appeal to a certain taste. It’s communicated much like a product release would be communicated,” Patent said, adding that such a business approach allowed K-pop to grow globally with support of the South Korean government.

In 2019, private data research organization Blip revealed that Indonesia topped the global ranking of K-pop content viewership on YouTube with 2.62 billion views, as reported by the government’s internet portal

The popularity of Korean entertainment in Indonesia rose in the late 2000s, and it grew bigger in the 2010s as Korean television series and music became part of the mainstream. Without missing a beat, e-commerce platforms in Indonesia embraced the fever and appointed beloved acts as their ambassadors. Shopee Indonesia named BLACKPINK as its regional brand ambassador in 2018, while Tokopedia chose BTS as its brand ambassador the next year.

For their entertainment events, Lazada featured actor Lee Min-ho, presented actor Park Seo-joon, while boyband GOT7 and girlband GFRIEND performed on Shopee’s shows. The list becomes longer as Indonesian food and beverage brands as well as cosmetic brands frequently collaborate with Korean stars.

Patent said brands should allow consumers to participate in things they love to develop an attachment to the brands.

“What we really think is significant is a brand’s ability to give to the K-pop fandom: to enable them to consume contents, create a community, have conversations and recognize that an endorsement is an element, but an integrated approach to celebrating the K-pop lifestyle is what young people really want. They want their voices to be heard. They want their love of K-pop to be recognized by brands and larger institutions, and they are willing to reward those brands with their money,” he said.

Patent continued that authenticity was a must for the K-pop fans, as they were very sharp and tuned-in, which also meant brands should speak in their voices and languages.

Patent predicted that K-pop would go global and local or “glocal” in the future. “People want local contents and tastes, but sometimes [they] want the global appeal, and K-pop seems to fit the bill. It gives people something to look up to and celebrate that’s outside their own market, but [something] they can recognize and have fun with in their own market,” he said. “As 2021 comes closer, we know that the next breakout star is likely to be a group that has an Indonesian artist in it.”

According to Patent, K-pop’s localization would be the biggest story next year, especially in Indonesia as one of its largest markets in the world. He mentioned promising girlband Secret Number as an example for its Indonesian member, Dita.

Despite going glocal, it is believed that the essence of K-pop will remain: high production values, significant narratives around storylines and emotions as well as a sense of community. Technology and contents enabled various forms of self-expressions as well, so the localization could be in the form of Korean-style looks with Indonesian language or Indonesian language and looks with Korean-style marketing and production.

K-pop fan Fitriyani felt good about that prediction. “There have been a number of K-pop [group] members from outside Korea, but [they are] mainly from East Asia. Hopefully, the increase in the number of Southeast Asian members will boost content exposure to people in the region,” she said.

Indonesians’ warm embrace of K-pop might be related to its origins dating back to the 1980s. In a public lecture called Korean and Indonesian Cultural Meeting, which was held by the Korean Culture Center on Nov. 11, former journalist and Southeast Asia and K-pop expert Hojai Jung said K-pop had resulted from processes of exchange, transaction and communication among numerous countries.

“K-pop is based on a Korean system, that is true, but we imported various kinds of foreign cultures,” Jung said, adding that it was a mixture of Japanese pop, English-American pop, Hong Kong spirit and multinational trainees, among other influences.

Jung also spoke about the proximity brought by K-pop stars from other Asian countries to their fans, mentioning BLACKPINK’s Lisa and 2PM’s Nichkhun, both of whom come from Thailand. “K-pop has universality,” he said. “Everybody can take part in this system. If someone is talented, he or she could successfully take part in the system and become a global star.” (wng)

Article adapted from The Jarkarta Post