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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor, Elon University (U.S.)
K-pop girl groups tend to be described as sexy, fierce or cute. Some suggest that images of fierceness encourage girls to be empowered, while images of cuteness take away their agency. However, responses by fans of f(x), a K-pop female group, suggest that fans prefer unique and diverse images of women.
Male groups outnumber female groups in K-pop, but girl groups attract large numbers of mostly female fans. Commentators and fans describe these girl groups as cute, sexy or fierce. On the blog Miss Unconditionally Moilicious, Miss Mila describes the difference between 2NE1 and SNSD, two of most popular girl groups, this way:
First of all, 2NE1 and SNSD are completely different. 2NE1 is westernized in every way and makes music with “the independent woman” theme. SNSD is much more oriented towards the Asian audience and makes cuter and less intense music.
Fans tend to think of the independent image of 2NE1 as more empowering and the cute image of SNSD as less empowering. One respondent wrote: ”I’m not interested in girl groups that go over the top with the cuteness and the aegyo because I just find that plain annoying. So to see a group that focuses on how strong women can be and how sexy women can be without the overuse of ‘cute’ is something that drew me in immediately.” (Anderson, “2ne1 Data Set”).
Lizzie at Beyond Hallyu echoes the critique of the cutesy image for women when talking about SNSD’s “I Got a Boy”: ”However, I was still shocked by how blatantly this song flaunts it’s reductionist, and frankly insulting, view of women. By using a more complex song structure to tell more stories and show more points of view, this song manages to create an even worse image of young women than songs like ‘Oh!’ by the sheer number of negative portrayals. Both the video and the song consistently portray women in numerous different examples as vain, petty, manipulative and incompetent.”
These opinions suggest that fans of K-pop’s girl groups only see images in terms of cute/fierce. However, fans of f(x) say they like the group for reasons that go beyond the cute/fierce binary.
Like most K-pop fans, fans of f(x) like the group because of the music, which fans find to be unique. One respondent wrote: ”Just like the meaning of their name, their music does not stick to a single or fixed genre, which i believe is a very good point in terms of music flexibility. they can go from dance to bubblegum pop then to ballads, showing their strength in adapting different genres of music” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”).
This range can be seen in the ballad “Beautiful Goodbye” and the dance single “NU ABO”:
Respondents also embrace the variety of concepts of f(x). They say that the members have different personalities and different talents. One respondent wrote: ”Their music is amazing and their personalities are even better!” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”). Several respondents also made reference to their appearance, calling members cute and beautiful. At the same time, respondents identified Amber‘s “tomboy” concept as something they liked. One respondent wrote: ”But most importantly I like the fact that they have Amber in the group, because she is a tomboy, and not any other group in Kpop or even in the mainstream really have an “amber” in the group!” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set).
This range of images can be seen in f(x)’s photo shoot for Marie Claire Korea and a photo from a Thailand trip:
Other respondents see the images of f(x) as falling in between those reflected by SNSD and 2NE1. One wrote: ”I don’t always follow F(x) but they’re another unique image among girl groups! They also don’t go with traditional cutesy and sexy like 2ne1.” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”) Another wrote: “They are often over shadowed by their SNSD seniors which is what provokes me to pay attention to them even more.” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”)
Other respondents also identified the diversity of the members themselves in terms of ethnicity. One respondent wrote: ”Two Chinese members and two English speaking members which makes for me being able to understand them more. Support Victoria because she’s mainland Chinese like myself ” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”). Another wrote: ”I also like how the group is half Korean and mixes members from different places.” (Anderson, “f(x) Data Set”)
Instead of limiting the members of f(x) to one image of women, fans demonstrate that they like a range of images for women. Respondents shows that they include cuteness as just one of a range of images that women can take on. When commentators use the cute/sexy binary to describe girl groups, they are using an Anglo-American feminist lens that not only eliminates other modes of being a woman, but it also overlooks the role that race and ethnicity plays in expressions of feminism. Caren Kaplan and Inderpal Grewal write:
Many feminists who identify themselves as marxist view all women as belonging to a unified class with a homogeneous class consciousness. The Eurocentric and class-bound nature of this analysis is reflected in the theorization of the family as the primary site of oppression. Third world feminists and feminists of color have objected to a hegemonic approach that demonizes non-Western families as more oppressive than their first world counterparts. (351)
In other words, commentators measure the feminism of K-pop girl groups by Western definitions of empowerment. These definitions do not take into consideration how different women may value different kinds of femininity. Specifically, commentators define feminism in K-pop by rejecting cuteness. However, fans of f(x) show that they embrace a range of concepts of women, including cuteness. In this way, they are like other fans of K-pop girl groups. Sun Jung and Yukie Hirata explain that Japanese fans like K-pop girl groups for a variety of reasons:
K-pop girl groups present variedly constructed images including strong female images less visible in the Japanese aidoru pop scene, and many young Japanese female fans see them as role models. As widely reported, these fans find K-pop girl groups are kakkoii (“cool”) and sexy, whereas J-pop girl groups are mainly kawaii (“cute”) (Y. S. Jeon 2011; H. S. Kim 2010).
