Over the course of 3 weeks, I have learned to listen to K-Pop with a more critical ear. I've learned how to analyze K-pop lyrics, MVs and dances. We learned how to interpret lyrics separately from watching the MV to envision what the MV would depict. We also watched the MV first without sound so we could interpret the visuals. Afterwards, we'd watch the whole MV with sound and analyze that compared to the lyrics again. This method helped me get a deeper look into the music which I wouldn't have gotten if not for the program. I would have read the lyrics and watched the music video and I would analyze it but I wouldn't have gone as in-depth as to analyze the visuals separately from the music. From now on, I will analyze music and visual separately as I've realized that they both contain so much information for you to absorbed that they must be taken in separately at first to fully understand what is going on.
The genre of Korean popular music, known for its generally simplistic arrangements and melodies, emphasis on visuals, and extreme trainee systems can be credited to the expansive and complex history of South Korea, and the Korean Kingdom/Empire more generally. The kingdom/empire of Korea has gone through many difficult periods in its history which have all been directly linked to the popular music of those specific times. Traditionally, Korean music was very different from what we are used to today. The styles of Pansori and Minyo, along with various other non-vocal forms of traditional music, would often be included in very long performances, some even spanning up to eight hours as they told the stories of the relationships as told by the Buddhist belief system. However, as time went on and recording technology was made, Korean music now had to adjust to the recording limits that were only 3 to 4 minutes in length. This meant that Western music, which had the opportunity to adjust to these limitations prior, was now far more accessible and thus generally more accessed by the Korean populace. Then as Japanese Imperialism of Korea became a reality, and remained a reality for some time, Korean protest music began to emerge as civil unrest began to settle in towards the Japanese. Due to the fact that there was now direct contact with American and Japanese culture, the music of these countries also began to grow in popularity. These foreign popular songs are often said to have been the first forms of Trot music, one of the closer relatives to Kpop. Due to the presence of Western troops in Korea and their demand for entertainment, western style music was forced upon people and rapidly began to form a new sub-genre of popular music in the same style but in Korean. The presence of troops also meant that there was an audience that was willing to pay to be entertained, which formed these large companies which scouted the prettiest female singers which would be popular with the troops. Finally as the political situation in Korea began to calm down, popular music began to simply change with the introduction of new technologies, styles of recordings, changes in taste, etc. This remained true until the late 1990’s when Korea fell pray to the Asian Financial crisis, which was one of the best things that could have happened to Korean Entertainment at the time. This loss of economic stability allowed for people to take entertainment jobs more seriously, for people to look away from expensive Japanese entertainment to something cheaper, and eventually allowed the large Corporations that held all of the Companies as their own, and to relinquish ownership of companies that were smaller and mainly centered in Entertainment. This allowed for the popularity of Korean popular culture to rise significantly due to the increased demand. Korean pop has many characteristics that are used to describe it: minimalistic, aesthetically pleasing, attractive, shallow, etc. Although all of these things are often attributed to the industry's drive of quantity over quality (which is often a false claim altogether), all of these characteristics can be directly traced back to a specific point in history as the cause. Prior to the Kpop in Context course, I too held many of the common misconceptions about Kpop as truth. However after learning the general history of South Korea, and seeing a connection to outside sources of music it became very obvious that Kpop has become what it is now purposefully. Korean pop is not a musical style that simply exists due to a stroke of luck and dumb chance, it is a style of music formed from the very history that has made its origin country what it is today.
28 July, 2017
Reflection: Standards of beauty in Korea on women & men
K-beauty. A type of skin and beauty care that is starting to sell well in the American Market. Even though it is thriving, many still know little about South Korea's standards of beauty. Since it has started to enter the American market, one must know what their type of beauty standards are. Korea's standards of beauty can be argued as one of the toughest standards of beauty to fulfill since it's standard has some western influence, and a Korean perspective on it. Plus it does not only target women from all ages, but men as well. They are expected to look beautiful (face wise), have a good fashion sense, and if needed get plastic surgery to fix whatever “ugly” they might have either facial or physical. In other words the standards of beauty in Korea on women and men are intensely demanding on it's citizens.
One way South Korea's beauty standards are demanding on it's citizens is that it expects everyone to look presentable since that is considered to be etiquette. One way it makes sure it's people remembers that, is by having various beauty stores everywhere. You can always find one in any street of a busy city (ex. Seoul.) The pressure to have a clean, white, and pretty skin or face is intense. Not only do beauty stores intensely pressures men and women, but they try to gain attention with sales or ads of the most famous idols/actors. This makes people believe that if their favorite idols looks like this, or likes that product it will make them closer to their idol, and acceptable to society since everyone appreciates or likes that idol/ actor. Not only is skin care & makeup heavily promoted but if you aren't as pretty as a certain famous figure, or pretty for society's standards the locals(& family) themselves will advise you to get plastic surgery to “enhance” your looks. It is even very common to get plastic surgery as a gift from graduating high school if you could fix your physique.
