When most people hear the word "K-pop," they automatically think of PSY, the hilarious "horse-dance" guy behind "Gangnam Style." But for years, the Korean pop industry has been quietly amassing 35 million fans around the world.
The explosive growth of this entertainment industry is etched into the history of Soompi, the first international K-pop community. Soompi launched in 1998, as a way for Korean-Americans to connect through a shared love for their native culture.
As K-pop started extending its influence into more and more countries, Soompi has also adopted a new mission: to become the voice of the international fans. Today, Soompi is trusted by 20 million readers in more than 180 countries.
However, despite the boom in K-pop's popularity around the globe, the industry remains monolithic: only a handful of K-pop stars today are non-Korean. That's why we created Rising Legends, a movement designed to address the imbalance in diversity of the industry's talents.
Together with JYP Entertainment, one of three major talent agencies in Korea, we took to our multilingual, multicultural audience to find the next K-pop star.
K-pop is a competitive industry – with over 200 groups debuting each year, the only way to get in front of international fans is through the use of grassroots branding and strategic partnerships.
Rising Legends was held in three rounds to ensure that our audience is fully immersed in the voting experience and the role they play in helping other like-minded fans achieve their dreams. Through a new video submission for each round, contestants are asked to prove again and again that they deserve the attention and support of our audience.
We chose to host Rising Legends on YouTube because it is where K-pop thrives – PSY's "Gangnam Style" literally broke the platform's view counter in 2014. One of K-pop's most popular girl groups, Girls' Generation, has also amassed over 2 billion views across their music videos since 2007. YouTube is credited with fueling the growth of K-pop fandom, helping us place a premium on the organic discoverability of Rising Legends content.
K-pop fans are used to mystery, to hype, and to fast-growing virality. With "Rising Legends," we successfully combined these factors with JYP Entertainment star power to create a complete, wholesome experience for our audience.
This is the first time that a fan-led search for the next K-pop star went global.
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