New Fashion Trend Among Korean Teens-Million Won Headphones

First spotted around the necks of the most popular Korean idol groups, expensive over-sized headphones have now become the must-have fashion accessory on the streets of Seoul. The most coveted item are Beats by Dre, headphones that are not yet available in South Korea and must be ordered from America, resulting in a price of over ₩1 million.

Parents and netizens have reacted with shock and protest, saying that expensive headphones have become just one more ‘spinebreaker’ [등골브레이커], meaning a painfully expensive must-have item that schoolchildren demand of their parents. Other spinebreakers include North Face down jackets and jackets from the two most popular outdoor brands in South Korea today, Canada Goose and Moncler. Among the fashion-conscious, the two brands are now known simply as ‘Camon’, (Canada Goose + Moncler), [‘캐몽’,나다 구스 + 클레르].

From Money Today:

‘Mom, Buy Me the G-Dragon Headphones’..Those Headphones are 1.3 Million Won (~1225 USD)?

[Endless New Spine-breakers ②] ‘Dr. Dre’ Headphones, 300,000 ~ ₩600,000 (~283 to 566 USD)···Special products cost ₩1.3 million

When Ms. Lee, 45, went online to purchase the pair of headphones that her middle-school daughter wanted, she was shocked. She imagined that they would be around the price of the earphones she used for her Walkman during her childhood, but times have changed. The set of headphones that her daughter wanted was worn by a popular idol group member when he recently appeared on TV. These premium brand-name headphones sell for around ₩1 million (USD $944). Lee felt burdened by the cost, so she reasoned with her daughter and bought her a cheaper ₩500,000 (USD $472) pair.


These are ‘spine-breaker,’ a new term coined to describe the recent phenomenon of parents struggling with the demands of their children for expensive brands such as Canada Goose, Moncler, and now Beats by Dre. The cost is said to be so painful that it twists the spines of parents.

Premium headphones, which started gaining popularity two to three years ago when popular singers and actors wore them on stage, have recently become a hot fashion item among young people. Big Bang members G-Dragon and T.O.P., JYJ member Yoochun, Lee Jong Suk from the TV Drama ‘I Can Hear Your Voice,’ and Lee Minho from the TV Drama ‘The Heirs’ have endorsed these headphones after wearing them on stage.

Looking at the prices of premium headphones that young teenagers have been wanting, ‘Dr. Dre’ brand headphones, which have been been worn by Big Bang’s G-Dragon and T.O.P., average around ₩300,000 to ₩600,000 a pair. These special headphones are only sold in America, so they sell for as high as ₩1.3 million online. The pair of Sony headphones that Lee Minho from the TV Drama ‘The Heirs’ became popular after he wore them on the show. Its price ranges from ₩300,000 to ₩500,000.

There are also comparatively cheaper premium brands. Shure headphones, which have been gaining popularity recently, have some products that are in the ₩100,000 (~94 USD) price range. Frends headphones, which became famous after Girls’ Generation and Tiara members started wearing them, have some products that sell for around ₩200,000.

One earphone and headphone shop owner said, ‘These days many teenagers come here with their parents to buy premium headphones. The Dr. Dre products are especially popular. A variety of colors such as pink and red were released, so female students really like them.’

An earphone and headphone shop official said, ‘Among the various brands of headphones, teenagers prefer the expensive ones. Some students don’t even look at the cheap brands.’

Another earphone and headphone shop official stated, ‘Teenagers want products that provide good sound quality and serve as fashion items. Therefore, many teenagers recently are turning to expensive products that look pretty and have great functionality.’

As expensive premium headphones are gaining popularity, so-called ‘imitation’ products are also pouring into the market, so caution is advised. Last year in October, a group of nine Koreans were caught after selling more than 15,000 Chinese-made imitation ‘Dr. Dre’ headphones worth ₩4.8 billion (USD $4.5 billion) over the internet.

