Hi everyone, it’s Kpopalypse back again with more Kpopalypse interviews! Once again it’s Kpopalypse who is going to be interviewed, this time about the “Korean Wave” so hang onto your hats!
I remember all too well the days of being a financially and mentally struggling University student. I’m all about helping University students out with their tough assignments, so when the following request came through my email, how could I say no?
My name is Sarah and I am a student in South Australia. I am working on a research project about the Hallyu Wave and how it has taken over the world! After reading your blog (which is very amusing and entertaining might I add 😃), I think that you’re an absolute expert in this topic and was wondering if I could send you a couple of short interview questions to answer and send back to me? I would greatly appreciate your help!
Thank you very much,
Naturally I told Sarah that I was interested and that more questions were better than less, so she quickly replied with a bunch of questions that I will now answer here for your entertainment! A lot of these don’t actually have anything to do with k-pop, but as an “absolute expert” I will try my best!
What do you think are the main differences between Korean and Western fashion (appearance/style/colour)?
Well, firstly, I’m colour blind so I’ll skip the “colour” part of the question completely as I really don’t know any shit at all about that. I’m not really a fashion expert either, but I do spend a lot of time looking at girls so I’m not sure if that counts for something. The main thing I notice with Korean fashion is the predominance of random English text on things, I’m told that this is because Koreans think that English is “cool” or something. This would make sense as it correlates to the use of English in k-pop songs where it’s used a lot on the upbeat dance numbers that are trying to go for a trendy sound and all that horrible yoloswag kind of stuff, but you hear it a lot less often in the ballads where they’re presumably going for a more “serious” tone. Of course my main exposure to Korean fashion is through k-pop videos, I’m sure that’s pretty different to what the average man and woman on the street wear, and I haven’t been to Korea so I really don’t know, maybe they wear all the boring shit that we do. Adelaide has a fairly large Asian population especially around the places where I live and work so whatever “Korean fashion” is, I’m probably fairly used to seeing it anyway.
Which type of fashion (Korean or Western) do you prefer and why?
I like many aspects of the faux-1950s “psychobilly” look which is popular in the alternative music scenes in Australia. Anything that looks very “tailored” always looks great. School uniforms are good, military stuff too, Nazi uniforms in particular are always great. I don’t care how peace-and-love someone is, even Martin Luther King would have to admit that while Donal… sorry I mean the Nazis had an odious ideology, they also had great, stylish uniforms, which is why everyone from Pritz to Star Wars constantly uses them as inspiration. And startling confession, I don’t actually mind lolita fashion, I think it looks amazing on the right person, but only certain people can rock that specific look. Given colour-blindness, I think that the best colours to wear for any of this are always black and/or white!
How do the prices of Korean clothing compare to Western clothing?
I wouldn’t know firsthand. I’d imagine cheaper because of the cheaper Korean currency, but then the Abbott and Turnbull governments in Australia have wrecked the economy here with ideologically-based mismanagement to the point where our currency will probably be worth about as much as theirs soon. How these clowns in our government right now ever got a reputation as “the party that manages the economy better” is beyond me, if you look objectively at the data it’s bleedingly obvious that this isn’t the case, on every single measure we’re far worse off now than when they first took office. Maybe they’re riding on the reputation of John Howard but he only did well because he was running the show during a global economic boom and a blind monkey could have made Australia turn a surplus during that time.
What main features do Korean fashion highlight?
I don’t know, but they should highlight boobs. I try to help with my occasional fashion posts. Ladies, make sure you do a search on my blog for the word “fashion”, the results will change your life for the better.
How similar do you find K-pop, J-pop and other Asian types of pop music?
Fairly different. K-pop is very closely aligned with western trends, being essentially western pop anyway, as in many cases it’s western songwriters that are commissioned to write the pieces, or who will shop the pieces around to Korean agencies. There’s a whole process behind the scenes for this now including specialist websites which are “song-shopping” services that cater to different markets. K-pop is really interested in engaging globally which is vastly different from the j-pop industry which is deliberately insular and tries to make it as hard for the rest of the world to access their music as possible.
What do you think differentiates Korean entertainment from other types of entertainment?
Depends on what type of entertainment we’re talking about. I imagine that their strip bars and brothels are similar to here.
Do you prefer Korean dramas over American TV shows? If yes, why?
