[Opinion] The Satisfying and Disquieting Use of Loveline Entertainment

A couple of weeks ago SBS’ long-running entertainment variety show “Running Man” officially introduced a new loveline — an on-screen romance — between two members. While entertaining, it is also disquieting to see people forced into a romantic construct that is not of their making.

Image source – Instagram

Lovelines, the real or faux on-screen romances on Korean entertainment programs, are exploited by both cast members and producers to jump-start interest, provide fan service, and to open a slew of possible entertaining moments notable enough to wind up in the news and trend on search engines.

This kind of entertainment goldmine is especially viable if the participants are attractive and eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. One network, in particular, has become proficient in honing in on popular would-be couples and banking in on the fan-led fantasies.

SBS is behind the massively popular “Monday Couple” of rapper Gary and actress Song Ji-hyo born during the first years of “Running Man” and later capitalized on the viable connection between Kim Jong-kook and singer Hong Jin-young on “My Little Old Boy.”

Just a few weeks ago, the network officiated the loveline between permanent cast members Song Ji-hyo and Kim Jong-kook (the same one on “My Little Old Boy”). In doing so the networks answered the prayers of a dedicated subgroup of the show’s fans who refer to the couple as “Spartace,” a combination of their “Running Man” nicknames “Sparta” and “Ace.”

Admittedly, the episode first episode where the cast, guests, and staff seemed conspired to play up every one of their interactions was very entertaining. More than the embarrassing reactions of the Song and Kim was the ingenuity of the cast in finding ways to tease the two — including an impromptu rendition of Kim’s song “One Man.”

The most recent episode of “Running Man,” the cast was divided into two groups where they had to find and eat a cheaper dish of food than the opposing team. While simple in concept, the dynamics of each team was unique enough that laughs came easily, especially from the team that had the show’s new loveline couple in a group with Haha and Yang Se-chan.

In fact, the episode was so entertaining I decided to watch it again. During the second watch through, the interactions and reactions of the members took on a new somewhat disquieting light.

As the cast members (especially Haha and Yang who deserve an award for their work) and crew continued to bank in on the loveline between Kim and Song, it became clear that while the two took the teasing in good humor that it also made them uncomfortable.

https://youtu.be/X8xz1or9D_I?t=152

With Kim and Song having been colleagues and friends for close to a decade, the loveline appears to have created a shift on the show that the two may not have been fully prepared for. This is unlike the loveline between Kim Jong-kook and Hong Jin-young on “My Little Old Boy” and occasionally on “Running Man” where the two are placed in clearly constructed situations and understanding their relationship dynamics when on set.

Whether they do have any romantic feelings for each other or are just friends, is it okay to profit from their discomfort that may have repercussions even when the cameras are off?

This issue is connected to the broader topic of fan-service. In fictional works, it is when non-plot affecting elements are added to please the audience. In K-pop, it is when celebrities engage in behavior that is not normal for them for their fans. This can include but is not limited to such acts of physical intimacy like holding hands, hugging, and cheek kissing.

While fans of shows and groups may enjoy and even find these kinds of interactions and lovelines exciting and satisfying, it can also lead to unforeseen consequences — especially if those involved don’t enjoy it themselves.

 

 

 

By O.C

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates

[OPINION] Changes in Korean Drama From 2000s-Now

In 2019, there have been a lot of historical record breaking in terms of drama viewership for cable TV. Looking back on how much Korean dramas have changed over the last 2 decades, the Internet wins the grand prize for its role!

As an avid Korean drama fan since childhood, all I can say in short is… a lot has changed since the last century. You know time has really gone by when you remember actor Hyun Bin in his lead role in My Name Is Kim Sam Soon (2005) when he wasn’t buff with his spiky hair.

My Name is Kim Sam Soon (2005) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfogl22YW1g

There was a time when a good portion of the dramas airing were historical dramas.

An example of what is Korean historical drama- some in the video would also go on my top  historical drama list.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlToGM7LTG4

In the past, historical dramas could be expected to have certain traits. Lots of beautiful traditional hanbok, accurate depictions of historical events, usage of Korean like Old Korean or Middle Korean (what is used today is Modern Korean) and traditional Korean music as part of the OST. While there are a lot of dramas I could mention as an example, the ones that many would be familiar are probably Jewel in the Palace also known as Dae Jang Geum (2003), Hwang Jini (2006) and Emperor of the Sea (2003).

Jewel in the Palace (2003)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0nmzYdMGRg

Many scenes were about traditional Korean cuisine, hence its role in the start of the Korean Wave. After this drama became globally popular, Korean restaurants started becoming widespread in many major cities as many people became interested in trying Korean food like bibimbap. 

Emperor of the Sea (2003)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLBSmChuwP4

All members of the main cast in this mega-hit drama are today’s household names, Choi Soo-Jong, Chae Shi-Ra, Song Ill-Kook (triplets’ father), Soo Ae and Chae Jang-An. While some had already reached the heights of their career before this show, for others it sent them to the top!

Hwang Jini (2006)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmMyBO69meo

This drama’s theme was traditional arts. The cast had to spend many hours learning to dance from an expert, the costumes were beautiful, the songs were well balanced between traditional and modern (modern classical). The drama’s success resulted in the lead actress Ha Ji-Won winning the 2006 Grand Acting Award.

Historical drama is not limited to hanbok or court intrigue

While many Korean dramas consist of wearing what is stereotyped as traditional Korean clothing, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others. One of the most iconic historical dramas would be Rustic Period aka Yainshidae (2002) depicted in the 1920’s to The Korean War when western clothes like suits and dresses have become widespread. As one of the THE highest-rated TV shows in Korea’s broadcasting history, the drama is based on a historical figure Kim Du-Han who happens to be the grandfather of Song Ill-Kook and the great-grandfather of the nation’s triplets-Daehan, Minguk and Manse.

