Mini Data Note: Female American Fans, K-pop Girl Groups and a Critique of Empowerment

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Survey responses suggest that American female fans of K-pop girl groups simultaneously critique Korean society and music industry and recognize the impact of their position as foreign fans on their perceptions of representations of empowerment in K-pop.  These are findings from the U Go Girl: The K-pop Girl Group Fan Study and are based on 129 responses from female fans who identified their country of residency as the United States.

Transcultural fandom, when fans admire something outside of their culture, often revolves around nationalism. Koichi Iwabuchi talks about “brand nationalism,” or a “nationalist strategy of disseminating culture for national interests” (90). However, brand nationalism focuses on the interests of the country creating the culture rather than how fans outside of the country make sense of it. The field of fan studies tends to focus on the way fans admire culture, but what about when they critique it? When asked about their attitudes towards concepts/images of K-pop girl groups in relation to empowerment and agency for women, some American female fans of K-pop girl groups articulate a critique of gender dynamics in Korean society, while others recognize the impact of their American identity on their perspectives of female empowerment in Korea.  Both show how an American perspective can influences the discourses around K-pop.

Critique of Korea

Several respondents criticize Korean culture and society for a lack of representation of empowerment by K-pop girl groups. One respondent notes: “I think Korea has a huge issue with misogyny that is reflected in K-pop and that women are forced to be boxed in to one ‘type’ or another in order to appeal to men and to be socially acceptable to both men and women.” Another respondent says: “A lot of times they are held back due to Korea still holding sexist attitudes so I think there is more potential but it will all slowly become better.” How much do the respondents know about the history of Korean culture? Do they form such opinions based on Western media, which has been known to skew representations of foreign culture? Is “Korea’s issue with misogyny” or its “sexist attitudes” different than those within the United States?

Recognition of American Subjectivity

At the same time, other respondents recognize their perspective as American fans of a foreign popular culture. One respondent notes: “We have to remember as foreign fans, the concepts, images and sonic soundscapes that we hear/see in K-pop are coming from a unique place and culture. That means we are not always going to immediately understand it. . . . . We all have different experiences and thus different frameworks. Foreign Kpop fans need to remember this.” Another respondent notes: “This is a tricky question, because I’m a white American woman speaking on gender politics in Korea, a country I have no relation to and have never lived in. . . . At the end of the day, I’m not a defining voice on the subject, all I am is someone trying to find grey area in music and entertainment from a country that isn’t my own. I still am friends with quite a few Korean-Americans so I hear what they think on certain concepts, and that contributes a lot to my hesitancy to place my Western ideals on another country dismissively.” These fans recognize that their perceptions of Korean culture are filtered through their experiences as fans outside of the country. What kind of knowledge would a fan have to gain to make a valid critique of representations of empowerment? Do their perspectives not count because they are foreign fans? Do ideas about empowerment change as they cross national boundaries?

Other Observations

Such divergent responses suggest that perceptions by American fans may be influenced by American culture in general.  The impact of nationalism has been explored in fan studies.  Kyong Yoon’s study of K-pop fans in Vancouver included Canadians of East Asian descent, white Canadians and one Canadian of mixed race. Yoon noted: “Some fans of Asian descent engaged with K-pop in relation to their Asian Canadian subject positions, while White Canadian fans emphasized their individual and alternative cultural tastes that do not belong to mainstream culture” (185). Yoon suggests that a Canadian context informs the way these fans interact with K-pop.

The United States represents a unique context informed by a history of the interplay among gender, ethnicity and nationality. As a nation developed by a variety of immigrant groups and a major site for women’s rights, the United States also elides those very varied experiences in favor of one dominant narrative on empowerment, currently often represented as fierce, outspoken and brash. Images and concepts not in keeping with this narrative might be construed as not empowering. This suggests that a distinct and particular American cultural lens can have an impact on the way fans read empowerment in Korean girl groups.

Sources

Iwabuchi, Koichi.”Undoing Inter‐national Fandom in the Age of Brand Nationalism’. Mechademia 5 (2010): . 87‐96.

Yoon, Kyong. “Transnational Fandom in the Making: K-pop Fans in Vancouver.” the International Communication Gazette vol 81, no. 2 (2018): 176-192. DOI: 10.1177/1748048518802964.

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Mini Data Note: Female American Fans, K-pop Girl Groups and a Critique of Empowerment by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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How We Get Down: KPK Documents Your Stuff!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As part of KPK’s decennial year, we are launching K-pop Commons, a repository of K-pop project ephemera – documents and artifacts that were not created for formal publication or commercial display (e.g., books, book chapters, galleries/exhibitions), but that are meaningful to the creators of the items and that reflect the impact of K-pop on those who know it best: fans. 

Continue reading “How We Get Down: KPK Documents Your Stuff!”

Into the New World: Research Suggests Multi-Fandom the Norm for Veteran K-pop Fans

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While it may seem that the current norm in K-pop is single-fandom (the tendency to support just one artist), data suggests that older K-pop fans started and continue to be multi-fandom. This may be another way the overall K-pop fandom has shifted in the past few years.

