Sales of Korean popular music, known as K-pop, in Japan reached an all-time high last year. According to the “Oricon Entertainment Market White Paper 2018,” sales of Korean pop music in Japan (including those of CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray disks) stood at 27.45 billion yen (around 298.47 billion won) in 2018. This reveals the possibility of the two countries boosting cultural exchanges despite their frayed relations.
The Oricon chart rankings started to be issued in 1968, and K-pop sales first appeared in the company’s white paper in 2010. The figure, which was 21.44 billion yen back then, continuously grew to exceed 26 billion yen for the two following years in a row, thanks to the boom of Korean pop culture led by girl groups such as Girls’ Generation and KARA. Still, lack of another rising star and strained bilateral ties drove down the figure to 16.51 billion yen in 2015. However, K-pop sales were back on the rise with the popularity of BTS and Twice, and apparently peaked at 27.45 billion yen last year. BTS became the biggest seller, with their album sales in 2018 recording 5.46 billion yen (around 59.43 billion won) in Japan alone. Oricon explained that idol bands such as Wanna One and Seventeen in addition to BTS and Twice, have gained popularity.
“The leading consumers of K-pop in Japan used to be those in their 30s and 40s in the past, but it is now popular among Japan’s teenagers and young people in their 20s,” said Kwon Yong-seok, a professor at Hitotsubashi University. “These younger generations usually enjoy Hallyu (Korean wave) contents through social media such as YouTube, not a conventional platform like TV. So, the popularity of Hallyu contents doesn’t tend to be swayed by conflicts between South Korea and Japan.”