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S. Korea's exports of K-pop albums hit record high of US$233 mln in 2022

K-pop 08:51 January 16, 2023

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports of K-pop albums hit a fresh high last year, data showed Monday, as limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continued to push up demand for physical albums.

K-pop album exports hit US$233.113 million in 2022, up 5.6 percent from a year ago, according to import and export trade statistics of the Korea Customs Service (KCS).

Last year's figure outnumbered the previous high of $220.85 million tallied in 2021.

As overseas K-pop fans opted to buy albums in a show of support for their favorite stars, unable to see them in person at concerts and other live events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, K-pop album sales have been on the rise, crossing $100 million in 2020 and $200 million in 2021.

A photo of K-pop superband BTS, provided by Big Hit Music (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

A photo of K-pop superband BTS, provided by Big Hit Music (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Japan imported the most K-pop albums last year, totaling $85.74 million. It was followed by China and the United States, which imported $51.33 million and $38.88 million, respectively. Rounding out the top 10 were Taiwan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, Indonesia and France.

K-pop labels do not usually unveil details of album sales by their artists.

But top boy groups, such as BTS, Stray Kids and Seventeen, as well as rookie girl groups, that dominated music charts last year, appear to be the main drivers behind the bullish trend, judging from various annual albums charts for the year that combine overseas and domestic sales.

This image provided by JYP Entertainment shows K-pop boy group Stray Kids. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This image provided by JYP Entertainment shows K-pop boy group Stray Kids. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The most-sold album of the year was "Proof," the anthology album by BTS that sold 3.48 million copies, according to the annual albums chart by Circle Chart, which is the country's benchmark K-pop chart. Trailing closely behind was "Maxident," the seventh EP by Stray Kids, which sold 3.18 million copies. Seventeen and BLACKPINK sold 2.87 million copies and 2.52 million copies, respectively, of their albums "Face the Sun" and "Born Pink."

Ive, one of the rookie sensations of 2022, ranked 10th on the chart by selling 1.65 million copies of its third single, "After Like."

But the industry's reliance on the three big markets -- Japan, China and the United States -- is seen as one of the problems facing the industry. The combined share of the big three markets rose by 3.8 percentage points from 71.7 percent in 2021 to 75.5 percent in 2022, according to the KCS statistics.

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A photo of K-pop boy group Seventeen, provided by Pledis Entertainment (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

A photo of K-pop boy group Seventeen, provided by Pledis Entertainment (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

sshim@yna.co.kr
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