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Love it, hate it, too afraid to admit it. RachelLaw says
you can’t escape the Korean pop culture wave.
eady or not, Korean pop music has already pulled
the veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) on
us. Unlike Bieber fever, the K-pop phenomenon has
captivated both men and women alike: the fairer sex
covet pretty faces and stick-thin silhouettes while
men aspire to own the masculine physique and
styled hair of their celebrity counterparts. I think the latter would
even turn gay for Big Bang’s Tae Yang.
I approached a friend regarding the fad; lo and behold, she
started spilling the A to Zs of her knowledge and
passion for it! Her daily life revolves around K-pop;
she checks out the latest news and music videos,
translates and learns the lyrics to her favourite
songs, and if she has time, masters the dance
moves in the music videos too. As with most
K-pop fans, she goes on K-drama marathons,
and her latest gadget is a Samsung smart
for K-p p!
phone endorsed by her beloved K-pop group, Infinite. My friend,
by the way, is only 15!
Hallyu-ing the world?
Asia is certainly riding the hallyu (Korean wave) despite the fact
that a majority of the people in Asian countries do not even speak
or understand Korean. In fact, K-pop has been overshadowing its
Japanese counterpart, which ruled the air waves in the ‘90s with
kawaii (cute) bubblegum pop and poignant, slow ballads. Now
that they’re topping the music charts of the world’s second largest
music market, tell me how is language a barrier? Slowly but
surely, the wave is seeping into Europe and the USA, home of
the biggest music industry in the world.
You know that K-pop wants a slice of the American pie
when one of its top groups of the moment, Girls Generation
(also known as SNSD), made its USA debut on The Late Night
Show With David Letterman just three months ago and the
Who are the two members of Girls
Generation who grew up in the USA?
A. Taeyeon and Jessica
B. Tiffany and Jessica
C. Tiffany and Sunny
This group recently replaced Girls
Generation as the brand ambassador
for home-wellness appliances
Which group was stranded in Cebu in
the Philippines, while filming a music
video because of a typhoon?
A. FT Island
RESULTS!5-6 correct answers >> K-frenzied!
K-pop is not just a music genre to
you, but a lifestyle. You literally
watch, listen, dress, speak and dine
like a Seoul-cialite!
3-4 correct answers >> K-popped!
Brownie points; you are aware of
this pop culture paradigm shift. You
may not be a fanatic, but you keep
an open mind and heart towards a
foreign culture. Kudos!
0-2 correct answers >> K-what?
We can’t know it all and surely,
it’s alright to not jump on the
bandwagon. But if you mindlessly
hate something that you don’t even
know, shame on you!
Quiz: Do you know your K-pop?
The following acts have performed in
Kuala Lumpur except...
How many members were there in
Super Junior originally? How many
‘active’ members do they have now?
A. 12, 9
B. 15, 9
C. 9, 5
Which of these songs is performed by
former 2PM member, Jay Park?
A. I Don’t Care
C. Mirror, Mirror
Did you know?
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Mei Hsuan, Accounts Executive, 21
What do you love about K-pop? “It’s a refreshing change from
mainstream American and British music we listen to on the radio.
Many would argue that if we don’t even understand the language,
it’s absurd to be so immersed with K-pop but lyric translations can
be found everywhere on the Net.”
When and how did you get sucked into the wave? “A few
years back, after watching several Korean dramas. Undeniably, the
soundtracks were amazing and I contracted K-pop fever without realising it!”
Prospects of K-pop as an international culture? “Yes, it will dominate the West.
A survey by tvN e-news concludes that K-pop’s dance style and music, along with
attractive looks, do captivate Western youth and thus, leads to a huge frenzy.”
Liyana, Student, 24
When and how did
you get sucked
into the wave?
“I first heard
about K-pop about
three years ago. My
roommate showed me
reality shows featuring Super Junior and
their music videos. I’ve been addicted to
K-pop ever since!”
Your favourites and why? “My
favourite group would be Big Bang! Its
music and style are different from other
groups. The boys are good looking and
have wonderful voices. Just perfect!”
Love it and proud of it or hate to
admit it? “I absolutely love it and proud
to say that I’m a fan!”
Weng Lum, Management
What do you love about K-pop? “I like
that it is always changing; new materials,
concepts and visuals are thrown right in
your face. Contrary to popular belief that
it’s a rip-off of American pop, I think they
manage to keep it fresh all the time. Just pay
attention to the details.”
Love it and proud of it or hate to admit it? “Definitely the
former. Takes a real man to know and admit what he likes.”
Prospects of K-pop as an international culture? “I think
K-pop isn’t so ‘K’ anymore since they started releasing English
and Japanese songs, which is quite sad. K-pop made waves on
its own merit despite being presented in a language that not
everyone understands. If it can still hold on to its identity and
style, K-pop will do well in both the East and the West.”
