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. Hey Simon and Martina this is a bit late but I’d like to point out that the way you handled all the issues from the early time to the blank monitor very well. You also handled the skepticism of some of the comments gracefully, I respect you guys. I loved the opinions you out forth please continue to make awesome videos

  2. So, none of those are Koreans who lived in Korea for real. The Skype-girl lived for two years only. The in-studio guest is living in the US.
    Why not listening to a Korean citizens in Korea itself?

  3. S&M I LOVE YOU! 13:20 Awesome PWNAGE! I love KPop ’cause it feeds my imagination. We all sometimes escape to some imaginary land in our heads, and KPop helps build that happiness. We’re not disillusioned into thinking it’s a reality though. Especially since you guys are so UBER educational. You’re honest about this industry and help us enjoy it, but you don’t try and paint a wrong picture of it. We’re for the music, not the industry, just like you said about idol worship in the T-ARA scandal video. I also loved it when you spoke about how KPop is like a scene and how PSY doesn’t represent KPop but rather was his own agent making people aware of the Korean wave.
    Only your opinions matter ’cause only you know the true side, and want to promote a BALANCED view of KPop.
    (Now for some S&M worship)

  4. It is undeniable that the soft power that everyone’s talking about is actually working, to a great deal. I mean, not only adolescents in South Korea are looking at being an idol, people around me(I live outside of South Korea, but in the Asia region) are also joining various star hunting competitions to try to be part of that world because South Korea has this image of Asia’s Hollywood, where everyone in that place has the easiest access to stardom compared to anywhere else in the world.

  5. I want to support you guys, but this was hard for me to watch. I would love to take part in a discussion of the Korean culture in a more critical way, but I also think the show was incredibly unbalanced. By trying to present both sides of the issue, they ended up almost not presenting both sides. I enjoy K-pop because I enjoy the sound of the music. I enjoy K-dramas because they are unlike anything I would watch in Canada. But now it’s all about Korea trying to achieve soft power through my enjoyment of those things? It felt like it was vilifying the things I enjoy, which was not a super feeling.

    I understand from some of the comments here that these forms of media are being presented to possible immigrants without giving them the proper understanding that this is not a full picture of what it’s like in Korea. But the same thing can be said for the rural areas of northern Canada. They have to hunt for their food, they live in huts and tents, but they know who Justin Bieber is. Because I live in Canada, over 70% of my entertainment comes from the USA industry.
    From what I watched, it felt like this wasn’t a show so much about discussing K-pop, but discussing the influence of media on portraying an image of a country to outsiders. Because of that I felt it was unfair to not mention and compare the practices of Korea to that of other countries.

    I would love to see a video discussing some of the more serious political and social issues of Korea from Simon and Martina, but this one was just not for me.

  6. Oooh… soft burn to 소녀시대 martina, but i totally agree with u they just cant put them in the us and expect them to explode in the market.

  7. “the cheap produce we have at dinner is thanks to the hard work of abused migrant workers…”

    The cheap produce that my family – and millions of other families in America eat is grown in their backyard gardens.

  8. This is probably one of my favorite discussions ever. honestly I am a huge kpop fan and I really want to move to South Korea and be a teacher very soon, cause I love it that much. But I actually like that they just didn’t talk about how glamorous it is and how hard it is to work in the industry. and the expectations that korean culture has in terms or wealth and looks. In all honest, I think learning about the culture was a big thing for me. I think people are just upset because maybe they didnt know all the issues in korea, I mean yes, I know their are tons and tons of issues going on in America right now, especially when everything is being brought up into light with the 2012 elections coming up. But honestly I would rather be educated on both sides of the issue, instead of this whole thing being a one-sided discussion. I dont know if S&M just thought it was going to be just a kpop positive discussion and how fun it is to like kpop, I dont think kpop was painted in a negative light in this discussion, because they were speaking on how kpop can relate to different areas in the culture. because even though kpop is not named in the culture, it really does influence how people in the korean culture see themselves as a person. Again, I thought it was awesome, you can learn a lot from this discussion other than the glitz and glam of it all, cause it is hard, especially for korean idols, because people expect them to be perfect and nobody is perfect.

