So, yesterday was one hell of a day for us. Not only did we celebrate our 100th Kpop Music Monday (and by celebrate, we mean “Make an Extra Video that’s over 18 minutes long“), and not only did we crash Groove Magazine’s site for their awesome article on us (Thanks Groove!) we also went on Al Jazeera live to talk about K-pop and Soft Power.

For starters, a few things may not be apparent in the video here:

1) This was 5AM for us! 5AM!! We woke up at around 11PM the day before and started working, right from the get-go, on Kpop Music Monday and our extra 100th Anniversary special video. Everything was published at around 3:30AM, and then we started prepping for the live stream. So, if we seem a bit ramble-ey or discombobulated, you’ll know why. No fair! Sukjong Hong (and the host), the two people in the studio giving all the stats, was fresh and awake! So…yeah. We felt like we would have done a better job with more sleepy-time in us. Staying awake for 18 hours…not great for intelligent conversation.

2) Interesting thing about the chat: it was via Skype, but it was done in an odd way. We couldn’t actually see the stream. We were just looking at a blank monitor, because they were not feeding video to us. That would take up bandwidth, which could potentially worsen the signal. So, we were a bit in the dark, which feels odd, because, well, looking at people’s faces and reading their reactions is important for conversation. You read their social cues and respond to their reactions, you know when to interrupt and you can see when a gap becomes available to join the conversation, but since we couldn’t see them, we felt that we might have awkwardly cut in sometimes. Who knew I’d miss seeing people so much?

3) We’re so intimidated by live events! Seriously! Thanks to the magic of editing and post production, we can transform ourselves from stammering dolts into semi-eloquent adults. Here, though, we couldn’t cut out our uuhmms and ahhhs, or get a re-do if we said something off. Yeah man. Live video: not as safe as edited video :D

Yeah! So, that’s some of the behind the scenes info on this live streaming event. We really enjoyed doing this but we didn’t really agree with everything that was said here. Maybe it’s just us, but this conversation seemed to paint Korea and Kpop in a negative light. Are we wrong here? For starters, we’re not really buying the idea of the Korean Government insidiously fuelling the Kpop industry as a form of soft power propaganda. Is the Korean government acknowledging that Kpop and K-dramas are becoming a source of revenue in the sense that more people are visiting Korea because of their interest in the Hallyu Wave? Absolutely! We don’t deny that the Korean government has seized the opportunity to create Kpop/K-drama tours for visitors, or that they’re using Kpop idols to promote visiting their country, but…I don’t really see what’s wrong with that. If this were my country, I’d do the same thing! “You like Kpop do, you? Want to spend money in my country because of it? Awesome! Here are some things you can do:”

I guess what we’re getting at is that to us it seems that Kpop and Kdrama came FIRST, and then the government saw the popularity, and is now trying to take advantage of people’s interest in the country. It’s not like the government created these bands, advertised them, and then people were like, “Oh, Kpop is cool! Let’s go to Korea,” all the while the government is tenting their fingers and mumbling “Good! Good! Excellent!” and stroking their hairless cats.

In fact, one of the points we raised and most fervently believe in is that, even if the Korean government paid buckets of money to have all the biggest Kpop bands play on the radio in North America, it wouldn’t mean that Kpop would catch on and be loved. The government can’t BUY soft power, and that’s what it felt like this discussion was suggesting. I think it’s a cart-before-the-horse kind of discussion.

I think we’re most adamant against this point, probably because we occasionally hear people accusing us of being government shills as well. Just because we’re semi-popular, and we paint a nice picture about Korea, then that means we MUST be owned by the government! We say nice things about YG: that means YG MUST secretly own our site! We didn’t believe in picking sides in the T-ara scandal based on rumors, so their company MUST have paid us off! Saying favourable things about something does not mean that you’re bought out. We feel the same about Kpop: just because it’s popular, and people are now fascinated with Korea as a result, it doesn’t mean that the government is controlling them. If they did, I’d like the government to explain WTF they meant by “Joom joom my heart like a locket”. Maybe something along the lines of “Excellent! We will confuse them into a state of loving our country!” What do you guise think?

Last thing is something we found hilarious: Esther (she lives in South Korea too), I’m not sure if you’re gonna read this, but we were talking about the insane work ethic of South Korea, and how people work absurd hours. I could be wrong but…weren’t you broadcasting live from your office…AT 5AM?!?!?! Did you even go home at night or did you just wake up early for this and head into work? I also hope you get to go home early today because I can’t imagine you staying at work all day after that.

