K-pop culture aims for the stars at Mnet Asian Music Awards
Korean performers share the stage with global big names in bid to boost their international presence as they look towards the mainland
Psy fever might have died down, but Korean promoters showed their determination to sustain the K-pop phenomenon, using Hong Kong as their launching pad at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (Mama) last night.
They put their stars on show before a crowd of more than 10,000 screaming fans at the AsiaWorld-Expo alongside global big names including Motown legend Stevie Wonder.
One of the biggest cheers of the night went to Hong Kong's own Aaron Kwok Fu-shing, who wowed the crowd with a dance display and was crowned Best Asian artist (China).
Korean music legend Rain also performed a medley of his hits, one of his first big performances since his military service ended in July.
The biggest winner of the night was rising star G-Dragon, who picked up four awards, including Artist of the year.
Wonder thanked the crowd in English, Putonghua and Korean, saying "the most important songs that have moved the world forward are about love".
He joined Kwok and Korean idol Hyolyn to close the show with a performance of I Just Called To Say I Love You.
With eyes on the world's top markets, China and the United States, the organisers brought Korea's biggest pop awards show back to Hong Kong after holding it in the city for the first time last year at the height of the sensation sparked by South Korean rapper Psy's catchy dance number Gangnam Style - the first video to rack up a billion YouTube views.
Although Gentleman, the follow-up single by Psy (real name Park Jae-sang), did not reach similar heights, this did not worry Korean wave promoters, said Mike Suh, strategy and global business head of Mama organiser CJ Entertainment & Media.
He said Psy, although huge globally, was not the only thing Korea had to offer. Other genres such as Korean rock were also emerging, he said.
Suh admitted that having Korean stars share the stage with American legend Wonder was a ploy to push K-pop culture to an international level.
"Mama isn't just Asian. We want to make it a global event by having new Asian artistes be on stage with a Western music legend," he said.
Suh said the vast mainland market was the next target for K-pop culture, which remained underexposed there.
"K-pop groups such as Super Junior, Big Bang and Girls' Generation, who enjoy a huge fan base across Asia, get relatively limited exposure [on the mainland]," he said.
He said last year had proved that Hong Kong could be an effective springboard.
The show, first held in 1999, ventured outside Korea for the first time in Macau in 2010. In 2011, it took place in Singapore.
Suh said the Hong Kong shows garnered much more attention on the mainland. Many of the crowd last night had travelled from the mainland to see their K-pop idols.
"There is a lot of potential," he said. "We want more. We want to see how people's lifestyles are affected by K-pop culture."
Artist of the year: G-Dragon
Best song: Bounce, Cho Yong-pil
Best album: XOXO (Exo)
Best video: Coup D’Etat, G-Dragon
Best male artist: G-Dragon
Best female artist: Lee Hyori
Best male group: Infinite
Best female group: Girls’ Generation