Tag Archive | "music"

Korea- Mexico Relations: Where Ties are a Win

By Kyle Ferrier and Linnea Logie

While South Koreans celebrated their team’s upset victory over Germany in the World Cup earlier this week, no country was happier about the win than Mexico. The South Korean “Reds” late game heroics against Germany advanced Mexico to the next round of the tournament despite Mexico’s simultaneous 3-0 loss to Sweden, causing pro-Korea euphoria to sweep across the country. Videos of people celebrating outside of the South Korean embassy in Mexico City, hoisting Koreans on their shoulders to a chorus of cheers, and pictures of stores offering heavy discounts to Koreans flooded the internet. Although it may seem like an unusual pairing at first glance, Koreans and Mexicans actually have a long history of working together. Below are some key areas of cooperation beyond sports.

Official Relations

Diplomatic history

Mexico and South Korea formally established diplomatic relations in January 1962 driven by South Korean leader Park Chung-hee’s efforts to open new markets for exports. South Korea opened an embassy and appointed an ambassador shortly thereafter, while Mexico waited until 1978 and 1987 to open an embassy in and post a resident ambassador to Seoul, respectively. The Korean Embassy in Mexico City has played a key role in spreading Korean culture, particularly from when the first bilateral cultural agreement was signed in 1966 through the late 1990s when the two countries first started a dialogue on educational and cultural projects, which continues today and has produced numerous programs such as festivals and museum exchanges. In international relations, both countries are middle powers and belong to the informal middle power partnership known as MITKA (an acronym for the members of Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea, and Australia).

North Korea

Mexico and North Korea first established diplomatic relations in 1980. Mexico City is one of only 48 cities in the world to host a North Korean embassy, but Mexico does not have an embassy in Pyongyang. In protest of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in September 2017, Mexico expelled the North Korean ambassador Kim Hyong Gil. In 2017, reported North Korean exports to Mexico were valued at $6,102,754.

FTA negotiations

South Korea and Mexico officially launched negotiations for a free trade agreement in 2007, but talks stalled because of Mexican concerns that a deal could have widened its trade deficit with Seoul. However, amid growing protectionism, both countries have announced a renewed interest in accelerating negotiations. A Mexican government official has even recently stated, “We have selected strategic partners worldwide, and in Asia, our major strategic [economic] partner is Korea.”

People to People Links


Mexico is a popular destination for South Korean honeymooners. It also may be gaining popularity among retirees as an affordable travel spot. Last year, 75, 415 South Koreans visited Mexico, up from 63,661 in 2016. From January through April 2018 this year, 30,230 South Koreans travelled to Mexico, which is a third more visits than during the same period in 2017. While fewer Mexicans travel to South Korea, it is becoming a more popular destination. From January through May this year, 9,509 Mexicans have visited South Korea, a nearly 50 percent increase from the same period last year.


The Korean culture wave is swelling in Mexico. Korean culture has increasingly entered homes throughout Latin America in recent years by way of K-pop and Korean dramas, giving rise to fan clubs for South Korean actors and music groups. Mexico City was one of only two cities in 2014 to host Music Bank¸ a Korean music show featuring live performances of multiple K-pop groups outside of South Korea. South Korean music groups are increasingly releasing songs in Spanish, including the girl group Crayon Pop which collaborated with the Mexican boy band BD9 for the song “Get Dumb.” When Mexicans wanted to show their appreciation to South Koreans after their World Cup victory they played K-pop on local radio stations and bought songs from groups like BTS, whose song “Fake Love” climbed 31 spots on the Mexican iTunes Charts on the day of the game.