Overall the standards of beauty in Korea are not only expected in K-Pop singers, actors, or models. But it is expected from the actual locals, and citizens of Korea. Not only to look presentable in facial, & physical features but if something can be fixed with plastic surgery it is advised to get one, to fix it. As seen this kind of pressure on anyone would be extremely demanding, hence making South Korea's beauty standard one of the most debatable hardest standards of beauty.
Ciee Kpop Immersion
Enoghayin (이 나 니) Imasuen
This study abroad experience has been life changing and has opened my eyes to new concepts. Throughout these last three weeks I've been in South Korea, my life has been a rollercoaster. Never will I forget the memories or strong bonds with other people I've made here. The beautiful scenery of Korea, exposure to other types of music, and the enriching history of this program have left me in complete amazement. I'm very glad I choose this program to be a part of.
To begin with, the scenery of Korea is really one the most beautiful things one can experience. Before this program, I obviously looked at where I would be going on google images and thought it was pretty, however- seeing these beautiful buildings and lights in real life can leave one feeling speechless and in awe. Also, in class we learned about a lot of historical places of Korea and how they lived their daily lives in these palaces. Then, we got to go out and actually see those exquisite palaces. Because I was aware of the history due to the lectures, I was able to visualize what life was like back then while we visited those palaces.
Additionally, the type of music I've been exposed to and enjoyed during this program is really eye opening to me. In general, I don't really like traditional music anywhere in the world. So imagine my suprise, while I'm sitting in class listening to Korean traditional instruments and singing- enjoying the songs. I really enjoyed hearing the traditional instrument taepyeongso the most. Also, we don't just listen to traditional music but are also exposed to a lot of rap, ballad, techno, indie,etc.. type of Korean songs. Through this program, I will definetly be adding songs to my playlist.
Lastly, the history that is taught in this program is very informative and eye opening. From my western education, I never knew Korea contributed so much to the world. I knew certain aspects of Korean culture, but I didn't know the meaning or history behind it. Unlike I previously thought, Korea was indeed technologically advanced in the past and still is today. Their culture is also very resilient as well- even though they had been invaded, went through a debt crisis, and used to be one of the poorest countries in the world during the 1960s, they still rose from the ashes and were able to become an economic powerhouse in today's world. This was only possible because of the people and the culture they have. Korean history is very fun to learn about.
In conclusion, this trip has been very informative and fun. From the scenery of Korea and the discovery of new types of music, to the learning about the intrcately woven history Korea has- I leave this program as a new person. To anyone wondering if they should study abroad, do it. Trust me, you won't regret it.
Throughout our stay in South Korea, almost every day we attended to at least three hours worth of kpop lectures. These classes taught content ranging from Joseon dynasty to how k-pop and korean advertising are connected. I gained a lot of understanding and knowledge on the history of Korea as a country and their society, and at the same time the Korean music and overall entertainment industry that from my point of view I may have never learned if I hadn't taken this class. Even though it may have consisted of traditional history lectures, there was balance between those lessons and the more modern based lessons and supported each other well.
One particular lecture that had changed my worldview and understanding was the one surround the topic of masculinity and the mandatory military conscription. Generally, to me, the topic is really interesting and new to someone like me who lives in America and doesn't have a country with the same beliefs or values. Also being female I'm not able to relate to the male view on this topic so again it's something that was new and surprising. It changed how I think of masculinity and really made me think on different cultures definitions of masculinity where it's hard to learn that when you were stuck in one place your whole life. This expanded my thoughts on the issue and allowed me to think about how someone's perception of masculinity can be based on the stereotypes they believe in or what influences them.
Concluding, I'm really grateful I got the chance to attend the classes and listen to the lectures on this trip because they covered really important topics that I would have never gotten exposure to in the states. Also because of the environment, being in Korea I learned and got taught in a different point of view than if i was to take the class in America so learning with different surrounding was really interesting and a huge impactful learning experience for me.
