German TV celebrity boosts K-pop

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Nov 11, 2012 - 19:09
  • Updated : Nov 14, 2012 - 10:02

A Korean-German TV celebrity and model, whose social media networks helped exemplify the viral power of K-pop, said she is “the only Korean personality in the German market” to further promote Korean culture.

Nela Panghy-Lee was the most powerful Twitter user in Europe in spreading K-pop news as of the end of August, according to a report by Park Han-woo, associate professor in Yeungnam University’s media and communication department.

The 32-year-old, working for the Germany’s largest TV network ProSiebenSat1, hosted the final of “Popstars 2012,” a primetime audition program in September.
Nela Panghy-Lee, Korean-German TV celebrity. (Jessica Meier, )

“Nobody ever declared me as ‘official promoter of the Korean culture’ but as the only Korean personality in the German market, I am surely the best person to talk to,” Panghy-Lee said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.

“I am convinced there are so many opportunities in Germany. I am just waiting for strong partners to jointly take the opportunities.”

She said her influence in spreading K-pop news began picking up in earnest after she flew to Singapore in 2011 to “discover the secret of hallyu,” the Korean cultural wave, for her TV network.

“The 12-minute report was super successful. Many of my followers on Twitter asked me about the hallyu phenomenon and the Mnet Asian Music Awards,” she said.

There, she had interviews with K-pop boy band Super Junior and singer and actor Kim Hyun-joong.

She noted that since German K-pop fans are heavy users of social networks, information about K-pop can be shared successfully with a couple of influential people’s Twitter and Facebook. Panghy-Lee has over 47,000 followers on Twitter and over 17,300 likes on Facebook.

Now, Germany’s attention to K-pop has reached a peak, with singer Psy’s mega-hit “Gangnam Style” and his appearance at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday.

“K-pop was a kind of ‘underground’ phenomenon. I guess the combination of his sound and the ironic attitude made ‘Gangnam Style’ more successful than other K-pop songs,” she said.

Her Korean roots trace back to her Korean mother who moved to Germany at age 25 in 1977.

She briefly came to Korea in October to celebrate her mother’s 60th birthday together with some of her family.

Although she only learned German when she was young due to a widespread belief in the 1980s that speaking more than one language would hinder child development, she started learning Korean recently.

“I am already perfect at reading,” she said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (