Beyond ‘Gangnam Style,’ why Korea is becoming a pop culture powerhouse

Grace Yi, Staff Writer

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Korean pop music, known as Kpop and the Korean culture is more than “Heyyyyyy, sexy lady. O, O, O, eh eh eh eh eh eh Oppa Gangnam Style!”

At Carlmont, Korean culture  and entertainment has influenced students around school.

Some find Korean music intriguing because of its different melodic style compared to American music.

“The tempo and everything is different than like hip hop and stuff in America. For example, I know [the girl band] 2ne1 has really bizarre hair. The way they do their hair and their outfits with all the spikes is much different compared to American singers,” said native Korean, junior Esther Kim.

Currently, Korean music has affected America and other countries to the extent that in social networking sites such as Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram, Korean media fans have made their profile pictures as their “bias.” A “bias” in Kpop terms is a favored idol or singer in which Korean entertainment fans obsess over.

Senior Jordan Pon noted, “It’s pretty much the same on all of the social networking sites, for profile pictures, it’s still just to show how much of a fan they are of that certain idol. Like Kina Grannis is in my profile picture because I want to show people that I am a fan of hers.”

In America one of the most notable Korean stars who has given America and the world an immense Kpop impression, is the Korean singer, Psy.

The song “Gangnam Style,” choreographed and composed by Psy, even made it to popular radio stations in the United States, which surprised many students like senior Ryan Yen, who “never expected a foreign language to be on the radio.”

The song debuted in August 2012 and climbed to the top rated as the second best song on the International Music Billboard.

“Baby” by Justin Bieber, was previously Youtube’s most viewed video; however it was recently surpassed by Psy’s “Gangnam Style” as of March 10, 2013, which currently holds 1.4 billion views.

The unusual choreography of the song attracted many people whom have watched the video. “If you compared [Korean entertainment] to what Americans [dance to], like bboying and jerking, [Kpop] is really different because who acts like they are riding a horse? Korean ideas itself are so different [in contrast to America], is why people find [Kpop] really interesting,” said Kim.

Similarly, senior and native Korean Erica Pak said, “It’s just a bandwagon effect. Some people started liking it so when it  got popular, people were just like ‘Oh okay, I guess I like it too.’”

Some students think that “Gangnam Style” has given a bad connotation over the perspective of Korean music.

Angelica Gutierrez, a junior said, “[‘Gangnam Style’] has given a negative connotation to Kpop, people associate kpop songs with ‘Gangnam Style’ and they can  judge [other kpop songs] with ‘Gangnam Style.’”

Others noted that “Gangnam style” is not the most ideal way to introduce Korean pop music to foreigners.

Junior Sarah Lew said, “People take ‘Gangnam Style’ and basically  blanket it over all asians [music] saying  ‘Oh, this is what asian music sounds like.’”

Furthermore, other schools have been affected not only by the universal song but also by the Korean culture, perhaps, even more than Carlmont has.

“In Monta Vista High and even San Mateo High, Korean culture has definitely had more of an impact than it has on Carlmont. I remember one of my friends told me that they had a ‘Gangnam Style flash mob in their lunch quad,” said junior Michelle Guan.

This year’s Carlmont heritage fair consisted of different dances from cultures all over the world.

Korean culture was introduced as the Kpop Club performed a mix of songs by Korean bands, like SHINee’s “Sherlock,” B1A4, Miss A’s “I don’t need a Man,” Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” and Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby.” Two years earlier in 2011, the Asian American Club (AAC) danced to a mix of popular kpop songs such as SNSD’s “Gee” and Big Bang’s Taeyang, “Wedding Dress.”

Despite this performance, students think that there has not been a grand effect or influence on others over Korean media arts outside of Kpop club and AAC.

Pon said, “Honestly I don’t think our dance really influenced people, it was just for entertainment. People are just used to seeing the AAC or Kpop club dance to Kpop for fun. I didn’t see much cultural influence in our dance. They would probably only be motivated to join just to dance.”

Not only is Kpop music a key element in Korean media entertainment, Korean dramas are also popular within the the genre of Korean media. Korean dramas used to range from 50 to 100 episodes, now most dramas end with 16 episodes.

Many students have found the dramas to be addicting because of the cliffhangers at the end of every episode. Most students say when they start to watch a new drama series, it comes with consequences.

Guan said, “It has really affected some people’s study and sleeping habits because  people have to learn new time management skills especially when you watch these dramas since they are really addicting. They have dramatic plotlines and cute actors. Also being able to escape the stress of reality is a big factor.”

Junior Lexie Liu stated, “It’s making our grades go down. We’re  spending too much time watching [Korean] variety shows and [Korean] dramas because they are about an hour each episode and you can’t stop.”

Ultimately, although some people have differing preferences in Korean entertainment, fans of Korean entertainment embrace and enjoy the uniqueness and variety that the Korean culture offers.

“The entire genre is random and not something that everyone can relate to. However, when someone can relate to it, it’s addictive. It’s either you hate it or you love it,” said senior, Ryan Yen.

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