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The impact and legacy of K-pop: A worldwide phenomenon and its impression here on the University of Arizona campus


BTS x Arizona meetup booth where BTS fans can come together and have fun. (Courtesy of Selma Hernandez.)

The impact of South Korean popular music, also known as K-pop, has risen in popularity across the globe. From young teens to older adults, concert venues are packed with fans lining up to see famous K-pop groups such as BTS and Blackpink.

Photo Collage K-Pop Logos, BTS, BlackPink, Girls Generation, EXO, NCT U, Tomorrow Together, BTSxArizona and UnderSkore UA. 
Photo Collage K-Pop Logos, BTS, BlackPink, Girls Generation, EXO, NCT U, Tomorrow Together, BTSxArizona and UnderSkore UA. 

The recent popularity of K-pop shows evidence that our world is evolving to a more inclusive space for different cultures, which is something seen here on the University of Arizona campus as well.

UnderSkore UA, the University of Arizona’s K-pop dance team, saw first-hand that the rise of K-pop was a gateway to their success. The group has been posting K-pop dance videos online since 2017 and has amassed over 2.1 million views on their YouTube channel.   

Kobe Saldana is a recent UA physiology graduate and a dancer on UnderSkore UA.   

“K-pop brings not only the Asian community but the K-pop community together. That’s what makes our team so special, through our diversity and being able to come together and share our passion for dancing,” Saldana said.  

According to a Vox article, K-pop has been around since the mid-1990s and the genre was created with influence from American pop music at the time. This helped spawn a new genre and musical style for South Korean artists to express their own creativity. 

RELATED: Campus Highlights: UnderSkore UA 

This rise of South Korean music studios popping up in the late 1990s began a new era for South Korean entertainment. Over time the term “K-pop idol” began to circulate online when studios such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment began training young teenagers to become the next K-pop stars, according to Vox

In the U.S., K-pop got its initial claim to fame with the hit song “Gangnam Style” by PSY. It was, for many Americans, the first introduction to K-pop and a new music genre and language.  

Rosamia Fonseca, a UA biology major, is the executive director of UnderSkore UA and noted the comradery that the dance team and K-pop as a whole brings about. 

“It’s a community that I am safe in; people respect me and I respect others. It feels like home when it’s so hard living far away from your family. So, this is a great opportunity to meet people, grow close with them, form lifelong friendships and is really fun,” Fonseca said.   

Through social media, K-pop fans often promote their favorite groups and help organize local meetups, creating social media pages dedicated to helping bring groups to U.S. cities. BTS x Arizona is one of those social media pages, whose mission is to get BTS, a popular K-pop group, to perform in Arizona. 

BTS often refers to their fan group as “Army.” This relates to the term Hallyu, the Korean culture wave, something BTS x Arizona has adopted as well.  

Selma Hernandez is the co-host of BTS x Arizona and shared the page’s current aspirations.      

“Our goal is to ultimately campaign for BTS to come to Arizona. A lot of the Arizona Army have to travel out of state to see BTS and we just want to be able to host BTS in our state. Now our goal has become to bring Arizona Army together so when the day comes that BTS visits, we are able to celebrate together,” Hernandez said via email.  

RELATED: An inside view of the UA school of dance: alumni and current students talk 

Now more people than ever know about K-pop, with digital exposure to South Korean media like music and Korean dramas shows. The Olympics being hosted in South Korea four years ago also helped elevate South Korean entertainment’s popularity to a new level, according to a CNN article.  

“I think K-pop had a pretty big impact on the western world. It’s becoming more established in the American music awards, like the Grammy’s, AMA and Billboard. They’ve opened up the awards specifically for Korean music. I feel like everyone’s becoming more open about international music in general,” Fonseca said.  

Sarah Weaver, co-host of the BTS x Arizona page, noted the positive impact BTS has had on her life. For the supporters of K-pop bands, the music is more than a fandom, it is a community, according to Weaver. 

BTS x Arizona Co-Host Sarah Weaver poses. Courtesy of Sarah Weaver.  
BTS x Arizona Co-Host Sarah Weaver poses. Courtesy of Sarah Weaver.  

“I got into K-pop during a time of my life where I really needed some joy and positivity. I’m so thankful that I was able to discover BTS at the time that I did. I love the positivity and self-love that they promote. After becoming a fan of BTS, I, and the people around me, definitely notice a positive change of attitude in me. I’m so happy and thankful for BTS, I don’t know how I could live without them in my life now,” Weaver said via email. 

Follow Selassie Wilson on Twitter 

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