With the rise of K-pop groups, their individual fandoms have also garnered more attention, leading some to focus on using a single fandom to define K-pop fandom in general. However, 316 responses collected between April 29, 2011 and March 4, 2015 suggest that K-pop fans of that era exhibited very different behaviors and attitudes. Respondents were asked the open-ended question, “How did you become interested in K-pop?”

Many respondents related their entrance into K-pop with specific groups, and overwhelmingly with one group in particular: SHINee. Other high recurring groups include BigBang, Super Junior and TVXQ. Rain was the most-cited solo artist. What is interesting is that these groups all debuted between 2003 and 2009. The first responses collected in 2011, so none of these groups were brand new to the K-pop scene at the time that respondents encountered them. For this generation of K-pop fan, the appeal of K-pop was asynchronous, meaning that individuals became fans, not as a result of debut promotion or marketing, but by other means.

More importantly, respondents routinely noted that once they discovered one K-pop group, they were motivated to look for additional groups. One noted, “My friend showed me SHINee’s Lucifer video, and I was immediately addicted to them.  So then I started looking up other groups too.”  Another responded wrote: “I started listening to more BigBang, and then other groups such as 2NE1 and SHINee, and then read a ton of Wikipedia pages about different groups and record labels and learned about the training system that K-pop stars go through before debuting. I also started watching variety shows that K-pop idols appear on, and find that whole concept really interesting too.” I call this phenomenon branching.

Some respondents go through a great deal of effort to expand to additional K-pop groups. One respondent explained how a search to find one K-pop song led to more: “However, the obsession didn’t just stop with that song. During the many hours that I spent trying to find the name of that song, I discovered many other catchy tunes and fell in love with a new genre of music that I had never heard of before.”  Several respondents use the term “research” to describe the activity of looking for more K-pop groups:  “I became interested in K-pop when I accidentally happened upon a Super Junior song on YouTube about 3-4 years ago. I don’t remember what song it was. But after I heard it I was thinking… Wow. This is good stuff. I want more. I wanna hear more. I researched, found more groups I absolutely fell in love with. Then 2-3 years ago, I found Big Bang, followed by 2NE1. And now all of the other amazing groups I love.”

For some, the quest for more K-pop groups takes them to other forms of Korean entertainment. K-drama and K-pop are linked, as members of K-pop groups often star in Korean television dramas and perform on soundtracks for the shows. One respondent noted:  “I happened across Kdramas and liked an actor in it. I found out he was a singer and then discovered other singers, groups, bands, etc.” Another explained:  “Hulu.com recommended a Kdrama to me called “Boys over Flowers” and as I became more interested in the characters and the OST for the show, I started to look up various actors/singers on YouTube.”

And while “idols” may be the way many are introduced to K-pop, the phenomenon of branching may take fans far afield. One respondent wrote:  “I think, what’s 2pm? I think my friend had mentioned groups named 2pm and 2am to me before, and I thought they were silly names. But I really liked Jason in Dream High, so I decided to look up this Wooyoung on YouTube. That day I discovered my love for K-pop. I became a hardcore Hottest, and expanded the groups and genres I listened to little by little until I was listening to anything from rap to pop to ballads to indie. All in a language I can’t completely understand.”

One respondent summed up the branching phenomenon with this formula:

JPop = discovered Tohoshinki = wiki = O.O = OMG! = google other kpop artists

Such findings suggest earlier generations of K-pop fans tend to develop more broad interests in K-pop that go beyond one group, while more contemporary fans seem to be more devoted to single groups. By only focusing exclusively on one group, they may be less knowledgeable about the larger K-pop and as a result may have distorted perceptions of it.  These findings also support  earlier findings that point to a more diverse general K-pop fandom, one that at the very least, is made up of those who support individual K-pop groups and those who support K-pop in general. Both may be needed for the continued viability of K-pop. Such findings reveal fan behavior that suggests that the appeal of K-pop is more complicated.  The K-pop landscape continues to change.

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Into the New World: Research Suggests Multi-fandom the Norm for Veteran K-pop Fans by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Not the Only One: Multi-Fandoms and K-pop

 

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Can’t decide which K-pop group or artist is your favorite? You are not alone! Global fans of K-pop tend to support several groups and artists at the same time, while their Korean counterparts tend to support only one group or artist. But why? And which groups tend to be in a global fan’s multi-fandom? This study seeks to answer these questions in survey that uses open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Take the survey and tell your friends!

Link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/kpopmultifandom

Mini Data Note: Why Fans Like B.A.P!

B.A.P
B.A.P

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Survey results suggest that BABYs, fans of the male K-pop group B. A.P, like the group because of its uniqueness, music and the extramusical activities of the members. These results come from the FAVORITE ARTIST: KARTIST3YR DATASET, part of the 3Year Korean Popular Music Survey. This data note is based on a small sample of 11 respondents.

