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f(x) Amber Liu’s First Solo US Tour ‘Gone Rogue’ in Chicago!

6 Dec

After being immensely entertained by Kpop star and global charmer Amber Liu, I only have ONE question for her…………………….

Was it cold enough for you?

Greetings GenNext readers!

Last night, I was able to see one of my favorite Kpop stars, one of my biggest inspirations, and one of the greatest personalities out there: Amber freaking Liu.

Most readers know my admiration of f(x)’s Amber, right? F(x), The Korean Spice Girls + Amber Liu in the Spotlight

I was very, very disappointed when I missed the f(x) Dimension 4 Tour. The announcement of this tour was my chance to see Amber Liu live in person.

And here she was, right here in my hometown Chicago!

Just to give y’all a recap of this experience…Let’s start from the beginning.

It was a cold December afternoon. I thought of every excuse to leave work early. Work was going to keep me trapped. Ironically, the day, THIS day, I had to stay 15 minutes later than usual.

No. “I have to leave,” I kept telling myself. For the first time, I was going to see an f(x) member. My bias wrecker at that. And it took me awhile to get these tickets, I’ll have you know. I didn’t initially think I could go. I was broke as smoke with no hope back in November when I first saw the tix go on sale. It was so bad, I couldn’t even buy the tickets as soon as they went on sale (What kind of journalist am I, right?). Guess what that meant? I couldn’t get the VIP “Meet and Greet” treatment, either.

Okay. That’s fine. I was happy that I snagged two good General Admission tickets. At least, if I couldn’t be VIP, I could have a chance at being close to the stage.

But NO. Work didn’t want to let me out.

At about 3:36pm, I walked myself out. I ran to my ride (my sis was picking me up), hit that gps, and said, “It is time.”

It was then that I remembered one very defeating thing about Chicago: RUSH HOUR. I had to think, think, think. Should I take the Expressway or the “scenic” route. One would take 40 minutes, the other, about an hour. But as soon as I saw that expressway traffic, as soon as I saw the gps tack on minutes, and recalled all of those accidents I hear on the Dan Ryan everyday during this time, I decided an hour wouldn’t be too bad.

As I drove downtown, I kept second-guessing my decision. I would just make it to Park West an hour before the opening of the doors with this route. Which meant I probably wouldn’t be at the front of the stage. Fans arrive early. I know this. Some probably even camped out since noon.

Okay. Fine. I wasn’t going to be upset. I would get as close as possible and maybe even ask a fan in the front row to take some pictures or video captures for me. It was all good.

The road to Amber Liu’s first tour was only filled with a few potholes, but was really overall smoother than I expected.

I arrived downtown at around 5:11pm. I thought I was early. Getting downtown, I knew one important thing about Chicago. Chicago is infamous for its lack of on-site parking. Beforehand, I researched parking garages, but they were super far from the venue. I knew I would have to pay for parking. I happened to nab a spot right away, but it was fifteen minutes away from the venue BY CAR. There’s more time to add when you’re WALKING.

Unfortunately, the meter would only let me have the spot until 8:30 (Performance began at 7:30). I would either have to leave the concert early or hope to the stars the cops wouldn’t boot my car.

So, now it’s time to walk. It’s then that I realize the biting cold. Chicago’s also infamous as the “Windy City”. Walking down the street, finishing my gps by phone, I tried to spot as many landmarks as I could and checked those alleyways (runaway cars, ya’ know). Digital Adventures, apparently some kind of store, still comes to mind.

Finally, my sis and I could see the Park West sign. We knew we were close because two teenage-looking girls were right in front of us. Why else would they be in this part of Chicago, Lincoln Park, which doesn’t have as much nightlife as the other side of Chicago?

We had to zig-zag (see that f(x) reference right there?) across the street because we reached a weird intersection. As soon as we reached the venue, we could already see a line snaking around from the front. Damn.

Okay. It’s fine. We were only at the very side of the building. Some people were lined up into the neighborhood, so we didn’t really have it that bad in comparison.

We had some nice fans both in front of us and behind us. I expected Amber to have very caring fans. She’s usually somewhat of a diplomat herself and tries to encourage people to get along. I certainly expected her fans to carry that same attitude. I sneezed once, and someone just shouted, “Bless You!” way in the back. It was pretty good to be sharing this moment with fellow Llama Bears. One fan even passed out light sticks in f(x)’s “fan color” (Kpop is known for “fan names” and “fan colors”, which fans brought over to this concert).

Now, here came the tight spot in the experience. I drank some coca-cola before arriving downtown, and my body decided to tell me to go to the bathroom right at 5:55pm. Why now? I had a good spot in line! I didn’t see an open store or restaurant on my way there! I have to wait. After all, the doors open at 6pm, right?….

I deceived myself into thinking the doors opened at 6pm. Checked my tickets and found out the time was 6:30pm! I didn’t want to leave my spot in case the doors opened sooner, but I had to go! Fortunately, behind me, someone told me there was a Subway down the street. I decided to follow them to it (See? Nice fans).

Inside the Subway, it was crawling with Amber Liu fans. Not just any Amber Liu fans. The VIP kind. Flashy VIP badges with Amber’s casual cool photo caught my eye. I was green with envy already.

That was on my mind and “bathroom”.

The bathroom sign said “For customers only. Must make a purchase to use the bathroom.” There was a line for the bathroom and an even longer line for food. I went to the bathroom first and decided to purchase something later. Next, I came out of the bathroom and the food line was twice as long. By the time I even got close to the counter, it was 6:15pm. The VIP fans were leaving. I knew I was screwed. The doors were going to open in 15 minutes! The orders were longer and more complicated as I inched forward. I couldn’t stay there and wait for some cookies. Despite the sign’s request, I ran out of there. I owe that Subway my service someday.

If I’d known I would be waiting another 30 minutes before entering the venue, I would’ve stayed in line for my cookies.

Yes. In the biting cold, where toes were getting numb and legs were getting cramps, the venue decided to leave us out there even longer. I thought I was prepared. I had my hat, long coat, and gloves on. I’m a Chicagolander after all!

Nope. I was still cold. And this venue must have played a cruel prank on us to leave us out in the cold until 7pm! The concert was due to start at 7:30pm. Would we really have to stand out here 30 minutes before showtime? I kept thinking. Definitely won’t give anyone time to get souvenirs before the show.

When the doors finally opened, people bunched together to escape the cold weather and find their own special spot in the venue before the start of the show. When creeping closer to the front, a beautiful sign of Amber hung to the left. All the gripes and complaints about the late start and bitter cold melted away.

So many people lined up to capture it that it was impossible for me to get a capture. Plus, I needed to get as close to the stage as I could so I could complete this little piece for y’all.

Inside, they had to do that bag check. I’m glad I prepared ahead of time. I emptied out my bulky granny purse in favor of a light sack. Reaching the lobby, to my left was a nice little merch stand. However, security rushed us up the stairs or forced us to stand in line. I didn’t have time for that. I had to get to that stage.

To my right, I saw a bar. Ooh. A bar. Didn’t have time for that either, but it was nice to see.

The venue had a rather intimate feeling, with a simple dance floor close to the stage, where fans huddled to get closer.

There were seats for people to sit and relax, too. I was tempted because my little worms for toes were frozen. But I had to get a close-up.

We only had to wait 10 minutes. 10 minutes was a long time for all of the excited fans.

Suddenly, lights turned red. In all the excitement about Amber, some of us forgot that Justin Park was also a guest there tonight, there to open the show. Justin Park’s fans didn’t forget. No way. But none of us were upset. After all, Amber has friends everywhere. Amber’s fans know this. I didn’t hear a grumble or a sigh.

Plus, Justin, my man Justin, can put on a show.

A handsome, smooth, silky figure moved onto the stage. My sis and I instantly became fans. With his smooth R&B feeling, hat shading his eyes giving him a mysterious air, and quick body rolls, he owned that stage for a moment. He gave us a glimpse of his music dropping this Friday, December 7, 2018. He didn’t disappoint. I will be making that purchase and binge watching his videos all week.

