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K-Pop’s Global Popularity Grows, Year After PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’

It's been a year already? As of this morning, July 15, PSY's viral phenom "Gangnam Style" is officially one year old.

It’s been a year already?

As of this morning, July 15, PSY’s viral phenom “Gangnam Style” is officially one year old. The video is already the most-viewed video ever on YouTube and was the first clip ever to surpass 1 billion views, currently standing at 1.74 billion, and just last week his official channel on YouTube became fifth on all of YouTube with over 3 billion views. But according to data provided by Google, perhaps more important than PSY’s own larger-than-life profile is the impact that PSY’s viral phenomenon has had on K-Pop’s popularity worldwide.

While global interest in K-Pop has been on the rise for the past few years, data shows that views of Korean artists overall tripled in the year following the release of “Gangnam Style.” Here’s a chart of weekly views on the top K-Pop channels on YouTube, including Psy’s:

The surge in overall K-Pop activity seen in the chart above was also reflected in the Billboard Charts; two weeks following the April 13 spike in views of “Gentleman” the title hit No. 1 on the Billboard Streaming Songs chart, where it was the most streamed song in the U.S. across services like YouTube and Spotify for two weeks straight.

Then, a month later, the overall K-Pop resurgence was reflected in the dethroning of “Thrift Shop” by “Gangnam Style” the week of May 25 (achieving a No. 1 Psy would have likely received when the song was at peak popularity — had the chart incorporated YouTube data at the time.) “Gangnam Style” held this position for six weeks before being dethroned by Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” during the July 6 charting week.

According to Google, in the year before “Gangnam Style” (2011) official music videos from K-Pop artists were viewed over 2.2 billion times globally. The year following, that number jumped to over 7 billion views — three times the viewership. In 2011, less than half the viewership on top K-Pop channels was from outside the Asia-Pacific region. Now, the majority of watching takes place outside the region; 91% of viewing over the past year was outside Korea.

In the U.S., where K-Pop had been a largely unknown genre of music, video viewership of top K-Pop artists doubled the year after “Gangnam Style” hit the web.

So what were people watching besides Psy’s two hits?

Below are the top 10 music videos from Korea uploaded since “Gangnam Style.” Psy tops the list with his follow-up “Gentleman”, which itself now has nearly half a billion views. Other major acts include Girls Generation and Big Bang, both of which have cultivated large international followings.