So K-pop may get the girls a-flutter, but it ain't exactly rock'n'roll. This is entirely fitting: the level of brand management that goes into K-pop groups makes Syco [Simon Cowell's company] look like an underground punk collective. Companies such as SM Entertainment – who signed SHINee and other hugely popular groups such as Super Junior and Girls Generation – develop the talent from a young age, grooming their singing, dancing and looking-cute-in-tight-trousers skills. Think X Factor bootcamp, but going on for years.
Cho Hyun-jin, a government representative who coined the phrase K-Pop for Korean bands in a previous incarnation as a journalist, said the spread of Korean music had surpassed his highest hopes.
“It was my old heroes like Led Zeppelin who famously played Madison Square Garden. Now to see Girls’ Generation there is amazing,” he said.
As hyper-managed "K-Pop" groups like Girls Generation and 2NE1 have begun to conquer Asia and attract Western interest, Tiger feels a mix of pride that Korean music is succeeding abroad, but somewhat rueful that it's the kind of shellacked pop music he grew up in opposition to. "I'm not a K-Pop artist," he said. "I embrace that it's blowing up, I'm with it, but that music is what I used to be against. I had to play against those stereotypes."
McClure, like many others, believes that K-pop stands a better chance at success globally than J-pop, although even that is far from certain.
The structure of Korea's relatively small music market is such that telecom companies control a large proportion of revenues, he said, meaning bands have an economic incentive to look abroad.
And K-pop acts, often created and nurtured by savvy record companies like S.M. Entertainment, are being groomed for specific markets -- learning Japanese, for example, and fitting in with Japan's musical mores.
"K-pop bands have made an incredible effort to learn the rules of the game, they do all the right commercial endorsements and appear on the popular music shows," says Steve McClure, the Tokyo-based editor of McClure's Asia Music News.
"They have come up with a very marketable product that fits the Japanese template for idol pop. If any Asian artist is going to make it internationally, it will be a Korean."
According to Mr Cho, many of K-pop's top acts are selling 100,000 or 150,000 albums straight after release. It is an impressive number in any major market.
"Music is so heavily discounted in Korea that a lot of them are looking to go overseas, or are relying on their popularity to boost their income in other ways, like acting or advertising," he says.
K-Pop is expensive to produce. The groups are highly manufactured, and can require a team of managers, choreographers and wardrobe assistants, as well as years of singing lessons, dance training, accommodation and living expenses.
The bill can add up to several hundred thousand dollars. Depending on the group, some estimates say it is more like a million.
Korean pop, also known as K-pop, has gained popularity outside of its home market with groups touring in Japan and other parts of Asia.
It has even hit Europe, with Big Bang members winning the Worldwide Act prize at MTV's Europe Music Awards this year.
"YG Entertainment has positive growth potential since royalty revenues from Japan are expected to triple next year," said Kim Shi-woo from Korea Investment and Securities.
But now YouTube, Facebook and Twitter make it easier for K-pop bands to reach a wider audience in the West, and those fans are turning to the same social networking tools to proclaim their devotion.
When bands like 2NE1, Super Junior and SHINee hold concerts in Europe and the United States, tickets sell out within minutes, and fans have used Facebook and Twitter to organize flash mobs demanding more shows, as they did in Paris in May.
K-pop now has its own channel on YouTube, and the videos by bands like Girls’ Generation have topped 60 million views.
Super Junior is but one example of South Korean cultural exports, including popular music (called "K-pop") as well as television dramas, movies and video games, that have become wildly popular among young people across Asia.
Over the past decade, South Korea, with a population of around 50 million, has become the Hollywood of the East, churning out entertainment that is coveted by millions of fans stretching from Japan to Indonesia.