Among the songs on his setlist:

Dates in LA

Honey (with a nod to Andrew Garcia)

All I Wanna Do (Betbaks by KRNFX feat. Justin Park | Jay Park)

I think he also sang Summer Shxt…But even if he didn’t, it’s a great song by him. Give it a listen.

NAHIMMASTAY (Namaste) (I think he sang this too, though I’m not certain, but it’s also a good song)

Like We Used To

He seemed so grateful to be there, so fresh, so revitalized, that I came along for the ride. Justin definitely kept the crowd at bay. What a distraction.

Then, lights got dark. We knew who was coming on next. Fans began to scream before we even saw her face.

Here came a woman, in her denim jacket, burnt orange top, and denim jeans-California Casual Cool, ready to bring her energy. The energy turned up notches higher than before. She opened with my personal favorite of hers: “White Noise”.

Throughout the night, Amber’s character shined. I’ve been to a lot of concerts (and my sis is the lesser fan of the two of us, and has been interested in more artists). But of all the concerts we’ve attended, this one was the most fun. I tried to put my finger on it. Why was this one, of all the concerts I’ve attended, so much fun? It wasn’t until after it was all over did we discover why this concert was so much fun…

Throughout the performances, we didn’t have time to think that deep. We all came to have a good time, and a good time we had. My sister became a bigger fan after last night.

Amber sang live. Yes, live. Her vocals were very impressive: angelic and soft, countering her rugged image perfectly, and moving in sync with the EDM and acoustic pop genres. She also brought in some sharp dance moves this time, too. She emerged onto the stage with her talent, charisma, and excitement (and her hint of humble shyness). You could tell she was excited.

This was her night of “firsts”: Her first solo tour, the first night of her tour, and her first time in Chicago. I hope she had a chance to try some of Chicago’s unique cuisine (deep dish pizza) before heading off to the next city. I’m glad it was her first, right before the burn-out and the jet lag. It was the perfect performance to see.

She didn’t need a large stage or flashy lights to make that night special (though she had the flashy lights, she didn’t need it). She used the complete stage to charm her audience and brought her dorkiness to the fore. Very few artists can achieve that on their own. They just don’t have the personality to make a complete show as a solo body. Some artists need the effects.

Amber was also born in the USA, so she didn’t need any effort to speak English. That also helped to reach her English-speaking audience. She did perform one song in Korean, though, which Kpop lovers LOVED.

She knew exactly what fans were expecting and she gave a special delivery to enchant the crowd. She didn’t try to be super perfect (though I’m certain she was concerned about that), but that was why it was perfect. If there were any mistakes present, most of the crowd would’ve thought it was all apart of Amber’s colorful antics.

Actually, I would say despite Amber’s genuine and humble demeanor, there was a legendary veteran diva hidden in there. Amber has been performing for nearly 10 years, and she didn’t feel like a stranger to the stage (despite this being her first solo tour). She knew to move from right to left across the stage to make sure each fan got the most out of that night. She was completely compatible with her back-up dancers. She knew how to react to each moment, no matter how random. It didn’t feel calculated, but it went along effortlessly. She managed the stage like she knew what to do (even if she felt she didn’t).

Even people who were initially “dragged to the concert” (which Amber jokingly pointed out during her “Three Million Years” set) eventually felt spell-bound by Amber. A guy next to me who was not initially a fan was screaming by the end of it all, especially during the encore when Amber surprised her audience with a Christmas song. This guy wanted to go home while he was waiting in the cold. Once he got a taste of Amber, he didn’t want to leave. He left the venue after me!

Amber interacted heavily with the crowd. From shaking her “brass” during the lively “Shake that Brass”, to laughing her way through “Three Million Years” (as well as putting couples on blast), from giving a cute “I love you, too” back to a fan who shouted it first, it was a riot from start to finish. Fans shouted a lot of random nonsense, all for which Amber reacted to. It was very amusing. I joined in the nonsense myself (for which I’m almost ashamed, but not really 😀). Fans even threw stuffed animals and other presents at her (though I would advise next time that fans ask first because we don’t need a Swae Lee incident).

Amber fans are truly in awe of her. Among the mix of “Amber is so cute!”, “We don’t deserve her!”, and “You’re fuxxing amazing!”, there was also waves of respect for her music and those super aware of Amber’s music inspiration. Amber would explain what each song means, but she didn’t have to do much explaining. Most of her fans understand and even relate to her songs. As Amber introduced each song, fans would shout out its name.

Among her setlist was:

White Noise (mentioned before)

High Hopes

Lost at Sea 

Need to Feel Needed

XL Uber (Justin Park and Amber)


Beautiful (English version)

Get Over It

Three Million Years (which I regrettably didn’t capture. I forgot to take a photo or record 😦 )

First performance of Countdown

Shake That Brass

Encore: I Just Wanna and a special Christmas surprise (which I won’t spoil)

I enjoyed every single song. Unfortunately, my battery was dying and my phone is booty. I only caught glimpses of this amazing, entertaining, and wild ride. I tried to capture as much as I could. It was very difficult. It didn’t help that I was caught in the moment and having fun. My photos and videos reflect my excitement. I acted like I was drunk and I didn’t even have a drink. I was high off of Amber’s energy.

I promised myself I wouldn’t lose my voice. Promise broken.

I promised myself I would leave before the encore to beat traffic and tickets on my car. Promise broken.

Needless to say, I found a nice surprise from the City of Chicago when I got back to my car. No, it wasn’t because I parked there too long. It was because I was too close to the curb…Damn you Chicago. They got me.

I also had a nice surprise when I woke up this morning. Voice gone.

After the high of the performance, I finally nailed why this concert was so fun. It’s amazing how just one personality-no matter what outfit or what lights or flashy dance moves-can be the sole source of entertainment. Amber didn’t just bring music. She brought laughter. She brought smiles. She brought wisdom. She brought encouragement. Everyone walked out much lighter, happier, and united.

The saddest part was when Amber confessed to feeling in a slump. I kept thinking about how much she gave that audience that night despite being in a slump.

She touched many hearts, even through her sadness and pain. I could hear it in the audience. A true professional, no matter how honest about her feelings, Amber came with everything she had. Maybe beyond the stage last night, she may have felt underappreciated and underrated (which needs to cease). But last night, she was everyone’s Queen, everyone’s Goddess. I hope that, through the cheers and light sticks flashing, the fans gave her the will to continue her tour so that she can bless all the other fans across the nation.

In a nutshell, Amber’s performance felt more like a large party rather than a rigidly calculated concert.

For all of you planning to attend one of her live performances, this tour is as “rogue” as it gets.

Well, that’s my spill on last night’s performance! Leave me a comment and let me know of any Amber Liu experiences you’ve had! Did you attend the performance last night? Are you attending in another city? Let’s talk about it!

I made a video compiling all of my videos of that night…Yeah, it doesn’t look the best, but you can feel the energy, okay?


ANOTHER KH3 Theme Song Announced! “Face My Fears” By Utada Hikaru and Skrillex!

7 Oct

Greetings readers! This is Gen Next! I am back with some more Kingdom Hearts 3 news! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve come out with some news on Kingdom Hearts 3…but here I am!

I know I’m a little late on the news due to other obligations in my life, but I just had to get in on the news about Utada Hikaru and her newest opening song for Kingdom Hearts 3!

That’s right…it’s an ALL NEW THEME SONG. The name of it is “Face My Fears”. This isn’t just any old KH song though. It is a song made with the collaborative efforts of Utada Hikaru (the main songstress of Kingdom Hearts) and EDM DJ Skrillex!

Source of info

According to Kingdom Hearts’s official twitter, the opening song for Kingdom Hearts was originally going to be a Skrillex remix of “Don’t Think Twice” (the first KH3 theme song). However, as stated on twitter “owing to the pair’s friendship, this has now developed into a new and original collaboration…” Awesome sauce!

This is some seriously big news because this is the first time in Kingdom Hearts history that we get TWO Kingdom Hearts theme songs for one game (the opening will be “Face My Fears”, while the ending song for Kingdom Hearts will be “Oath” for Japan and “Don’t Think Twice” internationally).