Trade and Investment

Mexico is South Korea’s largest Latin American trading partner, while South Korea is Mexico’s third largest export destination in Asia, after China and Japan. South Korea exported nearly $11 billion in goods to Mexico last year, a 12.5 percent increase from 2016, and Mexico exported about $4.4 billion to South Korea, a 20 percent increase from 2016. South Korean has invested $5.6 billion in Mexico, while Mexican investment in South Korea is around $60 million. Over 1,800 Korean companies operate there. South Korea’s main exports are liquid-crystal display devices, optical devices and instruments, electronic parts, auto parts, vehicles, and electrical machines, appliances and equipment. Mexico’s main exports to Korea include crude oils, lead minerals and concentrates, zinc ores, silver ores, copper ores, and electronic devices.

Kyle Ferrier is the Director of Academic Affairs and Research at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Linnea Logie is currently an Intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America and is also an incoming graduate student with the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.  

Image by KEI’s Jenna Gibson.

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Music Diplomacy: South Korean Artists Will Head to North Korea for Pyongyang Concerts

By Jenna Gibson

After a meeting of North and South Korean delegates today, the two sides announced that 160 South Korean musicians would head to Pyongyang at the end of March for two concerts, the first of their kind since 2007. The lineup is chock-full of the most popular Korean singers, crossing genre and generational boundaries. The headliners announced today show off the best from trot, rock, and k-pop, and are sure to put on an amazing concert. Whether the concert and other related diplomatic outreach events will result in any meaningful political breakthroughs, however, remains to be seen.

Check out a quick intro of the South Korean singers who will head to Pyongyang for the concert, including a Spotify playlist of some of their greatest hits at the bottom!


Cho Yong-pil

Cho Yong-pil is universally regarded as a legend in the Korean music industry. He made his solo debut in 1976, and has released 19 albums since then, including his latest, “Hello,” which swept the charts in 2013 despite coming after a 10-year hiatus. Interestingly, this will not be Cho’s first foray into inter-Korean music diplomacy – he performed a solo concert in Pyongyang back in 2005



Red Velvet

Red Velvet is versatile by design – their name is meant to describe the group’s two different styles of music. Music showcasing their “red” side is bubbly and fun, and songs on the “velvet” side are smoother and more mature sounding. This concept helps the group stay fresh and innovative with each new release, keeping them on the top of the music charts and making the members some of the most in-demand celebrities for TV appearances and endorsements.



Lee Sun-hee

Given the nicknames “국민디바” (“National Diva”) and “여가왕” (Queen of Female Vocalists), Lee Sun-hee has been a staple of the Korean music industry for decades. She has also become well-known for lending her voice to the soundtracks for popular movies and dramas, most recently with her song “Wind Flower,” which appeared in the smash-hit 2016 drama The Legend of the Blue Sea.



Baek Ji-young

The queen of drama soundtracks, you can easily picture Baek Ji-young’s powerful voice playing in the background during some of the most memorable scenes in Korea’s most famous dramas. “That Woman,” one of the main songs from the classic TV drama Secret Garden, is just one example of her unforgettable OST appearances. But of course Baek does much more than TV ballads, releasing dozens of songs that show off her vocal talents through more upbeat dance tracks.



Choi Jin-hee

Trot singer Choi Jin-hee is also no stranger to musical diplomacy – she has performed in North Korea three times in the past. In 2010, a viral video showed a North Korean woman singing Choi’s famous song “Maze of Love,” but with lyrics changed to praise then-leader Kim Jong-il. In response to her popularity in the North, Choi told the Korea Times “The North Korean audiences were always very welcoming and showed great enthusiasm for my songs. I thought that ‘The Maze of Love’ could connect the peoples of the two Koreas.”




One of the main vocalists of Girl’s Generation, Seohyun recently parted ways with the group, and is now focused on her solo and acting career. She has starred in several TV dramas, stage musicals, and has even done voiceover work for the Korean version of “Despicable Me” and its sequel. It makes sense for Seohyun to join the delegation heading to Pyongyang, as she was the only South Korean artist to join the North Korean art troupe on stage during their recent concert in Seoul.



Yoon Do-hyun

Known for his musical versatility, Yoon Do-hyun is the lead vocalist of rock band Yoon Do-hyun Band, but he has also had a successful solo career, hosted TV show, and has starred in musicals including “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Once.” Notably, the band won the World Peace Music Award in 2003 for advocating for better human rights conditions in Korea.