Fans of f(x) also value the variety in both concepts as well as the members of the group. Specifically, they recognize the different ethnicities of the members of the group, something that also challenges an Anglo-American form of feminism. The responses of fans of f(x) demonstrate that there are multiple forms of feminism at play in K-pop girl groups.
“에프엑스 f(x)_NU ABO(NU 예삐오)_MusicVideo.” Uploaded by SMENT. YouTube. 4 May 2010.
Anderson, Crystal S. ”2NE1 Data Set.” Unpublished raw data.
—-. ”f(x) Data Set.” Unpublished raw data.
Kaplan, Caren and Inderpal Grewal. ”Transnational Feminist Cultural Studies: Beyond the Marxism/Poststructuralism/Feminism Divides.” Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms and the State. Ed. Caren Kaplan, Norma Alarcon and Minoo Moallem. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.
Jung, Sun and Yukie Hirata. ”K-pop Idol Girl Group Flows in Japan in the Era of Web 2.0.” ejcjs. 12.2 (2012).
Lizzie, “Girls’ Generation has a boy and some serious gender troubles.” Beyond Hallyu. 1 Mar 2013.
Miss Mila, “Keeping up with Kpop – SNSD vs 2NE1.” Miss Unconditionally Moilicious. 24 Apr 2011.
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Welcome to Part 2 of my ongoing series of bibliographic entries about Hallyu. From here on, entries will be arranged by SUBJECT rather than format (e.g., books). These entries are listed by year, not by author (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL +F function).
To learn more about my searching parameters, information-gathering processes, and your ability to access these items, see my earlier essay titled “For Your Reading Pleasure: Introducing A Hallyu Bibliography.”
This is a working post, so if you would like to submit items to this list or to the bibliography, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: In order to make it easier to locate authors (and where possible), I’m modifying these APA Style citations by adding full author names where possible.
Ha, Y. G. (2006). The plans for Korean entertainment businesses concerning with the Korean Wave. KBI Focus, 6(17), 6-17
Lee, Jong-ho and Ok, Jung-won and Woo, Do-kang. 2007. The Study on Relationship of Structure among Brand Equity Factors of Hallyu. Business and Economy Studies,25: 73-96.
Yoon, Jung Keun. 2009. A case of slavery contract between singers and agency in Korea: 2009 KaHap2869. The Asian Business Lawyer, 5(123): 123-? Accessed 4 April 2012 from http://184.108.40.206/W_kiss61/1f501057_pv.pdf (partial scan).
Wenqing, Ji. 2009. Referring Korean experiences to enable the Chinese wind to outdo the “Korean Wave.”
Jung, H. 2006. The effects of consumer’s perception of Korean wave (Hallyu) on Korean product purchase and country image in Chinese market. Journal of Consumer Studies, 17(3): 79-101. (see also, Culture)
Doshisha, Yagi. 2008. International cultural exchange and economic impact. Accessed 29 March 2012 from http://yagi.doshisha.ac.jp/culture/Culturalexchange_final.pdf
Huang, Xiaowei. 2009. Korean wave – the popular culture, comes as both cultural and economic imperialism in the East Asia. Asian Social Science, 5(8). Accessed 2 November 2011 from http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ass/article/view/3449/3123
Lee, J-Y. 2009. Contesting the digital economy and culture: digital technologies and the transformation of popular music in Korea. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 10(4): 489-506.
