K-Pop pioneer Bang Si Hyuk, founder of entertainment giant HYBE Corporation, made waves this week with his comments that the “K” should be removed from K-Pop in order for the genre to continue growing.
Bang Si Hyuk and BTS | Time
In an interview with Maeil Business News, Bang stated that this bold change is necessary for the genre to continue finding success and even claimed the “K” limits the industry’s growth.
These days, I often say that we need to remove the ‘K’ from K-pop. K-Pop now needs to meet a broader consumer base in a wider market.
— Bang Si Hyuk
This isn’t the first time Bang has suggested K-Pop needs to expand beyond its Korean roots. With K-Pop achieving enormous global success in recent years, the HYBE CEO seems to believe the genre needs to become more universal and less specifically Korean to widen its appeal.
Bang’s comments reflect ongoing concerns about future growth limitations if K-Pop stays overly Korea-focused. He has previously pointed to slowing streaming and export growth numbers as signs of a coming crisis, saying, “If K-pop continues in its current structure, I am certain that there will be limitations to its growth.”
Removing the “K” is controversial among fans. Many believe K-Pop achieving success worldwide while retaining its Korean elements is exactly what makes the genre innovative. Fans have strongly connected with K-Pop groups that incorporate the Korean language, cultural references, and Korean creative talent in their songs, videos, and more.
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However, the HYBE founder seems to believe leaning into more universal themes could be the key to getting the genre onto an even bigger global stage. This might mean songs with more English lyrics, working with Western producers and songwriters, and focusing less on Korean cultural specifics.
HYBE groups like BTS have already achieved major crossover appeal, with several English language tracks like “Dynamite” and “Butter” performed entirely in English. Jungkook‘s solo debut album seems another step in that direction, as all 10 tracks are completely in English. Bang sees this as the way forward.
But not all fans are convinced. While some support K-Pop groups expanding their reach, others accuse groups that use Korean lyrics massively in their songs of abandoning their Korean roots to appeal to Western audiences. Similar debates have emerged around multiple K-Pop groups that seem to lean toward English lyrics more and more.
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While Bang believes removing the “K” could allow K-Pop to climb even higher, many fans argue that diluting the genre’s Korean-ness could make it lose the very qualities that make it so special. It remains to be seen whether K-Pop groups and entertainment companies will follow Bang’s advice or continue retaining their Korean identity while expanding their global fanbase.
The HYBE CEO’s words carry significant influence. But fans are sure to have strong opinions on whether stripping away Korean elements is the best way forward for the genre’s future worldwide growth.