Since the dawn of the Hallyu Wave, K-Pop has been one of the helms of the Korean Pop Culture in penetrating global markets and global cultures. As a music genre, its reach has been phenomenal and it continues to grow making the Korean entertainment industry thrive. However, as influential as K-Pop is, there are a lot of people who have no idea about it as a legitimate music genre. Some non K-Pop stans even go to some lengths to mock and make fun of the artists and their music. As your rookie guide and as K-Pop stans ourselves, we would like to shed some light on some of the misconceptions and misconstrued ideas on the Korean Popular Music.
We have conducted a survey by posting a question on Facebook as to why some people don’t like K-Pop as much as they like Western Music and OPM. The responses varied across comments. Based on those comments, we classified the responses by order of the message and thought similarities of which our counter response will be based upon.
One of the most common response is that they can’t enjoy the music because they don’t understand it. This, to be honest, kind of put us off primarily because language barrier in music should never be a huge issue now as it was some 50 years ago. All we actually need to do is use the power of GOOGLE. Lyric translations are just a click away. Google actually has some very reputable lyric translation sites like genius.com, musicmatch.com or lyrictranslate.com. Not comprehending the song at first hand is part of the overall experience of consuming foreign content. Moreover, as the language of the soul as they said, music should be universal right? It should be able to transcend language and cultural barriers. When Mara and I listen to K-Pop songs even without researching the translations first hand, the music or the song is able to magically reach our consciousness and tug our hearts. There are songs that even without us knowing the translations can make us feel sad, nostalgic, and even cry. Music is like that no matter the language and K-Pop should never be an exemption. We have actually made a curation of songs of our favorite artists and made a Spotify playlist for you to listen to here in this blog’s section. You may want to check them out!
Secondly, is the issue on K-Pop artists’ fashion sense specifically targeted on the male groups which by the way has nothing to do with their music but for argument’s sake, we will engage. Some people even accuse male artists as gay because of how they look and how they dress. This to us is a comment shrouded in gender bias and sexism. It goes to show that others’ definition of masculinity is still rooted by the western male definition of the macho male. True that some male artists in K-Pop borders into the female dress code as in Yeonjun of TXT in their music video of Blue Hour where he was wearing a pink crop-top sweater. However, dress codes are just that- codes. We are in no way compelled to follow what society has indoctrinated us. Fashion just like language continuously evolves. This is what I like about the fashion sense in K-Pop. It continuously defies fashion norms and standards. Yet, that’s the thing. The visual aesthetics of K-Pop fashion adds to the overall viewing experience which sets it apart from western music and our OPM. I guess, even without direct concession, we can all agree that K-Pop fashion is a visual masterpiece. There’s nothing like it. It’s a trademark, a K-Pop statement that has steered fashion enthusiasts to emulate.
Third, is on the issue that K-Pop idols are breathing products of plastic surgeries, which again has nothing to do with their music artistry. It is actually sad that people judge someone else’s creativity based on physical appearance alone which basically is intangible in one’s creative outputs. Discrediting someone solely base on how they look is downright discriminatory- its basic human logic. Besides, it is not as if they are the only ones who have done something to their faces. To change parts of our body to make us feel better about ourselves is not wrong and it is not something that people should use as a point of discrimination. Whether these artists underwent surgeries or not, it does not remove the fact that they create legitimate music with well thought of concepts and narratives. Beauty, whether enhanced or not, should never be the measuring agent in judging a person. Music should be the greater factor; because one can like a person simply because of that person’s looks but it won’t necessary last long if that is only that. For that admiration to last, there has to be something else bigger than looks and in this case it’s K-Pop and its musical artistry.
As your guides in understanding K-Pop, we can only hope that this article has provided you with substantive explanations in resolving some of the major misconceptions on K-Pop. We can only hope that one day you might actually see it for what it’s worth and through it you can appreciate music as universal and transcendental.