A Korea Consumer Agency Official stated, ‘Nowadays, when consumers are involved in damage cases, they fill out a form and put it into a database. There have been a few damage cases concerning ‘fake headphones.’ If data gets piled up, the businesses reported to the Fair Trade Commission will get sanctioned.’

The official emphasized, ‘Consumers must be fully aware that in case they unknowingly purchase a fake product, they can ask that company for a refund up to three months after the purchase.’

Comments from


‘She reasoned with her daughter and bought her a cheaper ₩500,000 pair.’ Is it okay to laugh? In my opinion, she should be slapped to her senses.. If that brat twists her spine, she buys it for her. Whatever she says, it’s like this.. Sigh

Fukc누리당님 (responding to above):

Let’s smack politicians and journalists first and then talk.

신짱갑니다님 (responding to above):

Parents that buy those things on a whim are crazy

민서아빠님 (responding to above):

The journalist is crazier… Articles that cleverly advertise headphones are really displeasing

Singer Hyuna wearing headphones

Singer Hyuna wearing headphones as a fashion item


₩500,000 is cheap?!

삼덕동가수님 (responding to above):

Comparing a ₩1.3 million set of headphones with a cheaper ₩500,000 one… Can teenagers even tell the difference in quality between a ₩50,000 pair and a ₩500,000 one?? A ₩50,000 pair is good enough.

Since 1982님 (responding to above):

I think ₩50,000 is expensive. If the sound quality is good enough, I’m fine with it.

바비캉님 (responding to above):

Honestly, I can’t afford ₩50,000 headphones,, However, those kids are not using the headphones to listen to music, but just to show off. What a waste.

일렉티카님 (responding to above):

삼덕동가수님’s ignorance is very apparent. The younger someone is, the easier it is to sense difference in sound quality. I thought this was common knowledge… Whether a amp with high ohms is used or not is more crucial. The source is more important that the output equipment…. When I wore Sennheiser headphones as a teenager, I could definitely tell the difference.

Prices for Beats on the Korean internet

Prices for Beats on the Korean internet


What in the world are those kids that show off their money while walking around sporting Dr. Dre’s thinking… I’m curious if there’s cement deposited in their ears [if they have gone deaf]. These headphones are not even as good as ₩100,000 earphones. ke Do I dare say that imitation ones have better sound quality?

sOuLmAtE님 (responding to above):

It’s because of the loudness war… Music that reduces dynamic range is everywhere, so even when you wear Dr. Dre to listen, it sounds good. The sense of space for Dr. Dre headphones, which doesn’t have open-types, somehow feels… Although the open-types also don’t have much sense of space either..

승재군님 (responding to above):

These headphones have the worst price performance ratio, right? Even some of the ones that are over ₩100,000 are at that level of performance.

에슬릿님 (responding to above):

There is music that’s suitable for the Dr. Dre headphones. You only listen to crap music, so you don’t know that, right?

이승환님 (responding to above):

It’s a preference… ke ke. Dre just isn’t my preference ke ke


It started with Canada Goose and now it has come all the way back. ke ke ke ke ke

 Canada Goose jackets sell for as much as 650 CAD/₩670,000

Canada Goose jackets sell for as much as 650 CAD/₩670,000


I can understand how the kid’s feels…
If you see everyone else with it, you want to have it, too…
But the mother who reasoned with her daughter and bought a ₩500,000 set of headphones is crazy…


Use the ₩17,000 LG Quadbeats. Perfect for people with hearing problems like you.

유령물고기님 (responding to above):

Exactly why I bought it when I lost my previous earphones… I don’t like it~~ Especially because while it is a kernel-type earphone, its soundproof capabilities don’t work at all~!! I have to wear them switched around in order for them to not fall out~ ke ke. If I wear them properly, I can listen properly, but they just fall out~ The sound quality was really awful in the beginning, but now it’s a little better.

Miss U님 (responding to above):

ke ke. You must be feeling better after that.


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  • catmando1980

    I have two Canada Goose jackets, but I’ve only seen one other person wearing one around here in the US. I did notice one displayed prominently in last years SBS TV show, “Lord of the Drama”. They are well worth the money.
    Around here, if you had a set of headphones like that,or an expensive jacket, there’s a good chance some hood rat is going to try to steal it from you.