Of course, some may have mixed feelings about Skrillex being on board with this collab. Skrillex is an EDM DJ who is known for his “head banging” beats that may not seem to fit with what we are used to from a KH soundtrack. Honestly, I have seen great Skrillex songs and not-so-great ones in my opinion…But Utada’s vocals can make any song a good one, so I am not worried!

Skrillex has done collaborations with Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, Korn, Ed Sheeran, Usher, Fifth Harmony, Ellie Goulding, Zedd, and so many other really popular artists. The fact that Square-Enix is getting a more well known EDM composer on board shows that Kingdom Hearts is expanding and more popular than ever. Hopefully this collab will bring in more newcomers who are fans of Skrillex to the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Who knows, they may decide to purchase the game due to Skrillex’s involvement with the opening theme song. I’m excited to see what will come from this combo!


I must also mention that Skrillex has been a fan of the Kingdom Hearts game series for a long time, longer than some KH fans were born. This is another reason why I do have a little faith in this collab.  In an interview with 98Rock Baltimore back in 2011, when he was asked to think of an ideal setting for his music, he responded, “If anybody’s ever seen the video game Kingdom Hearts, there’s Destiny Island, which is the first level that you play on, which is like total RPG from Square-soft or Square-Enix.” He also says later in the interview “Its the most beautiful island in the world and I would love to play in it”.

For a KH fan, this collab is obviously a dream come true for him. Not only is he working with one of the greatest Jpop singers of all time (a close friend of his) but he is also working on a song for one of his favorite video games. What a lucky guy!

Alongside Skrillex on this project is Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, who has worked with Skrillex on several projects and another person who has worked with famous people like Justin Beiber. From what I’ve heard, Poo Bear is quite a talented singer so I can’t help but be excited about his involvement in this project as well.

So, what do you guys think about this piece of news? Do you like that we are getting TWO brand new KH3 theme songs, or would you have preferred a remix to the original song? What do you think about Utada and Skrillex doing a collab on this? Let me know in the comments below!

Kingdom Hearts Orchestra Event @ Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre + NEW Kingdom Hearts 3 Toy Story Content!

14 Jul

I attended the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour Event this weekend!

If you haven’t attended the Orchestra event yet, and you’re a SERIOUS Kingdom Hearts fan, you still have plenty of chances to go.

I won’t give too much away. But I encourage all of you fans to attend the event if you can.

If you can’t afford to go, I will tell you that I believe all the trailers will be released after the last tour in October. Last year, the Orchestra gave us more footage from Hercules and the trailer was released afterwards.

We were not allowed to film, and I respect Tetsuya Nomura’s wishes because I want this event to to sell well.

But in case you can’t make Chicago’s event, and you’re curious about the exclusive content, just know there was exclusive Kingdom Hearts 3 footage from Toy Story at the one in Chicago! We also were treated to Toy Story’s world SONG and the battle song!

From talking to friends, it appears each city is getting different exclusive footage. So, it really doesn’t matter which you decide to attend. All are guaranteed to be worth your time and money! But everyone is going to miss out on something, so don’t feel bad.

The venue also had merch, of course. They sold Sora Orchestra t-shirts, the keyblade baton that the conductor uses during the orchestra, Kingdom Hearts wallets and purses, a list of the program, and, of course, the soundtrack from the Orchestra.

For those people who are 21 and OLDER, they had Kingdom Hearts SPECIALTY COCKTAILS!


  • Kingdom Heart-It had vodka with Mist, a touch of Grenadine, with a cherry on top.  It was delicious!
  • Heartless-This was that Jack Daniels WHISKEY topped with pepsi, grenadine, and cherry on top. This one was strong. That Heartless was attacking people’s bodies with that taste.
  • Sora’s Mimosa- This was Voveti Prosecco with orange juice. It was strong at the top and sweet at the bottom.
  • Princess of Heart-Voveti Prosecco with cranberry juice. This was even sweeter than Sora’s Mimosa and tasted divine!

So, there’s a lot more to see at this event than just trailers and footage. It’s worth it.

Next Touring Cities:

  • Detroit (USA) – July 14, 2018 – Fisher Theatre
  • Pittsburgh (USA) – July 16, 2018 – Heinz Hall
  • Boston (USA) – July 19, 2018 – Wang Theatre
  • Toronto (Canada) – July 21, 2018 – Sony Centre
  • Atlanta (USA) – July 26, 2018 – Fox Theatre
  • Dallas (USA) – July 28, 2018 – Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
  • Philadelphia (USA) – August 2, 2018 – Mann Centre
  • Phoenix (USA) – August 4, 2018 – Symphony Hall
  • Las Vegas (USA) – August 5, 2018 – The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
  • Honolulu (USA) – August 12, 2018 – Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall
  • Sao Paolo (Brazil) – September 8-9, 2018 – Teatro Bradesco
  • Munich (Germany) – September 15, 2018 – The Gasteig
  • Milan (Italy) – September 22, 2018 – Teatro Dal Verme
  • Seoul (South Korea) – October 6, 2018 – KBS Hall
  • Mexico City (Mexico) – October 20, 2018 – Auditorium Blackberry

KPOP: 27 Things New or Casual Fans May Not Know About the ‘Crazy Popular’ Kpop Industry

20 Jun


Kpop has become a huge phenomenon within the last decade and is still popular now. It is considered the “secret music society” of this generation. It has its own close-knit community and is prized because it seems to reflect pure South Korean culture in a modern way. South Korean officials call it Korea’s “soft power”.

This is all a result of the Hallyu Wave. <—Read More About It Here

Most international Kpop fans get into the genre because of the catchy songs, the perfect dance moves, and the myriads of attractive men and women involved. They may also like the innocence and “purity” of the music and music videos. After all, you will hardly see or hear outright violence and/or explicit sex in their songs or videos. To outsiders, these groups seem like the perfect packaged artists. For those people looking for more substance, Kpop groups may turn you away. For those interested in quality and wholesome music, Kpop is the way to go.

Kpop does for Asian artists what the other nations around the world have a hard time doing: promoting Asian talent.

From the beginning, you already can understand that there is something special about Kpop that makes it stand out from any pop music around the world. Like any pop stars around the world, Kpop artists invest a lot in promotion. But unlike other pop artists, these figures don’t just entertain; they are packaged to fulfill the desires of their audience. Thus, they are worshipped.

For those of you just getting into the genre and into the Kpop community, you may find yourself embraced by a culture all its own: the Kpop culture. It comes with its set of friends, fun, and celebrations. Still, several things may confuse you, anger you, and/or turn you off (even if you like the music). There are many things newcomers don’t really know or understand when they first get involved with this genre.

I’ve been a Kpop fan since the beginning of the Hallyu wave in late 2003 to 2004. My first favorite Kpop artist was BoA. I then went on to liking S.E.S., DBSK (now TVXQ), Lee Hyori, and Se7en. I’m still a Jumping BoA for life though. Even though I was a Kpop fan then, I didn’t see it the way I do know. Much of the fan bases have changed over the years. I feel like a newcomer with this “new wave” of fans even though I’ve loved the genre for more than 10 years! There are still some things I’m learning as times change, especially as everything is being shared on the internet. Many of the things I’ve learned confused me, especially regarding the culture. Some things disappointed me before I really understood the culture. But I don’t want any newcomers to come in confused, with unrealistic expectations, or unprepared. I’ve created a list of 24 things newcomers should understand while jumping into Kpop. This list will help you deal with certain trends, habits, joys, and disappointments in the Kpop universe.

Kpop has a surface side and a hidden side. I want to address both sides: 1) what all Kpop fans know about the genre from a surface level and 2) what you newcomers may not see right off, but some hardcore Kpop fans may know.

This article may not sound too culturally sensitive, but it is meant to be down-to-earth and show international fans (especially western fans) what they may be getting into. After all, it’s important to cover all bases, right?

WARNING: The following sections may be long for some readers, but there were a lot of things I felt needed to be addressed.