Anyhow, you can read more about it on Al Jazeera’s site. Weird. I never thought we’d be talking on Al Jazeera.

  1. Oh wow, did you read all the comments? Even I didn’t. o.O
    I thought I’d just let you know that not everyone here disliked the show. I thought it was great, and I’ve always liked how Al Jazeera always looks at things from an interesting perspective. They’ve even been said to have more objectivity than many American/European news programs. I don’t know about it being ‘the truth’, but they did present many different points of view.

    However, regardless of how I personally felt about the show, or the comments on this page, I want people to be able to express their thoughts freely here – so long as they are respectful – without being marked as being blind, ignorant, or hypocritical. I mean, you could be right, but cut them some slack~ :p

  2. Totally Agree with you, They were looking at the whole situation and using “Gagnam Style,” so critical and negative about Korean society, and how the fans are “blinded by kpop,” but we know (like how Simon and Martina said) that we know they work really hard and it not all rainbows and lollipops. That Korean American lady was just too critical about the whole thing..it was the one on the table..too critical.

  3. ……no seriously, this is the kind of post that you’d put on tumblr, or your blog. Not here. Pretty please? >_<

  4. Hey, I don’t know who this Esther person is, nor do I want to know. I also don’t care what she thinks, and from the sound of it, neither should you.
    But I don’t think it’s necessary to randomly bring someone into a conversation just to hate on them. I was going to delete your comment, but I thought I’d tell you this: If you have negative sentiments towards someone, tell that person. Telling others in the attempt to get more people to hate that person achieves nothing of any worth.

    • Ah, righto. Was she the older Korean/American lady in the video? The one who flew from NYC (sorry I didn’t pay attention to their names). I apologise for dismissing your post like that, it had typical spammer characteristics like ‘like this so they can see’ – if you’ve been around here long enough, you’d realise that S&M read all the comments on their blog post regardless.
      Well, now that that’s settled, could you perhaps tone down your raging a little then? lol? You should be able to edit your comment (if Disqus isn’t stuffing up again :S)

      • Oh was that her? I was paying too much attention to her hair-flicking. She had a lot of make-up on. And was quite pretty. Though for the life of me I can’t remember anything she said. :S

        Btw yea, I saw it was your first comment which is why I thought I’d tell you the issue with it instead of outright deletion. Thanks for being so understanding!! I feel guilty everytime I pull someone up for this. ^^;

  5. As @lemon224 stated, people here are quite self-centered. You will always find weirdos at schools that are into manga and Japan though, but being into Korea and kpop is something we keep to ourselves. People don’t really talk about music here so much. It is not a base of discussion as I have seen it to be in videos I’ve seen of a Korean classroom. Mainly people just listen to whatever they want to and talk badly about artists such as Justin Bieber. Here in the US, love for the entertainment industry and wanting to be part of it is something we tend to keep to ourselves.

    As for the government using pop music to their advantage, I don’t think they do that. American musicians might be invited to a governmental event or express their opinions on something political, but they really don’t promote the government very much. They act more individually than as a team. Keeping an image is not so important here. If it were, the people that are popular now would never have even made it to the business. It’s just a completely different business here from in South Korea, and quite frankly I prefer Korea’s.

  6. Does the aussie government own all the tv networks?

  7. yaaay! well done, you guise!

    of course, as your totally biased fan, i agree with you and will support you against others, but it did seem a bit like sometimes they were kinda dismissing what you guys were saying and going “well according to my statistics here…” and that was a bit lame. i mean, i would tend to trust you more just you guys are the ones living in korea, you have worked there in the schools and interacted with the younger generations, and you have worked with some of the k-pop idols as well so you would really know, but they were just kinda like “yeah yeah, not important”. so as a “Nastie” (hihihi), that offended me.
    but it wasn’t a bad interview persay. i’m kinda happy k-pop and korea is being discussed more and more because of PSY. i just think it’s cool.

  8. I’m currently somewhere near the 15min mark and I totally see the different views re: KPop. Ms. Hong (correct me if I’m wrong ‘coz I have trouble remembering names) voices the typical view of people looking from the outside looking in, seeing the glitz and the glamour and from what I gather, she doesn’t like what she’s seeing esp. since she has knowledge of the more political angle. The two of you, on the other hand, know KPop from the ‘KPop fan’ perspective. Somewhere between the ‘alternate world’ that is KPop and the real world, these two perspectives blur out but hopefully it’ll create a more culturally tolerant and appreciative society whatever the political effect it produces.

