Dancing in September : Cultural Translation in Hallyu Performance

In order to comprehensively examine the hybrid nature of music and performance in the Korean wave, we should recognize the multiple meanings embedded in these cultural modes that transcend language. This cultural translation is clearly illustrated in Lia Kim‘s choreography for Earth, Wind and Fire‘s “September,” a single released by the iconic R&B group in 1978. Kim is known for her choreography for K-pop artists, including the girl group Mamamoo. Uploaded to 1MILLION Dance Studio’s YouTube cha

The Once and Future Fandom: How Media Shapes Perceptions of K-pop Fans

Whether K-pop fans are praised political activists or denigrated as delusional enthusiasts, both characterizations reduce K-pop fans, especially Black fans, and fail to recognize their value beyond politics. Up until recently, K-pop fans had a questionable reputation. On March 19, 2020, I did a search for K-pop fans, and these are the search terms Google offered: This is what today’s search (June 24) for K-pop fan brings: In the span of a few months, the perception of K-pop fans has changed,

Is K-pop Fandom Becoming Less Visible and More Fragmented?

Online platforms have been a major force propelling the spread of K-pop globally, but are shifts in how they are deployed contributing to a more insular fandom? When you ask K-pop fans about their journey into K-pop, YouTube usually features prominently. Over the last few years, K-pop fans have been treated to content by companies and artists who recognize the platform as a significant way to get content to fans. However, Jeff Benjamin reports a new trend that sees companies shifting their focu

Why Is K-pop Coverage So Negative?

Much like the current tone of the Internet, wholly negative criticism threatens to skew our perceptions of K-pop. On any given day, one can wander out on social media and witness what has become the all-too-common negative critique of K-pop. A recent Twitter thread began by Yim Hyun-su pointed out how media tends to write stories disproportionately on “the dark side of K-pop” to the exclusion of other types of stories. This trend is also at play in academic scholarship. In an article for The Po

3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop

It was great to be a part of the “Black Popular Music and K-pop” panel at #KCON17LA. The session was lively! In light of that discussion, here are three things that may be useful as people continue to think about the session or for those who could not attend. The session was important, not just for black K-pop fans to voice their experiences, but for ALL fans of K-pop, since we are getting joy from the influence of black popular music on K-pop.

Colors and Consequences: Branding and Fandom in K-pop

While recent reports about arguments over K-pop fanclub colors may seem superficial, they reveal the value of branding for group promotion as well as the emotional relationship between K-pop groups and their fans. The ire of fans of Shinhwa (one of the oldest K-pop groups and the longest-running K-pop group with original members) was raised when K-pop media outlets reported that iKON, a male K-pop group who just debuted in 2015, chose orange as its fanclub color. Shinhwa has been associated wit

Men Can Be Flowers Too: Asian Masculinities in Popular Culture

Every time I see articles about young Asian actors leaving behind their “flower boy” roles for more “manly” characters, I feel some kind of way. Such articles act like attractiveness and masculinity cannot go hand it hand. They might if their authors were watching what I watch. “Flower boys” tend to be portrayed by attractive young Asian male actors. Such roles are frequently placed in contrast with more “manly” roles.   In “9 Korean Actors Who Transformed From Flower Boys Into Manly Men,” Dram

Fan Commentary: Nostalgia and Fly to the Sky

As their 2014 comeback shows, Fly to the Sky (FTTS) remains a potent force in K-pop, even after a five-year hiatus. However, even before the rumors of a comeback, the group was ever-present in the minds of fans, who recalled Fly to the Sky’s emotional impact and place in K-pop history. A review of 361 YouTube comments posted between 2006 and 2011 on videos uploaded to YouTube show a lingering sense of nostalgia for the group.  These comments appeared on uploaded videos for “Day By Day” (music v

Fan Commentary: Yoon Mi Rae and Sony Pictures

The recent legal entanglement between Yoon Mi Rae (also known as Tasha) and Sony Pictures prompted K-pop fans to express their opinions about copyright, permission and global corporations. In “Yoon Mi Rae to Take Legal Action Against Sony Pictures for Using Her Song in ‘The Interview’ Without Permission,” Soompi writer kiddy_days writes that Yoon, legendary singer and rapper in Korean popular music who is also married to veteran rapper Tiger JK, intends to sue Sony Pictures. The story reveals t

Media, K-pop Fans and Scandal: Park Bom and Sulli

K-pop fans often engage in creative and productive fan activity, but sometimes they don’t and media is always there to capture it. Nothing stirs up the spectre of the “obsessed K-pop fan” like a “scandal.” As we know, K-pop fans are diverse, but the kind of recent “scandals” experienced by Park Bom (of 2NE1) and Sulli (of f(x)) shed some light on the role cultural context and media plays in global fans’ understanding of “scandal.” Unlike global fans, Korean K-pop fans experience K-pop within the context of Korean culture and their responses are captured by Korean media. Because of their proximity to the K-pop scene, the displeasure of Korean fans can affect change beyond the control of the Korean agencies.

How Does It Feel To Be A Question?: That (Black) Girl and K-pop

In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois posed the question, “How does it feel to be a problem?” in his influential book, The Souls of Black Folk. I’m experiencing a 21st century version of this,  “How does it feel to be a question?”  As a black woman who writes about K-pop,  it’s one I’ve been getting more and more.  That question has different implications. When people ask, “Why are you into K-pop?,” they want to know why I’m interested in music from halfway around the world made by people who don’t look like
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