Why Korean music stars are the new soap operas

The amount of news articles that have appeared in my newsfeed featuring Korean popstars and their troubles wouldn’t usually astound me. Popstars/actors/mildly famous people/that 16 year old who married the 51 year old Lost actor all share space on my screen on a daily basis. But with Korean stars, it’s not so much the times they’ve been appearing, so much as the things they or their fans are doing to warrant it.

I’d never spend much time thinking about Korean Pop (K-Pop) before until The Canadian One’s band’s recent gig. They played with a pretty popular K-Pop girl group on a Friday night on a busy street corner. When the boys exited the stage and the stagehands had cleared the area of every musical instrument in sight, the girls bounced on all smiles, hair freshly blow dried, sweat carefully dabbed from their faces and dance-mimed their way through their first song. They followed that up with a mixture of synchronised dance moves and singing (when not dancing. When they were dancing they mimed). I actually kinda liked them!

The pop up stage early in the night

As they were leaving the stage, one of the singers with her microphone turned on said ‘You really want us to leave?’ in a prompt to get the crowd to cheer for an encore. The crowd didn’t take the bait but the girls left the stage and triumphantly returned to do one last song anyway. Fair play. When you have a plan, stick to it. Want to do an encore even if no one else wants you to?  Do it anyway.

It got me thinking about K-Pop and the music industry in Korea in geeral. A few years back, I attended a K-Pop gig in an underground nightclub in Seoul. We were told we would get in free (we did) and told it’ll be fun (it was, at best, interesting). Playing at midnight, the five-piece minus one (who was underage and not allowed in the club) played for maybe 20 minutes and then left the stage never to return. People paid a lot of money, queued for a long time and stood out in the horrible Korean winter to view four boys dance on stage for less than a half hour and then leave. As I recall, they didn’t ask us to request an encore.

As far as the media goes, on a whole, I wouldn’t call recent news reports exactly a win for the Korean music industry. Just to share with you just some of the K-Pop drama that’s appeared in my web-world of late, check out these four stories for yourself.

First take this clip. Just to warn you: I’ve seen it twice, once when it was first sent to me, and once when checking this link worked, and that second time was one too many.

If you can’t watch the clip, it’s basically of a girl group who are doing a live performance when one of them suffers a seizure and collapses onstage. Like nothing happened, the other girls just dance around her until some stage hands come out and drag the seizing girl from the stage. It’s terrifying. If this happened in America or Canada or the UK or Ireland, people would not stand for it. They would be up in arms, out for blood, asking ‘how could this happen?’. The rest of the group would be on the morning talk shows explaining themselves. Statements would be released. Apologies made. A donation to a charity produced.

Or this story I read this week regarding Korean hip-hop star Daniel Lee (of Epik High fame). Believing his Stanford degree to be a fake (it’s not), a group calling themselves ‘TaJinYo’ took to the internet and began their fixation on Lee. Within days, the group had over 100,000 members calling for Lee to admit he’d faked his degree. People took to the streets, picketing and campaigning for this man, this hip-hop star, to admit he’d faked his degree. They started stalking him, calling his house, his mother, threatening violence. They caused him to become a prisoner in his own home, a hermit caused by his own success. Stanford spoke out confirming his degree. Newspapers did research. Magazines published articles. Nothing would stop these people from their relentless persuit of Lee and his supposed ‘fake’ degree. Read more about it HERE…it’s truly a shocking story.

Or how about this: back in February, when every member of the group Block B were forced to write their own apology letter for their very public and controversial statements about the flooding in Thailand, which incidentally angered another very popular K-Pop group who came out and commented on the matter.

And finally this, proving February to be a really bad month of publicity for K-Pop, the story of Jenny Hyun, a songwriter for Girls’ Generation and Chocolat, who on February 16th got into a whole lot of hot water for her tirade on Twitter.

Sparked by this:

In what may have gotten way more press than Mayweather intended

 She responded with this:

It was quickly followed up by an apology on her blog:

 

And then 24 hours later, and most worryingly of all, followed up by this:

Assuming the last statement is true, I wish her well and hope she has full recovery. But as no one’s heard a peep from her since, I can’t help but wonder, when she does resurface, what’ll the public reaction in Korea be towards her? Or for that matter, the reaction around the world? Will she write her own ‘heartfelt’ apology letter ala the boys in Block B or will it just be swept under the rug and we’ll never hear the name ‘Jenny Hyun’ again? I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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