K-Pop Music Helps Put South Korea on United Nations' Innovation List

South Korea joined other countries at the top of the United Nations' innovation list, bolstered in part by creativity through things such as K-Pop music, the Associated Press reported.

The findings from the U.N.'s intellectual property agency released Monday found that innovation remained strong over the last year, despite the global coronavirus pandemic. South Korea was one of the top five countries on the list.

In the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) latest innovation index report for 2020, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Britain and fast-climber South Korea were ranked as the most innovation economies.

K-Pop, a broad name for Korean pop music, has soared in popularity domestically and internationally. In May, McDonald's sold the limited-time BTS meal, named for one of the most popular K-Pop groups. By late June, the meal was offered in 50 countries and received widely positive reception.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

aespa Performance
South Korea was listed on the U.N.'s innovation list in part due to K-Pop music. Girl group aespa perform on stage during the 27th edition of the annual Dream Concert at Sangam World Cup Stadium on June 26, 2021, in Seoul, South Korea. Han Myung-Gu/WireImage via Getty Images

Technology, pharmaceuticals and biotech industries boosted their investments, even as hard-hit sectors like transport and travel eased back on spending.

WIPO, which helps coordinate and approve international patents, trademarks and other intellectual property, also warned that change in the overall "innovation landscape" was happening too slowly, saying a broader array of countries should benefit from it as the world rebuilds after the pandemic ebbs.

China and France edged up in the rankings, which continue to be dominated by Asia, Europe and North America.

"Innovation is resilient—and even more resilient than we expected," WIPO Director General Daren Tang said.

"What COVID has done is that it has disrupted certain industries, but it has accelerated certain industries," Tang said in an interview in his office overlooking Lake Geneva. "It comes as no surprise that communications, hardware, software, ICT, these are sectors have done well" as well as the medical and biotech sectors.

The index ranks 132 countries, plus economies such as Hong Kong, and comes a year after WIPO said investments in innovation hit a record high in 2019 — an annualized rate of gain of 8.5 percent.

Top technology companies like Apple, Microsoft and Huawei increased investment on average about 10 percent last year, and venture capital investment surged—a trend that is continuing this year, WIPO said.

While the United States and China have largely driven the rise in R&D in recent years, other countries like Turkey, Vietnam, India and the Philippines—the so-called TVIP countries—have been rising consistently in the rankings over the past five years. Switzerland has consistently led the rankings for the past five years.

Overall, the WIPO report on the index said, "the global innovation landscape is changing too slowly....There is urgent need for this to change."

BTS McDonalds Meal
The McDonald's K-Pop group BTS meal received positive international reception. Above, a McDonald's employee shows the bag and special sauces from the limited edition BTS Meal from a McDonald's in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 16, 2021. Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images