The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Tag: K-pop


If you’re the sort who enjoys racial flame wars, I bring you:

– “Racism paints K-pop into corner” in the Korea Times. I found Tiger JKs contribution to the discussion interesting, because it’s not like he hasn’t had to deal with accusations of racism before (albeit directed at melanin deficient people, which I suppose makes it OK in this day and age).

– Katy Perry. Jesus. Anyway, Tao Jones has a good post on why this was wrong on several levels at the WSJ, with a shot at Samsung as an added bonus:

As part of a marketing partnership, the AMAs and Samsung Mobile tweeted this exclusive picture of Katy Perry backstage, prior to her geisha-a-go-go performance, scrawled with the line “I THINK I’M TURNING AMA” — a reference to the British band The Vapors’ 1980 song “Turning Japanese.” Do the AMAs and Samsung not realize that some people view the subject of that song as a racist metaphor for masturbation?

K-Pop a cappella – Gangnam Redux

Pentatonix is an monstrously talented a cappella group, of five singers, from Texas that have one of the best Korean accents I’ve heard yet for any non-Korean that covers K-pop songs.  Just check out their version of Psy’s Gangnam Style and followed by a killing version of a Daft Punk cover.  Their website is here:

Still not talking to Japan, PGH’s sneakers, N. Korean beauties, K-pop and Youtube, and frisky students

Not talking to Japan

Note to President Park: Look, I happen to agree that certain Japanese leaders are being, to put it politely, dickheads, Still, don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit here:

All of which makes South Korea’s current relationship with Japan all the more striking. Eight months after taking office, Ms Park has still not met her neighbour and fellow US ally, and talk of a summit, she said, was still premature.

“The fact is there are certain issues that complicate [that relationship]” she said. “One example is the issue of the comfort women. These are women who have spent their blossoming years in hardship and suffering, and spent the rest of their life in ruins.”

“And none of these cases have been resolved or addressed; the Japanese have not changed any of their positions with regard to this. If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one.”

I don’t see PM Abe and Co. growing more repentant any time soon, which means unless Park wants to spend however long Abe lasts pretending the man doesn’t exist, she’s eventually going to have to talk to him, and when she does, she’s going to look like she’s giving in.

Nice kicks

I suppose Park isn’t completely anti-Japanese. Certain jokes—most of them related to “Park Chung-hee” and “Japanese uniforms”—probably present themselves at this point. I won’t make them, though.

North Korean beauties

In Japan Focus, Christopher K. Green and Stephen J. Epstein look at “Ije mannareo gamnida,” the Channel A program that could be seen as Misuda, but with North Korean beauties. Read it in its entirely—here’s just the into:

In 2011, the recently established South Korean broadcasting network Channel-A launched Ije mannareo gamnida (Now on My Way to Meet You), a program whose format brings together a group of a dozen or more female talbukja (North Korean refugees)2 on a weekly basis. These women interact with host Nam Hui-seok, an additional female co-host (or, in the earlier episodes, two), and a panel composed of four male South Korean entertainers. Episodes typically open in a lighthearted manner, with conversation about daily life in North Korea alongside mild flirtation between the Southern male and Northern female participants, often involving song and dance, but climax with a talbuk seuteori, an emotionally harrowing narrative from one of the border-crossers detailing her exodus from North Korea. Via this framework Ije mannareo gamnida attempts to nurture the integration of North Korean refugees into South Korean society; personalization of their plight occurs in conjunction with reminders of a shared Korean identity maintained despite the regime they have fled, which is depicted as cruel, repressive and backward. The show has proven a minor hit within South Korea and received coverage from local and global media (see, e.g., Kim 2012; Choi 2012; Noce 2012).

The unusual subject matter of Ije mannareo gamnida itself renders the show worthy of analysis; equally significantly, it offers a useful window into attempts to address South Korea’s increasingly diverse society, which now includes a large number of North Koreans, as well as media practice in the face of this demographic shift. Nevertheless, other than journalistic treatment, only a limited number of South Korean scholars (e.g. Tae and Hwang 2012; Oh 2013) and Western academic bloggers (Draudt and Gleason 2012) have thus far investigated the show and its larger social ramifications. In this paper, we ask how Now on My Way to Meet You is to be understood within the contexts of South Korean society, its evolving media culture, and developments in South Korean popular representations of North Koreans. We offer close readings of segments from Ije mannareo gamnida in order to elicit motifs that recur as it pursues its stated goal of humanizing North Korea for a South Korean audience and giving defectors a voice amidst the general populace. Given that the show’s very title intimates that a genuine encounter is about to take place, one might reasonably ask how successfully Ije mannareo gamnida establishes a meeting point for South Koreans with these recent arrivals from North Korea: in other words, does the show fulfill its stated aim of breaking down prejudices against North Korean refugees and supplying them with a vehicle that allows self-expression?3 Or, alternatively, does it reinforce, even if unintentionally, pre-existing regimes of knowledge and actually impede understanding of North Korea and its people? As we will argue, given the broader sociopolitical context, the show’s desire to reinforce elements of commonality between North and South while illuminating life in North Korea leads to a double bind: viewers are encouraged to recognize homogeneity with the newcomers based on a shared ethnic and cultural identity, even as the conversations and editing techniques applied to the material often represent the Northern panelists as Others.