  9. This is probably one of my favorite discussions ever. honestly I am a huge kpop fan and I really want to move to South Korea and be a teacher very soon, cause I love it that much. But I actually like that they just didn’t talk about how glamorous it is and how hard it is to work in the industry. and the expectations that korean culture has in terms or wealth and looks. In all honest, I think learning about the culture was a big thing for me. I think people are just upset because maybe they didnt know all the issues in korea, I mean yes, I know their are tons and tons of issues going on in America right now, especially when everything is being brought up into light with the 2012 elections coming up. But honestly I would rather be educated on both sides of the issue, instead of this whole thing being a one-sided discussion. I dont know if S&M just thought it was going to be just a kpop positive discussion and how fun it is to like kpop, I dont think kpop was painted in a negative light in this discussion, because they were speaking on how kpop can relate to different areas in the culture. because even though kpop is not named in the culture, it really does influence how people in the korean culture see themselves as a person. Again, I thought it was awesome, you can learn a lot from this discussion other than the glitz and glam of it all, cause it is hard, especially for korean idols, because people expect them to be perfect and nobody is perfect.

  10. There are plenty of reasons of why I love kpop, maybe even more than what I dislike about kpop. It kind of does feel like an escape though, but I like it, and you can’t make a huge deal out of something being liked too much. If people like Kpop then let them enjoy what they like C: I personally, think that if I have to give my money to a celebrity, I would give it to someone hardworking and that I respect because of what they do, which are of course various kpop artists. Not saying that other musicians around the world aren’t hardworking, mainly because I don’t always listen to international music all the time, but I’m really fond of kpop. Anyways I don’t think it should be made into a big deal though, it kind of scares me how society seems to be lacking an open-mind lately. Anyways I don’t want to say much. *flies away* ._.

  11. It makes me angry that during the stream they said so many things about Kpop like it is shocking and horrible that they have fame and money…when in the US it is the same way. Popular music idols are “stars”, and children give up dreams of becoming doctors and lawyers for making it big as a musician even though it is just as selective as in Korea.

  12. KPOP idols must have a lot of nervous break downs.
    Look at joon from mblaq his insomnia came back and devolped bipolar disorder. Honstely a lot of kpop idols and korean actors have mental disorders but nobody actullay nobody takes the time to look at their mental or physical health much.

  13. I am sure that the Government in some way or another are capitalizing on Kpop. Agreeing 100 % on EYK expression cart-before-horse in that the Gov astutely acknowledged the influences of this entity of Kpop has had in the world in the last half a decade or so. I think this discussion was very smart. However I felt that in the root of the criticism was animosity. I was very rather disturbed. Because it turned the whole vibe to defensive. I admire the sleep deprived Simon and Martina Defending Kpop and their fans. THANKS!

    Since I do not know completely where Sukjong Hong was coming from.However I can recognize why she was interjecting some serious issues. I so think that just as Kpop is representing the Arts and Images of Talented folks, that Also the everyday life and concerns should be known about S.Korea as I am curious to know about, and hope to contribute to a solution in any way I can just like we have that same situation here in the US. I was taken aback that She Assumed all the fans/admirers of Kpop are ignorant to the fact that idols/kdrama actors are well written Tales and well styled Singer/Dancers of many hardworking people (sadly with the exception of some emotionally broken persons-that are from ANY part of the world). It is escapism at is best, which is Entertainment. I am latina, I grew up watching telenovelas with Extremely rich blinged-out characters and dirt-poor characters. I KNEW and others knew that it was just a story.Granted we talked about it as if they were our own family dramas but there is a fine line that was understood. Because I saw with my own eyes, the not-so-fabulous and in the positive note the REAL people I cared for. I did also find it rather comical that Ester ( A Ent. Company rep) seemed to be bashing Kpop (isn’t she part of it?) is that what she wanted to convey?

    I am all about being critical of most things, because then it can only get better as long as the criticism is constructive.

    I do Hope Kpop and other beautiful Korean culture elements are shared around the globe. If Kpop or other mediums are the bridge to that, then I look forward to it.

  14. Very interesting show. I’m glad Simon and Martina were on there and brought out the points that they did. If they were not on there, I bet a lot of what they said would not have been brought up.

  15. http://www.cnngo.com/seoul/life/tell-me-about-it/k-pop-taking-over-world-dont-make-me-laugh–476482
    Hey…Please thumb up this comment, not because I’m lusting attention, but because I wanted to alert people of an article that was written by Esther Oh in the past and more importantly I wanted to bring it to Simon and Martina’s attention. I’m usually very discreet, but seeing Esther again, after once really getting really irked by her comments in this old article was too much. Looks like she’s quite the crusader. If you read the article you’ll see that Esther really minced her words in the show because her real thoughts are far more cynical and a lot of her matter is kinda baseless. She’s really mal-researched a lot of her material… Like I always say- if you pursue matters with a negative mind and Google negative material… you get negative results. She’s really done a good job of keeping the achievements out of her article. And apparently success now days means breaking into only the american market. Oh well the rest of the World might as well just give up trying because nowadays the World means america. I’m not anti any country, but you can really see what her priorities are and it’s annoying how millions of followers around the World are invalid just because one country hasn’t fully accepted it. That’s just wrong… And honestly the number of american fans on EYK itself are living proof that the Wave exists. Why does everything have to be government propaganda? Seriously! Even North Korea doesn’t get this much criticism for suppressing freedom. She’s acting like nobody has the right to promote something and speak of it’s achievements… and taking such few accounts into consideration is baseless and impractical to arriving upon a conclusion with reliable bases. She’s biased. It’s obvious. She’s made me laugh. (BTW, isn’t the title a little harsh?)

