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How NJ became a mecca for Korean pop culture as K-pop surges in US

How NJ became a mecca for Korean pop culture as K-pop surges in US

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How N.J. became a mecca for Korean pop culture as K-pop surges in U.S. bts-20183949.JPG

Fans outside the K-pop band BTS's performance at Prudential Center in Newark on Sept. 28, 2018. (Matt Smith | For NJ Advance Media)

By Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

It was raining Tuesday afternoon. Hard. Some areas of New Jersey were flooded with more than a month’s worth of precipitation in just a few hours.

Yet outside Newark’s Prudential Center, there was a snaking line of diehard fans, bracing the downpour in camping tents as they awaited entry to the arena's upcoming concert â€" a show that wasn’t to begin until Friday night, three full days later.


K-pop band Pentagon performs at KCON 2018 at Prudential Center in Newark on June 23, 2018.

That's just a taste of the mania surrounding South Korean pop music, K-pop for short, and its recent invasion into U.S. cultural consciousness, wherein The Rock has built itself into an East Coast hub and cultivation center for this monster fad.

While plenty of teens still obsess over more traditional mainstream artists like Ed Sheeran or Drake, a swelling fraction of youth now goes for these highly manicured and addictive acts soaring in from the Far East. Imagine if The Beatles had not only mastered social media but also enjoyed the immediate financial support of its national government, backing them as a lucrative e xport.

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BTS performs to a sold-out crowd at Prudential Center in Newark on Sept. 28, 2018. (Matt Smith | For NJ Advance Media)

That’s the reality here â€" there is no rebellion against “the man” in K-pop. Instead, the South Korean government has, since the late ‘90s, invested in entertainment as a revenue source, grooming pre-teen aspiring artists for years in vocal, dance and social training before they are placed into one of dozens of manufactured bands. The formula is paying dividends, bolstered by the groups’ accessibility on Instagram and Twitter. USA Today reports global sales for K-pop-related music and videos now exceed $5 billion each year, a total that continues to balloon as the genre’s most popular acts begin to play American arenas and stadiums.

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Fans cheer during BTS's Prudential Center performance. (Matt Smith | For NJ Advan ce Media)

Those fans stuck in the Jersey rain were waiting for BTS, an ultra-popular seven-piece boy band from Seoul, that has churned much of the stateside hype over the last two years. The group won Top Social Artist at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, and has since scored two No. 1 albums in the U.S. (both this year) and has appeared on “The Tonight Show,” “Ellen,” “Good Morning America” and, earlier this week, before the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss youth education and strong self-image.

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Fans participate in a dance workshop outside Prudential Center at KCON NY 2018 on June 23, 2018. (Matt Smith | For NJ Advance Media)

BTS played The Rock on Friday and Saturday night: a pair of packed, deafening affairs to follow the group’s headlining debut in Newark in 2017, where tickets for their shows sold out even more quickly than when Bruce Springsteen has come to play the venue.

Source: Google News K-Pop

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