    • Lulu

      If you live in canada, ESP in to toronto area, you will see a lot of canada goose jacket. They kind of have a negative stereotype here where it seems like only the rich people can afford it and they act like a douche. I just like to browse this site

  • Peter Pottinger

    $250 is a good price for good headphones.

    What I don’t understand is why you just dont order from the US and have it shipped to korea?

    • Joey

      These are hardly good headphones though. And I doubt they’d be able to hear the difference between Sennheiser’s budget line and a good pair of Grado’s.

      And they don’t import them, because of import taxes.

      • Peter Pottinger

        lol people don’t buy beats because they are good, they are the most shit brand but we all know people especially koreans are sheep who buy what the media tells them is popular

        • bigmamat

          They way my kid destroys buds and phones there is no way I’d pay more than $20 for a pair. He’d just have to wait until he makes his first million.

          • One for all

            first million won? :P

          • bigmamat

            Dollars…sorry I meant dollars…

      • Mighty曹

        I don’t suppose ‘sound quality’ matters as these attention whores are only wearing them as a fashion statement.

        • bigmamat

          They’re listening to Kpop after all.

          • Mighty曹


    • Mighty曹

      Hey Pete! Long time. How ya been?

      • Peter Pottinger

        Who are you?

        • Mighty曹


          (from chinaSMACK)

          • Peter Pottinger

            Isn’t it the same website?

          • Mighty曹

            I don’t understand.
            Anyway, we interacted in some stories there. We were both engaged in a war of words with some idiot (I think it was Jin). Well, I got banned from there so I haven’t been there of late.

          • Peter Pottinger

            Ah ok, most articles are link-bait garbage but its interesting to see whats popular over on the other side of the world and my homeland

          • Mighty曹

            Yes, indeed.

  • commander

    The class system in pre modern times gave rise to an equal society in status, but people’s urge to differentiate themselves from others as noble beings remain unchanged.

    Capitalistic society sets the differentiation standard for people: the more money you have, the more successuful you are perceived as by others and the more admiring looks you get.

    Expensive brand-name items can easily satisfy a person’s desire to get recognized and differentiated over others, compared to other elements like a prestigious career that require a long period of devotion.

    But what is paradoxical is that the more easily the differentiation desire get quenched, the quickly the satisfaction is gone. After all, anyone who can have enough money to burn can show off extravagant items.

    The trap is that the satisfaction can be refilled with another phrase if a person is born with a silver spoon in mouth, most of ordinary people can’t afford to fulfill the fleeting monent of vanity indefintely.

  • harvz

    Lol consumer whores.

    • Mighty曹

      …and the price (literally) to pay to be one.

  • nqk123

    my $10 ear buds sound fine.

    • YourSupremeCommander

      Getting a blow job from Peter is not the same as one from Gisele.

    • Go to a headphone shop and try some yourself. You just can’t go back. That being said, $200 for a pair of headphones outside professional music production circle is bullshit.

      • Zappa Frank

        obviously.. and even more considering what kind of music they listen… but it’s fashion.. even a bag of Gucci do the same job of a plastic bag

        • Olivier69


          Yeah, but if like to see you date a female that uses a grocery plastic bag as a purse. Lol Some things makes more sense than others. Just wearing headphones around your neck for no apparent reason than as a fashion statement, makes you look like a real Junior Achiever (jack*ss)!

  • Torgrim

    asg;ihsagusabg tried to make a coherent comment. Can’t. The cheaper pair is $500.,,, brain…. not responding….. $1200 headphones and 128kbps mp3 playback….why Korea why??!! You’re so promising…..

  • Mighty曹

    Just about every professional athlete in the US cannot be seen without one. Sigh….

    • YourSupremeCommander

      DWade wears Li-Ning shoes. DA WHAT, WHO!?