The “underlined links” are sources to back up what I’m saying. I tried to avoid websites with viruses, but if you encounter such an issue, please leave me a comment and I will remove the link.

This will not be in any particular order.

What You May See…what you may see

  1. Labels Are Just As Big As Artists
  2. Debuts And Comebacks Are A Big Deal
  3. Labels Want Global Attention
  4. Fans Are Monstrous
  5. Korean Music Shows Decide Success
  6. International Fans Should Buy Hard copies
  7. Variety shows, Talk shows, K-dramas, Fashion ads, And Magazines Promote Kpop artists
  8. Check Time Zone Differences
  9. Be On The Lookout For International Tours
  10. Groups Are Bigger Than Solo Artists
  11. Kpop Labels Follow The Trends

Behind the Scenes…behind the scenes

  1.  Labels Are Blamed For Everything
  2. Many Kpop Idols Aren’t Korean
  3. Kpop Idols Don’t Last Long
  4. Idols Can’t Date
  5. Duty And Hard Work Is prized
  6. Male Idols Must Serve In The Military
  7. Boy Groups Are More Popular Than Girl Groups
  8. Kpop Is Not Extremely Diverse
  9. Looks Are Just As Important As Talent
  10. Standing Out Is Difficult In Kpop
  11. Kpop Idols Are Very Traditional At The Core
  12. Kpop Doesn’t Always Reflect Everything in Korea
  13. Kpop Is Always Changing
  14. What Does It Take To Be a Kpop Idol?
  15. Kpop Idols Don’t Make As Much As They Should
  16. Korean TV stations will ban certain Kpop songs from being aired

What You May See…

The “What You May See” section deals with anything that most Kpop fans know from a surface level. There are casual Kpoppers who can even understand what goes under this section if they are curious enough. Most fans may gather information like this from reading the comments sections on Youtube. Still, for those of you who are lost when it comes to the goings-ons of the Kpop universe, I’m here to help.

1) Labels Are Just As Big As Artists


I want to start with this. Believe it or not, labels mean everything in Kpop nowadays. I don’t know what has happened in the last few years that I’ve been into Kpop, but I’ve never seen so many labels pop out with groups the way Korean labels have been doing recently. When I first got into Kpop, I never once heard people talking about supporting LABELS. Maybe it was around, but mostly people talked about their favorite artists like they did in any country around the world. Now, it’s so different…

The labels in Korea decide everything. This is not just from behind the scenes (they do bind their artists in strict contracts), but from the fan perspective, too. Fans of Kpop usually support artists under the same label as their favorite group. This is important to note. You may be surprised to find the most famous groups or solo artists in Kpop are no different from the least famous, but because they are backed by a bigger label, they will get more attention.

You may have heard fans say, “I stan SM” or “I stan JYP”. This shows that the labels are the ones REALLY running the show.

The three “powerhouse” labels are SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Nation at the moment. These labels have contributed to the Hallyu Wave and have helped in putting Kpop on the map. SM Entertainment was the first to market their artists in countries outside of Korea. This brought international attention to Kpop. YG Entertainment has had many of their artists go viral overseas (particularly in America) due to their artists’ “westernized” style of music. JYP’s CEO is infamous himself. He is a Kpop idol and has a lot of influence in Korea. He was a direct contributor to the Hallyu Wave. These three labels have all started many Kpop trends known in the genre today. Even when visiting them in Seoul, Korea, around the area they reside, you will notice how popular these labels are. YG’s building is particularly spectacular and as amazing as entering an art museum. They are tourist attractions all their own.


These labels have gotten so big because they have developed a “brand” just with their name alone. On all of their music videos, their names are stamped on it somehow.

The artists from these labels often support other artists from the same label, which helps the popularity of other groups. They look out for each other. Still, competition can be fierce even from one label, especially if fans think the labels are “playing favorites” with the artists. Labels do rely on the bigger artists to maintain the company. Honestly, they need the bigger artists to maintain and support the lesser-known artists. Some labels do “play favorites” and pour out more promotion for the highly anticipated groups and soloists.

When fans bring so much attention to artists from the same label, they are indirectly bringing fame and longevity (and more money) to the label itself (and making it difficult for other labels to shine). This makes the labels’ brand itself of “idol” status. This can be annoying at times. The real clincher is that there are tons of other amazing artists that are from lesser-known labels. Sometimes, the bigger labels will produce mediocre work in comparison to a lesser known label. But because one piece of work was done by a bigger label, the more infamous song will get more attention, even if it’s not so good. The saddest part is that some fans blindly support a “label” rather than individual artists themselves. This gives more power to the label and less power to the artists.

The real questions you may have: Why do fans only support idols under the same label? How did it get this way?

Well, labels tend to produce the same kind of music amongst their artists. If fans liked the original sound and they mass produce it by many artists, what’s stopping fans from liking it? Their love just travels to other artists. Labels usually use the same recording studios, choreographers, and songwriters for all of the artists. All of the artists seem to have a “connection” when produced by the same label. This is a good marketing strategy. So, when people like a song by one group or soloist from the label, the label will hire the same team for newer groups so they will get attention for having the same “magnetic” sound. This is how the Kpop craze began. After a while, fans get used to associating the artists together under the same label and no longer care if they all sound the same or not, as long as they’re all under the same label.

The second reason fans support artists under the same label is because the money all goes in the same pot. If you support one group, the money will be used by the label to support other artists under that label, especially new artists who start off with nothing. If your favorite group is struggling, it’s refreshing to know that other fandoms will support the efforts of your favorite group. There’s also a sense of family among the fans who stan the same label.

Still, there is back-biting and hating even within the same label’s fandoms. Nowadays, it’s more common to find trolls on the internet who love to pick on less popular groups.

There are more fan wars between the competing labels, though. Every fandom wants to put their label on the map and have it conquer the music industry. I think fans are hoping that if they make the loudest noise, people will pay attention to their favorites. One thing is for certain: The bigger labels always have enough money to do world tours.

With Kpop going international, fans are even more adamant about supporting their favorite idols because they want the chance to see their idols live. If their idols are barely popular in Korea, it will be a slim chance international fans will get to see their idols live.

My advice is not to fall into the trap of the “label game”. Support the artists you like. Reward artists who truly deserve it.

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2) Debuts And Comebacks Are A BIG Deal


When you first get into a Kpop fandom, you will notice that all Kpop fans are eager for debuts and comebacks. As mentioned before, fans support the artists from their favorite labels mostly, but neutral people get excited when any interesting groups show up.

Usually, comebacks and debuts are major events, almost holidays, in the Kpop universe. Teasers are usually dropped right before the reveal of the music video and then the album. Some idols may have extra promotion, like f(x)’s art museum exhibit.

Fans in Korea and abroad support their favorites in more ways than just buying albums. Many fans organize fan meetings, create and supply merchandise, come together on “cafes” to strategize how to help their favorites win on music shows, chant their fan “name”, wear the fan “color”, and so much more. If a comeback drops unexpectedly, fans really can’t give it the utmost support they would usually. Some companies are aware of this and will announce comebacks months in advance.

At this time, fans are usually in “rush mode”. In order to get their idols on the charts, they have to purchase albums and stream songs. This helps their favorite idols win on music shows and boosts the egos of all involved. After all, they aren’t doing all of this to just support their idols and keep them around. They also hope to beat the competition.

At this time, fans are also desperately trying to find ways to boost views on Youtube, which also helps their idols win on music shows.

They also try to search on Korea’s biggest search engines, the biggest being Naver. It is a search engine that caters exclusively to Koreans and their country. Google can’t even dominate it.

Korean fans have more advantages than international fans.  They have access to all the Korean websites and live closer to idols. International fans have to find clever ways to reach out to Kpop idols.

Sometimes, fans will do all of these “support” tactics even if the comeback or debut is a bust. They may not like the song or the concept, but will still support it anyway, just because they’ve invested their own identities in these artists and the labels involved. They still will try to promote the artists and just have a “better luck next time”attitude about it. After all, they want to keep these idols around longer.