Kit, Film student, 22
What do you love about K-pop and
how big a fan are you?
“I like how catchy the music is, no
matter the genre. Also, the female
artistes are really pretty. I support the
groups that I like by purchasing their
albums and official merchandise.”
When and how did you get sucked into the wave?
“It all began when Wonder Girls got big with its hit Nobody. I
started reading about the group, then listened to its music on
YouTube. One music video led to another…”
Your favourites and why? “My favourite or as K-Pop
fans call it ‘bias’ would be SNSD (Girls Generation),
simply because the members have melodious voices and
signature dance moves. A good balance of good vocalists and
Onhighfever!Five K-pop fanatics confess their love for these Asian sensations!
nine-member girl group performed its US maxi single The Boys.
The group subsequently performed it on morning show Live!
However, it was five ‘wonderful’ Korean girls who broke into the
USA first. In 2009, the Wonder Girls kick-started its American
adventure by opening for the Jonas Brothers World Tour and
releasing English versions of the smash hit Nobody and Tell Me.
Since then, the five-member unit has made history by being
the first Korean
act to get on the
Billboard Hot 100,
launch a 20-show
tour in the States
and release a
television movie The Wonder Girls for TeenNick, early this year.
Meanwhile, hundreds of fans outside Asia and the USA
demonstrate from time to time their love for K-pop music and
culture by organising flash mobs. If you log onto YouTube, search
results will give you videos shot in cities and countries all over
the world including Dubai, Dublin, Sydney, Melbourne, Bergen,
London, Russia, Vancouver, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Rome,
Poland and even the Ukraine! A 50-participant flash mob in Times
Square, New York, danced to favourite K-pop tracks... in the rain
Of kimchi and (lots of) ka-ching!
While the rest of the world is overwhelmed by a culturally different
kind of flashy, catchy pop, the dough is rolling in for South Korea.
Truth is, K-pop and K-dramas are not mere forms of entertainment.
The couple work hand-in-hand in soft selling the Korean culture
to its consumers, yet the impact is solid. If you devote yourself
to indulging in Korean entertainment, somewhere along the line
you would want to speak, dine, shop, make up, dress and travel
à la Korean.
Consequently, the tourism sector in South Korea has been
Madstats!In Forbes Korea’s Top 40 ‘Power
Celebrities’, ½ of the
top 20candidates are K-pop
groups. The list is based on income,
influence, fame and expertise.
Only 4K-pop groups made it to
the list last year.
The Korean government reported a
303%increase in exports of
smart phones to South America.
The Korean music industry earned
(RM530million) last year, almost six
times the amount garnered in 2009.
Television dramas earned
(RM755million) last year, a $67
million increase from 2009.
Korea Foundation for International
Culture Exchange ranked Korea at
number 15, three positions
higher than 2011.
In 2010, 923 K-pop official music
videos on YouTube received a total of
almost 800 millionhits!
(Source: Financial Times 2012, Kpopstarz.
com, 2012 and The Korea Daily, 2011)
experiencing a tremendous boom. BBC News reports that the
concerts and award ceremonies doubled to 34,000 in 2010. Case
in point, when male group JYJ (Jaejoong, Yoochun, Junsu) held
two large-scale concerts in the same year, a tourism magazine
speculated the presence of more than 20,000 Japanese visitors and
2,500 hallyu tourists. True enough, Daily K-pop News reported that
over 3,000 international fans flocked Seoul city. A tourist agency
concert venue said
the immense crowd
made it difficult for
travellers to book
hotel rooms in the
city. “This concert would probably have raked in an economic
value of between US$800,000 and US$8million (RM2million to
RM24million),” he added.
In addition, travel agencies began to take advantage of the
success of major hit K-dramas like Winter Sonata (2002) by
offering themed group tours, where tourists get to visit the
locations featured in these dramas. In fact, in 2005, Hangerye
Daily published the rising numbers of Malaysian tourists to South
Korea, a whopping 34,000 increase between 2001 and 2003.
After my research on K-pop, with
lots of music video viewings in the
process, I’ve concluded there’s
no escape from this fad. K-pop
fan or not, you probably own
a bit of Korea, be it a Hyundai
hatchback, Samsung tablet or
The Face Shop sheet masks.
So go ahead, embrace it. I won’t
judge, I promise!
K-Pop groups look and act like real adults, whereas
J-Pop outfits often emphasise adolescent cuteness.
Era, Student, 22
What do you love
about K-pop, and
how big a fan are
you? “K-pop is
really catchy, and I
love that. I even tried
to learn the language!
And of course, I attended several K-pop
concerts in KL.”
Your favourites and why? “Super
Junior, because the group’s funny and
its members have unique personalities,
so evident in variety shows. It produces
really good music and each member is
equally talented. My favourite has got to
be Kim Heechul.”
Love it and proud of it or hate to
admit it? “The former!”