The Wonderful World of Kpop

When I first started to follow Kpop in 2008, the international fandom was burgeoning, and it was the second wave of the genre.  Kpop, or also known as Korean pop music has evolved so much since its conception.  Like Wicker Park, it has seen a boom and in the second wave of capitalism, there had to be some adjustments.

In Richard Lloyd’s Neo-Bohemia, we learn that the neighborhood, Wicker Park, in Chicago had fallen into disarray when factories closed and work was outsourced.  Rising from the ashes comes a neo-bohemian culture that thrives on artistry and authenticity.  Now, rising from ashes from the first wave of Kpop came the interest in going international.  However, the labor laws in South Korea at the time did not cover a lot in entertainment and media, thus many singers and girl/boy bands are thrusted into the limelight with barely any time to sleep.  Schedules are packed from dawn until… dawn.  Their life is their job and their job is their life.

Image of the girl group Ladies Code

Like everything, Kpop has evolved to meet ethical working conditions, however the expectation to work the hardest in their field is mandatory in South Korean culture.  Sometimes it pays off, but we only hear the failures and tragedies most often on media sites.  The most notable tragedy occurred Fall of 2014, when a girl group, Ladies Code, suffered a car accident as a result of the driver speeding in slick and rainy conditions.  Two out of the five members of Ladies Code passed away, and finally people were beginning to see the dangers of trying to meet events timed so close together and over working.

The new generation of Kpop has seen many lawsuits regarding fair work and pay, especially from those who go to South Korea from different countries to pursue a career in Kpop.  The new wave was riding on the remains of the old, and obviously with the changes of time, there had to be amendments in its culture.  With Wicker Park, we saw gentrification occurring within the community after it gained much attention from hipsters and yuppies who wanted to capitalize on the trend.  In Kpop, we see
westernization.  We can relate this to globalization and cultural imperialism as well from Tanner Mirrlees’ Global Entertainment Media.

The Kpop industry can also be related to “Fordism”, the assembly line.   Major companies like YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and SM Entertainment have taken on trainees to become future Kpop stars.  They are trained with all the essential to become an all-around entertainer: singing, acting, comedy, variety…etc.  The difference between Fordism and training a future Kpop star is the expertise that is required to assemble the product.  Henry Ford wanted a way to assemble a car the quickest way possible; some Kpop stars have trained up to 10 years for debut.  They have to endure many checkpoints in their training period that will test their marketability in the Kpop industry.

In today’s music industry, it is a shot in the dark.  Remember Psy’s Gangnam Style?  How many Kpop stars have gotten that much popularity since?  How many new singers do we see on Billboard’s Top 100 list in a yearly basis?  Indeed, there needs to be some assembly required to fit our social standards for music.  Whether it may be following a trend, or bringing something completely new and different to the stage, authenticity can be lost with popular interest.  In the end, we are all constantly buying and constantly selling an image.

Fun sites to take a gander at: AllKpop.com, kpop subreddits

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