Still, most Kpop artists and their labels try to be the first to bring out their most interesting, attractive, and polished concepts so that everyone will like it. If a group already has a strong identity, it doesn’t matter what the concept, it will still be eaten up. Those groups will have it easier. They could get away with less effort. Lesser-known groups try to come out with something original, but not too different or unusual. They try to strike that balance so they can attract their usual fan base once again as well as attract new fans to the group.

What may be attractive to international fans may not be attractive to Korean fans. International fans do matter, but Korean fans have more power when it comes to influencing Kpop charts like Melon, Hanteo, Gaon, and others. I’ll talk more about this later…

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3) Labels Want Global Attention

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This can go under both what is noticeable and unseen by the casual listener.

Many international fans may notice that Kpop seems to have a lot of western influences. For starters, the genre of pop is familiar to Westerners (as it took off the ground in America). But hip-hop, rap, and other once-exclusive genres seem to permeate Kpop. English words are sprinkled throughout the songs, even in the chorus. It may have you wondering, “Is this really Korean pop music?” And many music videos nowadays have English captions so that western fans can follow along.

There are even some variety shows, like After School Club, that cater to English speakers. Labels scout out foreigners from the west to bring to their labels.

People also may notice that world tours seem to be huge in Japan and China. Foreign artists from both nations are present in Kpop groups. Chinese versions of Korean songs (like EXO’s Monster) are also recognizably present. I’m sure they are also wondering, “Is this Kpop?”

Kpop labels are also interested in other eastern countries like India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and many more. But they mostly want the attention of America, China, and Japan.

On the one hand, you could just attribute it to the fact that Korea has become more globalized and is interested or just inspired by American, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. You might not think this means labels are really interested in these countries, especially not America.

Why would Kpop labels and their idols be so interested in America? One user of Reddit opened an interesting discussion about this topic. I want to borrow these comments because I think they deserve to be read by others (sorry for those I borrowed from, but I will give you credit 😉 )

The poster, Ashyne, starts by listing all of the recognizable differences between the Kpop market and the American market and why it doesn’t seem reasonable for Asian labels to try and break into the Western American market.

1) Language-Most Americans who are not Asian would prefer to listen to music in their language, although music itself can be enjoyed regardless of whether one understands the lyrics or not.

2) Culture-The culture of South Korea is the complete opposite of America’s. The formalities and etiquette inherent in the basic Korean lifestyle cannot be compared to the more informal and individualistic culture of America. Cultural differences create a “me vs you” prejudice that make it hard for those unaccustomed to the foreign culture to accept, appreciate and understand it.

3) Beauty Ideals-This is easily the most visually apparent. Where the American ideal of beauty features and encourages an adult, sensual and seductive look with thick make-up, arched eyebrows and tan skin, South Korea idealizes the pure and innocent appearance with natural-looking and light makeup, pale skin, straight eyebrows and a youthful child-like demeanor.

4) Fashion Styles-For the sake of easily-identifiable differentiation, I will refer to female idols. South Korean popular fashion, driven by K-Pop trends and fads, is mainly about looking girly, delicate and youthful. Soft fabrics with pastel colors for the feminine and child-like look on one end of the spectrum (e.g. Apink/Lovelyz) or vibrant eye-catching styles combining a contrast of elements for the more teenage-chic appearance on the other (e.g. 2NE1/T-ara).

The clothes worn by female American soloists or girl groups are inherently revealing, provocative and deliberately meant to portray an adult look permeated with overt sensuality and sexuality.

5) Choreography-K-Pop choreography for male idol groups features a more artistic, eye-catching performance with very complex and rapid dance routines than American boy groups, who usually value vocal talent over excessively prominent choreographies.

For female K-Pop idols, choreography is light-hearted and dainty on one end of the spectrum for the cutesy groups, or more sexual and provocative on the other end of the spectrum for groups that feature a sexier concept. This is the only kind of choreography that is similar to, but still easily distinguishable from American female singer-dancers, whose choreography are much more sexually-explicit and vulgar.

6) Music-The music between Korean and American idol groups are more similar than the other factors listed above. K-pop idol groups, both male and female, usually sing about innocent romances, first loves, breaking up or love at first sight (teenage topics); while Americans sing about these topics too, they also sing about addictions and more adult topics.

The aforementioned factors are not all, but the main ones that become easily apparent when trying to consider the reasons that K-pop idols will have a difficult time being successful in America.

Let’s now look at simplified statistics:

America has a population of around 320 million. Combining the 6 factors listed above and considering that Asians, to whom Asian music (e.g. K-pop) appeal the most, are the minority of the population, we have a tiny fraction of the American demographic that are a potential source for interest in K-pop music.

Now, on the other hand, K-pop is vastly more popular in East and Southeast Asia also due to the similarities I pointed out above. Besides popularity, K-pop has been a part of popular Asian music scene for decades starting with the earliest K-pop pioneers that received attention outside South Korea.

Also consider that East Asia already contains China, Japan and South Korea who are the 3 largest consumer nations of K-pop. The overall population of East Asia is 1.6 billion people.

K-pop is also highly popular in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia with massive fanbases. There are around 600 million people in this region.

So we have a simple statistic comparison of 320 million Americans (of whom only a minority are potential fans) versus 2200 million Asians (of whom a significantly larger majority are potential fans) and from this we can see that in Asia, there is a vastly larger potential fanbase than America could ever hope to achieve.

With these facts, it is reasonable to conclude that “cracking America” would be a waste of time. This is the question many Kpop fans have, even in Korea. Many posters gave very good responses, but one poster has a real clue what’s going on and how the labels really see it, even if it doesn’t sound too culturally “sensitive”.

affabillyty gives this response:

  1. America is the global cultural beacon: For better or worse, what gets produced in Hollywood has the best chance of becoming international culture. Kpop has certainly upended Japan’s regional influence in becoming a top-tier cultural beacon in East Asia and SE Asia, but music and film made in Hollywood has the potential to transcend Continental Europe, East Asia, Latin America and, of course, the rest of the English speaking world (UK, Canada, Australia, Oceania). Though it’s almost a non-starter if the music isn’t in English…
  2. Artistic liberation: as you mentioned in your post, the stereotypical Korean aesthetic is youthful, chaste and pure. American pop culture is sexualized, provocative and mature. I think in the past 1-2 years, the Kpop aesthetic has drastically shifted towards the American norm. Hip-hop is pretty dominant, videos are increasingly sexualized, and both Korean and American artists are being styled in converging “streetwear” clothing. There are even smaller anecdotal signs like BESTie showcasing a gay storyline in “Excuse Me” or Hyorin very blatantly rejecting the “white is right” skin tone every other artist spends so much money on preserving (and enhancing). I think the American market, and by extension American pop-culture, is a counterbalancing force for Kpop artists (and labels) who want to eschew the “Gee” archetype.
  3. Pride: There is an immense sense of pride among Asian countries to overcome colonial history and reemerge as global economic and culture forces, particularly from a corporate perspective. Japan was first to go through this process and produce companies like Sony, which dominate in multiple industries – including music. SMTOWN, if you’ve noticed, has been not-so-quietly pushing its brand. They built that SM culture center in Seoul, and I believe Lee Soo Man has openly said he wants SM to become Korea’s first ‘global’ music label (sorry, I don’t have a source). Every video released this year by SM also has a very conspicuous SM log in the letterbox. In the same way that PSY was celebrated as a national hero for peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, I think the labels feel equally motivated to achieve corporate dominance – especially SM.

I want to further add to these points.