I haven’t even sat down and watched a full TV show of anything since 2002. Between work, blogging and other activities I just don’t have time for TV. The quality of my life has only increased as a result, I highly recommend not watching TV to anybody. I’m talking about broadcasted channels only – I do some very rare TV watching via DVD or downloaded stuff etc, because then I can put it on when I’m ready to watch it rather than whenever the broadcast is, plus not have to endure advertising. From my experience Korean dramas are absolutely fucking garbage, but then so are western shows generally, although for slightly different reasons. Western TV shows tend to be terrible because it’s really hard for the writers to avoid cliche. Once you’ve seen a few of them, you know the drill – you know who is going to end up with who, who will backstab who, who lives, who dies, etc. – it’s little wonder that the west has almost stopped making these shows altogether and are now focusing on “reality” shows. (With reality shows, the game is to throw different pre-formulated archetypes into a setting, and run the cameras while waiting for a reaction like a chemical experiment. Most of the time not much happens, but then the cameras will edit out everything else and magnify the little which does happen so the whole process seems more interesting and “happening” than it really is, and there’s your “drama”. It’s equally as pathetic as the average scripted drama, but it’s more cost-effective.) Korean drama on the other hand is trash for slightly different reasons, partly it’s the incredibly over-reacting to everything – if there’s a joke or a funny situation they’re never subtle or clever about it, they’ve got to make it as big and dumb as possible, like you’re an idiot and you won’t understand it if there’s any subtlety at all. They really play to that lowest intellectual level constantly, it’s like they’re actively trying to stop you from thinking about what you’re watching. The serious stuff isn’t much better – the plots are often ruined because they work on a short shooting schedule so the scriptwriters can track netizen opinion to decide what should happen next so they can “please the masses”, which is the perfect way to make your drama as predictable, uncreative, boring and not worth watching as humanly possible. Just another one of the many ways in which people overly caring about the thoughts of netizens is ruining all that is good in the world.
Why do you like K-pop and K-dramas?
I like k-pop because I like pop music generally, and k-pop tends to be in my radar because there’s a much higher density of activity in that scene. Also the activity is higher quality on average – not because it’s “from Korea” specifically, but just because of the super-competitive environment where people are trying to create smash hits all the time, so the songwriting isn’t sloppy, they’re really trying hard as fuck. If that same environment with the same kind of focus and market pressures existed anywhere else in the world, the music would probably evolve into similar quality. That’s not to say there isn’t a wealth of garbage though – nyone reading my roundup posts on a regular basis will know that I tend to dislike about 90% of k-pop stuff that comes out but that’s just me opening my ears and being a bit discerning, most pop music isn’t that good generally. Contrary to popular belief pop music is the hardest style of music to create. It’s not necessarily the hardest for the performers to perform, but it’s definitely the hardest from a writing and engineering perspective, no question.
As for k-dramas, I assume people only like them because of some sort of fascination with Korea as a country. As I don’t have that fascination with Korea (or any country, including my own), I don’t have the rose-coloured view of k-dramas.
Do you prefer K-pop over Western music? If yes, why?
I do prefer k-pop over western pop. I don’t prefer Korean music over western music as a whole.
If we’re looking only at Korean pop vs western pop, then the reasons why I generally prefer k-pop are:
- Higher competition in a more condensed environment means better song quality on average, as well as better and more varied musical productions.
- I can’t understand the words, this is a huge benefit as pop music lyrics are generally cringeworthy and awful.
- K-pop has a greater and more interesting variety of visual presentations, whereas the west will tend to stick to one known-to-work flavour more.
- I’m not constantly getting exposed to Korean pop to the point where I get sick of it, I only hear it when I choose to seek it out. For instance I didn’t mind “Gangnam Style” when I first heard it but after the 500th listen of hearing it everywhere I went, I got sick of it. The same would happen if all k-pop was huge in Australia and I would probably try and seek out other music as a result of the overexposure. I would probably like certain western pop songs a lot more if I didn’t constantly hear them every time I went to the supermarket or wherever.
It’s only in the commercial pop realm where Korea has these advantages. Turn to just about any other style of Korean music and the output is almost always very far behind the west in terms of song quality, production quality, visuals, etc.
I have noticed that Korean bands have many members. Do you think this impacts the popularity of the band?
Yes and it’s a deliberate marketing tactic to achieve exactly this. At close range a short-barrel shotgun is a much more effective weapon than a sniper rifle (pretend you’re in the real world and not computer games where sniper rifles are laughably overpowered). As a sniper rifle fires just one bullet, you only get one chance to hit, but the shotgun fires many different pellets of buckshot in a spread pattern, you can be a really bad aim and one of those pellets has still got a pretty good chance of hitting the target. K-pop agencies employ a similar “buckshot” style approach to their groups – they’ll hit you with up to thirteen members at a time, and you’re probably not going to like all of them, but the more people there are in the group, the chance that you’ll fall in love with one of them increases, and one is all they need. The agencies pushing these groups hope that in your heart you’ll be able to latch onto that person and zone out all the other competing groups in favour of the group they’re pushing. Remember that in Korea fans tend to focus on one group only, it’s not like in other countries where it’s quite normal for people to claim to be huge fans of half a dozen or more groups, so the stakes for the hearts of fans are higher. Of course the agencies also have to weigh the benefits of this against the costs of training up the extra people.
Has your like for K-pop and K-dramas influenced you to further investigate other aspects of Korea, such as Korean language, culture, lifestyle, e.t.c?