Rustic Period (2002)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSMBWpK-Lc0&list=PLz_-V2fRIkbY7jEbWrsb_f4jXZs1YwYMc&index=2

This drama had many action scenes attracting a male fan-base. Covering romance, bromance, trip to memory lane for the older generation, intrigue for the younger ones, this was considered the family drama to watch all together. Even now, there are references to this drama because of how memorable the drama is.

On a side note for those who haven’t been captivated by the nation’s triplets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJYwFuX6z0Y

Korean Content Globally Accessible

In the past, before the Internet became widespread, Korean dramas could only be aired from the 3 major public broadcasting companies. During that time, there were limited slots for dramas to air, so with lots of demand but limited supply, each drama to be slotted for a broadcasting company had to go through a very competitive selection.

Accessing Korean content abroad before the Internet

Previously up to the early 2010s, the main TV broadcasters were KBS, MBC and SBS. To watch Korean drama, you had to rent it from a video store (if you live in a city with a big enough Korean population) or pay a lot of money to access a Korean channel. However, even if you paid a lot to watch Korean drama on TV, there was a time when you have to watch it as it airs, not where you can go back on your smart TV and catch up on past episodes at your convenience. Additionally, watching 2 new episodes every week on TV outside of Korea meant you are going to be very behind on your drama. By the time it starts airing in the US, chances were the drama was almost done with its season back in Korea. So what many people opted for (including myself) was to go to the Korean video store and rented videos of the new episodes of Korean drama which would be only 1 week behind Korea’s broadcasting schedule. Note it wasn’t DVDs but video tapes where you need a device to rewind it for you before you can start watching it all over again!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xS6a_jaiVw

Now in 2019, with the Internet, cable TV, web dramas and more in Korea, there are so much content available it has become somewhat overwhelming to prioritize your time when deciding which Korean drama to watch. Korean dramas have been globally recognized to be a very profitable market, hence companies like Viki, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc. distributing Korean dramas on their sites. Not only that, some of the mentioned companies are even producing or investing in Korean drama.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lcy3XUDd_A

With lots of demand and supply in the 2010s, it wouldn’t be too strict to say that the quality of Korean content has dropped over the years. From the time when there was only 3 broadcasting options to today where there’s so many options and marketable groups, it has become more profit driven than ever before.

Of course, when there are negative aspects, there are also many positive aspects as well. Korean media has become more accessible resulting in more interest for Korea, more fan bases leading to what is the continuously growing Hallyu Wave. There are more opportunities for those aspiring to go into film and more economic growth. Depending on what is considered more important for each person, the pros can outweigh the cons.

My Take On This

With many positive aspects, I hope that growth (profits) will not blind the entertainment industry in forgoing quality for quantity. In the end once all the profits, growth and potential are temporarily earned, these dramas will remain to become evidence for the future generations as they study history. Just as we ourselves used historical artifacts like music, books, physical propaganda and chess to understand the past, it will apply the same in the future. Or even now where kids (Gen Z) do not know what a game-boy, furby, beanie babies and walk-mans are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiPBZNMGdps

By Sara N

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] Why It’s Harder to Voice Your Opinion When You are a Celebrity

Feminism, Sexual Violence, Political Corruption. “Thanks” to these social outbursts, South Koreans today are the most liberal than they had ever been throughout history or even compared to 10 years ago. Ever since the 2016 Candlelight Revolution, the Koreans have finally realized the importance of having their voices heard.

Image Source – Sojoong.joins

Most countries require that their citizens put a public face on that is different from a private one. This was especially more extreme in South Korea, ultimately putting a ‘socially conservative’ frame on the country itself. The citizens eventually ended up confining their honest opinions to their closest friends and families, or only to themselves. However, many millennials in the country are starting to realize that it’s okay to be vocal about their opinions, as long as there exists a mutual respect between one another.

As a result, we have brought some good into the country, removing many corrupted politicians and celebrities though a variety of movement alike #MeToo. Moreover, the relationship between North and South Korea is looking better than ever before, taking one step closer to making peace in the world and hopefully, a unification of the divided country.

Image Source – Huffington Post Korea

During times like this, not only the public, but also many celebrities are trying to have their voices heard. Many of these celebrities use their power of influence to first, inform the public of ongoing social issues, and second, influence them to make the right decisions (or at least the decision that they think is right in their opinions).

We often call these people the “opinion leaders,” people who are well-known enough to have the ability to influence the public opinion on the subject that matters to everyone. While some have done an exemplary job of an opinion leader, I would like to discuss why I personally believe that it’s dangerous for celebrities to become opinion leaders.

  1. Their careers are entirely based on their image.

Celebrities tend to act based on the certain image they had established at the beginning of their careers. In some way, they are the only ones still living with two faces – a public one and a private one. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for this particular image tends to make it easier for them to get offered a role in dramas and films.

However, it also plays an important role when they want to publicly speak their minds. It’s hard for the public to ignore the already established image of these celebrities that most of the time, people tend to connect their present statement to that of their past. Often, they find something that they have said in the past simply to build a particular image that might backfire against their present belief.

The next thing you know, the heavy criticism of enraged K-Netizens falls mercilessly. At the end, most celebrities end up apologizing for their comments, not wanting to lose the image they had worked so hard to establish.

One of the examples is rapper San E, who recently released track “Feminism” to attack on the modern day feminists and/or feminists under the false pretenses.

After the recent “Isu Subway Station” controversy, involving two women and three men in an argument over feminism that later developed into a physical quarrel, San E poured fuel into the fire by releasing a video that contained the women’s rather hateful comments towards men. This video suggested that San E was accusing the women for starting the fight, which had enraged many active feminists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=QInRQ8zEGyM

The following day, San E released a track “Feminist,” in which he claimed while he is a feminist, he does not understand the logic of modern day feminists. He specifically said, “I would understand if my grandmother said that back in the day, but what’s so unfair about your life (that got you this mad)?”