Another reason Kpop idols and their labels might want to break into America is because they might want to make more money. As a “global cultural beacon”, most celebrities in the USA are making millions to billions of dollars. Kpop idols don’t make nearly as much. I’ll talk more about this later…

One more reason Kpop idols and labels might want to break into the American market could be because they also see an opening in the American market they can capitalize off of. Because America is over-saturated with sexy female pop stars, mature concepts, and male vocalists, there is an opening in the market for stars who offer something different or unique. This is why artists like Adele and Sia stand out so much (though their music is pretty mature). And actually, this is why some Americans have become fans of Kpop in the first place. What Kpop is offering might be different for Americans, but there isn’t much competition for Kpop idols and their style either if you really think about it. Few artists are as pure and youthful and polished as Kpop idols. So, different is good for Americans. Few people perform the way Kpop stars do or offer the same level of ability, to add the certain level of etiquette and humility. They just struggle to get Americans to warm up to the difference. But Kpop labels and their idols actually have an open playing field if they can promote themselves in the right way. This is also aside from the fact few American faces are Asian. Kpop labels can monopolize that part of the market if they successfully break into the American industry.

I don’t think these points are just exclusive to America alone. It also applies to why South Korea wants Japan’s attention, too. Though #1 Global Cultural Beacon may sound a little haughty, stats support this. America and Japan are entertainment giants. America’s music industry alone dominates (not even thinking of film, gaming, and technology), with Japan as a super close second (2010 was the year Japan beat America’s music industry market). Before 2011, Americans bought physical albums in millions. When the digital boom began to occur in 2010, Japan slipped in because they were still buying those physical copies while America was starting to download (or pirate) online. Eventually, as the world went digital, America was leading the way, with Japan still a close second (and fighting). As mentioned, the difference between the two is that America is a fresh market for Asian entertainment. Hardly any Asians have made their mark in America YET. Every Asian label wants the honor of cracking one of the biggest barriers to their global success. It would certainly give that label bragging rights.

And as the poster said, if you make it in America, you can also influence the other western nations, unlike if you make it in Japan. If South Korea can dominate both the east and west, they can slowly take over the music market (and slowly take over the minds and hearts of the people with their cultural values and ideas). As well as make a whole lot of money. This will not only add to the labels’ pot, but it can boost the overall South Korean economy. By appealing to these countries, tourism will increase, giving even more to the economy. Labels and Kpop idols could make a lot more money than they are making now if they debuted in other Asian countries along with maintaining their Korean fame, but with America being a “global cultural beacon”, they would make even more if they debuted in America. This could turn Kpop idols into millionaires in their own home country too, which could give them power and influence (which is what Psy is experiencing to a certain degree).

Last, Kpop helps spread ideas, allowing Korea to dominate both politically and socially. If they were to break into the American market, their own values could earn respect from the world or at least open a gateway to understanding their culture.

In 2004, when I first got into Kpop, South Korea was the 28th biggest music industry in the world. But look at it now! It is now among the top 10! This was all due to South Korean labels’ clever strategies. When it comes to reaching out to Americans, they have used the internet as a tool to promote their artists, they’ve included foreigners in their Kpop idol line-ups, they’ve gotten some American songwriters, producers, and choreographers on the team, they have purchased songs from both America and other European countries, they’ve inculcated “Americanized” styles of music, and they’ve sent Kpop idols to America to act as “ambassadors”.

They don’t have to go to such great lengths to appeal to Asian countries as they are more similar in culture, but they still have to try to keep their interest as well. In fact, much of the “Hallyu” wave is owed to Japan. SM’s success as a label skyrocketed as soon as they began working with Japan’s powerhouse label Avex and began releasing their artists through the label. Many Kdramas have also been adaptations of Japanese manga and anime, like Boys Over Flowers and To the Beautiful You (Hana Kimi). Many labels laced Kpop songs in these drama adaptations, which further helped the success of Kpop.

China may not have a huge music industry (mostly because they don’t play the export-import game too often), but they have a LARGE population and they have a lot of influence over the other East Asian countries. There are many Chinese speakers in the countries surrounding China (such as in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia). Getting rich off of the Chinese is nothing if a label can convince them that it is worth it. SM’s boyband H.O.T was the first kpop group to tour in China. Kpop is now a big thing in China.

Unfortunately, in order to promote artists in China, the country of Korea has to stay in China’s good graces. With the THAAD issue on the rise, it made it clear that in order for idols to continue their success in China, political issues with the nation had to be ironed over. But they still could gain the support of surrounding Chinese-speaking nations.

I want to address #2 next: Artistic Liberation. This is more common in the major industries like the USA and Japan. In Japan, artists like Utada Hikaru (who was actually born in the USA, but debuted in Japan) and Ayumi Hamasaki have been pioneers in the Japanese industry when it came to fighting for the artists’ rights to their music. Ayumi Hamasaki has especially been triumphant in pulling herself from a binding contract and stepping out to make the masterpiece, I AM.

America has always been a diverse industry. We’ve had our share of manufactured artists, but we’ve had equally popular multi-talented artists, like Bob Dylan and Prince, who had creative control over their music.

In these countries, Kpop artists hope that they will be able to get more musical freedom and will get the chance to be seen as true “artists” and not “products”. In these countries, artists don’t have to debut in “manufactured” groups in order to be successful. They can debut individually, with their own sound, or in any group they choose. Contracts aren’t as binding because they don’t monitor the personal lives of artists, just the business side. Pop and hip-hop music are popular in these countries, but many other genres are, too. If someone wants to try country, edm, rock, or any other genre, they could thrive with the right promotion and the perfect sound.

America is more appealing than Japan in this regard because America is perceived as more individualistic (meaning we seem to care about the individual’s right to “be”) and seems to be even less about following one code or system of rules. Though each of us have our own morals, Americans will set aside their beliefs and opinions to objectively enjoy the music. Michael Jackson and Miley Cyrus both had very poor reputations at their prime, but both managed to still pull success from their albums. Why? Because they just made unique and authentic music. Americans especially like artists that are natural or “themselves”. Freedom and independence is prized. Many Kpop idols like the idea that they can take a few risks but still earn respect through their music. It seems appealing from across the globe (just like Kpop seems appealing to the west).

In Korea, kpop idols’ personal lives are monitored closely. Kpop idols who suffer from Korea’s scandals may find the USA to be freer. Those who want to date and start a family while still making music may find America to be freer. Last, those who want their popularity to last more than a few years may be tempted to break into the American market, hoping they achieve huge success. In Korea, kpop idols are lucky to last after reaching 30 years old. In America, artists continue to make successful music well into their 60s, as long as they’re alive!

In Korea, many 20 year olds perform “youthful” concepts. I’m sure there are many of them that prefer to try more “adult” or controversial concepts, like the ones seen in America.

Then there’s Pride. Labels want to give Asians the respect that is long over-do in the west.

All of these things will help Kpop labels get more money in the long run.

The problem with this is that the American industries don’t cater to pop singers with variety shows and dramas. Kpop artists have to promote themselves differently in the US than they do in Korea. The internet is the perfect way for Kpop labels to reach out to America and promote their artists.

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4) Fans Are Monstrous


Kpop fandoms are monstrous in two different ways: They can be an idol’s biggest supporters or their worst enemies. When it comes to supporting idols, fans pour out a lot of money into the genre. For international fans, shipping costs for purchasing albums can be very expensive. Merchandise is expensive, too. Korean fans have up-front access to merch and do a lot to include outside fandoms when it comes to organizing events. They pour a lot of money into their artists even in Korea! It seems like a lot of work for some music, but fans do this so that their favorite idols can keep making music. Idols are also very gracious and show a lot of love and thankfulness to fans.

Having a fandom name and fan color are common traits of Kpop groups. Korean internet cafes (such as Daum) and other fan websites helped in promoting the idea that each idol should have a name to call their followers and a color for all of them to wear. Got7‘s fan name, for example, is IGot7. f(x)’s fan color is periwinkle (which is purplish-lavender).

Being humble and gracious is very important in Korea. This is one of the reasons international fans have fallen in love with the genre. Everyone seems to be trying to be polite even as they perform.

Fans really do seem to worship idols on the surface. Still, fans can also be the worst people in the world. Other fans may call the worst “fans” antis or even trolls. Still, they influence the course of Kpop and the longevity of idols.

Idols can’t function without support. This is why they try hard to appeal to as many people as possible. Still, idols are imperfect humans that have personal lives.

