The wave started rolling with the phenomenon of Korean popular music – considered to be one of the most influential cultural movements of the 21st century. The origin of K-Pop can be rightfully attributed to Lee Soo-man. In the ’80s after a brief career as a singer and disc jockey, he went to the USA to study computer engineering and returned to Seoul with the dream of globalizing Korean music. By founding SM Entertainment along with its partners, they started to create a cultural universe. Instead of a worldview interpreted as a symbol or a metaphor, they created storytelling content that contains a completely new and very attractive character, and Lee believed that this story is an essential element for expressing artists and music. It certainly is an essential element of success.
Culture before commerceAnd Lee Soo-man’s dream came true. K-pop idols conquered first the Asian charts, and then the global charts. Seoul-based rapper Psy’s Gangnam Style went viral. His 2012 track video – a parody of the rich socialites living in the Gangnam area in central Seoul – was the first ever to break a billion views on YouTube. New members of boy bands and girl bands, aged 11 and upwards, are recruited by SMCU (SM Cultural Universe) and by now other studios each year.
And, as it goes with subcultures when hitting the nerve for a (re-growing) generation's attitude to life and burgeoning resistance to social role assignment and taboos the influence on Korean fashion trends formed the next hype.
The idols of K-Pop became fashion icons through their music and perfect dance performances. Gender-fluid looks are typical. Korean coolness sets fashion trends with looks designed for (real or virtual) stages, always created with a whole story around them.
Commitment to the digital futureAs of 2010 South Korean government committed to the country’s fully digital future, supported by a multibillion-dollar public-private investment fund to promote Korean creative industries and individuals. Today the nation maintains the fastest and most developed broadband network worldwide with more than 90% of households having access to high-speed internet connections.
Two sides of the same coin: true-to-life simulated virtual worlds
For the good or the bad, it was that program to also heavily push technology developments, and start-up initiatives for all kinds of virtual interactivity, while diluting the boundary between the real and Metaverse-like gamification worlds: More and more individuals of Korean society escaping into parallel worlds to an ongoing and wide extent in the interim had been recognized as alarming.
On the credit side of the Korean boost to technology development: congenial 3D simulations of even moving images, with absolutely realistic true-to-life renderings and AI-based plug-in options to virtual presentations including augmented reality address exactly the needs of the consumer goods industry and thus in particular of the fashion industry on the journey to digital transformation – in product development as well as multi-channel marketing. 3D platforms with all their features available and in the pipeline maintained out of Korea, are thus opening up completely new dimensions and worlds.
[See also a related article in this issue: z-emotion – Setting off from Seoul into the world: On the Holistic Path to Digitalization]