    • 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.

      • I agree though roughly with your comment. However, I just assumed that I’d relate my thoughts on the situation. I didn’t mean to garner hate and throw it towards that one person. P.S Esther Oh, is relevant to the video because she’s in it, and I just thought people would want to see more of her work and thought I’d mention a bit of what parts I disagree with about the things she’s said. Not of her character in general. I by no means infer that the woman is a tyrant because she wrote bad things… however I really wanted people to know that she really wasn’t as professional and in the position to comment as she appeared in the video because her earlier works were kinda lacking actual factual back up or significant statistics. I guess it was just that raging need to defend that spurned me to make the article sound more accusatory than I actually intended it to be. Sorry, however please don’t delete the article never the less. My intentions aren’t so hateful I tell you!

        • 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)

        • Edited as much as my conscience would let me. I removed those spammer signs you spoke of. Thanks for educating me about how things work around in EYK, I’ll keep it in mind during future postings.

        • Hi. Sorry. Actually the first comment on another article had the same typical spammer signs and I thought it was okay because good enough it reached the top, so I thought that’s how it worked around here. I am by no means new to EYK though… I just tend to skim over the comments and this happens to be the first time I’ve commented on anything here so….. I’m kinda embarrassed that the newbie feel resonates so much that you actually picked up on it. Ouch! Actually Esther was the lady who was on Skype just like Simon and Martina but who had like completely conflicting views to theirs. (Which basically means non-awesome) However I don’t want people to hate on her. Nobody deserves that, I just wanted them to see the flaws in her points that are visible in her articles elsewhere. Oh! And please consider my rage officially toned down! Huhuhu. (*Insert sheepish face*) (;一_一)

        • 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. ^^;

    • Take note -> Not only is this article stupid because it speaks of just one country and doesn’t consider successes in the World’s largest continent as an achievement but it also states that Jay Park isn’t a Korean star because of what his passport says. Take further note that although this sounds harsh- Jay Park’s controversy and 2pm really kicked him forward. True he is super popular and cool now and is great at what he does, I still can’t deny it. I’m not a Jaywalker, however I am a fan and I still acknowledge that had he started with a solo debut he’d be classified with the likes of Tiger JK and other admittedly less popular but still awesome artists who aren’t idols.. Apparently when KPOP stars do succeed abroad it’s invalid because their passport says so. Hard to please much? No matter what is done, it won’t be a success in her book. She also states that BoA’s, Se7en and Rain’s songs don’t count as Hallyu songs, so although because they failed conclusively Hallyu failed, they still weren’t really Hallyu after all. So does that mean Hallyu didn’t fail and america failed? Because under “misnomers” you yourself stated that the songs being produced by americans, don’t count as Hallyu at all! The point really is derailed. However one thing I do agree with is that once they try to adapt KPOP to another country’s environment and suppress what identifies it as a KPOP song, it does not stand out. PSY wasn’t aiming for the international market. It was a song for Koreans about Korean nuances, however it retained it’s cultural ties and did well. However I doubt people liked it for it’s strong relations to Korean society like everyone on that program seemed to think, I’m pretty sure it didn’t became viral because of it’s depthful symbolism, people liked it simply because it was funny. Here Esther Oh treats it like an unearthly tool to drill the truth of Korean society into our brains, however besides her and hard core KPOP fans who pretty much knew about it pre-PSY, to everyone else it’s “that funny song with the addictive dance and beat and a crazy awesome guy jumping about doing weird stuff and saying things we don’t get.” If you don’t believe me, check the Youtube comments under the video, there’s pretty much no mention of “Wow! I’m totally surprised at how delusional I’ve been all along! I had no idea Gangnam wasn’t paradise!”
      I on the other hand am surprised at how pointless this entire conversation was when it had so much potential to be more positive and stimulating and not just plain…..um….. unnecessary? Please don’t say I’m one of those fans who only wants to hear great things being said about KPOP … However true that may be (^.^)/ . I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear good things said about the things they love seriously? Anyone?
      I just think it’s a bit of an exaggeration to accuse something that was created purely for entertainment and positive purposes of intentionally trying to brainwash people into thinking “it’s all peachy here in glamorous Korea!!!” after all the purpose of any music industry for that matter isn’t to alert people of social evils right? Might as well invent singing newspapers then and ban all forms of entertainment if that’s your perception of music right? And the thing about the Samsung factory in the video….. um….. do you want them to start singing songs about it and actually expect people to take time off from their already exhausting lives only to remind themselves that it could get worse at any moment? A little harsh don’t you think? Also it’s annoying how people say artists have no voice of their own….. many didn’t. Nowadays most do, every album has at least one song completely written and composed by one or more members in a group. Perfect example of a group where a member participates in the creation of pretty much every song? The very mainstream rookie group B.A.P…!!! There are several more, reply underneath if you want more convincing and I’ll send you manymanymany instances. Please comment and send me your feedback. I’m pretty much open to support or criticism. (Although I’m slightly afraid of the second one, I’ll respect it.) Reply and like the main article so that Simon and Martina can see!!!