Some fans live in such a Kpop bubble, they often forget that their idols have personal lives and are humans. When idols are struggling, some of the time it can be because of the rigorous schedules or the labels they’re under, but other times it’s because of the demand of the fans. The idols don’t say anything because they rely on the fans’ support for income. But sometimes the fans can be a little extreme. Many “fans” feel that idols should be able to take abuse just because they have chosen a career in the spotlight. It’s also important to note that idols take the opinions of others seriously because it really does affect their reputation and career in Korea. Their goal is to get as many followers and fans as possible.

Fans are very critical and hard on idols because they do expect the best, almost perfection. These idols do often look really polished and perfect on stage. I guess they give the false impression that they are perfect. Some fans have also invested their egos and money in these groups and want their favorites to tromp out competition. When their favorite idols aren’t “reaching” for more or not “attending” events, fans quickly get antsy and critical. Some even expect idols to perform sick! Having a vacation is associated with laziness. This “demanding” streak is when fandoms get monstrous in a negative way. It’s supposed to be entertainment and fun, but some fans can suck the joy out of things.

Fan-idol abusive relationships are common and fans hardly feel like they are wrong in this regard. There is a sense of “ownership” regarding fan-to-idol relationships. I guess because so many fans buy heavily into the industry, they expect their biases to pay exclusive attention to them and fulfill every wish fans desire.

And with so much attention, the bigger you are, the more people you have to criticize you. Kpop has more fans now; that means more haters, too.

You may hear the words “bias”, “stan”, and “Knetizens” or “Knetz” floating around.

In Kpop, again, people support their favorite groups HEAVY and they do develop a bias towards these groups. This means they will like this group no matter what that group releases (just because they may be in love with many other releases or attributes). Sometimes, these same fans will refuse to support other groups, no matter how talented they are.

Even within the group itself, people select their favorite members or “biases”. Usually, each member of a group gets their own fandom ( A fandom name may not be present unless an artist goes solo). Sometimes, the “visuals” (the most attractive members) get the most fans. This makes it harder on other members of the group who have a hard time shining. Still, fans will usually support the whole group despite their favorites.

The word “stan” is common everywhere, even for international artists, so I don’t even have to explain. For those who don’t know what it means, it combines “stalker” with “fan”.

Fans of Kpop aren’t always realistic about idols. The fact that they aren’t looked at as celebrities but as “idols” shows that people really do worship these artists. International fans even make fanfictions based on their favorite idols, almost like they aren’t human and like they belong in some Kdrama. In Korea, they aren’t big on the fanfiction game, but they also fantasize about possibly dating their favorite “oppas” and “unnis” (as they call them often). Fans have a very “pure” depiction of Kpop idols. Most Kpop idols are presented that way by their labels and management team. They are all marketed as cute and dorky, even the male idols at times. Romantic songs really bring in the ladies. And Kpop idols are almost always extremely attractive. This is the main marketing strategy of most labels.

Knetizens, netizens, or Knetz is the slang word used to describe Korean citizens who use the internet and Korean internet community websites to build or break idols. Korean fans obviously have a lot of power over K-idols. First off, they are closer to Kpop in proximity. Second, their culture and opinions more directly influence idols because idols have the same values as most all Koreans. If Knetz like an idol, the idol will stay afloat in their groups. If Knetz dislike an idol, expect that idol to be dropped from the group, no matter how many international fans still exist.

Many Knetizens don’t see eye-to-eye with international fans and vice versa. Some get along great; others are very hard on one another. Much of it has to do with culture clash. Though many international fans like Kpop, their tastes may be different from Knetz based on culture. What westerners will support, for example, may not be supported by Koreans, which affects sales and chart rankings within the country. Many westerners also don’t really understand Korean culture and their codes of “honor” and “loyalty”. Some are so dazzled by Korean pop that they forget that Korea is a country all its own with its own laws and ways of living. International fans may find them to be petty in comparison to other fandoms around the world. Mutually, some netizens dislike when international fans criticize their culture and wish they would respect the fact that Kpop is a Korean art first and foremost.

Knetz Explain Why They Dislike International Fans

Some Knetz are so hard on international fans that they make it difficult for them to get invited on music shows (the shows that usually promote the artists, more on this later). Some can be clique-ish and may exclude anyone who isn’t apart of the main “cafes” (fan websites that make it difficult for international fans to sign up for and get into). Of course, the music shows themselves are selective when it comes to who they choose…

International fans are equally hard on Knetz. Whenever there is a scandal or whenever a song bombs on the charts, international fans are quick to criticize fans who live in Korea. They often don’t recognize their own hand in the problem. International fans don’t always feel that Korean fans appreciate all the talented people they have and wish for some of the artists to debut internationally instead. But Korean fans feel that international fans always try to decide what is right for their industries, when their industries have been doing fine without international inclusion.

Knetizen is a word hardly used positively by international fans when describing Korean fans.

Soompi has a really interesting article on the differences in the fans’ reactions to certain scandals. Actually, some of these things wouldn’t even be newsworthy in the USA, where I come from. But in Korea, these matters are taken seriously. Check it out –> International Fans Reaction VS Korean Fans Reaction

There is only one way to get these fans to unite and that’s when an outsider attacks their favorite group. Suddenly, Knetz and international fans will unite against that individual. Fans hate when anyone tries to criticize their “bias” groups, I don’t care what country they’re from. Some fans don’t like when anyone criticizes their biases, even when it’s constructive. However, there are those individual “trolls” who are really destructive with what they say. Nowadays, people are not held accountable for their “opinions” and they are not prepared for the consequences.

Let’s shift gears and talk about the age range of the fandoms…

Keep in mind that while many Kpop fans are tweens and teens, especially in Korea, many fans are actually  in their TWENTIES (20s) and THIRTIES (30s). Yes, studies have shown that many Kpop fans are of college age and up. They call them “2030”. This is why many labels are now starting to debut their groups much later and this helps older groups continue their success even after 30! As Kpopstarz pointed out: Adult fans have “high purchasing power”. Though most of the material was originally marketed to tweens and teens, the last generation that fell in love with Kpop have grown up with their favorite idols and have gotten into the newer idols. The difference is now they have more money…Much of Kpop’s newest material caters to adult audiences now.

Most of the fanbase consists of females. The content of Kpop is usually created to appeal to them. Males make up a smaller portion, but they exist. One of my favorite male fans of Kpop is Youtuber JREKML. The girl groups have attracted a large number of males overseas.

The differences in the way Korean fans support their favorite artists and the way international fans support them comes down to how each fandom looks at Kpop. In Korea, Kpop is looked at as regular pop music, not some exclusive “secret” genre. To most international fandoms, it’s a unique, “exclusive” genre, even a subculture, that brings together like-minded individuals looking for classy but catchy music. These differing views affect the way artists are supported.

Because international fans see ALL of Kpop as one big COMMUNITY, it’s not uncommon to find them in multi-fandoms. International fans don’t have a problem supporting two groups from different labels or even supporting all Kpop idols that come out! As long as it’s from the genre of Kpop, international fans will give it a shot. They appreciate it and marvel at it more, I guess, because it’s not accessible in their countries like it is in Korea.

It’s different with Korean fans. They tend to be very selective about who they like and support and cling favorably to artists that they’ve always liked or artists who have a huge popularity. Korean variety shows can make artists even bigger and Korean fans watch these shows firsthand. They know that whoever they support in their country will become a major idol and they know competition is fierce to get into the Kpop world. They don’t just hand over that attention to just anybody. Still, who is worthy of that attention may be baffling to international fans at times…More on this subject will come in the following sections.

Despite the differences, fans can come together when it matters most. While both fandoms can be monstrous, they all help in keeping Kpop a global deal.

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5) Korean Music Shows Decide Success


When an album first drops, expect Kpop idols to start weeks of promotion. Usually, this promotion begins when idols start performing on Korea’s biggest music shows. The biggest music programs are not to be confused with variety shows or other music programs that promote artists. No, these music shows are a much bigger deal. First off, most of them have voting ceremonies. These voting ceremonies contribute to the overall prestige of an idol group or soloist. These music shows mostly show performances, are hosted by other idols, and, at the end, give out trophies and other rewards for winners. The performances on these shows are really just for show. They don’t really influence who wins at the end of the show. The winners are decided by a number of things that show idols’ success: Music chart rankings, physical albums sales, digital album sales, search engine results, Youtube views, overall popularity based on previous albums or promotions, broadcasting views, votes both online and on music shows, among other things. You see why they are a big deal? No matter what fans say, these shows decide the success of debuts and comebacks. They mean a lot to the idols as well as the fans.