After the track was released, people started calling San E a hypocrite, arguing that he was never a feminist. They dragged out previous tracks that were produced by the rapper, of many containing lyrics that clearly suggested women in subordinate position.

3 days later on November 18, the rapper released an official statement explaining his true intention behind the lyrics and apologized to fans for “offending” them. In his so-called explanation, he said that the narrator in the song is not him and he wasn’t targeting women, but the MEN who claim to be feminists, yet do not think or act accordingly.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqVUVTPBtcd/?utm_source=ig_embed

The rapper came on strong (although we will never truly know what he intended to do with this track), but unable to fight against the fans and public turning their backs on him and scheduled events being canceled because of the song. At the end, San E backs down by flip-flopping his stance on the social issue.

  1. The lack of professional knowledge and in-depth research into the subject.

Most of these social issues require many hours of studying and researching. They are never simple enough to learn in one sitting, looking through a few news articles and reading the posts on social network services. Real opinion leaders should put time and effort into studying the subject and be able to look at it from different aspects. At the end, they will establish an unwavering opinion that will stay firm despite the possible counter-attacks.

However, the celebrities simply don’t have enough time to properly educate themselves. The only time they are able to encounter the problems in real life are when they are moving from one event to another, which is not a lot considering the lack of sleep that needs to be fulfilled during the transportation time.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BoJW_cXBlFT/

I am well-aware that these celebrities only have good intentions; they know what their power of influence can do and they want to donate that to make the world a better place. But, this needs to be supported by a thorough research, otherwise disaster struck where the celebrities hastily root for the wrong person, when not every detail has been revealed.

Suzy, for example, had to face a lot of hate and even legal battles when she showed support for the alleged sex crime victim, YouTuber Yang Ye-Won in May, 2018.

At the time, YouTuber Yang Ye-Won argued that she had been sexually harassed by a photographer during her time as a model and the nude pictures she had taken in the past have been illegally disseminated by the studio owner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxONNIHzW6M&t=5s

Following the revelation, the national petition popped up in support for Yang Ye-Won, of which Suzy uploaded a screenshot on her Instagram, asking her fans to sign the petition in the name of justice.

Soon afterwards, a shocking news came forward that Suzy and the petition had accused an innocent studio, ultimately leading to the singer’s apology. A few months into the case, it was also revealed that Yang Ye-Won was aware of the situation she was in while working with the photographer, as messages exchanged between the two parties came to light.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bi9JHKphLJy/?utm_source=ig_embed

It was a good try on Suzy’s part for wanting to help the seemingly unfortunate and powerless victims, but she acted too quickly and hastily that it only cost her reputation and probably a big amount of money in the lawsuit.

  1. The Dark Side of Media Play

The last point is not necessarily the fault of celebrities (as they weren’t either for the above two points). Rather, it is the problem of media play in South Korea and how they tend to take advantage of these celebrities’ remarks for personal profit.

It is only natural that the audience is intrigued by the comments of celebrities, more than those of professional educators/researchers. The netizens are always searching for ways to tie themselves into celebrities – the urge to relate to them as same human beings.

The media knows this a little too well. At the end, it doesn’t matter what the truth is behind the situation, most of these media outlets just need an excuse to write an article that is offensive enough to draw attention from the public, with their only goal to increase the visibility of their papers and websites.

Image Source – culturematters.org

At last, what was started off as a celebrity’s wish to use his/her power to bring light into the world, it ends up being one of the tool for media players to play around with for their personal gains. The only victims are the celebrities and their fans, who might now never reveal their true sides to the public.

I fully support the celebrities, who want to use their power of influence to make the world a better place.

However, with a power so strong, they need to also realize that there comes a great price. They need to realize that many of their fans consists of young students, who may lack knowledge in the politics and other relevant fields regarding these social issues. Out of these young fans, many of them will follow their celebrities without much doubt, doing and saying as they were heard and saw.

Although there exist some mistakes, one thing is for sure. Slowly but surely, South Korea is growing as a country, taking a small step at a time to make a better society.

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] Korean Music Awards Have Successfully Lost Both Prestige and Reason for Existence

On August 30, 2018, Genie Music made a grandeur announcement that the music platform has collaborated with broadcasting station MBC Plus to launch its own music awards. They increased the expectation of K-pop fans around the world, promising to feature only the top idol groups and singers of South Korea, who will be showcasing special collaboration stages that no one has ever seen before.

Image Source – Genie Music

While I had initially scoffed at the news of yet another music awards launching in the small continent of South Korea, I couldn’t help but to have some expectation for it. With their big statement such as above, I figured there must be something special about it that Genie felt the need to launch their own awards.

3 months later on November 6, “2018 MBC Plus X Genie Music Awards” (hereafter 2018 MGA) took place at the Namdong Gymnasium in Incheon, giving out a total of 23 awards to the idol groups and singers they thought most deserved them.

YouTube – Tong Tong TV

It was a celebratory cause for many artists and their fans around the world, but it was also a disappointment in many people’s eyes.

The most disappointing thing about the event was its lineup. Most idol groups and singers that were on the list of nominees did not show up, implying just how poorly the event was created and organized from the beginning.

On the other hand, the singers who did show up ended up sitting by the bleachers the entire time, looking like a fish out of water. Most importantly, the fact that only three idol groups (TWICE, BTS, and Wanna One) performed during the 5-hour event was just lame.

At the end, my personal hope for the 2018 MGA, as well as the future of Korean music awards came crumbling down as it became clear that these awards have now successfully lost both their prestige and the reason for existence.

 

In the past, these awards existed mainly for the singers.

They acknowledged the achievement of the artists for the past year, giving a pat on their shoulders to tell them what an amazing job they did for their fans all around the world. The trophies the groups received acted as the tangible product of their hard work – the reason for them to keep moving forward with their career in the music industry.