Oh, I. 2009. Hallyu: the rise of transnational cultural consumers in China and Japan. Korea Observer, 40(3): 425-459.
Ha, Bongjoon. 2010. Developing research framework and scales for the Korean Wave’s effects: An application in Malaysia. Malaysian Journal of Media Studies, 12 (1): 53-60. Accessed 24 August 2012 from http://biomed2011.um.edu.my/filebank/published_article/623/JPMM%202010_1%20Ha,%20Bongjoon.pdf
Ha, Bongjoon. 2006. Developing research framework and scales for the Korean Wave’s effects: An application in Malaysia. Broadcast International Seminar on Southeast Asia and Korea, 7:1-87.)
Kim, Myung Oak and Sam Jaffe. 2010. The Korean wave: ebbing or flowing? In M.O. Kim and S. Jaffe The new Korea: An inside look at South Korea’s economic rise. pp. 163- 174, Accessed 26 April 2013 from http://www.cognitivestyles.com/GINA_PCA/Korean%20History%20Etc/The%20New%20Korea%20An%20Inside%20Look%20at%20South%20Korea’s%20Economic%20Rise.pdf
Ahn, Shin-Hyun. 2011. Girls’ Generation and the New Korean Wave. SERI Quarterly, 4(4): 80-86.
Kim, Jeong Gon and Se Young Ahn. n.d. Patterns and impacts of Korea’s cultural exports: Focused on East Asia. Accessed 22 August 2012 from
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Manse in the USA!: What K-pop Means in the United States
April 12, 2013 ♦ Binghamton University
Crystal S. Anderson, PhD ♦ Elon University
Despite its status as a subculture, Korean popular music of the Hallyu era (K-pop) has a significant cultural impact in the United States. Combining elements of Korean and other cultures, it appeals to fans of varying ages and ethnicities. Using surveys and analysis of online K-pop culture originating in the United States, this paper will show that hybridization explains the appeal of and the backlash against K-pop. K-pop appeals to American fans because it is simultaneously similar to and different from American popular culture. American fans recognize elements of American culture and they embrace Korean cultural elements. At the same time, critiques of K-pop in the United States target those very elements, mocking K-pop and its fans for the ways they diverge from mainstream American cultural norms. For many in the United States, K-pop represents a complex negotiation with a Korean global culture.
While the world has been familiar with online video for a while now, “screencasting” is a relatively new term in our technological vocabulary. Screencasting is similar to a screenshot, but instead of having static images, it’s a video of what is happening on your computer screen. This can be a powerful tool to teach people using visuals and audio. At least that’s how Dr. Crystal Anderson, a professor in the English department, uses it.
Read more at Elon University – Instructional and Campus Technologies!
When you click the “KPK Members” link on our site, our bios’ upbeat language states we have certain skill sets that match well with the work of KPK, and you know that we are Kpop fans. I think our identification as Kpop fans is one of the unique characteristics of our collaboration.
While KPK members approach the work of KPK as people who truly enjoy and participate in Kpop culture and some associated activities, our passion for Kpop is a minimum requirement for the work we do. Our work also requires the courage to forge a path in a niche research area within a discipline that is still developing, a willingness to perform due diligence, and not unlike the most successful Kpop idols, the will to perform seemingly repetitive actions in pursuit of a professional and cohesive body of work for an audience who’d like to consume a quality product.
This past January, KPK marked its second anniversary, and in that time we have improved our artist profiles and expanded our research projects. In the same amount of time, the DH discipline still struggles with its very identity – literally. In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, William Pannapacker (with KPK’s apologies) pleads:
Stop calling it “digital humanities.” Or worse, “DH,” with a knowing air. The backlash against the field has already arrived. The DH’ers have always known that their work is interdisciplinary (or metadisciplinary), but many academics who are not humanists think they’re excluded from it….it seems more inclusive to call it digital liberal arts (DLA) with the assumption that we’ll lose the “digital” within a few years, once practices that seem innovative today become the ordinary methods of scholarship.