      • PeninsularMan

        DWade has a sponsorship by Li-Ning. Monster doesn’t sponsor any US athletes, yet they all wear the headphones…

  • bigmamat

    I was under the impression that a down jacket in Korea is a must due to the bitter cold winters. This isn’t a lot different than American kids and game consoles, although a $1000 is a but much, for an Xbox. Beats start at around $199.00 and go up to $499.00 through the official website. The official website actually has a pull down menu with international prices, there is one in Korean, in Hangul.

  • Claude

    I recommend the original Klipsche Image s4 ear buds. These $99 dollar buds sound like $200 dollar buds. And for the gym, the $20 dollar koss ksc75’s will shock you how good they are and they have a life time warranty. They’re ugly but it’s just the gym. Everybody looks like shit at the gym.

    I’ll let these ridicules brats flush their money down the toilet on overpriced audio gear. They’re just compressed MP3 files, They’re stupid if they think a Pair of $1000 headphones will make a MP3 sound optimal.

    • Mighty曹

      I have the noise-cancelling buds by Shure ($199) and Panasonic ($98). I like the Panasonic better. (It’s got tighter bass).

      • Claude

        I like to try Shure’s because you can replace the cables instead of tossing out a good pair of buds. It’s hard to find a repairman willing to repair your favorite buds because the wire’s are so delicate. But, I never owned Shure’s so I cannot comment on the sound. They’d have to be better than beats.

        • Mighty曹

          Shure is among the best. Overall quality across the frequency spectrum range is extremely ‘clean’ and clear. I use them for Classical music listening. But for other genres it’s a tad ‘flat’ (bass) for my liking for

        • RockStaE

          I have a pair of Sure SE425 and absolutely love them. They are more like a monitor, reproducing the sound as the artist intended not adding as much bass as possible. The only problem I have with them is they can get painfully loud if you forget to turn down your source.

    • mr.magoo

      only wannabe gangsters and losers wear beats.These are absoutley shithouse.Da best is seinheisser.Also gangsters in korea,us and chavs wear north face and avoid this company as well.

    • Claude

      I should add, Klipsche recently “improved” The Klipsche Image S4 by giving them more bass. They ruined them. Now the mids are muddy but now the originals S4’s are discounted. If you look around you can find them for $55 bucks. That’s crazy value trust me.

  • pepp

    i literally paid $9 dollars for my headphones. If it works then that’s all that matters.

    • Uh…no. While it’s ridiculous to shell out $950 on Beats, there’s nothing wrong with paying a meager $15-$25 for a decent pair of budget headphones. I find it hard to believe that any self-professed “sone” could be content listening to SNSD on a pair of cheap headphones whose only qualification is that they’re not broken. For a dedicated music enthusiast (which I’m assuming hardcore K-pop fans are, but maybe I’m wrong), getting a decent pair of headphones is a more than worthy investment.

      • Boris

        Music enthusiast and K-pop fans are not the same thing. It’s like calling people who like the Spice Girls, Music connoisseurs.

      • pepp

        Uh….yes. I am content with listening to SNSD or the rest of my musical interests on what you call “cheap headphones” (fyi people like that exist). I am not one of those people who need top quality headphones.
        I don’t see the point in having hundreds of dollars headphones nor is it bad to have 15-20 dollar headphones. I never said it was, way to get your post out of nowhere.

        • I’m just pointing out that it’s like watching YouTube music videos at 360p. $20 headphones are hardly “top quality headphones”––they’re like watching YouTube music videos at 480p (which is sufficient for most people, and marginally better than 360p).

          Btw, I find it amusing that you upvoted Boris’ comment. You realize he was insulting k-pop fans, right?

      • FYIADragoon

        I’d say you’re a bit optimistic about K-pop fans actually. Seeing as part of the appeal is simply how polished the “idols” in the groups are, I don’t think the emphasis is entirely on the music. Myself being a headphone enthusiast, I would say that people that really care about headphones will typically have a wider range of musical tastes or at least be into listening to genres that offer more diversity than the somewhat recycled sounds K-pop enjoys. I enjoy K-pop too, but I’m not really hardcore on it, and I don’t think it utilizes the power of my headphones.