  9. You guys did great! i feel its very weird because of this one song, my white friends (I’m white too but asianified,i speak chinese fluently and have loved anime and kpop for a while) that used to make fun of my kpop now walk around singing Gangnam style repeatedly and its kinda akward. Some of them dont even realize its Korean at first because they heard it on the radio, and they only know this one song. I want to show them more songs so we can talk about it , what do you suggest i show them?

  10. Congrats and excellent job S & M. If you hadn’t said that you were up at 5 AM, I wouldn’t have known. The points everyone made (except for some of the internet/twitter comments the correspondent inputted) were well thought-out, logical, and contributed well to the discussion. Also, the EYK community here I think is doing a great job keeping the discussion going.

    I am just wondering, S & M, what is the k-netizen reaction to this program? Positive? Negative? Defensive? etc.

  11. I love how Martina brought up the example of “There are are different groups of people. The ones who like hip hop, the ones that like rock, then there are the ones that like Kpop.” I was actually thinking about that the morning before because I always talk to my friend who loves Kpop like I do, and I tell her I’m afraid Kpop might become mainstream in America. For me that feeling was coming true. First Girl’s Generation debuting in America, second Gangnam Style being liked by even hip hop artist, and the 2NE1 having an Adidas commercial with Niki Minaj and Jeremy Scott, but I feel that Jeremy Scott is more relevant because he’s been with 2NE1 for a long while.
    I also say that the special-ness of being a non-Korean Kpop fan is that no one can get the inside jokes. A skit that you guys used before was the “Sexyhae” when reaching into your back pocket, I love that a non-Kpop fan wouldn’t get what Kpop fans would be cracking up about.
    One last thought is, I think though there are a lot of Kpop fans in America (and all over the world) doesn’t mean America is ready for Kpop. I would hate to see so much of a change happen in Kpop just so they can be accepted as a mainstream worthy material. There are groups that I’ve “dropped” because they were becoming too close to mainstream.I even took a break from Big Bang and am taking a break from 2NE1 right now.

  12. that lady kept on focusing on the plastic surgeries that some k-pop idols get instead of talking more about k-pop music… and am sure that graph is some what wrong because i know that plastic surgeries are done more in other countries as well.

  13. Haha, you guys kinda looked annoyed with some of these questions at some points

  14. I feel so awkward every time the word “glamorous” was used to describe music videos because I’m such a fan of BAP that glamorous videos don’t come to mind? Other than them, I also had Infinite’s BTD, B2ST’s Fiction, and other similar videos come to mind.
    Excellent job on the live stream. Golly, 5am? I wouldve passed out in the middle of the stream :P

  15. This was really interesting watch. I totally agree with you about “cart before horse” argument…I would say big corporation/goverment are are jumping on the wagon of Korean entertaiment culture’s sucess outside S. Korea. But this kind of coopting is nothing new. Any kind of art, when it is sucessful, has always been coopted by powerful & weathy because it has power to mobilize masses. I just hope Korean media don’t exaggerate or misinform the reasons for Kpop’s success abroad. Because I don’t think kpop isn’t just about escapeism/image. I think Korean singers, just like any musicians has something special to offer outside “Kpop” mould. And creativity SHOULD be encouraged even if you’re not a “Kpop” idol.

  16. it angers me, how they keep on brushing over what simon & martina say like its nothing because they raise really import points!!!!!
    And I totally agree that they keep on making kpop sound like a negative thing, like its some kind of mind control that the government is using against the world.
    By the way Simon & Martina you guys rock!!!!!

  17. Well in Canada we KNOW our government feeds our music industry lol. It’s called Can-con requirements. But what’s wrong with our government supporting domestic talent? If Korea wants to do that too what is wrong with that? However, I do acknowledge the criticism of the ‘packaged product’ feel to some k-pop.

  18. i totally agree with you guys…psy became popular here in america because of his music and the humor of it…not because of the goverment. Also, i started to like kpop because i was SO FREAKIN tired of the american music and i think the ladies in the show were a little bit on the side of the american goverment, saying that it was really hard to get in the us marketing(yeah sure, specially for their “good” music) and that korea was only making music to get more tourist…so lame what they were saying….i support you guys and you really did a good job here protecting kpop!!

