K-pop has crossed oceans to amass a huge global following and become a key tool of South Korean soft power. But the genre, as we know it, could undergo a makeover if one of the nation's top music gurus gets his way.
At present, all-Korean girl and boy groups, such as Girls Generation and BTS, make up the multi-billion dollar market. With their perfectly synchronized dance routines and color-coordinated outfits, these stars have influenced consumer trends across Asia as well as regional politics.
But the industry can no longer rely on Korean nationals alone if it wants to stay globally relevant, warned Park Jin-young, founder of JYP Entertainment—a talent agency, record label, production firm and publishing house rolled into one, where he holds the roles of artist, producer and chairman.
Park, 44, commonly known as JYP, is a well-known name in K-pop circles, having made the switch from singer to entrepreneur. Since then, he's created and managed a multitude of successful bands, including Rain and 2AM.
"We're trying to figure out the next stage ... We can't just keep sending over Korean stars forever, we need to find the next thing. Now, I want to build with foreign talent and create something with young talented kids from Japan and China," he told CNBC.
He's already tested the idea out with TWICE, a nine-member girl band consisting of three Japanese, one Taiwanese and five South Koreans. Signed onto his JYP label, TWICE is now one of the genre's hottest acts and made its U.S. performance debut in August, less than a year after releasing its first single.
For the past month, Park has been traveling in the world's second-largest economy to scout talent for an all-Chinese boy band. Renting a camping car, he chose to concentrate on smaller, lesser-known cities instead of Beijing and Shanghai.