India's Gone Absolutely K-Pop Crazy


[On 16th-19th January, 2019, Homegrown is throwing a first-of-its-kind music festival in Mumbai designed to celebrate the city’s vast and diverse music culture. Dive deep into a wide variety of dynamic workshops, exhibitions, curated tours, panels, pop-ups, performances and parties that promise to be inclusive of all kinds of tastes and people.

There’s something for everyone, click here to find what’s perfect for you.]

“Ahgases, let’s get this to 100M before Yugyeom’s birthday!”

“Jungkook is my bias!!!”

“He’s the golden maknae. <3”

“ARMY go vote now! The boys must win!”

An accidental click could lead one into a wonderfully weird world of YouTube suggestions—right from a magical unicorn climbing mountains to strange compilations of Trump singing along to whatever is on America’s current Top 40. For many, the adventures stop here but for those who stumble across the grand, colourful world of Korean Pop whilst on a trip through sidebar suggestions...there’s no turning back. From Korean dramas, friend suggestions, popular YouTubers giving K-Pop shoutouts, a Billboard nomination and of course, Psy’s Gangnam Style, the advent of Korean Pop music in India was inevitable. For me, personally, it was a few South Asians I met through my time on an online MMORPG, that opened up that avenue in early 2012.

At first, I wasn’t sure what it was about K-Pop that got me hooked. To be honest, it all seemed a little ridiculous initially—but those beats were contagious, their colourful aesthetics spilling over into their lyrics, and of course, their incredibly elaborate music videos that made for one heck of a package. Whether it was bopping along to Gee by Girl’s Generation (one of the first videos I was exposed to) or breaking it down to Fantastic Baby by BIGBANG, this is not a genre for the weak-hearted. One scroll through the comments of any of these videos and you’ll know what we mean. Although the symbols used might technically be described as English, if you’re not in the know, it often feels like the fans are speaking their own language (consider this a translation to the undecipherable quotes at the top of this article). Korean words began to snake their way into common vocabulary as fans began to refer to their favourite boy band member as their ‘bias’ and fandoms specific to a band began naming themselves using Korean terminology. The very nature of the genre seems to demand a huge amount of dedication from fans and, over the last few years, these very fans seem to have built a ‘microverse’ of their own. Only, it’s not micro at all. Least of all, in India.

Still from Gee by Girl's Generation.

But Where Lies The Heart & Seoul Of It All?

It wasn’t until I began noticing Indian names appearing more often through comments online that I realised there was an actual underground movement in our very own country. A short conversation with a fellow fan I met in Goa proved this notion right. There were Instagram pages, Twitter accounts, WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages all dedicated to a deep, abiding love for Korean Pop.

The Northeast was always at the forefront of this movement in India, considering their local cable networks actively aired Korean shows, music and more in the early 2000s. In the same report by the Hindustan Times, they say that these Korean dramas were often dubbed in Mizo, for the people in Mizoram, earning them even more popularity. Fast forward to a few years down the road and it turns out the wave hadn’t crashed, it was only rising—India’s metropolitan cities were slowly catching up. Chennai, for that matter, appears to hold a substantial amount of fans due to the considerably large Korean population who migrated when Hyundai first set up an automobile plant in the state, 20 years ago. Since then, they’ve branched out into the many other ventures that have popped up over the years and have, of course, brought some of their culture with them. The Hindu interviewed Chennai-based Sanjay Ramjhi, who works as a freelance Korean interpreter and is the founder of Chennai’s Dorama Club. The club focuses entirely on Korean culture (although it initially started as a Japanese culture club) and has over 200 active members. When asked about the club, he said, “What fans love about their acts are the fashion statements and its choreography.” A majority of this audience is made up of females between from the ages of 10 to the 20s. When asked about the lack of male interest, Sanjay states he has his theories, of which one involves them being ‘too macho’ to admit to liking it. In this regard, I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum—several male friends of mine have simply raised their eyebrows or just laughed this music off. But I’ve been blessed with a brother who appreciates and till date, jams out with me to K-Pop (girl bands included!), so I can attest to the fact that there are indeed other men out here who appreciate their music, beyond just the men in the Northeast.

