The origins of this website are not merely my obsession with all things Kpop and Korean–this site is the purpose and subject of one of my university courses at UC Berkeley.
There are many ways I would like to see this blog grow into a proper resource or someone looking to learn something substantive about Korean pop music, cultural products, the phenomena of Gangnam Style, and social critique in Korea. To understand how Korean pop music has come to be, he specific way it is, we must look at broader strokes of Korean culture and history.
First is Korean colonialism under Japanese rule from 1905-1945, its connections to Korean economic development, and its connections to present day cultural exchanges between Korea and Japan, specifically Korean music, along with Korean drams and films. Japan has proved to be an important factor in Korean economic development and the biggest foreign audience for Korean pop music. This is all cast under the long shadow of feelings of nationalism and mutual racism between Korea and Japan that at times clash with the economic and artistic collaborations between the two nations.
Korean Economic Development will also need its own special attention. After the devastation of the Korean War South Korea found itself with literally no infrastructure and an insufficnet domestic political structure. Korea sped through the development process, and the charred, dilapidated landscape of the 1950’s in merely 30 years was filled with skyscrapers and hosting the 1988 Olympics. This was not a miracle, but the consequences of specific set of political, economic, and cultural policies and ideals. We will look at the presence of government in business, the prevalence of Chaebols, the relations and exchanges with Japanese business models, and the human experience leading up through development to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.
Finally we will take the narratives of Japanese colonialism and Korean Development and look at the structure of the Korean pop industry today, its relationship with the Korean government, and its role in Korean nationalism and social critique (or better yet the lack there of). We will look at the rise of Kpop in the 21st century, and its role in Korea, Japan, and the rest of Asia.
Hopefully this journey will show how deeply Korean pop music is embedded into political, economic, and social structures of Korean society outlined in Japanese colonialism and solidified during Korean development. Hopefully, we can explain how Korean pop music has become intertwined with Korean nationalism, Korean international affairs, and captured interests of people abroad. There are reasons we don’t see that much Cynical Kpop, and continue not to do so.