28 Jun. 2017
Never in my young life would I have imagined that one day my interest in music would take me halfway across the world. As the end of this incredible trip draws near I still find it hard to believe that it actually happened and that I took a month out of my life to live and study in another culture. Aside from the overall experience, some of the most important takeaways I have from this trip are the things I learned in the classroom. The history and evolution of Korean music from traditional to contemporary as well as the socio-political conditions influencing that change are things I found to be absolutely fascinating and something that clarifies a lot of what I've seen in current K-pop. Prior to the class I knew almost nothing about Korean traditional music, other than the fact that it incorporated instruments similar to those seen in other Asian cultures. I had no idea just how many instruments were native to Korea and how important the musical culture was to both the nobles and the commoners. It also was quite shocking to learn that in more contemporary culture traditional Korean music is not seen as “real music” in comparison to Western compositions. Korean traditional music is even referred to as “gugak” while all other musical genres are simply called music. This perspective was certainly influenced by the period of Japanese occupation when the Japanese attempted to crush and destroy Korean culture, and was not helped by the American troops stationed in Korea directly after the war. It was around both of these periods that Western music and Western music styles really became popular in Korea, and this along with the limitations in recording technology began the transition from traditional styles to Korean adapted versions of what was popular around the world. Another thing I found to be particularly intriguing is that the performance aspect of K-pop that we all know and love can actually be traced back to the US military of all places. I suppose it makes sense that the troops needed to be entertained occasionally and shipping in performers from the US would be incredibly expensive. Training impoverished young Korean men and women in music and dance to give them a means of income and provide a source of entertainment for the troops seems like an advantageous situation for all involved. The fact that this introduction to more contemporary performance styles eventually (and through several evolutions) blossomed into that we know as K-pop today is absolutely fascinating.
There are so many other things I've learned during this class that I now consider invaluable to my understanding of Korean popular culture, and I will forever be thankful for this incredible experience to not only learn but to explore what we are learning right outside our doorstep.
by Cassandra Allen
Change is inevitable except from a vending machine. This change can be measured in the growth of a mindset or perspective. After coming to South Korea or rather traveling the world in general it is impossible for one to stay the same.
My perspective of South Korea was purely based on the fantasy land depicted in popular Korean music and drama. However, the media at home which highlights the tensions evolving between North Korea and South Korea lead me to believe that everyday life in South Korea would be based on fear, yet that was far from the truth. This rose colored filter painted by Korean popular culture was convoluted by American media. I now realize that the subject position of America, being that of a world power fixated on maintaining it’s status, has biased my own subject position when experiencing other countries and cultures. Somewhere in the back of my mind I felt that kpop was influenced by Western culture, and that I was strange for investing my time in a culture that didn’t seem so open towards Western people in regards to their entertainment industry. Therefore, when I engaged in Korean popular culture I had believed the reality there to be a society based on consumption due to the lavish and elaborate visuals within the MV and drama. South Korea in my mind was hanging on by a thread, and the string could snap at a moment’s notice due to the proximity of North Korea.
The initial perspective couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Upon arrival and throughout my stay in South Korea I have found that this society is fiercely independent from that of Western society, and that is fantastic! The South Korean people are passionate, humble, and selfless people the pride they have in their country and their dedication to continue improving it. After experiencing many new things, I can confidently declare that our world shouldn’t be homogeneous, after all diversity promotes creativity which then fuels the evolution of kpop.
A month ago you could have asked me “what is kpop?” and you might have received a witty comment such as “ Korean music duh”. If you ask me now you would hear me reply “kpop like most things in the world is a result of the interaction between cultures in fact a synthesis of diverse ideas, even Western products, and nobody can say that it is copying western sound because in reality nothing is ever truly original. However that isn’t necessarily a bad thing simply because we are adapting, evolving, and enhancing the music until it becomes a masterpiece.”
When I first thought of coming to Korea, I was not prepared for what would actually be happening and I’m very happy with the surprises I have had. Coming to Korea the initial plan was to enjoy my time and see the famous and maybe some not so famous sites in Seoul, South Korea. What ended up happening was I found a new understanding of not only Korean history but the part it plays in Kpop today. It was introduced in a way that connected daily life to the development of music which in turn made a new modern culture that adds to Korea as well as the rest of the world due to the strong and forever expanding economy. The idea that what happened thousands of years ago has an impact on popular culture today is astounding and impressive in so many ways.
Kpop today is not any more different than it is the same as it was when it was first labeled Kpop. In fact the training process that produces these idols has been in place for years even before the major groups and companies came together. This trip was enlightening in many ways and getting to see the culture and the daily life of the people who live this structure all the time was eye opening. It's incredible to think that somehow this culture has survived the ups and the downs over time and has still been able to develop while retaining the basic structure for society. Walking around Seoul and outside of Seoul I was able to see the world differently. Although culture shock was not an issue for me it was still eye opening getting to see the strictly structured society of South Korea. Overall the understanding of the society comes from knowing the history which somehow has actually been strongly influenced by the music over the years.
Now I’m not sure if I have done this essay properly but I hope that the main idea that came out of it was simply that from this trip I have found a new understanding of a completely different culture. Understanding the strong influence pop culture has on daily life and the structured culture of the society having a great effect on Kpop is one thing but getting to see it in real life is different. My trip has been as enlightening as it was fun and I am forever grateful to the staff who have furthered my knowledge.
-Maia, Global Navigator