K-pop and Youtube

Over at the WSJ, Jeff Yang asks why Girls’ Generation and K-Pop won big at the YouTube Music Awards. Ordinarily, I’d say the answer to that is simple—there is no God—but then again, considering the disgrace that was the MTV Music Awards, perhaps somebody really is watching over us.

Anyway, to win those sorts of things, a passionate fan base and a very mobile-savvy population help:

Having just returned from an extended trip to Korea, I can attest to that: For Korean consumers, whose mobile broadband cups runneth over, watching video is like breathing — they’re virtually never not in front of a screen, whether they’re sitting on the subway, walking through busy intersections, or hanging out at home. It’s quite common to see family members in Korean households sitting around “alone together,” each viewing their own media on their own respective screens while ostensibly in the same room. I was, in fact, nearly run over by a kid watching some kind of video while riding a bicycle, steering with his elbows. And a huge percentage of the content they watch is music videos — almost all of it via streaming sites like YouTube.

“When country restrictions are in place, like the way every country has its own iTunes Store, one can’t witness the power of a global K-pop fanbase,” says Jeff Benjamin, who covers K-Pop for the music industry’s periodical of record, Billboard. “But when no restrictions are in place, like on YouTube, it’s amazing what they can do. ‘I Got a Boy’ received millions of views in its first few hours.”

Hey, anything to beat Justin Bieber.

Keep your hands to yourselves, kids!

The first reaction to hearing that kids are getting punished for holding hands at school may be, “Gee, how medieval.”

Then again, at least I haven’t read about kids recording themselves having sex in class. So perhaps the Korean schools are on to something here.

Psy Done Up for The Roaring Twenties

Gentleman (Vintage 1920s Gatsby - Style Psy Cover)

As a musical break from this tedious video crap, there is a pianist (Scott Bradlee) that does re-arrangments of today’s pop tunes in stride and Dixeland styles and it is surprisingly fun.  Bradlee covered Psy’s “Gentlemen” and it is a hoot to hear the Korean lyric done up in a Dixieland style.  I only wish Scott used a real piano for this one.


Hey ya’ll! It’s K-Country!

I hear tell that them folks over there in tha K-pop studios, that’s producin’ all them fine tunes, are gettin’ wise to tha fact that their, ohhh, what’s that word… genre, might be gettin’ a little on tha stale side.

They’s a figurin’ that dog just won’t hunt forevuh. So, looks like they done went and thunk on tryin’ supmtin’ new. Country K-pop!

From Time Magazine:

Country music and K-Pop may seem like strange bedfellows right now, but musicians and producers are betting that this unlikely union could yield the next chart-busting hit. Meaning: we could start hearing American-music influences in one of the world’s most popular and dynamic pop genres.

I ain’t too crazy about them “bedfellows” they talkin’ ’bout, what with a lotta them fellah singers already lookin’ a little girly, but K-pop mixed with country? Hail yeah!

As fer that “American influence” they speakin’ of well, I didn’t even know that K-pop was a traditional Korean music. Now I love it even more. I’m callin’ mama!


Just because you have issues with K-pop doesn’t mean you have to be a dick about it

Even for the Global Times, this is pretty low:

June 23, 2011 was a sad day for South Korean Pop fans the world over when news broke that Lee Eun Mi, 24, was reportedly stabbed 65 times by a jealous boyfriend who saw red after Lee had broken up with him. Lee had been the lead vocalist of the girl band Iris and made her debut in 2005 with the group’s first album, Message of Love.

It’s not known whether the beau in question understood the point of this particular message or if he, like many young Chinese, just simply didn’t like the over-produced, sugary and image-centric nature of K-Pop.

One is tempted to castigate the writer, a one Jonny Clement Brown, but I suppose anyone along the assembly line—contributor Qian Chengya, copy editor, editor-in-chief, etc.—could have written that lede.

Besides, waking up every morning having to head to work at the Global Times has got to be punishment enough.