  16. Actually, I really liked this show. It was well documented and it changes positively from the usual shortcuts foreign media use. The only fact that they invited people who have different opinions, such as you guise, shows that they’re open minded. Of course they don’t fully agree with you, but that’s in part what makes it interesting.

  17. I just wanted to point out censorship in South Korea is a HUGE issue. I wish you had talked about it a bit more. It bleeds into Kpop as well but its very hypocritical. Through Kpop I feel like the government tries to change common perceptions about Koreans such as the heavy drinking that is part of Korean culture. Mentioning alcohol in a song will lead to the song being banned for anyone underage and cannot be shown before a certain hour. However, drinking is a huge problem in Korea including heavy drinking, DUIs and underage drinking. Girl groups have been banned from performing on music shows because they lift their shirt to reveal their bellybuttons during a dance and yet prostitution is also a huge part of Korean culture making an estimated 14 trillion won per year, nearly as much money as agriculture in the country. Kpop idols are also held to high moral standards and are often forced to withdraw from the industry following even minor scandals while politicians and rich and powerful CEO who are involved in embezzlement and other serious offenses don’t receive as much media coverage or reasonable punishment. The pure Kpop image that the government controls is very far removed from what is happening behind closed door in Korea society: money, sex and alcohol. I feel like South Korea tried to keep a sense of moral superiority compared to say, the USA and Kpop fans seem to enjoy the more clean cut aspect of Kpop but it isn’t a true reflection of Korea. Not to mention, also, that on several occasions it was been revealed that these pure and innocent idols and actresses are often forced into providing ‘sponsors’ with sexual favours and recently a CEO was charged with raping trainees in his company. The government does not want people to look at Korea and criticize it and if all they see is government controlled Kpop they may never realize anything is wrong, it has often taken the extreme measure of suicide for some in the entertainment industry to make their protests on the darker side of the industry known. Psy’s poke at Gangnam is a soft version of what Seo Tai Ji did a decade ago in terms of criticizing life in Korea and they both should be commended for doing it. As should Xia Junsu, who continues to be forcibly barred from promoting his music in South Korea individually as well as with his group JYJ because they dared to challenge the unfair clauses of their contracts, for his outspoken song ‘Tallantellegra’ which asks “what kind of music will you listen to?” I think that is something we all need to do.

    • To be clear i don’t believe the government created Kpop for this reason but I think once they saw how big Kpop and Kdramas had become they decided they had to control the kind of content the Hallyu produced lest it paint Korea in a negative light. With people all over the world paying attention to Kpop I truly believe the government feels it is a reflection of Korea and as it is a culture where saving face is more important than nearly everything else I don’t think they could allow full artistic freedom. This new video rating system they are trying to implement is a perfect example because its the government trying to control not only what Koreans see but what Korean content foreigners see.

  18. Thought I would share this since this discussion is centered on how Gangnam style went viral and what it means. On my daily commute home in San Francisco Bay Area around 7:30 pm, I was listening to the one of the top radio pop stations, 99.7, to hear Gangnam Style played in its entirety. Afterward breifly discussed how Psy had signed with Justin Bieber’s label. It is not just a viral youtube video anymore it is getting radio airplay now…I provided a link of the playlist. I think this is both shocking and exciting….I have yet to hear even any kpop english pop songs (such as Wonder Girls “Like Money”) played on the radio. So to hear Gangnam Style on pop station that plays Carly Rae Jepsen “Call me maybe” every ten minutes was music to my ears! Fighting Psy!!! http://997now.cbslocal.com/playlist/

  19. Simon and Martina without a doubt know the most about kpop from the people who were involved in that studio conversation. It bothered me how the others couldn’t look at things from their perspective. How obvious was it that Hong didn’t agree with a thing they said! I was only able to watch the full thing because of them. They are around kpop fans. Their job is centered around kpop. They know what we are like and I agreed with everything they said.

    I remember Esther saying how kpop idols are molded. That is not exactly true. Western musicians don’t always write or compose their own music either. They get some say on what they will do and what genre of music they will make. They are not robots. Sure they have to handle more things they don’t want to, but it’s not an easy road for them. First of all, they have to audition for a company. Getting accepted into a company is not easy. They must have enough talent and confidence to grasp their attention. Then they must train for hours each day for years. Many even quit before debuting because they can’t handle the pressure. It’s not a business about glamor as much as it is about hard work and not giving up.

    Looking at their website (I never even heard of this company before), they are so biased and sick! They’re talking about a bunch of things that I can’t comprehend as an 18-year-old, and that have NOTHING to do with kpop! Their website states, “The clip below by MasaMixes does a mashup of several recent K-pop hits, showing how the manufactured hits all seem to mirror one another.”
    Wow. Seriously? REMIXES ARE NOT MADE TO SHOW PEOPLE HOW SONGS ARE SIMILAR TO ONE ANOTHER. They are made for entertainment. All genres make remixes of different songs. It’s nothing new. It’s not something people do to bash on kpop. Even if some songs sound alike, what’s to be done has already been done. There are only so many things that a person is yet to be the first to do. Such ignorance.

    When that lady brought up a chart of plastic surgery, that was a dead giveaway of their bashing the country. South Korea is not perfect, but why must they bash it so much? We still manage to love it past its imperfections. After all, no country is perfect. Not to mention how SK is not the only country where it’s seen as a norm.

    There’s just a lot that they talked about that when you look at it internationally, you see that many countries are on the same boat.

    • For gods sake, all of these comments against the show are the same. THE FOCUS IS ON KPOP, ON KOREAN CULTURE. This is not bashing, it is the truth. You cannot just love something blindly, it just digs you deeper into a hole of ignorance. Its incredibly hypocritical for you to say that they are biased when you are exactly that, not able to handle criticism because you’re deluded with your ‘blind love for South Korea’.

      • I’m sorry if my comment seemed like I was bashing the show. I actually quite enjoyed it and would watch it again if they talked about an interesting topic. That day I was just… really into it? But I’ll have you know that I do not love kpop blindly and I am NOT ignorant. I was just expressing my fresh emotions and your comment was quite rude. I’m sorry if I made myself seem like a deluded kpop fan, but I am not. I was just upset at the word choices that made kpop sound like a bad thing.

      • 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

        • Agreed! I believe there has been some very mature comments as well as very heated ones, as the one by the person you were replying to. Even the other interviewed guests commented and clarified their stand on the subjects discussed. As in any subject being criticized,it will be interpreted in a million ways. More of these conversations have to take place. Not only in Pop in Korean Culture but globally. Because it is in part of all the political, social, financial and emotional scope of the human community.
          I liked this video because It brought a new perspective, even though I was not in total agreement. I welcomed the point of views, as they very enlightening. Hopefully all that watched and read ALL the reviews are open and understand where they coming from, without judgement.

  20. I completely agree with S&M through out the video. Some of the things said in the video i don’t really like. . . it just doesn’t sit well with me. It seems like everyone works hard in Korea and i think thats a good thing to learn from. . you cant get any where with out hard work. No offence but look at us Americans, i mean we seem to get lazier and lazier each year and our schooling is a mess. . .
    and so what if Kids wanna dream to become Kpop Idols. . . When i was younger i wanted to be a Chef on the Moon. (it hasnt happened yet)
    Sooo yeah . . . (i hope no one takes this the wrong way.. maybe idk what I’m talking about)

  21. korea is a country,with ups and gowns, with good and bad things……. not paradiseland . I think people tend to forget that sometimes.

  22. I’m not sure if this is a closed view I have but I gotta say that it irks me when people who don’t know much about k-pop review it. It seems like they have a closed mind for it because they don’t really know much about it. I don’t think an opinion for k-pop as a whole should be made after watching a few videos. Simon and Martina actually live in Korea and are in contact with the culture everyday and love k-pop. Because they know so much about the Korean culture, they make awesome review. They also know how to have fun. It’s really annoying when someone who may know Korean Culture semi-well talks about it because they don’t think like most people. They can over analyze something to the point that it’s completely wrong. So when I see an American or British show reviewing one MV like Gangnam Style which, while awesome, can in no way depict all of Korea or k-pop or when some super serious person over analyses k-pop to be Korea’s governments way of having power or whatever, it bugs me. Idk. Just my opinion. Simon and Martina did an awesome job, especially at 5am looking at a blank screen. :)

