I had initially chosen to look at the cultural phenomenon of K-Pop, through the lens of the autoethnographic research methodology. I had chosen K-Pop, because I had very minimal knowledge of it as a whole, but what I did perceive of its reputation was that K-Pop was an extremely glamorized and encouraged insane devotion from its fans.
My first encounter with K-Pop can be found at; < https://emmacongdon05.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/my-autoethnographic-experience-with-k-pop/ > To summarise, my first proper encounter with the K-Pop music video Monster by EXO, was all that I expected and more, but with a bit of added shock. Unfortunately I am well accustom to the dumbed down money mad western pop, and I would describe K-Pop as western pop music on steroids. I wouldn’t say that K-Pop is dumbed down (mainly because I don’t know what they are saying, aside a few English words here and there), but it is definitely based on the laws of attraction, with money pumped in.
Ellis et al (2015) discuss the importance of self-discovery and experiencing epiphanies whilst undergoing autoethnographic study. Boncher at el (1984) further define epiphanies as “effects that linger—recollections, memories, images, feelings—long after a crucial incident is supposedly finished.” I encountered and identified five core epiphanies that stuck with me after watching the music video Monster, by EXO.
- A more intense version of western pop music – globalisation
- Talented dancers
“K-Pop represents an effort to network global talent pools in the formerly disconnected music industry. Korea occupies a structure that exists between Western and East Asian music industries.” So from my bias and western background, I had firstly believed that newer K-Pop was ‘westernised’ and becoming globalised from western pop music, but in fact, I could have this completely backwards, Korean popular entertainment could be the influence on the western. The Korean Wave refers to the rise in the popularity of Korean pop culture in Asian countries. The world of pop entertainment and media has seen relatively strong dominance of globalization with “Hollywood as its utopia. However, Hollywood has proved to be a dystopia to the peoples of Asia” (Hyun-key Kim, H 2013). There is an undisputed connection between K-Pop and western pop music, K-Pop is globalised in a sense that “the stars follow the world trend in performance, presentation and fashion, and emulate their Western compatriots” (Hyun-key Kim, H 2013). Another definitive globalised factor is that English is frequently used throughout Monster, and other K-Pop songs. So what I can deduce from this information is that K-Pop has grown with the Korean wave but become slightly globalised by following world trends.
One of the epiphanies that stuck with me was the insane emphasis on the dancing and how attractive the artists were. In the music video Monster, all nine of the males in the band are covered in make up and jewellery and had insane hair (which was either doused in product or coloured). The beauty of the video clip got me thinking about the beauty regime, and as it turns out, it starts from childhood. Potential K-Pop artists are selected at around 10 years old if their ‘cute’ enough, and put through tough training camps from there. The camps are like a boarding school and for years, teach them how to be perfect K-Pop idols and train them in singing and dancing (hence the impeccably perfect choreography and dancing). From there on, cosmetic surgery is encouraged and weight control is strict. The final product of these idols and the pop music is amazing, perfectly choreographed, and very entertaining to watch and engage with, but it makes me sympathetic, why would anyone want to subject themselves to that kind of control and body image issues? It’s much more strict compared to western pop music artists, and because I’m so used to the western music industry, it makes the K-Pop industry look cruel, but then again, there are people who know this about the industry and still worship it. So the contradicting opinions of the people who worship the industry, and myself, could just be the difference of background and bias?
When I was watching the K-Pop music video Monster, it was so similar to many western songs that are so simple and kind of dumb, pumped out by money, for money. They are the catchy songs that are made purely to bring back more money, their not written by the inspired artists that sing the songs, they are just the faces that many are persuaded to love. It super similar to western pop in this sense.
Overall K-Pop is a beautiful and entertaining industry, but is shadowed by a cruel way of life. I still view K-Pop and wester pop in a very similar light, there are so many similarities that bridge the two cultures. The beginning of my autoethnographic narrative, I was pleasantly shocked at this insane kind of pop music, but through analysis and further research, I have learned that the K-Pop industry isn’t too friendly. This research has left me slightly distained from the K-Pop industry, but I think I might still find myself interested in engaging with the synthetic beauty of it all.
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