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Eatyourkimchi, Al Jazeera, and K-Pop

September 4, 2012


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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.



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