Past Event

"100 Years of Korean Popular Music"

March 8, 2019
2:30 PM - 5:30 PM
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This event is a part of The Weatherhead East Asian Institute’s 70th Anniversary series


“100 Years of Korean Popular Music”

Roald Maliangkay, Australian National University
Suk-Young Kim, University of California, Los Angeles
Dal Yong Jin, Simon Fraser University
Moderated by So-Rim Lee, CKR -AKS Postdoctoral Fellow; Hye Eun Choi, Korea Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

2:30 PM – 5:30 PM
Friday, March 8, 2019
International Affairs Building, Room 918

The symposium brings together three distinguished scholars in the field of media history, ethnomusicology, and cultural studies to examine the development of Korean popular music from the colonial period to the present.


Suk-Young kim
K-pop’s global reach cannot be articulated without the proliferation of YouTube culture. But at a closer look, K-pop fandom’s prominent patterns of media consumption—most significantly characterized by repeated viewing of the same music video and obsession with reaction videos—were shaped a decade earlier than the emergence of YouTube in the new millennium. By using the children’s program Teletubbies as a conceptual framework that symptomatically captures the viewing patterns of K-pop consumers, this presentation traces the rapidly-changing media landscape from the early 1990s to the present day as a way to contemplate on the historiography of K-pop fandom.

Dal Yong Jin
Korean popular music has established its current form since the early 20th century during the Japanese colonization period. As part of the result of Japan’s national identity eradication policy, Korean traditional music dwindled, while Japanese Enka occupied the space. Due to its close relationship with Japanese music, Korean popular music has a long history of hybridization since the 1920s. Korean popular music has experienced another huge influence by Japanese music starting in the late 1980s as several local entertainment houses, including SM Entertainment developed their pop music partially based on their study on Japanese popular music, known as J-pop. The Japanese-originated idol star system of the 1980s, for example, settled into the Korean popular music industry starting in the mid-1990s. Unlike J-pop, however, K-pop in the 21st century has made its global popularity beyond Asia due to social media and diversity of K-pop music. Although J-pop is still very strong in Japan and a few Asian countries, K-pop has certainly advanced its status as a global music genre.

J-pop and K-pop, therefore, have some commonalities and differences. By discussing the transformation of K-pop in tandem with Japanese influences, I will identify several key elements involved in the growth of K-pop. I will comparatively discuss several major features, including production systems, copy right issues, and hybridity of these two popular music genres. I aim to investigate the contemporary cultural stages and transition of popular music in Korea occurring within the unfolding logic of globalization, and therefore, I explain cultural phenomena currently under way throughout the globe. I expect that it will shed light on the current debates on the remnants of Japanese influences, but new insights into the emerging discourse of cultural globalization.

Roald Maliangkay
Developments in popular music are driven by global processes that are both technological and cultural. When a nation comes to embody the zenith of both, as in the case of Korea today, this can significantly boost its soft power. Soft power can, however, be redirected and co-opted. A century ago, when sales of Korean music were fast increasing with the help of Japanese-Western joint ventures in technology, Western pop culture was all the rave. In the absence of Western acts, Korean and Japanese stars served as their proxy. The performance of Western-inspired music in the empire comprised a range of seeming contradictions that entailed both the recognition and subversion of Korean and American talent. In this talk I discuss the marketing and arrangement of pop music in colonial Korea, and the political and commercial purposes served.

Co-sponsored by CAA-Korea, the Academy of Korean Studies, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute