The impact of Korean pop music, most commonly shorthanded as K-pop, on global music trends over the past few years is undeniable.
Take BTS, for example.
Since their debut in 2013, the Korean septet has become the biggest band in the world, influencing the next generation of music-makers already.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Korean labels and artists have led the charge in creating lively, groundbreaking, immersive virtual experiences for fans.
The end-of-year numbers only proved out that immense impact.
According to Spotify, K-pop listeners increased by more than 2-thousand percent in the last six years, and listeners have added K-pop songs to more than 120 million Spotify playlists.
So, what is it about K-pop that's so appealing to fans all around the world?
Let's talk about it. Joining me live in the studio is Thomas Sommer. Thomas is the co-founder and CFO of SG Entertainment one of the two French men that have started new chapters of their lives in South Korea, with a goal to bridge the values of east and west.
Thomas, welcome to News In-depth.
What was it about K-pop that made you want to come to Korea to start an entertainment company? And how is your company unique from the already existing many entertainment companies in South Korea?
K-pop, in its earliest form emerged in the early 1990s, its idol culture in the mid-1990s.
It's had its period of unpopularity even here at home.
Then it was with the turn of the century that brought a resurgence of idol groups, the second-generation K-pop groups such as Super Junior in 2005, Big Bang in 06, Wonder Girls the year after, Girls' Generation in 07, T-ara in 09 and f-x in 09.
And since the turn of the 21st century, South Korea has emerged as a major exporter of popular culture and tourism.
What kind of influence did K-pop have in driving Hallyu, the "Korean wave"?
Before 2012, Korean culture was already widespread around the world, through cuisine and even K-dramas.
I say 2012 because that's the summer Psy's "Gangnam Style" shocked the world with its catchy beat but also rather amusing dace moves.
By the end of 2012, "Gangnam Style" reached the unprecedented milestone of one billion YouTube views.
Where was the K-pop scene then? It seems K-pop was ready for that breakthrough of international recognition, and it kept up since.
What has K-pop become today? How would you define it in terms of how it's become more accepted and appreciated among Western audiences?
Do you think more traditional elements of Korean culture could/would be integrated into mainstream K-pop - elements of folk (Inalchi) or pansori?
K-pop also reflects the characteristic of South Korea being trend-setters.
But this is a double-edged sword in that trends do change rather quickly.
While it may play a positive role of idol groups for keeping up with "the latest"
how do you see this contributing to their legacy decades down the road?
Will K-pop have a "classic" element as say The Beatles?
Amidst this pandemic that the world is battling, live concerts and tours have been canceled.
But it didn't slow things down for K-pop groups like BTS or BLACKPINK.
How has COVID-19 impacted the K-pop industry - for the better and the worse?
Looking at K-pop as an industry, how do you see it evolving in keeping up with the largescale and fervent fanbases around the world?
Thomas Sommer, Co-Founder and CFO of SG Entertainment, many thanks for sharing your story with us this evening. We appreciate it.