[Herald Interview] “Music videos are the key players in the global success of K-pop”

[Herald Interview] “Music videos are the key players in the global success of K-pop”

From Seo Tai-ji to BTS, veteran music video producers are living proof of K-pop history

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

The popularity of K-pop has exploded in recent years, becoming one of the major influences in global culture. Many have pointed to the powerful dance performances and gorgeous visuals — two staples of K-pop music videos — as the most distinctive characteristics of the global phenomenon.

As an ever-growing number of artists have appeared on the local music scene over the past two decades, two veteran creators behind some 1,500 music videos by renowned K-pop artists, from Seo Tai-ji to BTS, are living proof of popular K-history. They believe that music videos have played the most important role in the resounding success of K-pop.

“Music videos not only include (the artists’) music, but also their beauty, fashion, choreography, artwork and everything. It’s like a gift box that contains everything in it,” said Hong Won-ki, co-CEO and co-founder of music video production company Zanybros.

“At the time, they were the only source for overseas K-pop fans to sample music from local artists, as live streaming was not available there. Music videos have been a strong influence that has absorbed more than 70% of efforts for global K-pop success,” he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Hong and his longtime partner Kim Jun-hong, who is also CEO and founder of Zanybros, met the Korea Herald at the company’s headquarters in southern Seoul. Their confidence and taste for production work shone through in their somewhat brusque manner during the interview.

The 46-year-old producers met in college and shared the same vision of filming and producing music-related videos. Hong and Kim founded Zanybros in 2001, now one of the country’s most distinguished music video production companies, and have collaborated with a plethora of K-pop artists.

“The name ‘Zanybros’ comes from the original Korean meaning of the word ‘zany’ meaning ‘clown’, combined with the English word ‘brothers’, which means ‘scandalous brothers’ as a whole,” Kim said with a smile. “Like the name of the brand, we tried a lot of new, completely original things that people didn’t expect to see on the pitch.”

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Zanybros was not a K-pop focused company at first. The producers started the business with 2 million won ($1,500) in operating funds, with no established network in the industry. Since Hong had been part of a rock band from a young age, the two started creating music videos for underground indie rock bands and indie bands for free.

The duo’s journey began with the production of the music video for Lazybone’s “Do It Yourself” and the search to showcase talented musicians. Hong said, “It was the effort to support a relatively less popular genre of music to go mainstream.”

A major turning point in their career came after they shot the music video “Moai” for “culture president” Seo Tai-ji, who was a K-pop icon even before K-pop was born. one thing, in 2008. The unexpected project was the producers’ end goal at that time, according to Kim. He described the feeling of having to face the ultimate boss after reaching the final level of a video game.

Hong and Kim began K-pop video projects as K-pop, which was built on Hallyu, or the Korean wave, began to take off in the 2000s. Impressed by Zanybros’ videos, officials from several K-pop labels contacted the two and asked them to work with their musicians. The first K-pop video project they were involved in was with the now defunct SS501, Hong said.

When asked to name some of the K-pop idols they have collaborated with, Hong replied, “It will be quicker to name who we haven’t worked with.”

They have gained international fame through their quality creations of video productions from the first to fourth generation of K-pop artists, including Super Junior, EXO, Girls’ Generation, Mamamoo, and BTS.

Kim Jun-hong (left) and Hong Won-ki, co-CEOs and co-founders of Zanybros, pose for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters of the K-pop music video production company in southern Seoul. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Although they are veteran video producers, they have had to learn to keep up with the constantly changing K-pop trends. With the Zanybros’ kitsch vibe, the producers still shoot about 10 videos a month, in addition to other K-pop music-related videos such as documentaries and reality shows.

“We could showcase our unique colors and styles in the videos. But since music videos prioritize the music itself, we try to focus on what the songs are trying to tell the audience. We also try to include as many memorable scenes in their videos,” Kim said of the secret to their longevity in the industry. Hong also mentioned that “the answers” ​​are all in the music, regardless of genre.

On its 20th anniversary last year, Zanybros began to expand its business, aiming to become a global entertainment content production company. Hong produced the 2020 Netflix drama “Goedam: Collection” and directed the horror film “Seoul Goedam,” which hit local theaters in April. Kim, who saw potential in rising American K-pop artist AleXa, has been promoting the musician under the company’s music label ZB since 2019. AleXa won NBC’s “American Song Contest” in May .

Kim said “being unafraid” to take on challenges is what has shaped Zanybros, and added that they will continue to “carry on our frontier spirit and apply it to a wider range of entertainment content from high quality”.

Revealing that his personal goal was to become someone’s role model, the co-CEO said the company was also considering an initial public offering.

“By entering a new market, I want Zanybros to become a legend,” Kim said.

By Jie Ye-eun ([email protected])