VITORIA, Brazil--Instead of doing the samba, eight young Brazilian women begin dancing in rhythm to a lively South Korean pop song in a room of a building here on a Sunday afternoon.
All of the songs they swing their hips in unison to are those of the popular South Korean female K-pop group Girls’ Generation. Fascinated and attracted by the beautiful South Korean pop group members, these women formed a group in 2010, named the Genies, to imitate them.
Grasielle Fink, 25, is the leader of the Genies. Fink loves “cosplay,” in which people don costumes of Japanese anime and manga characters. Two years ago, she became a fan of Girls’ Generation, who are also popular in Japan.
Initially, Fink just intended to wear the costumes of its members. While watching videos of the group, however, she was attracted by their eye-catching and lively dance steps.
Recruiting women who had the same interest, she formed the Genies.
Since then, the group has practiced for four hours every Sunday. Fink’s husband, Augusto, has taken notes of the choreography of Girls’ Generation members by watching videos and instructs Genies members based on his notes.
When the Genies filmed their dances and put the videos on the YouTube video-sharing website, it received comments from viewers. Some of the messages told of the differences between the moves of the Genies and those of Girls’ Generation.
“Brazilian fans notice the small things. Unless we imitate perfectly the South Korean group, we are criticized,” one of the Genies members said with a smile.
The popularity of K-pop has been spreading in Brazil since about two years ago. Many of its devotees used to be fans of Japanese culture.
However, they became hooked on K-pop after seeing K-pop cover groups playing at Japan-related events.
The Genies have been invited to more than 20 events, including a “Yakisoba-Matsuri” (Pan-fried noodle festival), which was organized by a local Japanese association.
What pleases K-pop fans in Brazil is the attention paid to them by the South Korean music industry. It often holds contests for cover groups and sometimes offer trips to South Korea as prizes.
“(K-pop) fans find it worthwhile to imitate South Korean groups,” Fink said.
The popularity of K-pop is also high in the neighboring country of Peru. For example, about 6,000 fans gathered at the first concert of the South Korean male group JYJ, which was held in the capital, Lima, on March 11.
Some of the fans came from the neighboring country of Bolivia by bus, a 35-hour drive. Others came from countries such as Colombia and Mexico.
When the concert started, the fans packing the hall began screaming.
“The songs and dances are both nice. I like K-pop (groups) because they do original things,” said Damaris Salazar, a 17-year-old college student.
A day before the concert, JYJ members held a news conference. In that meeting, one of the members said, “I was surprised to see many fans. I was also surprised to see some of the fans chasing us in taxis. I had never thought that we would be greeted so enthusiastically.”
Meanwhile, in the South Korean capital of Seoul, more than 50 people, including consul generals working in overseas embassies, gathered at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on March 12.
In a meeting there, Kim In-gyu, president of the public broadcaster Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), said that about 45,000 fans attended concerts of K-pop stars, held by KBS in Tokyo, and more than 10,000 people attended similar concerts in Paris.
“It is necessary to study such a phenomenon systematically and develop it,” he said.
The meeting was held to help diplomats think about how to utilize the popularity of K-pop and other contemporary culture to raise the image of South Korea in the countries they are assigned to. A similar meeting was also held in February for ambassadors.
The ministry also concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group in September 2011 over cooperation in public relations activities related to South Korean culture.
In February, the ministry also formed an MOU with KBS to work toward the globalization of South Korean contemporary culture.
Through those efforts, the ministry made it clear that the government will use its nation's contemporary culture to convey the attractiveness of South Korea to other countries.
Already, the popularity of South Korean contemporary culture is producing a variety of economic benefits.
According to reports compiled by the Korea Customs Service in June 2011, exports of South Korean cosmetic products increased sevenfold during the past 10 years in terms of value, along with the rise in popularity of South Korean stars.
According to a survey by the South Korean central bank, the Bank of Korea, the revenue generated overseas by South Korean culture and entertainment industries through the export of dramas or concerts and other activities by singers and other stars reached $794 million (65.5 billion yen) in 2011. That was more than double that of five years ago.
JYJ, which had successful concerts in South American, is now considering holding similar concert tours in Australia and the Middle East.
“I think that K-pop has not remained just a simple trend," an official of the office for the JYJ group said of its success in South America. "It has established a position as a part of the country's culture.”
(This article was compiled from reports by Ari Hirayama in Vitoria and Akihiko Kaise in Seoul.)
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