        • I was admittedly being facetious when I likened hardcore K-pop fans to dedicated music enthusiasts, but I’d still think that a devoted K-pop fan would want to experience K-pop at its highest possible quality. Unlike, say, punk rock or certain 80s thrash metal (*cough*AJFA*cough*), K-pop is highly produced and therefore, in my opinion, has a considerable amount to benefit from good audio equipment.

    • CCCP

      I bought mine on taobao for 3 yuan (about 50¢ USD) and they work perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned.

    • audiophile

      that’s cos you havn’t tried listening with proper audio equipment. and i don’t just mean using your friend’s $500 headphone to listen to mp3s on your iphone. I mean with DAC, pre apms, amps, quality copper wires listening from vinyl sound sources.

      with that kind of set up, even i love listening to SNSD.

      • RegisterToPost

        I’ll bet you use $5000 monster cables to eliminate electroviscosity interference.

  • YouAreSilly

    Dre headphones are perfect for listening to your selection of three compressed K-Pop songs on your Galaxy Note.

  • One for all

    lool….Credit card Korea.

    The irony is….they can’t even differentiate between the sound quality. The just want the logo

  • Quentin

    sheeple, lol.

  • FYIADragoon

    I laughed at the people in the Korean comments trying to reason for the quality of Beats headphones. I have a pair because they look nice and money isn’t a problem for me, but the quality is that of a 50 USD headphone. Hilariously, “Dr. Dre’s hip-hop headphone” has a shitty bass response. I have to stop myself from vomiting every time I hear anything made by Monster or Bose mentioned in the same sentence as “quality.” If it’s not Sennheiser (probably your best bet for affordability), AKG, Grados, or Beyerdynamic, don’t bother. Koss and ATH occasionally get lucky. Though If a celeb is wearing the headphone it probably isn’t any good (quality headphone companies don’t need to pay a famous person to wear their product for people to realize the quality).

    • Renjick

      Seriously. And Grados look sick as fuck if they want to wear something as an accessory AND have decent cans.

    • UserID01

      I got a pair of Beats for Christmas last year, which is the only reason I’d ever have them in my possession. While the earbuds do a great job at noise cancellation, if all you’re doing is listening to compressed music files (MP3s and the like), you really can’t tell the difference between a $100 pair and a $10 pair. Really, you can’t. On top of it, thank goodness I got the insurance on them because they broke before the year was up. The second pair broke after the left speaker was blown out, something that I find ridiculous because I just don’t listen to my music at high volumes, and they claim insurance doesn’t cover blown speakers. Fantastic policy.

  • Stefan Xu

    BEATS are not even good. Sony, Sennheiser, etc are the real good ones

    • audiophile

      sony’s arent that great either.

  • Gotta get the most expensive kind to hear the SCVs mine

    • Daniel Covington

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Omg. Am I the only one that gets this? FUCKING BEAUTIFUL MAN!

  • Guest

    what a waste of money. why do kids living in korea need to wear canada goose jackets?? those are considered a waste of money in canada, the only people who buy them are the rich and foolish, and people who actually live up in the northern territories and need them cause it’s f*cking cold up there all year round and it’s a smart investment.

    • John

      Canadian here, I bought them cuz they’re super warm when im out walking at night in winter. they’re expensive but I wouldnt say its a waste, you get what you pay for. I agree with the Korea statement though, seoul has similar climate to new york, a regular northface jacket would be enough.

    • catmando1980

      Sorry-some of us are willing to pay for the best. I’d rather have a Quality Made-in-Canada jacket, than a Chinese jacket stuffed with chicken feathers. I’d also say plenty of places in Korea get colder than F*ck,too.

    • Lulu

      It’s cold in canada too.. And they’re one of the stylish yet warm jackets out on the market. I don’t own one but wouldn’t ppl rather wear that coat than a Trench coat?

  • holdingrabbits

    They could just say “no,” right? If only they knew how much more they were paying because of protectionist policies on imports. I think I gagged when I heard the price of a North Face jacket in Korea.