In return, the artists put on amazing performances to thank their fans and the hosts. These performances were their promise to act deservingly of the awards they were given, making a promise to fans that they won’t let them down. In conclusion, it was a fair give-and-take occasion, both fans and artists gaining something out of them.

https://youtu.be/mdIU2E4iLCE?t=177s

Nowadays, these events have become more about the hosts and the fans, more so than they are about the artists. The hosts of these events started to create new trophies that the singers most definitely did not ask for, and so bluntly asked them to perform something in return.

For fans, as I am one myself, this is great since we get to see more of our artists. Also, the singers usually perform something out of the ordinary during these events, which gives us fans a chance to see them in special outfits or collaborations.

But in the process, we have neglected one important thing. We have neglected the fact that these artists already have enough on their plates.

They are already too busy with schedule aside from attending these events that more often than not, they simply do not have the time to put together different performances for each awards that usually take place only a week or two apart from one another.

As a result, a disaster takes place where idols collapse after performances, just like TWICE and BTS did after their performances at the 2018 MGA.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LWsq2UlWuI&feature=youtu.be&t=580s

Consequently, the awards have not only lost their reason for existence, but they have also lost their prestige.

In my eyes, the hosts of the awards have now realized how much profit they could make off of these events. Ultimately, they started taking advantage of both fans and artists.

These hosts shifted the focus of these events from the awards to performances, competing against one another on who presented the best stages and had the best lineup of the year. Furthermore, they started to coerce the artists into performing, simultaneously luring in the fans to pay much price to see these performances.

At last, what once used to be an honorable event to celebrate the achievement of our artists have now become just another money making method of big entertainment corporations.

While us fans gain the stress from voting and the artists gain fatigue from performing, these networks do nothing (I say nothing because of the clear lack of preparation that went into creating the 2018 MGA) and still gain the money, recognition, and the accelerated viewership like never before.

Nowadays, nobody cares who wins what award at what event. The number of nominations a group receives does not indicate how much work they put into their career that year. A number of awards a group receive or did not receive also doesn’t determine the quality of their work.

Fans only hope that the artists don’t obsess over silly music awards that have absolutely lost its meaning, and focus on their future. Skip out on an event if they need to take a break. A true fan will be proud of our artists no matter what and these events definitely don’t get to decide who gets to be the alpha-group of the year.

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[Opinion] The Definition of What a Successful K-Pop Group Is Has Evolved

In 2018 especially, the definition of what it means to be a successful K-pop group or artist has evolved to include the western music market. However, with this new definition, what does it mean for the newest generation of K-pop?

There have been numerous popular Korean artists who have had performances overseas in such places as Australia, the U.S., and Europe including acts like Big Bang, Wonder Girls, VIXX, and Super Junior. However, it was a completely new concept to be noticed outside of the then niche audience that listened to music that came out of South Korea — especially by moguls and entertainment programs. That is until Psy’s 2014 song “Gangnam Style” literally took over the world.

kpop

While most couldn’t understand the lyrics, the energy of the song, the catchiness of the hook, the absurdity of the video, and the bizarre horse dance created the perfect mixture for a worldwide hit (think of “What Does the Fox Say” for another reference). I witnessed the song played at weddings, in shopping malls, and heard it drift out of cars once in a while. However, the appeal of the song in the west also played to stereotypes about East Asia and East Asian music being different, wild, peculiar, and otherized.

As the years went on and K-pop moguls pulled in more popular Western music sounds to appeal to a wider audience, so did the acceptability of K-pop become more palatable. The updated music, artistry, and over-exposure of the singers which resulted in emotionally dedicated fandoms created an impetus that had no real alternative than to go global.

As such, while Psy presented the absurd, BTS presented a more approachable image.

BTS China DNA Hallyu band United States U.S
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 19: BTS attends the 2017 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 19, 2017, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Polk/AMA2017/Getty Images for dcp)

Although there are still lingering conflicts with the image of masculinity they present in comparison to the common constructs presented in Western media, with their fandom, charisma, and similar sounding music, they were accepted into popular Western culture in an unprecedented manner. They appeared on several liver entertainment programs, got a few plays on radio stations, performed at large venues, attended award shows and have even collaborated with different artists including Steve Aoki and Charlie Pluth.

In the manner, BTS began to change what it means to be successful in K-pop.

GOT7 interview with Billboard – JYP Entertainment
Monsta X with Singer Gallant – Starship Entertainment
NCT127 at FOX LA – SM Entertainment

In their footsteps, several other boy groups began making media tours in addition to concert and performances including Monsta X, GOT7, Super Junior, and NCT 127. More, artists like BLACKKPINK, Wendy from Red Velvet, and CL have gone on to collaborate with Western singers Dua Lipa, John Legend, and The Black Eyed Peas. Not only that, but landing on domestic charts hardly makes waves — what matters now is appearing on Billboard’s Music Chart or topping iTunes in several countries.

As these larger and more established groups expand into different markets, what does this mean for new generation groups or those who don’t have popular (Western) appeal? While some of these new group have managed to build up their fan base, they have struggled to have that popularity translate to an international fanbase that makes media tours like the groups mentioned above feasible, like Wanna One. Earlier this year, the group was unable to sell enough tickets for their North American tour and had to downgrade their venue size.

Similarly, having sold over a million albums this year alone putting them on a similar level as EXO and BTS, and breaking other records TWICE have failed to gain international attention and acceptability like BLACKPINK and Red Velvet. Prior to this change in the definition in success, winning on a domestic music program like “M! Countdown” or “Inkigayo,” or maintaining a decent spot on music charts was enough. Now it is not. So what happens now? Will groups be able to be in the top 10 on a music chart and still be considered “flops” if they can reach the level of these other groups?

 

 

By O.C

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[Opinion] What Is SM Entertainment Doing With Post-Army Super Junior?

Super Junior’s post-army comeback was highly anticipated and fulfilled many fans’ expectations and desires. Sleek dance moves, a mature concept, and an addictive song.