First gaining notoriety for her appearances on music competition show “Immortal Songs 2,” ALi has released several albums and often appears as a featured artist with other famous Korean acts as well as on drama soundtracks. She is also known for taking on societal themes in her music, including a song that dealt with sexual assault.




Initially debuting as a featured artist on hip hop duo Leessang’s song “Rush,” Jung-in was part of R&B group G.Fla until their disbandment in 2007. She now has a successful solo career and collaborates regularly with other hip hop and R&B artists.




Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. 

Image from Michael Duangdara’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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Meet the Korean Musicians who Rocked the PyeongChang Closing Ceremony

By Jenna Gibson

At the Closing Ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics yesterday, a wide variety of South Korean musicians showed the breadth of Korean music. From today’s hottest k-pop stars to metal to traditional Korean sounds, here is our look at the musicians who showed the world what Korean music has to offer. And, at the bottom, check out our Spotify playlist so you can sample more music from these great artists!


Yang Tae-Hwan

Just 13 years old, guitarist Yang Tae-Hwan rocked an electric guitar version of Vivaldi’s classic “Winter,” capturing the Internet’s attention immediately. Discovered at age 10 on the Korean show “Star King,” which allows ordinary people to come show off their talents, Yang has plenty of awesome music on his YouTube channel to keep you rocking out long after the Games are over.



Probably the most epic performance of the night, rock group Jambinai captivated the stadium with a powerful rendition of their song “Time of Extinction” backed by 80 musicians playing a traditional Korea instrument called the geomungo. The group mixes rock and metal influences with traditional Korean instruments, and describe their music as “POST ROCK, METAL, DARK, TRADITONAL, Avantgarde but NOT 퓨전국악 [fusion traditional Korean music] EVER.”


Jang Sa-ik

Debuting as a singer in 1994 at age 46, Jang Sa-ik has won acclaim for his powerful voice and emotional lyrics, often incorporating his background studying traditional Korean musical instruments and sounds into his music. He sang the Korean National Anthem at the Closing Ceremony accompanied by 23 children, representing the fact that PyeongChang was the 23rd Winter Olympics.


Second Moon

Evoking Korean traditional pansori sounds and mixed with Western instrumentals, Second Moon is an ethnic fusion band founded in 2004. They’re most famous for their OST music, creating songs for hit Korean dramas like Love in the Moonlight and The Legend of the Blue Sea.


Oh Yeon Joon

Known as “Jeju Boy” because of his island hometown, 11-year-old Oh Yeon Joon was discovered in 2016 on a singing competition show for children called “We Kid.” Yesterday, he brought his bright, clear voice to the closing ceremony, where he performed the Olympic Anthem.



Rapper, singer, songwriter, dancer – as NBC Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir noted, CL can do it all. Formerly the leader of the now-disbanded k-pop supergroup 2NE1, CL has since started a solo career, periodically making inroads into the American market through appearances on The Late Late Show and collaborations with artists like Diplo. She performed not only one of her solo songs, “The Baddest Female,” but also the iconic 2011 2NE1 hit, “I Am the Best.”



Originally formed as two groups, targeting both the Korean and Chinese markets and releasing all their music in both Korean and Mandarin (and now making a recent debut in Japan), this international powerhouse performed some of their hit songs along with a dance solo intro featuring a more traditional Korean style. With lyrics like “Through this music, when we sing with one voice together, we get stronger,” EXO’s 2017 song “Power” brought a great Olympic spirit of unity to the Closing Ceremony.


Martin Garrix/DJ Raiden

In a bit of a disappointment for the many Twitter users hoping the night’s “surprise musical guest” would be Psy, Martin Garrix closed out the show, hyping up a massive dance party to round out the night. With Garrix and Korean DJ Raiden pumping up the crowd, the final performance put a fun note on the ending of the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang.



Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. Image from Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.