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The Korean Wave In Pop Music

2095 words - 9 pages

Korean music has changed dramatically over the past decade, most recently in the craze with pop. This essay will focus on the Korean Wave with emphasis on K-POP in terms of the sound history and culture it has created. I argue that a music genre has never been this successful in penetrating the outside world and combining culture. As this music genre is relatively new, just two decades, the traditional sense of the music must be taken with a grain of salt. I will space this paper out into three areas as stated above, touching on the history and culture, the sound itself, and performance of the genre. I will then take a case study of the most popular K-POP band Super Junior and their song “U.” In the song I will pull from my analysis of the genre and connect it to the Korean Wave Movement’s purpose.
The history of K-POP comes in the shell of the Korean Wave movement. This is the increase in popularity from South Korean culture to the rest of the world (Cha, 153). Starting in the late 1990’s, Korean Dramas were exported to China leading to songs a few years after (Cha, 155). As time passed the Korean wave became more influential across different countries, exporting more types of culture to more parts of the globe (Cha, 156). Originally this meant neighboring countries like China, but recently it has even spread to the U.S. As with most cultural pieces that have gone viral in the last decade, K-POP is a hit with tweens and teens (Provine, 2014). The role of media through television and the internet is vital to the spread of the music and culture from South Korea. K-POP can be in the form of movies, drama, or music, but music out of the three main categories has been most widely spread. As the music genre has evolved it has taken elements from modern R&B, hip hop, rock, even electric guitar in some songs. This is an example to the rest of the world that there is no single evolution of one sound, but rather how connected all genres are.
An interesting dynamic to note about the culture of the Korean Wave, or K-POP is how the South Korean government uses the popularity as a power tool. Soft power, as Joseph Nye defines it is the persuasion of others through co-opting them to do so (Nye, 2004). This is different from the regular way one would describe the power tool over another group: through coercion or payment. In this manner the South Korean government uses the success of K-POP and is leveraging it to become more liked and influential (Nye, 2004). The government believes that when foreigners listen to their music or engage in their shows they will embrace them and in turn be warmer to South Korea. To aid this, the government will promote the music travel from domestic to overseas. The government is hoping that the cultural spreading is bidirectional and that the world culture will also influence South Koreans, bringing them closer to others as well. As South Korea has been a topic of interest in the past few decades, the government aims at...

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