However, with every comeback, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the boy (man?) group won’t regain its previous level of popularity. So what is  SM Entertainment doing now with Super Junior?

Image source – SM Entertainment, Label SJ

SM Entertainment remains a trendsetting, forward-thinking company with some of the best trained and well-rounded artists in the field. This remains a fact even to this day with the new generation of NCT and Red Velvet continuing in the footsteps of their more senior groups like f(x), SHINee, EXO, Girls’ Generation, TVXQ, and of course Super Junior (there are more, I know).

With years of training under their belt and a polished team behind them, the groups under the label usually have the resources and ability to be chart toppers. Indeed, I am sure that like myself many expected Super Junior to quickly regain the previous frantic popularity they have had for years. However, while successful compared to many other comebacks at the time “Black Suit,” did not make huge waves in the industry.

Screen capture from the “Black Suit” music video – SM Entertainment, Label SJ

Additionally, their lastest comeback songs “Lo Siento,” and “One More Time,” have had similar receptions. Moreover, it appears that the group is deviating more and more from the current music trends. But why? SM Entertainment’s founder, Lee Soo-man, is a lauded and savvy businessman (link in Korean), a visionary that came up with the Neo Culture Technology (NCT) concept and is already delving into artificial intelligence and hologram performances. Would he purposefully let one of the company’s groups flounder?

Everything we see with Super Junior is because SM Entertainment is not pushing the group is the South Korean entertainment market right now. Instead, they are using the world-famous group to explore a new frontier and market. Looking at their recent song titles, it quickly becomes obvious who they are targeting. “Lo Siento” featured Latin pop singer Rita Ora while “One More Time” has a second title name in Spanish, “Otra Vez” and features Reik.

Image source – SM Entertainment, Label SJ

The group has already appeared and performed on different entertainment networks and have even appeared on local music charts. Moreover, with their more mature look and feel, and universal group name, and experience in the field have probably made Super Junior the most marketable group from SM Entertainment in regards to the Latin pop music scene.

As Super Junior works to test the bounds of Latin pop, I expect a possible local NCT group to pop up in a few years, but we’ll have to wait and see for that.

 

 

By O.C

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Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] Has “K” in K-pop Lost Its Meaning?

Recently, a girl group named IZ*ONE officially made their debut, after spending restless nights competing against one another in a survival program “Produce 48” on Mnet. The goal of this program was to let the public “produce” a multinational girl group by voting for their favorites out of a pool of 96 contestants from South Korea and Japan. The winning 12 contestants, who honestly could have been all-Japanese or all-Korean, would go on promotions as a “K-pop” group for two and a half years in the markets in both countries.
izone.gif

I did not watch the program, as I had personally grown tired of all these survival programs to pick the next idol group (Words out there say they are preparing for the next season of “Produce 101,” comprised of all-male contestants). But, more importantly, I thought it was a bit ridiculous that they wanted to make a K-pop group that has a chance of becoming a group with all Japanese members.

Consequently, it really got me to to wonder about the true meaning of K-pop. With all these foreign members and collaborations, what even defines K-pop anymore? If a song is in Korean, is that considered as a K-pop song? So if some band from a remote country far from South Korea released a song in Korean, are they singing K-pop?

When you look closely at all these idol groups debuting in the recent days, it’s really hard to find a group that is composed of all-Korean members.

The entertainment companies are even debuting groups that are all non-Korean members, such as JYP’s first all-Chinese boy group BOY STORY, and SM’s newest addition to the NCT team, NCT China. Don’t get me wrong; as a K-pop fan, I think it’s really great that Korean entertainment companies are expanding their territory, reaching out to the international fans through the diversity in their artists.

As a Korean, on the other hand, I couldn’t help but to get upset by thinking that K-pop is no longer a culture that belongs exclusively to the Korean society. I had felt that K-pop was something that only Koreans could be proud of – something that we can hold dear to our hearts and say this is our culture.

But now, with foreign members that call themselves “K-pop stars,” I’m not sure if we can still call it a Korean culture anymore. (Another disclaimer: I love all K-pop stars regardless of their nationality. This is a fact.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cU9P9KhRcw

In my opinion, in the process of combining members from different cultural background and grouping them all into one K-pop group, the music genre has lost its unique identification.

By definition, K-pop is an abbreviation of “Korean Pop,” a popular music genre in South Korea. Only looking at the name itself, many people will assume that only those songs in Korean, sung by Korean artists is considered K-pop.

Then, it is likely that people who are very new to K-pop could get confused with all these foreigners in Korean groups. In other words, when these people see a “K-pop” group with all-Chinese members, it’s no longer K-pop for them simply because there’s no Koreans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPwTrTK9FzM

I guess it’s only natural to adopt foreign members into groups because it makes an easier gateway to enter music markets in other countries. By doing so, K-pop did in fact receive much recognition from countries outside South Korea, mostly Japan and China. And I genuinely thank all foreign members who helped this phenomenon to take place.

My question is, where’s the limit?

For example, BTS managed to break through the Western pop music industry like no one else has done in the history of K-pop. Sure we give credit to PSY, who blew a sensational wind through the international music industry with “Gangnam Style” in 2013, but it’s also safe to say he was a one-hit wonder. Most importantly, BTS did so with all-Korean members. They did not need anyone who spoke other language than Korean (except for R.M., our dearest translator. God bless his soul) to represent their music.

I was also very proud of them when I saw their “IDOL” music video, for which they incorporated many traditional cultural elements of Korea with their music. In a way, the group decided to use their power of influence to a good cause and represent the culture they were proud to call their own.

This is what I would like to see more in the industry of K-pop. I would like to see artists who can stand as advocates of the Korean culture – someone who can use their fame to let others know about Korea as a country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q-0tDc7ySo

 

I did think it was really cool when the industry started introducing foreign members, like when Lisa became the first foreign artist at YG Entertainment. It was sensational, and who would want to miss out on a talent like Lisa?