DH (or DLA) labels aside, KPK is performing the unique work of organizing Kpop artist information and Kpop fan activities during a time when DH standards are wide-ranging and many actions that were once considered within the discipline have been challenged as the field evolves. When KPK considers adding new projects or updating current ones, we revisit the evolving rules of DH and work to reconcile them with the KPK educational mission. Because of this evolution, our passion for Kpop (“let’s gather every single photo we can find of Eric because Shinhwa is awesome!”) has always been tempered by the scholastic/research activity of due diligence (“which photos of Shinhwa reflect a certain aspect of the group’s position in/influence on Hallyu’s development”). Burdick et al. assert that one of the characteristics of DH is “an emphasis upon curation as a defining feature of scholarly practice” (2012, 122). KPK’s projects reflect this characteristic because of our ongoing commitment to adhere to the latest standards where we can, and to question any standards that seem exclusionary to scholars who are doing good works in unconventional DH environments.
Hand-in-hand with due diligence is the time it takes to seek, evaluate, master, train others, and implement new technologies and curate our information so KPK’s work can be made public and is easily disseminated. When we started KPK two years ago, we used two tools for content creation: WordPress and Google Docs. As our work evolved towards curation, we discovered more tools and applied them to our work. More recently, KPK members have been trained on or exposed to a variety of digital curation platforms, including Omeka, Timeline JS, and Mindomo.
While these technologies make information gathering and presentation easier, it still takes quite a while to get work done. For instance, it takes about 4 hours to gather and curate all the items for the average KPK artist profile, and another 2 hours to input the items into KPOPIANA. That doesn’t take into account how long it takes to set up the artist’s exhibit. Since a lot of Kpop information is strewn all over the Internet (and in some cases, is contradictory or not available at all), this work can be tedious and repetitive – especially if you’re working on an artist that you don’t know well (or know, but who is not your favorite). Add this time to the hours we spend tagging and adding news to our information archive, annotating interesting articles, locating scholarly work, talking to fans, and preparing data for presentations, it becomes quickly apparent that my while my enjoyment of Kpop helps me get the job done, it isn’t the actual work of KPK.
The interesting thing is this: when I’m looking for information about an artist who I don’t know that much about; watching a music video of a group that makes me wonder how they ever made even one comeback; or analyzing a concept photo that leaves me questioning the entire cordi-noona empire –that is when my passion for Kpop kicks in, melds with my love of scholarship, and stokes my determination to get our work done right for the long-term fulfillment of the KPK mission.
Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital Humanities. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. Web.
Pannapacker, William. “Stop Calling it ‘Digital Humanities’.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 5 Mar 2013.
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While some academics may be skeptical about the intellectual value of using a blog as part of their research, I have found that it has numerous benefits.
Some academics look down on blogging for research because it is goes against the conventional wisdom that the only things that matter in scholarship are peer-reviewed production: journal article, book chapters in edited collections, monographs. Scholars are concerned because we all know the weight such publications carry in annual evaluations, promotion and tenure and our overall reputations in our fields. We may reason, “If I’m going to spend my time writing, it needs to be on something that counts.”
Yes, these kinds of publications count, but they do not begin to capture the breadth of our scholarship. The process by which we engage ideas as we arrive at our brilliant conclusions is also scholarship, and blogging about our research can capture this. Kathleen Fitzpatrick notes, “When a scholar with a blog writes a bit about some ideas-in-process, receives some feedback in response, returns with further ideas, reiterates, and so on, we can glimpse once again the seriality that has always been at the heart of scholarly production.”
Blogging also documents that process. Rather than thoughts being lost in our own heads, blog posts capture our epiphanies as they occur. We rarely recognize how much intellectual labor we utilize. I find blogging to be a concrete way to capture that intellectual labor and map my own thought process. Nothing I write comes out fully polished and ready to go and that’s ok. In a piece last year for The Chronicle on Higher Education, Bruce Henderson noted what happens behind-the-scenes of scholarship production:
They do not see us reading, talking with—and listening to—colleagues, or translating new information into class notes or research ideas. They do not see us struggling to find out what is important in the overwhelming amount of new information in every discipline. Yet such consumatory scholarship is fundamental to up-to-date teaching, to the initial stages of research projects, and to institutional and community service based on expertise rather than just good intentions.