  19. In looking for the negatives to present in their story, I think that the others on the show skipped over the positives that kpop has. I loved what Simon and Martina were saying because they were bringing opimism to what was made to be a very gloomy subject.

  20. If Korean government owned Super Junior, then is US government behind Lady Gaga? That’s a scary thought

  21. I discovered you guys about a week ago, and, oh my giznit… You’re fantastic. My husband always looks at me funny when I throw some K-dramas on the Netflix queue or blast my (tiny) collection of Indie and K-pop.

    Anyway, he got SCHOOLED. He still rolls his eyes, though.
    Rock on! :D

  22. Wow! you guyz brought up some really good points. i especially agreed on how you guyz explained that people who listen to kpop seperate themselves from those who don’t, and that psy wasn’t really part of the hallyu wave (btw congrats psy, 100 mil!? damn!) and i could’ve killed the woman when she said psy is not like those other guyz who are just teenagers in skinny jeans o_0

  23. I agree on simon and martina on the idols image. I mean once you become a fan of kpop you realize what goes into these videos. Especially for rookie groups. When i see the videos you see all the hard work that people put in.

  24. Martina and Simon I think your have such amazing though and I know if they pass more the question , you have talk more about it in a positive way, I’m sad that your where caught in such a bad interview, full of all negative propaganda not only for the kpop also for South Korea government, I hate when Sukjong Hong dare to say that she disagreed with Martina that Kpop outside fans can’t really see the real face and the hardwork of South Korean, that is not true I know there maybe a huge of Kpop fans that don’t care about learn about the South Korea culture but I do say not all of us are like that I love to learn to know about their culture and their cuisine there so much to learn and I will keep learning, not because of Kpop because South Korean has grow on me, just like Japan ( I’m also Anime, Manga , Martial Arts and Jpop fan) you did your best guys, by the way congrats! on the Groove Magazine article !

  25. Both of you two represented yourselves very well in this interview; I’ve been following you since very near beginning of your videos and was very proud how you were up front about your opinions but not confrontational . As a couple living in Korea-but not born in it- you have a very unique position and point of view that I can really appreciate.

  26. I just realized, how “not kpop fans” can’t understand Korean culture (I mean this kpop goverment problem …bla, bla …).
    Or, how me (kpop fan) see Korea differently than them. If they were interested in this, they would saw it the same eyes like me. And why always people try to find some blemishes on kpop?
    (and I don’t wanna say that who isn’t kpop fans does not understand Korean culture :D, I just trying to be empathetic and look how Korea feel about this)

  27. your growing success makes me happy simon and martina :D keep up the good work we will always support you guys .. love from saudi arabia <3

  28. I don’t really agree that the U.S. government tries to use American culture to promote the U.S., . i have heard many people from other countries say this, but I think companies and hollywood are capitalizing on the U.S.’s position as a superpower and creating “cultural imperialism”, not the other way around. You would be suprised at how little the average American cares about whether South Korea, or any other country, drinks coke and listens to Lady Gaga. To many Americans, the U.S. is the center of the world, and nowhere else matters. As for the gov., most foreign relations they deal with involves military force, not soft power.

  29. You know, I don’t really watch bloggers, TV, or a lot of news (I enjoy the BBC)… There will be a few here and there that are interesting, but watching this show was really hard. The biggest reason for this is because no one is really quick at delivering their information. There wasn’t a lot of information in this video, it was more of small snippets of info that took a half an hour to deliver. The conversation also felt incredibly disjointed, because at times the guests would say interesting things, but then that would be completely dismissed because it wasn’t on the schedule…I would have liked to see a real discussion about K-pop that went somewhere. THIS DID NOT….

    S&M, I wonder if you could do a TLDR that went into some of the things you might have wanted to say but didn’t get the chance too…

  30. The first ten minutes does give a negative feel towards Kpop. I totally agree with you guise about everything above. Psy is not a part of the hallyu wave and I think his success was due to the fact that he’s not a typical kpop artist, because most people either don’t like how kpop stars look, especially the guys. They look too feminine to them and the style is just different. However, Psy, used humor, which is universal, so that is why he was able to get popular because. Kpop fans watched it and showed it to other people and so on and so forth and it was funny to them. I think it would have had a different effect if it would’ve been a pretty boy band or sexy guy. Psy isn’t handsome or skinny so those that like sexy girls/boys or pretty boys got into the video simply because of it’s humor.