Uniqueness

Respondents point to the way that B.A.P differs from other K-pop “idol” groups.  One noted that “they have a different feeling to the Kpop industry” and another stated that “they don’t just have a pretty-boy sound.” This can be seen from their debut song, “Warrior.”

 

Music

Respondents also referred to the group’s musical ability. One stated, “They have a wide variety of types of songs (‘Coffee Shop’ is mellow, ‘Hurricane’ is dance and ‘Badman’ is just hard).” Another stated, “They clearly have a passion for music and the music they make, even sometimes getting involved with its creation.”

Extramusical Activities

Several respondents noted the activities of the members beyond music making. One respondent noted, “They’re having a concert because of their charity works. They have the heart of helping others despite . . . their busy schedules.” Another stated, “The leader participates in helping children and the fans also participate in actions [by] UNICEF.”

Image: 1

Sources

“FAVORITE ARTIST: KARTIST3YR DATASET,” KPOPCULTURE, accessed December 1, 2016, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/695.

TSENT 2008. “B.A.P – WARRIOR (워리어) M/V.” YouTube. 25 Jan 2012. https://youtu.be/5tLooPlf2Sw, *(9 Dec 2016).

Mini Data Note: Why Fans Like Infinite!

Infinite
Infinite

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

Survey results suggests that Inspirits, fans of the male K-pop group Infinite, like the group because of its strong choreography, vocals and group dynamic.  These results come from the FAVORITE ARTIST: KARTIST3YR DATASET, part of the Hallyu Korean Popular Music Survey. This data note is based on a small sample of 13 respondents.

Choreography

Respondents repeatedly point to Infinite’s dance skills as a primary reason for the group’s appeal, noting their ability to dance in sync. One respondent stated that s/he liked the group because “they have one of the most dopest choreography ever; they are /nearly/synchronized.” Such dance skills can be seen in music videos like “Come Back Again.”

 

Vocals

Other respondents point to the group’s vocal talent. One respondent noted that “all of the members can sing, even the rappers.” Another noted the ability of the members to harmonize. This can be seen in their performance of “Diamond.”

Group Dynamic

Some respondents noted the dynamic between group members. One respondent described the members as “handsome and funny,” while another noted that “they’re serious on stage but down-to-earth off and funny/goofy.”

Sources

“FAVORITE ARTIST: KARTIST3YR DATASET,” KPOPCULTURE, accessed December 1, 2016, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/695.

Jeff Benjamin. “INFINITE’s ‘Destiny’ Music Video: Watch the EDM-Influenced Single’s Blockbuster Visual.” Billboard. 16 Jul 2013. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/1764404/infinites-destiny-music-video-watch-the-edm-influenced-singles. (1 Dec 2016).

KBS World TV. “INFINITE – Back / Diamond [Music Bank COMEBACK / 2014.07.18].” YouTube. 12 Aug 2014. https://youtu.be/scg2UqfC15U, (1 Dec 2016).

wolliment. “인피니트 ‘다시돌아와’ 안무ver. 뮤직비디오.” YouTube. 27 Jun 2010. https://youtu.be/6NzVJYEcruw, (1 Dec 2016).

 

 

Last Fans Standing: A Multiple Case Study of Longtime and Adult K-pop Fans

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Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Associate Professor of English, Longwood University

This survey has been revised! Click here for new survey!!!

Most people assume that the only audience for modern Korean popular music (K-pop) is teenagers. As a result, they also assume that K-pop music lacks longevity.  However, the presence of longtime fans suggests that K-pop remains appealing to some fans for years. The existence of adult fans challenges the notion that K-pop only appeals to teenagers.  This multiple case study seeks to understand why individuals remain K-pop fans for years and why adults find K-pop appealing. For three years, I will be asking questions about these atypical fans of K-pop. This survey contains several open-ended and multiple-choice questions that ask how fans see themselves and ask about their K-pop music preferences and fan activity. Please take the survey!

 

CONFERENCE ABSTRACT (Panel Session): The Collective on 2/19/2015

Doing DH Library-Style

The Collective

Knoxville, TN • February 19-20, 2015

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S. • University of South Carolina Lancaster

This panel session reviews the meaning of Digital Humanities within the Library and Information Science framework, explores how the discipline is being applied in library settings, and demonstrates how DH projects support and serve library users and other stakeholders. Kendrick’s portion of the session will delve into pedagogical applications (information literacy support), research and instruction collaborations with other teaching faculty members, and other opportunities for leadership using DH tools and applications. More here.

IFANS PROJECT UPDATE: Online Interview with BigBang Fan

IFANS PROJECT UPDATE:  Online Interview with BigBang Fan
L to R: T.O.P, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon, Daesung; Credit: www.nii.co.kr
L to R: T.O.P, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon, Daesung; Credit: http://www.nii.co.kr

iFans: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is a digital project that examines the attitudes, practices and creative output of global K-pop fans. VIPs (as fans of BigBang are called) were given the opportunity to participate in an online interview with questions geared toward their experience as BigBang fans. Whale, a VIP, wrote about the criticisms about BigBang as well as the group’s status as an idol group.  Read more here….