All I’m trying to say is that as more people come to know and become curious about K-pop, it’s really important that the industry finds something that is unique in its definition. For now, the only definition it holds is the fact that it’s an abbreviation of “Korean Pop.”

Maybe this is me, as a Korean, speaking. But we don’t need a K-pop group that entirely consists of non-Korean members. K-pop needs to take a breather, and prove that it’s bigger than just songs with Korean lyrics.

Like, what are your thoughts on EXP Edition, who claim to be an American “K-Pop” group?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28S377-hmzI

 

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] Long Live, Mukbang

If you watch South Korean TV programs regularly, you know Mukbang is everything. While it started out small with a single host and online audience on internet webcast, it has since grown. It’s been years since the start of the trend, yet it has no intention of dying down soon. In fact, the trend even caught the interest of mainstream media internationally, resulting in popular non-Korean YouTube stars reacting to this particular trend and doing their own Mukbang with local food.

So how did Mukbang become so popular in South Korea? What makes it so special that after years, people still go crazy over it?

The concept of Mukbang first originated from small, individual broadcasters on streaming platforms such as ‘Afreeca TV’ in 2015. The original format only included a single host with large amount of food and an online audience. While eating food, which ranged from pizza to noodles and others, the hosts interacted with the audience through a chatting room. Some would answer requests from their audience to eat the food in a certain way, and some would just sit silently and eat.

Image Source – afreecaTV “Banzz”

Not long after, the trend inspired different variations and adaptations of “Eating while Broadcasting” concept. Many national TV channels started producing shows that involved “eating.” Moreover, they even produced dramas that solely focused on people expressing their love of food, such as tvN’s “Let’s Eat” drama series.

While there are several explanations to why the trend had become so popular, I want to focus on two main reasons. In my opinion, these are the key factors of Mukbang that make the trend unique, stand out from other trends.

But, let’s first watch this legendary chicken Mukbang scene from tvN’s “Let’s Eat” with Yoon Doo-Joon, because why not?

https://youtu.be/AL9HVzVb5RI?t=35s

Timeless Subject

South Koreans are sensitive to trends. They always look for the trendiest fashion, hairstyle, and makeup methods … the list goes on forever. With that being said, South Korean TV programs have to be aware of what’s popular among the public to make a long-run program and achieve high viewership ratings, much alike MBC’s “Infinite Challenge.”

The problem is that these trends come and go rather quickly; they don’t stay in one place for a very long time. One minute everyone is wearing skinny jeans, and then suddenly everyone is wearing boot-cuts.

No one expects a trend to last forever, and no one can guess upcoming trends.

Image Source – TWICE “Knock Knock” Music Video

Due to the fast-changing environment, South Korean TV programs have evolved and gone through many different phases regarding their concept. Like I’ve previously mentioned, they first passed through “real variety” programs like MBC’s “Infinite Challenge,” to survival and audition programs like “Mnet’s “Produce 101.” The current phase, in my opinion, is “observing” programs, but who knows how long that will last?

However, this does not apply to food.

Food is a necessity, not a trend. It’s something everyone has to consume in order to survive. Food as a subject is literally, timeless. It was here, it is here right now, and it will be here, always.

Image result for 잘 먹겠습니다 gif
Image Source – JTBC “We Will Eat Well”

Most importantly, people crave for delicious and better food all the time. No one deliberately eats bad-tasting food, unless they are on a diet and forced to chug down a kale smoothie. People are always on a lookout for new restaurants that can satisfy their cravings, whether it be new, fancy 5-star restaurants, or small and independent local restaurants.

This search will never end, and here is where Mukbang comes into place. One of the main things that happen on Mukbang is celebrities going on a journey to find hidden recipes and restaurants.

Comedy TV’s “Delicious Guys” serves as an epitome of this type of “Eating Broadcasting” programs. The four members of the program go on an adventure to find restaurants that feature a certain type of food each episode. Afterwards, the featured food becomes a hot topic among young adult viewers, who seek out these restaurants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqfDWVLNhFA

Yes, it’s possibly the programs partner up with restaurants in advance to increase profit, but if the public likes it, it’s a win-win-win situation. The programs gain profit, the restaurants gain customers, and the public gains new favorite restaurants. Now that’s a deal that seems worth taking, am I right?

With the subject of “food” being timeless, I would like to discuss the next reason why Mukbang is such a big deal right now.

Multifaceted Subject

There is no limit to what you can do with food. You can play games about it, you can talk about it, you can host a cooking competition. The sky is the limit!

The whole trend originally started with a pure intention of eating while broadcasting, but it takes more than those two to get people’s attention nowadays. Thus, TV producers started incorporating other elements with food, resulting in an array of Mukbang programs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdTVKpON3ao

For example, O’live channel’s newest program “Bob Bless You” incorporates the concept of radio shows with Mukbang, taking the “eating broadcasting” to another level. At the beginning of the show, the four members do exactly what you would do in a typical Mukbang programs. They pick a certain type of food for the episode, share their secret recipes, express their excitement, and think about what to eat next.

However, what makes “Bob Bless You” different from other Mukbang programs is that they don’t just eat. Before deciding on the food, they read messages sent from their audience. The messages read personal stories that mostly composed of embarrassing moments they would like to forget. At the end, they ask for the members’ suggestion on what type of food to eat based on their stories. Afterwards, the members each suggest food until they agree on one, and eating it for the audience who have sent their stories.

https://youtu.be/gDpGzm7FEjM?t=1m7s

I’ve only listed one program as an example, but the spectrum of Mukbang programs is overwhelmingly wide. JTBC’s “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator” incorporates food and competition, and “We Will Eat Well” combines food and idol girl group. I believe that they will continue to think of more collaborations, and Mukbang will not come to an end at least for another few years.

