The kids in the crowd want lights dimmed, an apparent prerequisite to see the abs belonging to the pleasant-looking young man onstage. “Take it off! TAKE. OFF. YOUR. SHIRT.” We are at Toronto’s Korean Canadian Cultural Centre for HallyuCon, one of North America’s first conventions devoted to Korean music, and if the unnamed object of this lust isn’t an actual K-pop idol, he’s a reasonable facsimile. The physical boy-band template leaps borders like any other universalist concept, although certain male idols favor outfits that would look avant-garde on One Direction. Bunny ears and gazelle-like topknots bob in the air as our affable simulacrum complies.
“Hallyu” means “Korean wave” in Mandarin (tellingly), and the word serves as shorthand for the burgeoning global popularity of peninsular culture. [...]