  23. I also wanted to share the intent of going on the show. As the show introduced, I work on both labor and peace issues. By critiquing Korea, that does not mean I am trying to paint the country in a negative light. By being critical, it is with the hope of bringing about change. Many people in Korea are working on changing the conditions there, to see justice in all these spheres, and I work with some of them. I work on peace and justice issues in the US as well – so I do not deny that there is much work to be done on that front stateside. Obviously, with globalization, all these issues are interconnected. I enjoy Kpop very much, just like many of you, but culture is not just the product of artists and companies – it is what we make of it, how we talk about it, how it gets used, and it is very political. Power can show up in the use of force, or very subtly, in promoting certain values, images, and causing others to want to imitate you. The second is what soft power is, and what I think Al Jazeera was trying to get at.

    • I really liked your interventions on this show, especially the part about working conditions and human scandals within Samsung. It’s not talked about enough. YG has named Big Bang concert tour “Samsung Alive Tour” and, as much as I would like to attend, I don’t like the idea of being dragged in a giant advertisement for a company I don’t support.

      • i think it was the alive galaxy tour. but you do have a point there. except i would go to the concert anyway. with the intention of supporting my favorite band and YG themselves. and while i do realize some of my money goes to samsung, i can dust that off my hands because i came for bigbang and i support YG. whatever YG decides to do with their profit and however they managed to run their show is really none of my business. i can’t help who YG partners with anyway. =) just an opinion.

        • I’d like to go to this concert with a shirt saying “I support Big Bang not Samsung”! Unlike you I think where our money goes IS our business, companies would be nothing without public or consumers, so we have enough power to make things change. We just don’t realize it, or don’t want to.

        • well, see that’s where our perspectives differ. for me, once i give my money over to YG it’s no longer my money. it’s YG’s money and YG can spend it however they like. i would prefer to look for other alternatives to make a stand against samsung that directly affects them like, not buying any of their products.

          sure, companies would be nothing without consumers, but not going to the concert (where i can actually feel like i’m PHYSICALLY supporting them as opposed to buying albums and merch) just because they are affiliated to a company i don’t support seems so petty? (i dunno if that’s the word to describe it.) i would feel so mean because i’m blackmailing them and forcing them to do things our way when there are probably way more things that they have to consider to come to a huge decision like that. if there was an easy alternative then yes, i’m all for it. but if it would be an inconvenience to the company and group that i DO support then i mean, i would go with whatever they decide, i suppose.

          i do see your point though and i do agree. i just have a different perspective of it,

  24. funny, I really love kpop and tell people about it,but I was jealous about the popularity of Gangnam style. Iol didn’t realize how much I liked kpop

  25. Hi this is Sukjong Hong, one of the guests on the show. I agree with everyone here that while it may have been difficult for Martina and Simon to speak at 5am, it didn’t look that way at all. I also wanted to respond to some of the comments here. I think Al Jazeera tried to compose a show with different viewpoints, and Martina and Simon represented very well the views of kpop fans who know the industry well. I also know well that most Koreans aspiring to be kpop stars work for years and years, perhaps never to benefit – which is shown here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13759912 – But most people don’t know that. For example, I’ve lived in Vietnam and the Philippines, where people are indebting their entire families to get visas to work in South Korea or be married to South Korean men, and one of the main drivers of this desire is Korean dramas. They believe South Koreans live very well. And yet the treatment of Vietnamese women and Filipino migrant workers in Korea is terrible – so the image sold by kpop is very powerful. Perhaps people in industrialized nations are free to just consume the great videos, but not everyone is just doing that. I also don’t think any of us said that the Korean government creates Kpop. The concept of soft power is just that – that by promoting it, the government gains many other subtle benefits, from economic to poiltical. I think the show was trying to get at what lies behind the often extremely enjoyable videos and music. And I don’t think there was any element saying the US doesn’t do this – in fact, America is king of soft power through cultural exports – I can’t name a citizen of any country who has not at a certain time watched American movies or listened to music without thinking America the country or its products are very cool. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/06/04/winning-the-soft-power-war.html America is in fact still the undisputed leader of soft power via culture, and I hardly think Al Jazeera wanted to maintain America’s power in this – but rather, focus on what lies behind Korea’s pop industry and image. It’s true – no one can control how it will be received. But to spend public money on exporting and supporting korean pop stars definitely changes how widely it can be distributed and who will see it. I was in rural villages in Vietnam without water, but they had kpop. That does not happen by accident.