K-pop’s goodbye to the girl next door

I know, I am twice in one week posting something K-pop related, but The Grand Narrative’s James Turnbull has written an interesting piece for Haps on the emerging trend of sexuality in Korean girl groups which is well worth a read.

Though they don’t exactly dress like the girl next door, standard-bearers such as Girls Generation certainly sing like they are:

…for all the leg displayed in the MVs, the common theme of the lyrics is the submissiveness, timidity, innocence and/or virginity of the singers, overwhelmed by their strange new feelings for the male love interest.

Of course, most of the songs are written by men, but female lyricists like Kim Eana are shaking things up with more “controversial” themes. And then there is the video “Bloom” by Brown Eyed Girls’ Ga-in.

Sporting blonde locks, two minutes into the video she suddenly appears in a tight red sweater, strongly resembling 1940s Hollywood actresses like Lana Turner—and just as sassy. Add leather hot pants, and you immediately sense something big is up. And, indeed, almost before you know it, she’s masturbating on her kitchen floor.

You can read the rest here.

On a side note, I am a fan of Hyun-a’s tattoo that reads: “My mother is the heart that keeps me alive.” That’s nice.

And in good Korean-related news from Australia…

Well, at least we got a K-pop reference

(HT tor reader)

Gangnam Style: Americans just late to the party

In Foreign Policy, Mark Russell notes what while Americans might be learning about K-pop for the first time, Korean pop culture has been a big deal in Asia and elsewhere for quite a while:

Korean pop culture may not (yet) turn heads in Los Angeles or London, but its impact — economic as well as cultural — across the developing world is startling. First taking off in China and Southeast Asia in the late 1990s, but really spiking after 2002, Korean TV dramas and pop music have since moved to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and now even parts of South America. “Gangnam Style,” a music video by the rapper/satirist PSY, has been viewed 292 million times since it was released in July. Since then he’s been welcomed with open arms, and has been spotted teaching several celebrities his iconic “horsey dance.”

Indeed, the rise of K-Pop is the bellwether of a variety of trends that are changing the global economy (and emerging markets in particular) in fundamental ways. Its success as a product – but, more importantly, as a cultural brand promoting Korean exports ranging from soft drinks to cosmetics to consumer electronics — suggests that Western countries aren’t likely to have a lock on the hearts and wallets of developing countries for long. More generally, it illustrates the new reality that the North-South pattern of trade and cultural exchange that has dominated the world since the ascendance of European colonialism is giving way and making room for unexpected soft power.

Read the rest on your own.

The Power of Youtube

We have had discussions in the past about the power of the number of youtube clicks in relation to k-pop, so I feel like I must link to the after-MTV VMA-awards-interview with Psy here:
I only recently experienced its power a about a month ago in some god-forsaken town in Denmark where my brother hit the local “hotspot” he got the name off a hot blond Danish girl working in a sushi retaurant, only to find only one girl dancing in the “club” (it was a Wednesday night) and they were playing “Kangnam Style” in the “club”. How random!

There have been a lot of mainstream interest from big Hollywood names and talk shows in this guy, as I’m sure you all know and can link to in the comments section below.

Talking of funny music videos, my brother showed me these two by 정턱과 쾌남들:
내친구 매리야스
Hilarious, if you understand Korean.

And if you need more ‘SNSD on Letterman’ commentary…

I direct you to Mike’s post at Scribblings of the Metropolitician.

Here’s what I’ll say about K-pop. As with most pop music, I hate it—a lot of it is manufactured bubble-gum crap. On the plus side, though, unlike with American pop music, I’ve never dispaired for the future of civilization after listening to a K-pop song. In that regard, I wish it luck in the States, “codes” or no “codes.”

I’m going to listen to some Kim Kwang-seok now…

So, what DO young Europeans think of first when they think of Korea?

Sadly, according to a poll by KOTRA, it’s not K-pop or kimchi.

It’s North Korea.

Which brings us to something Tweeted by friend and former collegue Elizabeth Shim:

So where’s South Korea in the Top 10 Amazon bestsellers in the Korea category? All about N Korea and the Korean War: link

As I’ve said (and Tweeted) 1,000 times, one of the reasons I hate North Korea most is that it has stolen attention away from the Korea that did everything (mostly) right. Seoul engineers one of the greatest socio-economic miracles of the 20th century, and the media focuses its attention on the auto-genocidal douchebags on the other side of the DMZ.

First protesting K-dramas. Now this.

When will Japanese insults against Korean pop culture stop?

The humanity!

Running Amok at KBS . . .

KBS says don’t run down the street or your music video won’t get played, fool!
Whatever happened to the good old days of bands on TV?
Much thanks to k-popped! for this classic example of media/social screwiness.

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