The K-Wave! It says Hi!

13 November 2019

The K-Wave is not to be, confused with the Mexican wave, which is according to Wikipedia is a neologism literally meaning the "flow of Korea") it is the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s. I don't know about you, but that sounds complicated for no reason. Basically, Korean Culture has become very mainstream recently and its here to stay,

So Korean culture has been very mainstream and somehow I have been swallowed into this tsunami of a wave. I always feel like the K Wave followed suit after Japan had its own wave of culture
A poster I saw on my trip to London...
reaching the West. I myself listen to the Band BTS which is a Kpop band, I also plough through an unhealthy amount of K dramas and Korean variety shows.

I found myself wondering after discovering several people on my course who also listened to Kpop and/or watched, Korean dramas, why Korean music and its culture has become very appealing to the masses. Several things I wanted to mention before I got on is I discovered BTS when I was 16 and I originally enjoyed anime and Japanese Rock, I had also been learning Japanese at the time, but I wasn't doing so well(as one does when you only rely on animes). I am not sure if that was significant information,  not everyone I met recently had a background in the Far East. Also before we continue some ignorant person is going to turn around and say: " Hang on Hang on Hang on. Korea? Japan? China? Aren't they the same?"

If you are that person please close the tab and read a book you clearly need to :). Although there are some vague similarities you only need to look at each of their alphabets to know there is a vast difference, Japan has three written alphabets: Kanj, Hirigana and Katakana whereas Korea only uses the Hangul alphabet. Japanese, is I would say personally is more difficult. Actually, let me go into another tangent because I actually love the origin of language! Japanese has many origins, it's considered a Ural Altaic language (so is Mongolian, Manchu and Korean), but in the 8-9th AD China came along on their high horse (maybe quite literally I don't know I am not exactly a historian)  and they were like: "Here is our beautiful well thought out, intellectual language  this our gift to you lmao."  Japan responded in an upside-down smiley face and took the Chinese characters and remixed it (made it their own...actually can I just point out the conversation is not historically accurate). What happened was the Chinese Characters could not fully express the extent of Speech and only the elite had time on their hand to learn Chinese Characters so someone decided to you know do something about it* With Korea the same thing essentially happened,  except they graciously(I say graciously very very loosely) accepted China's offer and took their incredibly complex writing system at the time and kinda went with it. The current Korean Alphabet was actually devised in 1443 meaning it's one of the newest language systems in the world! Someone eventually turned around and said this is stupid hard! The lower class don't get it and that led to the reform. The language has also been praised for being one of the most efficient and perfect language systems, but that's enough of me boring you

Okay so the K wave? I am not sure how it happened, but I am going to talk to you about why everyone is freaking obsessed. I think everyone has this bubblegum pink images of girls singing in high pitched voices when we hear Kpop, the most cynical of you will even roll your eyes and mutter to yourself about how cringy it all is. Although the bubble gum image is not exactly wrong there is a bigger picture.

The bubblegum pink is a concept.

In Western music, concepts are also explored for example Beyonce in Crazy in Love is not exactly the same as Lemonade Beyonce? Do you get the picture? Of course, it is much more significant in Kpop. Most of the time there is still an overarching sound pop we can't ignore, but of course, their visuals and personalities and often even whole genres will change with each concept.  Let me tell you, readers, concepts change faster than you can say: "I am not a fan of this artist", because you might not be saying that next month when the concepts change. Why is this so enticing? Well, fans are never bored, your favourite group is always changing and reinventing themselves, you get teasers and concepts photos whilst your waiting for this album to drop. You have no idea what you faves will sound like next!

Both pictures are the same group but different concepts. I think it helps demonstrate what I mean by concepts-the people are in the same order of people left to right.  So you can actually easier follow the difference.