    • Thank you Ms. Hong for sharing this insight and the articles. It was one I felt was missing from the program overall, especially how the US is the main abuser of soft power through entertainment. However, after reading this comment I can understand why the US’s role in soft power through entertainment was not discussed during the program since it is outside the scope of the topic at hand: Kpop. When one speaks about Kpop, it should be discussed how its impacts Korea and the world…not the issues of the overall pop industry throughout the world. It was greatly appreciated to hear all the varying opinions on the subject. I feel everyone in Al Jeezra’s program did excellent job commenting on the nuances of kpop…including discussing on the program the difficult road to becoming an idol and the harsh conditions while even being idol. It is not a job I envy by any means and would never wish my children to aspire to be an idol because I acknowledge the horrendous working conditions (do those kids ever get a vacation or chance to see their families…sometimes it is years at a time) and vary narrow payout. I’ll admit I was not aware of Kpop’s influence on Vietnam and the Philippines…but it is not surprising. This is very similar to the issue with Mexico and the US, as well as many other minority groups in the US. As people of privilege we need reminders of the cost of our mass consumption: our I-phones/Laptops and other electronic gadgets are fueling the ongoing civil wars in the Congo over rare earth metals used in thin film coating , the cheap produce we have at dinner is thanks to the hard work of abused migrant workers….I can see you are devoted to issues such as these which is quite admirable. I think everyone enjoyed the program and everyone’s contribution. Thank you again for sharing your after thoughts!!!

      • “the cheap produce we have at dinner is thanks to the hard work of abused migrant workers…”

        The cheap produce that my family – and millions of other families in America eat – is grown in their backyard gardens.

    • “I was in rural villages in Vietnam without water, but they had kpop.” I totally feel that. I’ve been to a migrant school at the Thai-Burmese border, the kids lacked everything, they had to hunt their food, they couldn’t access regular school or even leave their village, but they knew K-Pop and K-dramas, and their biggest dream was to fly to Korea…

    • I agree with Sukjong, because it is a reality that you can use entertainment as a form of control. The reality is not very simple, and as a k-pop fan I believe that you can see the message that k-pop sends in other ways than strugling artists trying to reach the fame… I believe , as said above, that USA are famous with the use of soft power, and as a south american I can feel that, because we receive the message of perfection of that country (I recall the great amount of illegal immigrants that try to go to USA thinking that they will succeed)… Therefore, I believe that the use of soft power and the disparity of social economics between countrys are a problem around the world, but I don’t believe that k-pop being in a rural vilage in Vietnam is that horrible, first I think about the politics in Vietnam that still keep their people in a subhuman condition… I don’t blame USA for their big amounth of immigrants, I blame the country that let’s their people be used by the “strongest” country….
      I believe that the message sent will be receive by those that want (or can’t avoid) to receive it (thinking of social and educational quality). I won’t think that Korea is perfect, or USA are perfect because of their Music Videos or movies, although I belive few people will believe in this information (dream). As I said, Korea and USA are free to spread the message they want, the important thing is if people will believe it or not.

  26. Infinite the chaser!!! I love that song

  27. I can’t believe I watched the whole thing, but everything for you guys! I agree with what you wrote in your post, that they were quite negative sometimes.
    Personally, I think you guys rocked. And (I hope I don’t offend someone, but I don’t think the others on the show would be reading my comment anyway <-<'') it's now I realize how incredibly boring normal grown-ups are! :o I was comparing you to them all the time, and oh ma gaaad you guys are so much.. I don't know how to describe it.. You are a bit more childish (in a good way of course), and you don't have those boring monotone voices that I hate! You're just.. just.. PLAIN AWESOME!

  28. i missed the girls name but, i live in canada, and i know that idols work there butts off, as well as other members of the Korean society. It was kinda unnerving that she grouped international kpop fans as basically ignorant to anything in Korea.

  29. Wow…you guys did amazing! Love you guys ^^

  30. that was seriously interesting. i have a lot of thoughts about the show, but the only comment i would like to make is…. the 2 times the town Charlotte is mentioned, i heard the CH sound and not the SH sound. i know there is a CH there but it shocked me to hear it… that is all

  31. but al-jazeera is semi anti-kpop/anti-korea right? no? just me? ooooh, y u so biased al-jazeera? LOL.

