Deep Dive: The Environmental Impact of K-Pop, and the Changes That Can Be Made by Fans and Companies

In the second article of this ongoing series of "deep dives" into the world of K-pop, we take a look at the environmental impacts of the South Korean music industry, including its multiple versions of albums and increasingly large amount of merchandise, and also take a look at the K-pop fans who are making a difference, and how other fans can get involved.

Before we start, I get it. The title reads like the start of a university-level thesis nobody would ever be interested in reading. But it's important for everyone to understand the environmental impact that the K-pop community is having, and to know what steps you can make to help reduce your carbon footprint where possible.

How the K-pop community contributing to global warming

The environmental impact of each individual K-pop fan is dependent largely on their purchasing habits, and not all K-pop fans are making the same impact on the planet.

Some K-pop fans are known for buying multiple copies of albums for a variety of reasons. Some fans want to be able to collect every photocard released by a group. Some other fans want to help in pushing up their favourite group's physical sales, which can lead to music show wins. And other fans still - the majority of those who make multiple album purchases - are in it to win the chance of a fan call with their favourite idols.

The environmental waste from all of these multiple albums is astonishing. The discs themselves will take hundreds of years to break down. The plastic wrapping on the albums and the photocards could take thousands of years.

How K-pop fans are making a change

One of the many ways that K-pop fans around the world are making a change is by showing their support behind climate justice initiatives. One of the biggest K-pop climate justice initiatives in the world is Kpop4planet.

Kpop4planet is a platform launched by Indonesian college student Nurul Sarifah, an EXO-L who spoke with Tamar Herman for the South China Morning Post last year about the rise of fans pushing for sustainability in the K-pop music market.

The website offers many ideas for ways in which K-pop fans can reduce their carbon footprint, including practicing daily eco-friendly habits, using your voice, and supporting the Kpop4planet movement.

How artists and entertainment companies are already making climate conscious changes

The good news is that artists and companies have noticed the impact that their albums have on the environment, and the environmental consciousness of their consumers.

Multiple idols have come out in support of organisations aiming to save the planet and reduce carbon emissions. YG Entertainment's globally famous girl group Blackpink launches a campaign last year to raise awareness of climate change, and urged their fandom - Blink - to take action.

And some idols have started ensuring that their albums are released in ecologically friendly ways. Singer Chung Ha's album "Querencia" was published in eco-friendly packaging. In January, IST's boy group VICTON introduced the "platform album" version of their single album "Chronograph," which is a photocard and a download code for the album. And earlier last week, YG rookie boy group Treasure announced that their comeback mini-album, "The Second Step: Chapter One", was being published in an ecologically responsible manner.

So, what's next for the fans and the entertainment companies?

So much more can be done, both by K-pop fans and by the entertainment companies themselves.

K-pop fans can limit the simply massive numbers of albums that some of them have been purchasing. They can also donate to climate change campaigns, either in their own name or in the name of their fandom and K-pop group. And, they can also look to more ways they can reduce their carbon footprint both now and into the future.

And the entertainment companies behind the K-pop industry can continue to consider ecologically friendly album and merchandise packaging and creation. But they could also reconsider the requirement of releasing so many multiple versions of the same album. Or re-releasing albums as "repackages" with only two news songs.

But, as the fans and the entertainment companies look to the future, it seems certain that a climate-conscious K-pop industry may be on the horizon.

Ford Carter

Ford Carter is an online blogger studying journalism who's hundreds of articles across half a dozen fansites from the music and television industries have now been read more than 300,000 times. From his home in regional Australia, you'll often find him binging kdramas or rewatching old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest.

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