Again both the group Red velvet and all the same people I promise, but can you see the difference for concepts. The music for the album is also wildly different. Listen to Perfect Velvet, it's in the name it's literally perfect
What Kpop artist also do well is as relatable as possible, with how they interact with fans. They have an app which is called V Live and all your favourite artist will often grace you with live real-time videos of an Insta live. Of course, before that was possible fans would flock the app when they got notifications. They tend to talk about their day like an ordinary person, some even film before or after concerts to talk about the support they got, but mostly it's super casual, they just talking about their life right before they go to bed. BTS also has a very active Twitter page where they post regularly. They also appear in game shows or create their own game shown in the V Live app. BTS has a series of game shows called Run! It's actually usually very amusing and their penalties are usually very bizarre. Particularly with BTS, they are very much themselves and have been open about taboo topics in Korea, such as mental health. Namjoon (leader&rapper) and Yonngi (rapper) have been honest about their depression attracting many people to them and many fans have been able to relate with them.

Hair and Makeup? A lot of people have said every immature things to me simply because K pop Stars wear makeup. Calling them either girls or gay or even both. Very original Todd, you've got a ketchup stain on the t-shirt you've been wearing for a month. The truth folks is that all male TV personalities wear makeup, yuck it up. Yes in the Western world it's more subtle because men in the west have what I call weak masculinity and can't handle the world knowing they have some powder and bronzer on. *eye roll* Korea is a different culture to ours. It's not that common, but it's not unusual for men to wear BB cream or conceal from time to time. Korean men are very aware of their appearance some would say as equally as the female population. In KPop makeup is worn to match their concepts and most idols won't wear make-up outside shows or TV appearances. We have to remember Korean beauty standards are taken very seriously, this a society where looking good is very very important. Many girls I have met actually like that they wear makeup, some don't know how to describe but find it very attractive. It is also reassuring to know that they take care of their appearance. Some male idols will talk to you about their face masksPe. I mean I loved punk rock and guys with eyeliner from those days, so hell I'll take a man with eyeshadow any day! Plus it doesn't look bad on them at all. I think if you were honest with themselves it doesn't take anything from this so-called "masculinity"
Jimin from BTS with no makeup from one of his lives.
The picture next to him is him with makeup on their
Wings Tour

Kpop Gals! Not All Kpop gals are cutesy and sickening like it's often imagined, it really depends on their concepts. Some K Pop gals are the sexiest individuals I have ever seen. Sometimes I don't think they are real. *Insert Images below*



I think the images of East Asian men particularly have been tarred by media in the west. In TV shows they are usually stubby guys with a strong accent, running a small business in a cutthroat a frugal way. They are never really shown as attractive, intelligent way. One example of a bad portrayal of Asian men is Two Broke Girls. It's not fair. Asain women, on the other hand, are shown as mute and unable to understand English which is always the punchline

What else...K dramas! Have you watched one of those things, they are funny and moving at the same time. I have actually shed several tears. Of course like a lot of things there are some cliches, but everyone loves a cliche am I right? The story lines are always compelling and if you know anything about K dramas the plot twists(even if you think you were expecting it) will blow your mind! One Drama called W! was plot twist central. I finished watching the dramas about 6 months ago and still think about the plot twists. I don't know what I was expecting, but their attention to detail in cinematography and script writing is incredible, the humour also transcends culture and race, with the added editing and sound effects, they have never failed to make me laugh. It does help the actors are also gorgeous
K drama Poster! Trans: Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
I think Korea is a very interesting place with a rich culture that I have been immersed in. Korean language partners and Korean Dramas have opened my eyes to a nation I didn't know about several years ago. When I was 14 I asked my Dad why my Samsung phone always reset the time to Seoul, having no idea where it was and now I am saving up to make the trip. It just goes to show ignorance and close-mindedness isn't helping anybody. The K wave is here Bands like BTS and now NCTs have featured on American television. One of the members of BTS participated in the KiKi challenge and blew up before being featured in Drake's  Video, they have collabed with Desiigner, Wale and Nicki Minaj; BTS has also addressed the UN. So how's that?
 There more to be said but if you're like me and have an attention span of fish with a head injury this is already too much so I am going to stop here.

Well as they say in Korea

안녕히 가세요!

Emmy xx

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