Blogging is one way to capture that consumatory scholarship. We all know you cannot write responsibly about something unless you know what’s already been written. I use blogging on my research site as a way to do that publicly. It’s helpful for me because I can see the product of my in-process thinking.
But there are other, less-discussed reasons for research blogging. Blog posts validate smaller sized articulations of our thinking. Being driven to write only journal articles or book chapters can contribute to the kind of unproductive mindset that Kerry Ann Rockquemore talks about in her essay on academic perfectionism. She asks: “Do you hold onto your drafts until you think they are perfect and only share manuscripts with others when they are in their most advanced stage?” “Do you have an intense fear of failure because it might reveal to others that you are not perfect (or have as much potential as others thought you had)?” “ Are you so fixated on the end goal of publishing your paper, receiving a grant, and/or getting stellar teaching evaluations that if you don’t meet the goal, it doesn’t even matter what happened in the process?” Positive answers to these questions may indicate a mode of perfectionism that produce ”self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are aimed at reaching an unrealistic goal (perfection).”
I have found that blogging helps me to avoid these extreme views about my writing. It allows me to set smaller goals, and I write more. By writing shorter pieces, my writing improves in my peer-reviewed work as well.
Finally, blogging gave me a sense of control over my own work that we can lose working exclusively toward peer-reviewed publications. In exchange for the opportunity to be published, we give up the rights over our own work. This may contribute to the way academia operates an uncertain venture for some. Rockquemore notes that the academic environment is one “where there are no objective and transparent criteria for tenure and promotion, but instead a moving target of ever-escalating expectations” and “where success is largely under the control of others and rejection rates are astronomically high.”
Isn’t the ultimate goal of research to contribute to a body of knowledge that people can access? So, I decided that I would I write and publish small pieces of my research on my blog to share directly with the public: no paywalls, no passwords, no undecipherable jargon. Just the attribution will make me happy. I get to decide how others can use it through a Creative Commons license. If somebody asks me to translate a post in French, I can say yes because I exercise a measure of control over my own writing that I don’t always do in peer-reviewed publications.
It is also important to me that some of the writing I do should be the kind my family and friends can read. It was especially important for this work on Korean popular culture, because so much of my source material is in the public square and relies on the public production of others (i.e. fans) and their perceptions.
This writing has paid off I ways I could not anticipate. I have extended my academic circle and have been offered more traditional academic opportunities as a result of my blog writing. I engage with people who aren’t academics but have deep insights in my subjects. I talk to people.
Blogging our research may seem counterintuitive, but I know my traditional academic writing has benefitted as a result.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Blogs as Serialized Scholarship.” Planned Obsolescence. 12 Jul 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
Henderson, Bruce B. ”Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. 11 June 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
Rockquemore, Kerry Ann. “The Cost of Perfectionism.” Inside Higher Education. 7 Nov 2012. Web. 3 Mar 2013.
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Hybrid Hallyu: The American Soul Tradition In K-pop
2013 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA)
Washington, DC • March 27-30, 2012
Crystal S. Anderson, Ph.D. • Elon University
Hallyu (Korean wave), a Korean cultural movement directed towards global audiences, represents hybrid and transnational sensibilities. Ever since the debut of Seo Taiji and the Boys in 1992, Korean popular music (K-pop) has been influenced by American soul and R&B. This paper examines the soul tradition in contemporary K-pop by interrogating the adoption and adaptation of the genre by several K-pop groups.
KPK: Kpop Kollective will once again bring the knowledge at KPOPCON’13 February 16-17 at UC Berkeley!
BEYOND THE BIAS: WHAT K-POP FANS REALLY THINK AND DO
Crystal S. Anderson, Ph.D., KPK: Kpop Kollective
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S., KPK: Kpop Kollective
Bianca Flowers, KPK: Kpop Kollective
Do you troll the Internet for pictures of your bias? Watch dance versions of videos on YouTube? Share your opinions on a forum? Go to K-pop concerts?