While I specifically listed two reasons for the success of Mukbang programs, they might not even matter that much. Personally, these “eating while broadcasting” programs simply give me pleasure, and that’s why I and most people watch them. Seeing the celebrities eat food that we would eat makes me feel closer to them. On the other hand, seeing the celebrities eat food that we cannot possibly afford, they satisfy our cravings for us.

In conclusion, food is everything. Long live, Mukbang.

 

 

By. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] K-Fans are Mad NOT Because They are Dating, but Because They are Hiding

If there existed a competition for the most sensitive and touchy subject in the history of K-Pop, the “revelation of idols’ secret relationship” would kill all. We all know the drill – a news outlet reports a relationship, agencies check with the artists, they confirm the news, and then comes an apology letter to fans, hoping to get their approvals and the magical ending to the whole chaos.

When I put it like that, it makes it seem like K-fans are these possessive, overprotective mothers who infringe on their idol’s (or idles, meaning “children” in Korean – sorry, I had to) “right as a human being” and “natural instinct” to have feelings for someone. And believe me, I used to think like that, too.

However, as time went on, I couldn’t help but to notice a slight change in the attitude of K-fans when it comes to accepting their idol’s relationship. What’s more interesting is that I have also noticed a change in the attitude of idols, when coming out with a relationship.

What I’ve noticed is that fans rather grew mature to accept that idols are also human beings, who will eventually have to marry someone other than their fans. On the other hand, idols have become somewhat sneakier when in a relationship – most of the time getting caught sending secret messages to their significant other on SNS, the so-called “love-stagram.”

Then, I realized that K-fans are not mad because idols are dating; they are mad because they are hiding.

Back in the days of H.O.T and Sechs Kies, it was common that fans felt a certain romantic pull from their idols, and most of them pretended like they were in a personal relationship with the artists.

The fans used to look up to the singers and “worship” them, hence the use of the word “idol,” and acted like their guardian angels the singers never asked for. With that being said, it was simply outrageous that idols would ever engage in a romantic relationship with someone else other than fans, let alone go public with it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz4-G7hez7Y

However, the culture of K-Pop has gotten more sophisticated that it is no longer a vertical relationship between a star and a fan.

A mutual respect exists between them because they know they can each benefit from one another. Like friends with (a different kind of) benefit. I even dare say that the artists probably benefit more from their fans because without them, exactly where are they going to find people to vote for them in awards/music shows and buy their albums, ensuring the stable income and extended career?

Nowadays, K-Fans are aware that idols are just a group of kids who can’t fight the natural urge to have feelings for someone. We are all humans – we all feel the same emotions. More importantly, they also understand that they don’t actually have the rights to tell their idols what they can and cannot do.

While fans don’t necessarily own the idols, they still somewhat have the right to say what they would like to see and not see from them. In other words, fans are just a nice way to say consumers, who have the right to demand things. Idols, as suppliers, need to realize the needs of the consumers, fulfill, and encourage further consumption.Image result for i have some demands gif
First of all, one of the biggest criticisms that K-fans receive is that they tend to think the idols are their boyfriends. They have become possessive and obsessed, putting their noses where they don’t belong.

However, need I remind you that it was the companies who laid out the whole boyfriend-girlfriend structure between fans and idols in the beginning? The companies have encouraged the fans to feel this special connection, in order to prevent them from stanning multiple groups. It’s like being in a relationship that you can’t date anyone else.

For example, there is a girl group literally named “Girlfriend” (of whom I am a big fan, but the name I found rather ridiculous, at first). According to the company’s official explanation, the group was named “Girlfriend” in hopes to become a “lovely girlfriend to male fans,” as well as a “friendly friend to female fans.”

They set up this certain structure, release dating apps and “eye contact” videos to win fans over, then years later, they suddenly demand fans have mercy and see them as ordinary human beings? Whether they like it or not, this imaginary relationship was a part of the deal and what fans, as consumers, have paid for. And idols knew exactly what they got themselves into, when they handed over the control of their image to the management, including restrictions on romantic relationships.

https://youtu.be/qN1_nEdly7I?t=38s

Furthermore, in South Korea, the majority of fandom culture is composed of teenagers.

And like I’ve said before, the people in the youth community of South Korea don’t get many opportunities to make their own decision. They walk the path already planned and polished by their parents, always craving for freedom and a fancier life.

Ultimately, they have found the fancy life from the idols – people who are the same ages as they, yet live in a completely different world. These fans see idols like their “surrogate mothers,” who live out their dream life for them. This is the reason why they consume the idol/k-pop culture, so that they fulfill personal satisfaction through them.

Idols sell more than just music. In addition to music, they also sell image, visual, and performance. And fans have this certain “image” they would like to see from their idols, which they cannot quite have in their ordinary lives. In return for their demands, they don’t hold back their wallets. It’s a relationship that creates great synergy – something that allowed BTS to emerge into the international music industry, proudly representing the culture of South Korea.

So, exactly what am I suggesting here?

I would like to suggest that idols keep their personal life separate from their professional life. Fans know your dating life is not something they can control. However, you still have to respect that fans do not want to see you with your girlfriend/boyfriend in front of them, especially not on stage.

Right now, I would like to mention HyunA and PENTAGON’S E’Dawn, who recently admitted their relationship, only to put the future of Triple H in jeopardy regardless of what their original intention was.

Image result for hyuna and e'dawn gif

The reason why this couple received an unusual amount of backlash from the fans is not because they were dating, but because they were sneaking around.

According to HyunA, the couple has been dating for over two years, even before the creation of Triple H. We all understand why they had to hide their relationship at first, PENTAGON was still a rookie group back then – a newborn baby who needs the love and attention of a mother.

Image Source – Instagram @hyunah_aa

However, was it really necessary that they create a coed unit that consists of two real-life lovers, when they knew exactly how fans would feel when they found out the truth? If they wanted to be “honest” and “confident” like HyunA said they wanted to, they should have come clean with their relationship from the beginning, or hide it until the end.

