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Cultural technology and the making of K-pop

October 17, 2012

t was five o’clock on a Sunday in May, two hours before showtime, but already thousands of K-pop fans had flooded the concrete playa outside the Honda Center, a large arena in Anaheim, California. Tonight’s performers were among the biggest pop groups in South Korea—SHINee, f(x), Super Junior, EXO, TVXQ!, and Girls’ Generation. In the United States, Korean pop music exists almost exclusively on YouTube, in videos like “Gangnam Style,” by Park Jae-sang, the rapper known as PSY, which recently went viral. The Honda Center show was a rare chance for K-pop fans to see the “idols,” as the performers are called, in the flesh.

K-pop is an East-West mash-up. The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavor, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dubstep breaks. K-pop has become a fixture of pop charts not only in Korea but throughout Asia, including Japan—the world’s second-biggest music market, after the U.S.—and Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. South Korea, a country of less than fifty million, somehow figured out how to make pop hits for more than a billion and a half other Asians, contributing two billion dollars a year to Korea’s economy, according to the BBC. K-pop concerts in Hong Kong and on mainland China are already lucrative, and no country is better positioned to sell recorded music in China, a potentially enormous market, should its endemic piracy be stamped out. Yet, despite K-pop’s prominence in Asia, until recently few in the United States had heard of it. SMTown World Tour III, named for S.M. Entertainment, the Korean music company that is sponsoring the global tour, is hoping to change things, through a unique system of “cultural technology.”

Excerpt from an article written by John Seabrook, New Yorker. Continue HERE

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