One thing that makes going to an ice cream parlor particularly exciting is variety – you can choose from a wide spectrum of flavors and you enjoy multiple flavors at the same time should you choose to do so! Well, that’s what many K-Pop groups do, too – more often than not, they come in two flavors – Korean and Japanese! And it raises a question that is very frequently brought up by K-Pop fans around the globe: Why do K-Pop groups also release albums in Japanese?
Having covered the historical aspect of the relationship between Korean and Japanese languages, we know that Koreans don’t actually have a switch which they can conveniently flip on and off between the two languages. If we look at the matter from a business perspective, however, the answer seems obvious – at just over 51 million in population, South Korea is not a big market, compared to China (1.4 billion) and Japan (126.5 million) – the very reason why many K-Pop groups constantly look for an opportunity to expand their popularity outside their domestic market. Given the numbers, it might look like going to China is the way to go (imagine how much money you could make if everyone in China bought something as trivial as a toothpick!), but again, (Mandarin) Chinese is not something Koreans can learn in a short period of time. On the other hand, Japan (although politically they are like cats and dogs, they manage to maintain an amicable relationship through civil cultural exchange), is conveniently located just a few hours flight from Korea, and combined with the relative easiness (“relative” because it is so compared to other languages, and it’s still not something that can be achieved overnight and would still take weeks and weeks of hard studying and dedication) of learning Japanese language, makes Japan an extremely attractive market that’s also well within reach.
Watch BTS sing in Korean!
And watch BTS sing in English
Then watch BTS sing in Japanese! Aren’t they multi-talented?
Simply put, for K-Pop groups seeking to expand their presence outside Korea (more revenue streams), it’s realistically and financially more reasonable to try out their luck in Japan first. Seasoned K-Pop heads already tried and realized that it’s better received when things (promotions, advertising, connecting with local fans, and the like) are done in their native language, including the albums. Moreover, success in the larger and more international Japanese market could help them earn even more attention around the globe. So that explains why K-Pop albums come in two flavors, and it’s something a K-Pop fan would definitely enjoy (except the double-spending part!).