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In South Korea, K-pop is being urged to think green

The Korea Times estimates South Korea's 15 main manufacturers sold over 390 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2022

Published: Jun 20, 2024 11:00:29 AM IST
Updated: Jun 20, 2024 01:44:01 PM IST

Some 100 million physical albums are sold every year to fuel the K-pop frenzy, according to the Korea Times. Image: Photography ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP
Some 100 million physical albums are sold every year to fuel the K-pop frenzy, according to the Korea Times. Image: Photography ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

The music industry is increasingly aware of the need to reduce its environmental footprint, prompting it to embark on getting greener. But in South Korea, the government feels that the K-pop industry isn't doing enough.

Indeed, South Korean pop is not very eco-friendly. This is mainly due to the huge number of records that fans of this musical genre buy to support their idols. Some 100 million physical albums are sold every year to fuel the K-pop frenzy, according to the Korea Times.

CDs are made up of 90% polycarbonate, a type of transparent plastic that is highly resistant to scratches. They also contain aluminum, as well as traces of silver, gold and nickel, making them very difficult to recycle. And that's not counting the cases in which they are sold, which add to their carbon footprint. The Korea Times estimates that South Korea's 15 main manufacturers sold over 390 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2022.

This figure is far too high considering the climatic and ecological commitments made by South Korea in recent years. In 2020, the Asian country pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, following in the footsteps of its neighbors China and Japan. The South Korean government is urging all business sectors to make a greater commitment to the climate, including the music industry.

The power of K-pop fans


This is why the Korean Ministry of the Environment will shortly be launching a campaign to highlight the disproportionate use of plastic packaging in the music industry. In particular, with the help of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, it will be organizing consulting sessions with members of the Record Label Industry Association of Korea (RLIAK) to draw their attention to the astronomical quantity of CDs and other plastic waste they produce.

It's a well-intentioned initiative, but it's likely to prove rather ineffective. According to the Korea Times, South Korea currently has no official regulations governing the over-use of plastic packaging in the music industry. In other words, there's nothing to compel industry players to change their ways.

Also read: Climate change one of the top concerns for Gen-Zs and millennials in India: Report

But it's there's a chance that K-pop fans could force their hands. Indeed, Korean music lovers are not insensitive to climate change. Some of them have even organized themselves to create Kpop4Planet, a militant association fighting for climate action. Members of this NGO are encouraging Korean pop fans to make donations and sign petitions to urge decision-makers to take action in response to the scale of the environmental crisis. Given the level of influence K-pop fans hold on social networks, perhaps with time and lots of tweets, they'll manage to convince the Korean music industry to get greener.