This interactive session will uncover the complex world of K-pop fandom and give tips on how you can be a better fan! We’ll talk about the different kinds of fans and ways they interact with and support each other and their favorite K-pop artists and groups. We will also share how you can enhance your own fan experience by learning how to protect your original fan production (like fan art and fancam video), organize and properly attribute your stash of pictures collected from around the web, and properly share images and video.
IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is an scholarly research project that examines global fan attitudes and activities through surveys, collection of information on online communities and analysis of websites. Crystal S. Anderson, PhD (Elon University) is the Principal Investigator of the studies and Designer and Curator of the iFans project site.
iFans Case Studies Survey captures fan attitudes about the following 12 K-pop groups that have global, active fanbases: 2NE1, Aziatix, BigBang, Epik High, f(x), MBLAQ, SHINee, SNSD, SS501, Shinhwa, Super Junior and TVXQ. If you are a fan of more than one of these groups, you should take this survey.
iFans Individual Case Study captures more in-depth information on fan attitudes about each group. Click on one of the following to answer additional questions about your favorite group!
Case Studies Exhibit provides digital tours and analysis of selected fansites that support 12 K-pop groups.
This resource organizes online K-pop fan communities, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other fansites. You can look up information two ways:
Watch the progress of the project on the Omeka site, IFANS: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom.
*This human subject research has been reviewed by the Institutional Review Board at Elon University. Click here for study documentation.
By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Elon University (U.S.)
Whether it’s excited yelling by fans or crying by K-pop artists, emotions run deep in K-pop. While some focus on obsessive emotional attachments and behaviors by fans, research shows that fans themselves describe a range of emotional responses to K-pop. 100 responses by 18- to 30-year-olds show that fans find K-pop to be a source of happiness, hope and motivation. These responses are part of a five-year study on international fans of K-pop housed at KPK: Kpop Kollective.
Some writers tend to characterize fan activities and emotional expressions in negative terms. Patricia of Seoulbeats describes emotional expressions of appreciation for K-pop as bordering on obsessive: “I think there’s something to be said about my stance on the emotional toll that idol fandom takes on its devotees. That’s why I become so alarmed when I see these SHINee fans writing these intense emotional outpourings about how SHINee has changed their lives, or how much SHINee means to them. It breaks my heart to hear fans say that they turn to K-pop as a distraction for real life because their friends and family can’t offer them the same comfort that K-pop idols do.”
Adeline Chia writes that such emotions translate into obsessive behaviors: “Then there is K-pop’s effects on listeners. It turns functional people into crazed addicts, acting in robotic idolatry. . . . K-pop is also unique in inspiring extreme behaviour from fans and generating psychosis. Cyber-bullying and online smear campaigns are common practices by anti-fans who target a certain entertainer they hate. Sometimes, anti-fans turn into stalkers or criminals.”
To view entire “Can’t Stop Loving You” infographic, click here.
However, fans talk about the emotional appeal of K-pop in more positive terms. Some talk about overall emotions that go beyond the lyrics. One notes, “Kpop has the power to touch people even for those like me who don’t understand the lyrics. I think [it] is the r[h]ythm, the emotion in the voices, the dances. Kpop is like a best friend, it is here for you whenever you are happy or sad. Powerful stuff.” Another said: “The music is more touching and you can feel the emotions of the singers when they sing regardless of what genre.” Others link emotions to performances: “They sing and perform with passion and emotions, so even if you can’t really understand the lyrics you will get to know what it’s about by just listening. Kpop is not just another type of music it’s much more, that I can’t describe it with words” (Anderson).
These responses echo what scholars have discovered about emotional responses to music that transcend cultural differences. In a study with Western listeners listening to Hindustani ragas, Laura-Lee Balkwill and William Forde Thompson find that it is possible for music to travel cross-culturally: “According to our model, this indicates that the psychophysical cues for joy, sadness, and anger were salient enough to enable listeners to overcome their unfamiliarity with culture-specific cues and to make an accurate assessment of the intended emotion. . . . That naive listeners demonstrated such a high level of agreement with expert listeners, who were deeply familiar with the culture-specific cues embedded in the music samples, is remarkable” (58). In other words, listeners from other cultures can identify emotionally with music of a different culture, and this may shed light on why global fans identify with K-pop emotionally.
