Idol groups share many things in common, they can sing, rap, dance, and they usually have a lot of members. But one other thing they share in common these days is having one or more international group member/s in their respective groups.
In After School, you have Beka (Korean American). In Super Junior, you have HanGeng (Chinese). In 2pm, you have TaecYeon, JaeBeom (Korean American), and NichKhun (Thai / Chinese). In SNSD, you have Tiffany, Jessica (Korean American), SooYoung (Korean lived in Japan), and HyoYeon (Korean lived in China). In Wonder Girls, you have Yubin (Korean lived in San Jose, California). In 2AM, you have ChangMin (Korean lived in Canada). In 2NE1, you have Sandara Park (Korean lived in Philippines), and Park Bom (Korean studied in Boston, Massachusetts). In Epik High you have Tablo (Korean and lived all over the world, famous for graduating from Stanford with a degree in English Literature and a Masters). There are more including Victoria (Chinese) and Amber (Chinese grew up in Orange County, California) from new SM group, f(x).
There are so many to name, I can’t even name them all here. I still haven’t mentioned Nicole (Korean American) of Kara, MickyYooChun (Korean lived in America) of TVXQ, and the list will still go on and on. There’s only a few groups I know of that doesn’t have international members off the top of my head: SHINee, 4minute, and Big Bang.
From the above list, you might have read some names that may have surprised you. That is because people think America when you think of international idol group members. But there’s a wide variety now; China, Japan, Canada, USA, the Philippines, and Thailand. People may think of the big and populated places such as the USA and Japan but now they come from everywhere. For example, Sandara Park comes from having a career in the Philippines. This shows the K-Pop industry expanding its horizons in terms of accepting new people into the music scene landscape.
Now you might wonder why there are so many of them. Entertainment companies want international members because they have international knowledge and if they come to Korea, they will also carry a Korean feeling which will appeal to the audience. Another reason is language. Language is a huge barrier for Asians trying to make it in another country. Boa, Se7en, and the Wonder Girls all had to study English very hard and though they have improved, they’re still not perfectly fluent. TVXQ had to learn Japanese to make it in the J-Pop industry. By having someone who is already fluent in the language, you know they will lead the group if the group ever decides to debut / crossover over to other countries. Not only regarding traveling to a different country but just connecting with fans in general is easier when you know more language(s). SooYoung of SNSD knows Japanese where as HyoYeon and HanGeng know Chinese. Nichkhun represent 2PM whenever they visit Thailand. This all helps the groups get more known in Asia and the rest of the world.
These international members help bring KPOP music to the rest of the world. International fans will find it easier to accept once they find something in common with the group, once they know they share a hometown, or speak the same language. So all this is only a good thing.