Kmusic + Kdrama = World domination

3월 21, 2012 at 9:15 오전
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By John Glynn

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ranks the overseas success of “K-pop” amongst his country’s greatest accomplishments. This is rather astonishing, right? The global influence of K-pop is undeniable. The popularity of Korean music is by no means a fluke; South Korea has developed a complete industry devoted to identifying attractive actors and singers and turning them into global superstars, cautiously managing their appearance and every move. These immaculate styled productions are now the norm, and a few bands such as TVXQ and 2PM were created with one eye solely focused on the overseas markets. The music is modeled on American pop, but with slight adjustments, performances are crisper and the focus on style is unprecedented, something that appeals wholeheartedly to Asian youth.
I recently visited Taiwan, and honestly, I was swept away by their love for Korean culture, Korean entertainment dominates the airwaves. Almost all the top drama channels in Taiwan show a minimum of two South Korean soap operas a day, these are shown at peak evening hours, and music shows deliver the latest in K-pop news. In all honesty, for the TV stations, it’s probably cheaper to buy the Korean hits than develop their own shows — better to go with something guaranteed to deliver as opposed to something that might not generate any interest. When my friend suggested we go to a noraebang, I realized the impact that Korean music is having on Asia. Some people there were singing and mimicking the dance moves of 2NE1. We actually ended the night at a Korean restaurant next door.
When compared with some other Asian performers, Koreans’ seem to have an advanced level of body language, especially for comic effects. On top of this, Korean shows seem to shun the use of crude language, unlike Taiwanese programs, for example. In Thailand, incredibly excited fans flock to various K-pop concerts, furiously waving homemade, backlit support signs. The influence of Korean entertainment is rampant here. Korean celebrities endorse products aimed at young children and teenagers, everything from clothing to scooters. Astonishingly, in the Philippines, the often peculiar themes of South Korean TV seem to dominate the airwaves. Identifying oneself with the various characters can be difficult, so networks make it a little easier by dubbing some shows in Tagalog and giving the characters Filipino names. Amusingly, when Kwon Sang-woo visited Manila a few years ago, fans called him “Cholo” — his Tagalog name in the popular drama “Stairway to Heaven.” Taiwanese, Filipino and Thai teens are relentlessly trying to achieve that distinctive Korean look, constantly snapping up cosmetics from South Korea. Along with the beauty products, contact lenses that make one’s eyes look bigger, like the adorable characters in Japanese and Korean comics, are also extremely popular.
In Taiwan, a hairstylist informed me that some of his clients request a hairstyle similar to actress Ha Ji-won’s, this started to occur shortly after the drama “Secret Garden” started to air there. He also told me that the male contingent request a hairstyle like that of actor Lee Min-ho, who was catapulted into the limelight after the success of the hit series “Boys over Flowers.”
There’s no doubt that Korean pop culture has become a global phenomenon. It’s rapidly gaining recognition within American pop culture, with celebrities such as Perez Hilton endorsing its “awesomeness.” Korean music and the eternal style that accompanies it has captured the imagination. Quite recently the phenomenon traveled at super-sonic speed across the Pacific, influencing both the Korean and non-Korean contingent. Girls’ Generation went and signed with Interscope to release music in the USA, and then Billboard decided on introducing a K-Pop Hot 100 chart. The last time I checked “Blue” by Big Bang was occupying top spot. At this time, Big Bang were also occupying chart position number two and number three with “Love Dust” and “Bad Boy.” The global madness of K-pop is now a common way for Korean Americans to communicate with Koreans’ from the “motherland.” When the news broke about Jay Park’s departure from 2PM, girls in America and Korea mourned collectively through online discussions and various chat rooms.
K-pop’s influence on both Asian and western teens is not without its faults. The Korean culture of constantly focusing on beauty and appearance is not healthy; it has pushed some teens to the point of paranoia, convinced that “real” beauty requires plastic surgery. On the other hand, most Korean music has uncontaminated lyrics and positive messages—it is not that common to find songs about partying, taking drugs or hooking up. This innocent, more conservative image originates from Korean culture and its strict censoring policy, thus rigorously limiting the content of many songs and videos in Korea. Hilariously, singers like Rain can have their lyrics censored for having words like “magic stick” in their songs, while in the west; artists can dedicate an entire song to the magnificence and splendor of their “magic stick.”
As a foreigner living in Korea, I find myself surrounded by K-pop fanatics, I’ve been able to witness the passion that so many people have for the style and the appearance that seems to accompany Korean music. There are times when I think that the whole K-pop craze is just a little insufferable, but ultimately, I think it is a constructive, if unforeseen, influence on both Asia and the western world. In addition to this, some of the tunes are so infuriatingly catchy, any person that says “Sorry Sorry” or “Troublemaker” didn’t make an impression on them is a liar. Okay, maybe that’s a little strong, but some of the tunes are undeniably memorable.
A stipulation must be made for those who may want to ridicule the K-pop industry or the phenomenon without merit. For any person who feels the need to poke fun, one thing is clear, they have not experienced a night of fun at a ‘noraebang’, acting childish and rather inane with friends while singing songs that are not quite up to the musical standards of Clapton or Neil Young. Such western arrogance forgets that America and Europe helped produce Billy Ray Cyrus, The Vengaboys, Aqua, N-Sync, Ricky Martin, Lou Bega, Backstreet Boys, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers & Rebecca Black.


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