This emotional response runs the gamut. Many respondents describe how they find K-pop to be fun and happy. One notes, “Cause the music is always so free and fun to dance to. It simply makes me happy.” Another adds, “The songs are really refreshing, and listening to it puts me in a happy mood because of their lyrics and beats.” Other respondents link the happiness they feel from K-pop to their lives in general: “It always puts me in a good mood and makes me feel energized. Kpop sometimes can make you feel like your part of something bigger. It’s hard to explain but the feeling it gives you is great” (Anderson).
Others related K-pop to more somber emotions. One respondent says, “Because it’s very different and the music touches something in me, I mean this is not superficial, there are feelings in every song, this could be happiness or some sad feelings.” Another notes, “When I listen to sad songs I find that it have feelings in it and it will touched me too.” One says, “There’s an upbeat to the music that sometimes make you want to dance other times depending on where you heard it from makes you sad” (Anderson).
Some fans talk about how K-pop helps them through hard times. One respondent notes, “It was introduced to me at a hard time in my life and it has been the only music I listened to help me get through it.” Another says, “Kpop appeared in my life all of a sudden. I was really depressed back then and it helped me get out of my miserable state, pulled me out of the worst” (Anderson). Music can have the therapeutic effect these respondents describe. Annemiek Vink explains therapy methods, such as Guided Imagery in Music, which is “based on the assumption that the most appropriate music can be selected for healing purposes.” She further finds that the choice of music impacts the therapeutic results of GIM: “In all aspects, carefully selected music based on the person’s preference and personal background was far more effective than standard relaxation music” (153, 154).
This range of fairly positive emotions challenges negative characterizations of their emotional expression. These responses come from adults rather than young teenagers, so it is less convincing to describe them as obsessive along the lines of Chia. She refers to incidents involving K-pop celebrities, but respondents speak about their emotions mostly in relation to the music. When they do comment on the artists, it is often in terms of the positive relationship they have with fans. One notes, “The singers are so dedicated to their music and their fans. They put their real emotion into every word” (Anderson).
This emotional connection that some K-pop fans feel also translates into a discourse of protection, the desire to protect their group or artist from mischaracterizations. The Triple S Pledge encourages fans of SS501 “To support and shield them through hard times…To ignore rumors.” The same sentiments can be seen in the “Prom15e to Bel13ve and 10ve” philosophy held by some fans of Super Junior, which acknowledges every member regardless of current status or sub-group membership.
These findings suggest that emotion plays a role in the attitudes and opinions of adult global K-pop fans, often in a positive way.
Anderson, Crystal. Infographic. “Can’t Stop Loving You.” 14 Dec 2012. Web.
European Kpop Fans. Digital Image. WeHeartIt. Originally posted on european-kpop-fans.blogspot.com. 14 Dec 2012. http://weheartit.com/entry/29104058
Anderson, Crystal S. “Data Set: Hallyu Kpop Survey 2 and Kpop Kollective KiFs Survey 2, 18- to 30 Year Olds.” Korean Popular Music International Fanbases Project. 29 Apr 2011 – 15 Apr 2012.
Balkwill, Laura-Lee and William Forde Thompson. “A Cross-Cultural Investigation of the Perception of Emotion in Music: Psychophysical and Cultural Cues.” Music Perception 17. 1 (1999): 43-64.
Chia, Adeline. “Sick Cult of K-pop.” Originally published on Straits Times. 8 Dec 2011. SGSJELFs & SupershowSG. Web. 8 Dec 2012. http://sgsjelfs.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/sick-of-k-pop-cult-by-adeline-chia-of-straits-times/
Patricia. “Fans Love Oppa, But Oppa Is Uncomfortable With Such Feelings.” 24 May 2011. Seoulbeats. Web. 8 Dec 2012. http://seoulbeats.com/2011/05/fans-love-oppa-but-oppa-is-uncomfortable-with-such-feelings/
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