  31. I totally agree with what you said about the government things.
    the comentaters on the show underestimated kpop’s and its fan’s spontaneity and history.
    Im a korean who have witnessed And loved kpop for 30years. its not a creation of the government, it has its own history and sphears. The entertainment in korea has survived from scoffs and suppressions in conservative south korean society. there were scoffs of “non creativity and non nationality like an imitation.” we know kpop sometimes seems ridicurous and superficial ,though,we find Out there some hiden but indegenous originality. this can be an alternative to western culture and korean goverment’s recomended outdated educational contents. It might be a kinda counteraction to korean goverment and western culture by our own way. We enjoy it not because being brainwashed and a korean made product but it is entertaining as a music like Samba and hollywood movies

    Lastly i appreciate simon and martina for good contents.
    Living in korea is Sometimes very stressful. But i hope you see it as a color of the world that sometimes not so pleasurable. And l’ll pray for you That whereve you go, there be a fresh discovery and joyment

  32. I totally agree…it was like they were trying to impress “smart, informed people” and not actually have a discussion about the reaches of kpop. Yes a lot of the bands are formed by companies rather than garage bands raising to fame….but these people made it sound like PSY would come and suck out your soul if you watched too long…

  33. Wow, thanks for working so hard you guise! I’m sure all the nasties appreciate it a lot, I know I do! Just don’t overwork yourselves! Much Love <3

  34. I don’t know if this has been mentioned or not (and I might be getting too theoretical for a kpop conversation) but while the conversation with al jazeera uses the idea of ‘soft power’ as an absolute, in reality it’s only an idea/theory that falls under a very specific view of the world (and a very Bush/American perspective created by Nye). When it was theorized, soft power was defined as being something you can’t control but becomes part of the power of persuasion. Nevertheless, most other theories don’t even believe that ‘soft power’ has any place in real political life.

    So KPOP =/= Korean Political Power.
    And that’s my educational tidbit for the day (I won’t bore everyone with more :P)

  35. To add to the discussion, I sometimes feel that when people try to approach a subject from an academic angle they tend to be overly critical about it. As if they feel that praising it would mean that they were gullible suckers who fell for some sort of trick. I think you did a good job of bringing in a different perspective to the conversation. You guys came across as having a more nuanced understanding of the Kpop industry and you were able to look at it critically without being overly critical. At least that’s how it felt to me. This was an interesting discussion, though, and I definitely learned a few things :)

  36. I also thought the one guest in studio was really painting a really negative view of kpop and korea. Also, regarding jpop and kpop, I first came across jpop culture as a kid but I know so much more about kpop now because of it accessibility. I think that is why it is so popular. It is so easy to access. My Japanese is slowly falling apart and I am really trying to learn the learn but know korean is starting to stick because I watch more kdramas, variety shows and movies. Listen to music. Why is USA pop culture so popular worldwide, accessibility!

  37. Even thought I don’t understand exactly, this discussion is definitely useful for me who is really interested in view of the other nationality person

    Especially, connection between k-pop and general Korean environment such as being idol instead of normal student

  38. I thought you guys did really well and didn’t look nearly as exhausted as you must have been.
    One of the arguments of J-Pop vs. K-Pop I hear here (in Japan) quite often is that the Japanese girls in girl bands are made to look cute, act cute, maybe even a bit stupid, and be very naive. Plus, as for the latest bands, the girls might be cute, but they’re very very normal. It seems in K-Pop the women are stronger, more mature, sexier and dance a lot better than their Japanese counterparts. Plus, they all have beautiful bodies, actually the comment I hear most often about the PVs is “Their legs are so long”.
    So I think their images are just very different, and maybe Japan needed a break from the bubbly cute.

  39. California does it by putting hollywood stars and famous people in their commercial trying to get people to come with fancy beach scenes and it’s not as fabulous as they paint it to be. I mean, who doesn’t do this?

    • I completely agree…I mean think about the idea that many K-pop stars have about America. I’ve noticed that when asked many people in Korea would love to visit America and especially LA over other far more beautiful places in the world; and they do so because to them America is the “it” place to be. Countries everywhere all attempt to paint exaggerated pictures of their country because that is the best way to promote them and although Korea is no exception to this, no other country is either. In regards to K-pop, it is the one thing in Korea that happened to become widely popular over seas and due to its increasing popularity, people seem to think that it promotes and distinguishes Korean culture; but all it really does it give people over seas a different and yet similar type of pop music to enjoy. Korea itself should not and can not be defined by what is seen in K-pop music video.

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