k pop public relations

South Korean pop culture has taken the world by storm, with the unrelenting wave of Korean exports earning itself its own colloquialism: Hallyu.

From Netflix soap operas to skincare regimens, Hallyu has reached into living rooms on almost every continent on earth, on a larger scale than even Japanese brands managed to do in decades past. How, then, has this once-conservative Confucian culture exploded onto the scene at such incredible pace?

The heart of Hallyu inarguably lies in the exploding popularity of Korean pop music: K-pop. With its catchy melodies, unsurpassed choreography and a seemingly endless supply of flawless looking performers, K-pop makes the Western music industry look almost… lazy. Indeed, no understanding of the Korean music industry is complete without an understanding of the performers that form K-pop’s dazzling backbone.

Perhaps no song embodies the K-pop industry more than Girls’ Generation’s 2009 hit “Gee”, a runaway success released at a time when K-pop was garnering increasing international attention of the back of previous hits– Big Bang’s “Haru, Haru,” Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” and Wonder Girls’ “Nobody.”

An instant internet sensation, the cute girls and cheeky, bubblegum concept behinds “Gee” was grade-A K-pop: a studio machine recipe with flawless singing, coordinated dancing, and picture-perfect dolls with microphones. Behind the playful energy of the group, however, was the reality of years of preparation: the nine-members of Girls’ Generation had collectively clocked 52 years in training, beginning at childhood.

In auditions that would make an episode of Dance Moms look positively tranquil, music studios induct children from the ages of 10 to 12 into an intensive K-pop conveyor belt of entertainment production: children attend special schools and specialized singing and dance lessons, learn to moderate their public behaviour in preparation for life in the limelight, and spend every spare moment in rehearsals and preliminary performances.

Even then, only a lucky few are launched by studios as an idol group or as a solo artist. Throughout their time on stage, performers are trained to perfectly deliver studio-generated pop songs on a cycle of tours and “comeback” releases.

Typical of every facet of the global music industry, reports of exploitation and mental health concerns within the K-pop world are emerging; despite this, the industry remains a well-oiled machine. Even the branded rebels of K-pop, like girl groups 2NEI and f(x), operate well within the industry’s studio culture.

That said, K-pop has not failed to evolve. The industry has embraced diversity in recent years, with the joining of people of colour, like Korean-American Lee Michelle, Yoon Mi Rae and Michael “Maniac” Horton. There is also a burgeoning indie scene, with grassroots artists emerging with a range of sounds.

Indeed, K-pop’s ability to grow without compromising the polished presentation that first drew international audiences may hold the key to Hallyu’s widening ripples for years to come. Regardless of Western consumption, the K-pop machine churns forever on.

5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.

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