The Hallyu Wave — A Place Of Love, Support & Never-Ending Hair Dyes

While Psy is often credited with making Korean Pop music a global phenomenon, the onus falls on BTS (also known as Bangtan Boys, Bangtan Sonyeondan or Beyond The Scene) in 2017 who absolutely conquered charts and everyone’s attention, when they overthrew Justin Bieber’s monopoly at the Billboard Music Awards by winning the Top Social Artist award. They even performed recently at the American Music Awards, making history as the first Korean boy band to perform at the AMAs and ended up becoming Google Search’s top trend for a while! In light of this event, we did some digging and spoke to the Indian Community who are incredibly in sync with the latest updates and have shown their love for their favourite bands in...fascinating ways.

BTS At The AMAs. Image Credit:

For instance, did you know that these very Indian K-Pop fans managed to get VH1 India to host a dedicated K-Pop segment called ‘K-Popp’d’ every Saturday? Co-Founder of Bangtan_India on Twitter and Instagram, Chetanbala, wrote to us about the same, “2017 was a big year for Indian K-Pop fans! We got in touch with the VH1 executives last year and finally, our efforts paid off this year. 9XO has also played some K-Pop, radio channels have started playing them due to many requests from fans, and multiple media agencies have started talking about the Korean wave in India.”

How India Is Otter-ly Dedicated To K-Pop

The Korean wave is also commonly referred to as the ‘Hallyu wave’, a term used to denote the popularity of Korean culture overseas. Besides petitioning for a segment on VH1, the community elaborates on how else they’ve aided the Hallyu wave here. In fact, a certain part of the community was responsible for feeding the hungry, setting up billboards and even adopting two otters (!) in honour of a band member’s birthday—popularly known as Got7_Mission_India. By calling upon their fans, they have managed to put together a special celebration for each member of the band GOT7. It started off with a billboard in Kolkata dedicated to BamBam, followed by a star registered under his name. For Jinyoung’s birthday, they set up a mid-day meal program for 150 elderly people in Andhra Pradesh, through the NGO Seruds India. Our personal favourite though, has to be the adoption of two otters in honor of Youngjae’s birthday—named OtterJae and CocoJae! Mark’s birthday was marked by planting a 100 trees in a grove in Karnataka. The group keeps their community strong with regular posts about the boys as well as giveaways, information, merchandise and flashmobs!

Billboard & Star Registration for BamBam. Image Credit:

Korean Pop...Lock And Drop It

However our country’s love for all things K-Pop goes beyond this online community; the Korean Cultural Centre in India has set up an annual K-Pop fest here, that celebrates the culture as well as hosts dance competitions. The winners go on to compete on a global level at the K-Pop World Festival. In a report by the Hindustan Times, they claim that the festival is hailed as one of the biggest K-pop events in the world—which should make India even prouder, considering a group from Mizoram called Immortals Army won the award for the best dance performance! They competed against teams from 12 countries. Kim Kum-pyoung, and Director of Korean Cultural Centre India, said, “It’s a proud moment to see India present talents to the world with K-Pop and it shows the K-wave in India is getting bigger.”

Immortals Army. Image Credit:

The community even hosts simple listening parties in various cities, with one of the most popular being held right here in Mumbai. Organized by ButterNyan and Hive, Brewbot in Andheri witnessed quite the crowd at the BTS “Her” Mini Album Party.

After BTS’ performance at the AMAs, the influx of new fans and comments on their YouTube videos have grown incredibly, and are amusing older A.R.M.Y. fans with their newfound excitement which is quite frankly a welcome change from the usual condescending, “Ugh, I was a fan before they made it big,” we’re all used to hearing when we chance upon an artist. Perhaps it is this very reaction that allows the community to grow at the rate it is today. The Koreans’ gentle(r) mannerisms than most have spilled over into their fan-base as well as their live audience. In fact, a majority of the community in India that we reached out to said the same—beyond the brilliant vocals, eccentric music videos, stunning choreography (and gorgeous boys, let’s not lie), it all comes down to the community’s dedication that truly keeps the wave moving and the love alive.

If you liked this article, we suggest you read:

Related Stories

No stories found.