  32. Hi Simon and Martina, You guys did so well even though you were doing at 5am with no video feedback. I think you and Esther brought a good balance to the discussion. Majority of Westerners have a very stereotypical view of Asians in general and what life is like in Korea and the other Asian countries. I admit i was also like that until i seriously started getting into Japanese anime, manga and music and from there I came into Kpop. One of the great things is that its widened my world and I am learning many new things (and I love it when I learn new stuff!). It also puts alot of stuff into a perspective – a good perspective :)
    As a psychology student i will say that its normal that fans don’t want Kpop to become American mainstream and that they hated it when Psy went viral. As humans we want things to stay small and set within the way we like it, and what we originally liked to stay forever in its originality (if that makes sense). But nothing stays the same forever. Culture is very fluid concept and is constantly changing. Kpop is a cultural concept and as a cultural concept its not exempt from this. At some point It will have to change and evolve whether you want it to or not. Unfortunately there is nothing humans hate more than change (even when we know its necessary or inevitable).
    I have to say I actually enjoy the manufacturedness of Kpop. I find it oddly refreshing!?! But I think thats only cos american pop music isn’t very good, australia doesn’t really have a very big pop music culture and the culture i come from all its contemporary music is based on reggae (which i’m not a huge fan of). So I’ve ended up listening to alot of british and australian indie music (which i do love) but Kpop feels that lonely little pop void that I’ve had for sometime. Now all i need is for something to fill the R&B void. *sigh*
    Well that was my aussie five cents worth of oppinion. Anyway I’m loving what you guise are doing and so glad i found your vblog XD

  33. To be honest i don’t really care about it being a soft power because i listen to k-pop because of the music

  34. hi simon and martina… i love the answers you gave and am glad you were also able to broadcast the not-so-glamorous rookie days where the idols slog their ass off… to get to where they are.. yes.. Big Bang lived in rat infested apartments during their training days… not many know those things… am a VIP and i have a lot of respect for all five who went through a lot to get to where they are today! so kudos to you two for giving them that side of the story too!

  35. I couldn’t help but feel that Simon&Martinas comments passed by the rest (in the studio) sometimes . . . Also, that they gave more negatve comments rather than positive ( tho the plastic surgery thing is ture and all; the other people not S&M) . . .

    Anyways, I do agree with Simon& Martina on what they said (everything). It also made me remember ( when Martina mentioned kpop fans being a small group like the groups of people who like rock/pop/etc. ) that I felt that way too back when I was younger…and even now.

    In my country (when you count all kpop fans *whispers* not that hard XD ) kpop fans really are like a small group which is different from others.

  36. lol to the paragraph about Esther in her office :D

  37. 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.

  38. I’m not sure how many times I’ve typed away irked and wanting to convey my thoughts about this subject. I re-read my angry mess of words and tried to get past my inability to agree with you guys in a somewhat intelligent and proof-backed manner but I seem to lack the capability now. So let me just be sarcastic for a moment~


    Look all you that think this Hallyu Wave is some conspiracy by the government to use KPOP as makeup to cover up a mess of pimples; Did you have the same feeling when you found out that people from distant lands thought the USA was a land of cowboys just because wild west TV shows started airing in those places? No? Then why are you complaining now? If people will eventually learn more and more about S Korea and eventually stumble upon the knowledge of ‘Oh, SK isn’t full of wealthy godlike creatures?’. My response to their epiphany? “YUP! And Californians don’t all surf, Canadians don’t all play hokey every week and just because someone’s Middle Easterner doesn’t mean they’re a terrorist!”

    In the end, each country has its problems but just cause the media focuses on those things doesn’t mean that place has suddenly become the most horrific place to be and the evil government *evil laughter in the background* is doing its best to avoid the light of holy truth. Cause’ the media hazith teh holy lite an’ ish ALWAYS right…

    I’m sorry for the rant but I was inexplicably bothered by some of the comments in this video
    I am not trying to be racist in anyway

  39. Hey. I really love how you did during this interview. I was just wondering why, the other host was saying so many negative stuff about Korea when she was in fact Korean, or is it because she lived outside Korea.

    I’m a fan of Korea. The culture itself and the music. Everyone, even outside Korea knows how every artist there works hard as the professionals do. (Imagine throwing everything you have to do something you like. And uneven sure if you could debut) And I just don’t get it why she kept zoning out international fans who have been fans or appreciating Korea for a long time.
    I don’t see what’s wrong using artists in promoting a country. It brings money. Same way that every merchandise sold of who ever, uses artists to sell their goods to get a higher income.
    Every single government of any country in the world, uses something to get higher profit, such as athletes, actors, musicians, and alike to promote tourist spots and their products to tourists and locals alike.

    Korea is just lucky enough that K-Pop and K-Drama is a big hit right now. And fans wants to get to know more the artist they idolize. I even think that if the S.Korean government would not take notice, it would a big loss.

    Lastly, people have different taste. So no matter what people plays in their radios if the listener don’t like it. It’s not a problem. And I still want K-Pop to be liked by small number of people. So I agree with you S&M that K-Pop fans is like an indie group.

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