Scholarly Writing

Shine On: Glamour, Image and K-pop

HOT_PromoDressingRoom_kpopweekly
H.O.T

Visuals are an important part of K-pop, and understanding them is crucial to understanding the meaning of K-pop and its spread globally.

In addition to music videos, images that accompany promotions for music releases, photo shoots featured in magazines and endorsements for an array of products are seen, collected and exchanged by fans.  Not just important fan activity, such archiving in the lay sense is important to the preservation and memory-keeping of the visual narrative of K-pop.

In addition to the promotional function they perform, K-pop images also perform cultural work, constructing multifaceted representations of Korean identity.  Anne Anlin Cheng, professor of English and African American studies at Princeton University, sees “celebrity as a politics of recognition and glamour as a politics of personhood” (1023). This has special resonance for raced bodies:

Glamour’s imperviousness thus draws on a crisis of personhood that is inherently political and maybe even strangely liberating for a woman and a minority–liberating not in the simple sense of acquiring a compensatory or impenetrable beauty. . . but in the sense of temporary relief from the burdens of personhood and visibility.  It may seem counterintuitive or even dangerous to talk about the raced and sexualized body’s longing to be thinglike or to disappear into things, but it is the overcorporealized body that may find the most freedom in fantasies of corporeal dematerialization or, alternatively, of material self-extension (1032).

In other words, the highly stylized images that pepper K-pop represent a visual construction of Korean identities, visuals of how Koreans project themselves globally.  For ethnic people who have been constructed by others, such images are important because they do cultural work, deconstructing or altering images of Koreans and the ideas that accompany them.

I have started a new section in my digital humanities project, Hallyu Harmonyto document and curate images of K-pop groups and artists. In doing so, I hope to be able to make meaningful statements about the kinds of representations of Korean men and women that permeate K-pop, detecting patterns that become apparent when such images are collected together.

In the Visuals section of Hallyu Harmony, image galleries are organized into three broad categories:

  • Casual, images designed to appeal to everyone
  • Chic, images designed to represent more sophisticated styling attainable by most
  • Couture, images designed to capture more fantastic styling not designed for normal wear

Within these categories, images are further organized by concepts, magazine shoots and other promotional images. Concepts for music releases are placed in rough chronological order, allowing users to see how an artist or group’s image evolves over time.

The image gallery for Girls’ Generation, shows a greater variety of images than their reputation may suggest. A review of their concepts show that they are equally likely to promote a casual, chic or couture image. However, they are less likely to reflect a couture image in photo shoots for magazines. On the other hand, early observations of 2NE1’s image gallery (in progress) suggest that even though the group is known for its fierce reputation and image that many fans can relate to, the group reflect a chic image for many concepts.

 

Documenting such images presents challenges.  Many images gathered from the Internet are divorced from their original context as they are shared by fans and K-pop media. As a result, tracing an image’s origins is not always possible.  In some cases, the availability  of images within their context is related to the commitment of Korean agencies to preserve the context of images.  For example, the H.O.T image gallery (in progress) features many images, but few that can be placed in their original context. SM Entertainment‘s sites do not provide information for images on its H.O.T site.  On the other hand, many of  the concept images in S.E.S.’s image gallery can be associated with their original context due to the continued access to the group’s SM site.  Other sites, like DSP Media (formerly DSP Entertainment) only includes current artists on its website, so locating images for Fin.K.L‘s image gallery (in progress) will be challenging. Images will have to be obtained from other sources.  Moreover, it is easier to document 2nd and 3rd generation K-pop groups and artists like SNSD, while first generation groups like H.O.T and S.E.S prove more challenging because the groups are not active.

However, their fanbases are. Fan sites provide the bulk of the images documented, thus acting as valuable informal archives. As more image galleries are completed, I hope to write about the patterns that emerge from images from individuals and groups and compare them with other K-pop artists.

Images: 12 and 3and 5

Sources:

Cheng, Anne Anlin. “Shine: On Race, Glamour and the Modern.” PMLA 126.4 (2011): 1022-1041.

Creative Commons License
Shine On: Glamour, Image and K-pop by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Originally published on KPK: Kpop Kollective on June 21, 2014.

Scholarly Writing

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Old School K-pop and Its Fans

Fly To The Sky
Fly To The Sky

Often believed to appeal only to teenagers, K-pop is experiencing a trend with old school groups making successful comebacks.

