“Many production companies in Korea are recruiting competent talents from foreign countries to enrich the contents of K-pop (Korean music genre) and Zimbabwe’s artists are also candidates for such co-operations,” said Korean Embassy Counsellor, Choi Young-joon.

K-pop is part of a broader trend known as the Korean Wave and called “hallyu” in Korean. The Taiwanese were among the first to notice the invasion of Korean soap operas in their television programming in the late 1990s and gave the phenomenon its name. Until then, the term had referred to the cold winds blowing down from the Korean Peninsula.

Arirang TV, an English-language network based in Seoul, is revamping its news and entertainment programs, in hopes of promoting Korea and its culture to a wider international audience. “In Korea, K-culture, which goes beyond K-pop, accounts for a huge part of its nation branding. Our program revamp this time is focusing on those two trends, K-culture and nation branding.”

South Koreans have long been proud of their “wave,” the soft-power juggernaut of boy bands, movies and products that have penetrated Southeast Asia in a big way in recent years.

The growing ranks of other Korean American performers recruited by management companies like SM Entertainment and JYPE in U.S.-based talent searches — aren’t just a random act of globalization. They’re the secret weapon in Korea’s next push for worldwide youth-culture domination.

"The spread of Korean popular culture is exceptional as it was not founded upon the traditional factors of military and economic dominance that characterized that of Western imperial powers, or the diaspora networks of India and China," said Liew, who has been tracking South Korean popular culture for almost a decade.

The fizzy, busy sound of Korean pop have conquered airwaves in Japan and China over the past few years, but this week marks the escalation of a campaign to charm American listeners. Whereas Utada and BoA presumed being big in Asia would equal sales in the U.S., Wonder Girls is being introduced specifically for the teen and tween markets.

There's more to South Korea than K-Pop and Kim Yu-Na, and Lee Bae-Yong's mission in life is to stress that point worldwide.... [she] heads a unique body trying to burnish the image of a country which frets that its economic "hard power" far outweighs its "soft power" in the eyes of the global community.