    • Sillian

      North Face’s one and only importer in Korea was controlling the prices and they were fined for that last year.

    • chucky3176

      It’s not the protectionist policies. It’s the greedy importers and brand makers who purposely jack up the prices and take huge amount of mark ups. Their logic is correct, the more expensive the price is, the more Koreans willing to fork over the money thinking they’re getting quality. Premium branding works in Korea. Another reason for higher prices is the Korea’s ancient distribution system where middlemen after middlemen take their small slices of markups.

  • Chris Wagner

    Dr Dre is lauging all the way to the bank because of these. Black, urban, and now suburban America crave Beats. Paying $300 for headphones that are equivalent to $50-100 headphones from other brands, to listen to compressed, poorly EQ’d hip-hip/pop/club music (and now K-pop)… the human race is mostly just a race to see who can scam and win the most.

    • Digitalsoju

      When you see someone wearing Beats By Dre, it let’s you know that person isn’t worth getting to know. Life is all about shortcuts right? lol

      • Kiwi

        This is golden

    • bang2tang

      in modern times we don’t have natural selection on human.

  • commander

    I am a layman about headphones.
    Is there anyone who can tell me if those exorbitant brand-name headphones have any sound quality worth its eye-popping price or it’s just price bubbles?

    • audiophile

      definitely not. flashy brands like beats and bose are generally not considered to be ‘audiophile’ equipment and are only a step up from your generic ear buds.

      That said, they are a big step up from your average iphone earpods and thats why many people are impressed with them because they are probably the first set of headphones they have ever tried. for the same amount of money, brands like sennheiser, audio-technica, AKG etc will give you much higher quality over these jokers

      • bang2tang

        it’s will be better for teens to join audiophile forum, lol
        not buying something just because of hype.

      • Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, and AKG are all brand-name headphones…

  • audiophile

    wtf, beats are terrible headphones. try some AKG, Sennheiser, Grado instead. and don’t forget your DAC and tube amps!

  • LOL EW. Beats by Dr. Dre? Aside from being such a vapid waste of money, it’s so 2008

  • bumfromkorea

    There is no way these kids need anything more expensive than a $5 headphone when all they’re listening to is that K-Pop crap (which apparently began this trend in the first place).

    The answer is simple. Destroy the Three-Headed Dragon. Korea will be a much better place.

  • Yaminah Jamison

    ….my earbuds were like, $20 but on sale for $10 and has a mic. I personally don’t need big headphones they’re uncomfy to have on while sleeping. I am also a cheap person..

  • Benjamin Adriance

    The headphones cost about 300 bucks at most on A fool and their money are soon parted!

  • Akatosh

    Ah koreans

  • bang2tang

    it’s easier to sell you product if you are targeting teenager as your consumer, lol.

  • goldengluvsk2

    O__o I bought a pair of earbuds for like $12 and it was too much imo so I felt I’d have a heartattack when I read that mother paid $472 for the “cheaper” headphone.. headphones are hella uncomfortable!! why would they want those? and can I say those parents are spineless? its their fault their children are like that… cant they just say no?!!

  • LuxeLife

    and i thought WE were crazy for buying his headphones at +$199 shiittt!

  • MacingFacing

    I went out and brought a pair of Skullcandy headphones. Which were deemed as the best here in the States. I got them and no more than three days later they broke. I wont even start to talk about the sound quality. I listen to drum & bass. If I pay $30 for a pair of headphones. The bass better be kicking. Null and void with the Skullcandy earbuds. I went to the Family Dollar store and brought a pair of RCA earbuds for $6. I have never purchased any other headphones since. It’s hilarious how status (All Seeing Eye) is preferred over the quality of a product. It’s not just Koreans. It’s humans. At it’s weakest form. Dre Beat headphones are prime example of mind over matter.

  • Kiwi

    Poor people telling others what to do with their money, heh

  • belita ross

    I refuse to spend more that 25 dollars on headphones, period.

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