Some believe that K-pop has a short shelf life.  Several point to the “five-year curse,” a trend where male K-pop groups break up or disband, often in the face of mandatory military service in Korea. Others believe that K-pop is a fad that will run its course.  In 2011, Ree at seoulbeats declared:  “One thing people must note when discussing the popularity of K-Pop, is that to many people, whether they realize it or not, K-Pop has almost simply become a fad. Meaning that despite the fact it is at its peak of popularity, it will once again start heading on a downhill slope.”

However, successful comebacks of groups who debuted prior to 2000 challenge these notions.  Tickets for Shinhwa‘s Grand Tour 2012: The Return concert sold out in February, ahead of the release of the album The Return in March. Such success occurred after a four-year hiatus by group from the music scene.  Other first-generation K-pop groups, such as g.o.d and Fly To the Sky, have also announced comeback plans.

Who are the people who support groups who have been inactive for years and why do they continue to like such groups? I want to find out! If you are a fan of a group who debut before 2000, take this survey! It will ask you questions about old school K-pop groups such as H.O.TShinhwaS.E.SFin.K.LFly to the Skyg.o.d1TYMDeux and others.

Image: 1

Sources

Ree. “The K-pop Fad: When Will It End?” seoulbeats. 22 Nov 2011. Web. 25 May 2014.

“Don’t Call It a Comeback: Old School K-pop and Its Fans” by Crystal S. Anderson originally published on KPK: Kpop Kollective on May 25, 2014.

Scholarly Writing

Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans

K-pop is well-known for the introduction of new groups, even while established groups continue to thrive. But are fans fickle in their K-pop choices? Do they abandon older groups for newer groups? Research suggests that while K-pop fans readily accept new groups, they have a deeper connection with veteran groups. These conclusions are based on data collected online through the Hallyu Korean Music Survey, part of a five-year study on international K-pop fans by Crystal S. Anderson.

The survey asks respondents to check all of the K-pop groups they like from a pre-determined list. This list emerged from earlier research that revealed a group of K-pop artists that global fans consistently identified as their favorites.  Out of 5099 responses from 282 respondents, the following groups represent the top 10:

  1. BigBang
  2. 2NE1
  3. SHINee
  4. Super Junior
  5. f(x)
  6. BEAST/B2ST
  7. MBLAQ
  8. B.A.P
  9. SNSD/Girls’ Generation
  10. TVXQ/DBSK

Respondents were then asked to name any group they liked not found in the predetermined list.  Out of 1229 responses from 237 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. EXO
  2. Block B
  3. BTOB
  4. B1A4
  5. VIXX
  6. NU’EST
  7. Teen Top
  8. BTS
  9. SISTAR
  10. Secret

Respondents were then asked to list their three favorite K-pop groups. Out of 788 responses from 268 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. BigBang
  2. SHINee
  3. EXO
  4. Super Junior
  5. Infinite
  6. 2NE1
  7. SNSD/Girls’ Generation
  8. JYJ
  9. MBLAQ
  10. TVXQ

This data suggests that K-pop fans are receptive to newer K-pop male groups. Nearly all of the groups not included in the predetermined list are groups that debuted after 2010. Female groups continue to lag behind, probably due to the fact that most K-pop groups that debut are male. However, established K-pop groups dominate when fans are asked to identify their favorite K-pop groups.  This list mirrors the predetermined list, which suggests that the longer the group has been active, more connected fans feel to the group.  Infinite has become a group that fans consistently say they like, replacing a group like BEAST/B2ST, which may have been out of the spotlight for a period of time. The notable exception is EXO, who fans identify as a group that they live and a favorite group. EXO debuted in 2011, and has managed to create a level of fan loyalty equal to more established K-pop groups.

So, what does this mean? It seems to suggest that fans of K-pop make choices about the degree of their fan loyalty based on the longevity of the group. K-pop group longevity (or how long a group has been active) makes a difference to fans. This has long-term implications for how K-pop continues to be promoted. Agencies who focus on churning out new groups without cultivating the fandom may see less of an impact than agencies who take time to establish a long-term fan relationship between artists and fans. Such activities may include creating the fan name so that fans can identify with a particular group, creating behind-the-scene shows where fans can see artists when they are not performing, and creating other opportunities for artists to remain in the public eye, such as endorsements and television appearances.

Images:

“BigBang, Love Song (Korea.com),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/347.

“EXO, Promo Dark Sky (seoulbeats),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/369.

Creative Commons License
Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Originally published on KPK: Kpop Kollective on July 10, 2014.