Only “investigate” in the sense that I might hear about something really stupid happening in the world of k-pop (like people actually caring about the opinions of oxygen-wasting moronic netizens who write comments on gossip portal sites) and think “well, why the fuck is this dumb shit happening?” so I investigate it and it turns out that the reason is often “cultural”. The only things that interest me about Korean culture are their pop music, food and the occasional good horror or action movie. I don’t have any interest apart from this and Korea actually seems like it would be a horrible place to live and work. Korea seems to have a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, where everything in life seems to be so much about what things appear to be in the eyes of others rather than what they actually are. I think that’s incredibly unhealthy for both individuals and society as as whole, and it certainly explains why lies and gossip has so much more power than truth and why their scandals generate so much unnecessary fallout.
How effective do you think Korean dramas portray the Korean culture and lifestyle?
Having not experienced the “Korean culture and lifestyle” firsthand I can’t answer this question objectively, but I don’t see why Korean TV would be all that realistic about it, just like I’m sure that CSI is nothing like how people really behave behind closed doors in a police department in the USA. I wouldn’t recommend anybody look at fictional portrayals of something on TV and think to themselves that it was an accurate reflection of anything other than what the TV station executives thought would make you willing to watch their advertising.
How interconnected is the Korean media (social networking) compared to other countries?
All social media is interconnected by definition. Korea has much better Internet than anywhere else, but they’re not “more connected”, their connection just works a little better (or a lot better if we’re comparing it to Australia where the useless current government is too stingy to provide proper broadband).
How popular is K-pop and Korean dramas in Korea? Does everyone watch it?
As far as k-pop goes, it’s like any pop music anywhere. Your average person on the street only knows a few of the groups at most, and certainly doesn’t care about any of the gossip or scandals surrounding those groups. It’s only the really crazy fans who follow everything closely that know about all the groups etc. and people would be amazed how little impact some of their favourite groups have with the general population in Korea. Obviously long-term performers in the absolute A-list like BigBang or Girls’ Generation are household names, but it gets pretty sketchy once you go beyond that point. Not-so-commercial pop stuff like J-Rabbit and Jaurim would have more currency among the average Korean than something like B.A.P or Secret.
I wouldn’t know – or care – about the popularity of k-dramas, but I hope as few people watch that trash as possible, for their own sake.
What are the major differences between Korean culture in comparison to other Asian countries?
I can’t answer this due to lack of experience.
Does the popularity of Korean culture change/affect prejudiced views of Asians?
I doubt it. There’s always going to be racism and racial tensions between different people, it’s not something that’s ever going to go away, and the popularity of Korean or any other culture won’t make any difference. If the solutions to racism were as simple as promoting a culture form another country then there should be no racism anywhere in the globe given how many multicultural performers and cultural ambassadors exist in the world across almost all forms of music, art, etc. I don’t know what the solution to racial problems is but I know that “let’s put [people of race x] over here in this spotlight so the world can see how wonderful they are”, while certainly worth doing, definitely doesn’t achieve anything on that particular level.
What do you think is the main reason for tourists to travel to Korea?
YONGMA LAND. Just go to fucking Yongma Land, kids. Make sure you take photos of yourselves holding up signs saying “Kpopalypse sent me here”, and send them to me, I’ll put you in the next Caonima Creativity Corner post.
Have you noticed a rise in popularity of not just Korean entertainment but Korean culture in general in Australia (e.g. more Korean restaurants)?
Actually I’m really shitty because my favourite Korean food-court restaurant in Adelaide’s Chinatown district actually closed down a few months ago. They had the best spicy chicken rice out of all the different Korean restaurants in the area, plus it was dirt cheap and the girls at the counter were super cute IU lookalikes. So with all those aspects working in its favour it still closed down, so I’d say that there isn’t a rise in popularity, or of there is it’s certainly very gradual. Blame the shitty economy and useless government here I guess.
Do you have any further comments? My research is on the appeal of Korean Culture and the effects of the Korean Wave so if you think there is anything else relevant to add in, please do so!
As this interview has probably made very clear, Korea doesn’t appeal to me culturally at all. Having said that, I wouldn’t say that I’m all that fascinated by Australian culture either, and when I do post about Australian cultural differences I do it more in the spirit of trying to remove international communication blockades rather than promote Australia as “the best thing” which it definitely isn’t always. All countries have their “cultural quirks” and more often than not these quirks are anomalies that the world would usually be better off without. Of course if everywhere in the world was exactly the same that would be fucking boring, but I think it’s okay to say “I like X about this culture but I don’t like Y”. I think that these days being a nationalist fuckwit is getting trendier, and I think that’s a bad thing, because when people get nationalist they have trouble admitting that their own culture has flaws, but the fact is that all cultures are the result of human experience and we’re all flawed creatures of some type so it’s natural that any culture that humans create is going to have issues. Maybe one day machines will take over and then we’ll have a culture in the world that actually makes some degree of sense overall – but probably not, because humans built the machines, and humans are idiots. So I don’t worry about it, and I just listen to k-pop because occasionally there are songs that I like, and not because of a “Korean wave” or whatever, which isn’t really on my radar of concern.
That’s it for another Kpopalypse interview! Kpopalypse will return with more posts soon!