Inside K-pop's Bay Area roots


"The language has sort of a catchy kind of beat to it because every word is a syllable. Every letter is a syllable in the Korean language," says Young John Kim (aka 'DJ Kim'), a disc jockey with Korea's Arirang Network.

It's part of a Korean wave that has already swept across Asia and Europe. In Oakland, a free ticket giveaway drew hundreds of fans, some camped out overnight. Overseas, K-pop performers draw flash mobs of thousands of fans.

"I was amazed, there were like 2,000 to 3,000 people waiting at the airport," says DJ Kim. "I've been in this industry for over 13 years and I've seen the growth. I never, ever thought it would grow to be as enormous asit is today."

DJ Kim was born in Korea, but lived in Walnut Creek and in Los Angeles. "I still consider myself a California kid," he says. He moved back to Korea with very American music tastes. He was a singer, rapper, and now hosts a radio show.

"I think we paved the way for Korean-Americans to come to Korea and try their chances," he says.

Jae Chung was on the charts in Korea before K-pop was hot. "I debuted in '98 when Korean-Americans were just starting to really... in the mid to late nineties, come to Korea and inject their knowledge of pop."

Chung and her family lived in Daly City before moving back to Korea. Chung has such a strong connection to the Bay Area, she even shot a music video in San Francisco.

We caught up with her at her family's restaurant, J's Burger, in Ilsan, Korea, where at times customers are treated to a mini-concert Chung and her dad. She is deeply involved in K-pop music now. She is a disc jockey with a K-pop radio show.

She says K-pop stars have to work really hard to stay on top.

"It's non-stop. It's very quick, very brutal. We have 10,000 artists coming out every month trying to vie for that one spot on a radio show or a TV show," she says. "In Korea, you come out with an album [and] about a month and half later you're already working on another album."

And that's great news for fans who can't get enough of K-pop.

"The mixing and mastering process, the vocals, recording, when you put it down, everything is top notch," says DJ Kim.

The biggest stars of K-pop are hitting Northern California for the very first time. They're appearing at a sold out concert in Mountain View and a first-ever live K-pop presentation on YouTube Presents. The concert at the Shoreline on May 21 is the result of a brand new partnership between YouTube and Korean broadcaster MBC. The concert will be streamed live on YouTube's new K-pop channel.

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