A Far East Movement: The Cultural Politics of Asian/Americans in Kpop
Dr. Crystal S. Anderson
Association of Asian American Studies Conference, Washington, DC
April 11-14, 2012
With the global spread of Hallyu (global Korean cultural movement expressed through music, television dramas and film), many have focused on the reception of Korean culture by other countries. However, there is also a reciprocal movement, one where Asian/Americans migrate to the Korean popular music scene, bringing a sensibility reflecting experiences as people of color in the United States AND members of an Asian diaspora. This paper explores the complicated results of such movement. On one hand, Korean American artists like Jay Park have encountered obstacles in navigating the Kpop scene. Initially a member of the all-male group 2PM, Park created controversy over his abrupt departure and subsequent negative comments about Koreans. His experience suggests challenges in acculturating to what seems to be a foreign culture to him as an Asian American. On the other hand, Korean artists born or raised in the United States (i.e. Hyesung, and Andy of Shinhwa) or Canada (i.e. Henry of Super Junior) seem to avoid the kinds of troubles that Park encounters. In addition, Asian American groups such as Aziatix have gained a measure of success in Kpop. My paper will explore factors that may account for this difference. In addition, American producers such as Steven Lee regularly work behind the scenes making music that draws on American R&B and soul, while Korean producers such as Yoo Young Jin work with African Americans to create what can only be described as Korean soul. What are the implications of this transnational movement of culture? Is the reception of these subjects in Kpop impacted by transnational cultural politics?