Instead, they played with the fans by saying they have never dated anyone, and writing a song about their secret relationship. From a fan’s point of view, it’s like we have paid for the two to go on dates not only privately, but also publicly on camera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPvCVvdTmEo

Once you blur the boundary between your personal life and professional life by bringing private feelings into a workplace, you can’t be mad that other people no longer trust you, professionally. Just like we can’t trust E’Dawn and HyunA anymore, especially with the actions they have shown after the dating news broke out.

Korean fans are aware it’s a human thing to date. Just be a professional and keep your pants on in front of the cameras.

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.

[OPINION] “Mr. Sunshine” Exemplifies the Risky Business of Historical Drama

If you are a true K-drama fanatic, you know that tvN’s newest drama “Mr. Sunshine” is THE talk of the town right now.

From its impressive lineup of actors that includes Lee Byung-Hun and Kim Tae-Ri, even the paid product placement in “Mr. Sunshine” has gained much attention from the public. Furthermore, Kim Eun-Sook from “Secret Garden” and “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” wrote the script, so if you are not watching it, well, you are definitely missing out.

Image Source – tvN “Mr. Sunshine”

I also had high expectations for the drama myself, even before it premiered. Of course I was intrigued by what kind of story it will tell, but I was mainly engrossed by the fact that my all-time favorite actor Byun Yo-Han was appearing as one of the main characters.

However, as I watched the last 4 episodes, I couldn’t help but to wonder what the main intention of the drama is. If you type in “Mr. Sunshine” on popular search engines, they all list it as a Sageuk drama, meaning it is historical. Meanwhile, I continue to spot a few misinterpretations of the actual history. In fact, the drama has enliven the historical pain of Koreans so much that many are doubting this was actually written by a Korean.

So, my question is: What message does “Mr. Sunshine” hope to deliver to its audience?

On July 16, a national petition entitled “take strict measures against dramas and films like “Mr. Sunshine” that distort history” popped up on the Blue House website. The following day, the petition had already gained signatures from over 10,000 people.

We are all thinking: What ticked off Korean netizens this time?

The petitioners were arguing that tvN’s “Mr. Sunshine” was distorting the history by romanticizing the pain of Koreans during the Japanese Colonial Rule.

More specifically, they were furious at the character Goo Dong-Mae, portrayed by actor Yoo Yeon-Seok. In the drama, Goo Dong-Mae appears as a son of Korean butcher, who manages to escape the brutal and harsh childhood, thanks to the main female protagonist, Go Ae-Shin (Kim Tae-Ri). He ultimately returns to Joseon (Korea) as a Japanese gang member – a part of Black Dragon Society.

https://youtu.be/7bW1IN-_nnM?t=1m42s

The problem was that the drama portrayed Goo Dong-Mae as a rather attractive and a character with much charm.

The Korean netizens worried that this character beautified the pro-Japanese stance from the past, which is far from what actually happened in history. In addition, they argued that incorporating an “inevitable background” to a character who was a clear antagonist in a historical sense when the victims still exist in the present day, is extremely offensive.

As a result, the drama’s production team had to modify the entire character. They changed the description of the character and apologized, “we had no intention of romanticizing the pro-Japanese groups. We were merely trying to portray the devastation of a man who was born into a peasant family at the time and was forced to live a fate that he could not change. However, as our drama tells a story from a sensitive historical time period, we now realize that we should have been more careful with our character development.”

Image source – tvN “Mr. Sunshine” Character Description / Goo Dong-Mae’s description changes after controversy
However, Goo Dong-Mae wasn’t the only thing “Mr. Sunshine” had failed to depict truthfully.

From the beginning, the character Lee Wan-Ik (portrayed by actor Kim Ui-Seong) continues to “sell” his country to whoever is willing to negotiate with him. At first, he pokes at America, but when America shows that it has no intention of invading Korea, he goes over to Japan. Ultimately, the drama suggests that it is Korean who voluntarily offers the Japanese to “give” their nation. On the contrary to what actually happened, “Mr. Sunshine” portrays Japan as a country that simply accepted an offer given by Korea.

A problem that can arise from this is that people forget the historical truth
: the fact that it was an “one-way invasion” from Japan. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNPEwruZCw4

At this point, we need to be aware that “Mr. Sunshine” is not only airing domestically, but also internationally, thanks to Netflix. This means that everyone who is interested in K-dramas is watching “Mr. Sunshine” right now, even those who may lack knowledge in history of South Korea. Furthermore, we suspect that there will be a much attention from the Asian countries, especially Japan.

Therefore, it is important that we depict the history as truthfully as possible, and portray the historical damage and pain that we as a country received from a historical event that actually happened. The romance between the characters is fictional, yes, but the background and the time period in which the drama is set is non-fictional.

However, what “Mr. Sunshine” had shown so far makes me doubt. In fact, the drama almost suggests that Korea, with its hierarchical society, brought whatever happened to them on themselves. Because Goo Dong-Mae was born into a peasant family, he had to escape to a better place that is Japan. Because Lee Wan-Ik saw no hope in the country that had done nothing but kill his own siblings (from starvation), he had no choice but to “give” the country to someone else to rule.

Why are Koreans the antagonists in a drama that narrates Korean history?

If this beautification and misinterpretation continue, it will begin to diminish the severity of the problem and heaviness of history, ultimately erasing the truth told from the victim’s point of view.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bTDwPQIf4A

Writer Kim Eun-Sook indeed deserves a round of applause for challenging herself outside her comfort zone, that is romance drama.

However, as much as we love her writing, she needs to understand that there follows a heavier responsibility when it comes to creating a historical drama. While fantasy and romance dramas such as “Goblin” allowed her to tell stories from her perspectives with her imaginations, historical dramas are rather different. She needs to accompany her story with fact-based history, that also does not ignore the general sentiment.

Both writer Kim Eun-Sook and “Mr. Sunshine” need to be aware of their influence, and take on more responsibility.

 

by. Dasol Kim

Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.