The main music shows are M!Countdown, Inkigayo, Music Bank, Show! Music Core, and Show Champion. The Show is also climbing up there. Some of these shows are bigger than major awards shows (though the Melon awards are known to be a big deal)! Having an “all-kill” (which means winning 1st place on every single one of these shows) is every idol and fan’s goal. This is why fans invest so much in the promotion of their favorite idols.

Each of these shows have their own ranking:

M!Countdown: Digital Single Sales (50%), Album Sales(15%), Social Media Points (YouTube official music video views + SNS buzz) (15%), Preference Points (global fan votes through Mwave, Mnet Japan and Mnet America + age range preference) (10%), Mnet Broadcast Points (10%) and SMS Votes (10%).

Inkigayo: Being one of the older shows, they have changed their criteria over the years. Just in the past four years, they have been changing. (55%) Digital Sales Based on Gaon DA/Singles Chart (Top 150), (35%) SNS Score Official MV Youtube Views, (5%) Physical Sales via Weekly Gaon Album Chart, (5%) Advanced Viewer Votes via Melon App, (10%) Live Viewer Votes- SMS (paid text vote) and Melon App (free)

Music Bank: Digital Music Charts (65%), Album Sales (5%), Number of times broadcast on KBS TV only (20%), and Viewers Choice Charts (10%).

Show!Music Core: They go back and forth with their ranking system. Sometimes, they have one, sometimes they don’t. Here is what it last looked like: Physical Album + Digital Sales (60%), Music Video Views (10%),Viewers Committee Pre-voting (by 2000 people) (15%), Live Voting (15%)

Show Champion: (50%) Digital Sales streaming + downloads, (15%) Online Voting on MelOn, (20%) Physical Sales from Hanteo, (15%) Ranking from Professionals & Expert Judges from MBC Music

The Show: Prescore-Total (70%) [[Album sales+Digital sales+SNS (Korea) (35%) + Tudou music video views+pay vote items (China) (35%)]], Live voting- Total (30%) [[Text votes (Korea)(15%)+Tudou votes (China)(15%)]]

The highest grossing album sales have sold between 100,000 to 200,000 copies or more. The higher the album count, the higher the ranking on music shows, and the stronger the idol’s or idol group’s prestige, popularity, and promotion.

To watch some of these shows, you can find live streams directly from the Broadcasting stations’ Youtube channels and other places they stream or wait until the websites post some of the older episodes on their channels. It’s best to watch streams so you can contribute to the overall view count.

As you can tell, most of the rankings are predetermined before the shows even begin. On some of these shows, international fans can’t even fully participate in voting, such as on Inkigayo or Music Bank. That might be part of the reason rankings have changed or shows have completely gotten rid of the ranking system…

These music shows have come under fire on several occasions. There is a lot of controversy regarding them. It got so bad, Inkigayo got rid of their ranking system in 2012 (only to bring it back the following year). Show!Music Core has also been back and forth with their ranking system, taking it out and bringing it back in again.

Back when I first got into Kpop, this wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now. Kpop artists made tons more money back then than they do now. In fact, all pop artists made more money around the world because people actually bought hard copy albums. Kpop didn’t have as large of a fandom with so many demands, so labels didn’t barf out new groups and artists as often. They capitalized and promoted the ones they already had. Some of these music shows didn’t even exist yet! Music Bank and Inkigayo were the only two that really existed back in 2003! M!Countdown came in 2004 when I really got into the genre. It was still relatively new and didn’t have the reputation it has now.

Before these shows, there weren’t as many fan wars and there weren’t as many comparisons made between artists. The shows are basically a popularity contest. On the flip side, the shows make kpop more exciting and the joy from all the “wins” make it all worth it. Idols know where they stand at these shows and reap immediate “fruits” from their efforts. There is a certain pride that comes from winning these awards, even if the idols remain humble about it.

These music shows are respected and regarded as the “tell-all” of Kpop talent (though talent is a minor factor in the voting process). This is because these shows have very specific ways they rank artists and also because any fans who wish to attend must be invited by a special “lottery” ticket.

They filter out these tickets the way they do because most of the venues are small broadcasting studios that can’t hold too many people. What it ends up doing is “ranking” fans as well.

The system is political. First off, being a part of a fanclub gives you automatic prestige with these shows. This is the one thing that bothers me about these shows.

Trying to get into these music shows to see your favorite idols is very difficult. You can’t just purchase your way through, like with other venues around the world. To get a ticket faster, you must be a fanclub member. And you can’t just be any fanclub member. Tickets are distributed to fanclub members who have the most merchandise. What does this mean? Those with the most money to buy all the stuff of their favorite idols are on the “priority” list. This is another reason why adult fans have more power and influence in the Kpop world, as well as rich little princes and princesses. Money is power in this case. This also means that the same people who have always gotten tickets will more than likely continue to get tickets (unless they stop supporting the group, meet their match with someone who can hurry and purchase as many items, or lose their income). Everyone else will basically feel rejected from these shows unless they know how to get around this filter. has created a pretty good “How To” for getting into these music shows.

They choose fans with the most merchandise because during broadcasting they want to show the fans with the products on live television.

This is why fans pour so much money into these idols and also why pride has been invested in it as well. These shows basically put a rank on what it means to be a fan and make other fans feel “less than”. On the flip side, they are rewarding those who show the most support. After all, I’m sure the idols are grateful that there are people willing to buy everything their idols dish out. It is good for business because it encourages fans to buy things. This is why hard copies are still relatively sold in Korea (though streaming may also be important for getting in these shows).

International fans will have an even harder time getting into these music shows. First off, many of us can’t download on Korea’s biggest streaming sites because they require a login username and password. Sometimes, they require “Korean-citizen” information to sign up for these websites (sometimes even credit or debit card information). Everything is in Korean, so reading everything could be a challenge. Brush up on your Korean! The one site that used to allow foreigners to download Kpop shut down. Some fanclubs require fans to have both the physical copy and proof of downloading in order to get invited to the music shows. After all, these music programs rank idols based on these sales. So, most times, international fans are left out of the loop.

Many fans can purchase hard copies and merchandise, but the expenses are ten times more for international fans than for Korean fans. Shipping and taxes eat international fans alive. Still, some international fans try to buy what they can. They especially look forward to global tours where they can buy merchandise in their own backyards!

But this makes music shows very exclusive to well-paid Koreans. That means there is usually one demographic representing everyone’s favorite idols.

After they get in all the Kpop fans who have purchased merch, they bring in those who are a part of the fanclub (which is verified with a membership card).

After that, everyone else is welcome to stand in line after the main tickets have been distributed. That means “first come, first served”. If the fanclub members take up all the space, you’re out of luck, and they will turn you away. The plus side, though, is that the rest of the tickets are free. Get there extremely early and you might get lucky.

There is always a chance, too, that no matter how much you pour into these music shows, your favorites won’t always win. So, you may have sacrificed a lot only for your favorites to come out empty-handed. What would be worse is if your idol was pulled from the show for any reason or if the wrong “winners” were announced by the music show. has a whole series on why they hate Kpop Music Shows, and I think they make some legitamate points about the policies and “etiquette” that go along with these shows:

Part 1: Meaningless Competition

Part 2: System of Judgment

Part 3: The Format

Part 4: The Ugly Hierarchy of Fandoms

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6) International Fans Should Buy Hard Copies

BtoB Press Play

BtoB Press Play

Now that you know about music shows, you know that international fans have less power in influencing music shows than Korean fans. Of course, that should be obvious, considering this is Kpop, but it just doesn’t happen this way in every country.

So how can international fans make a difference? By buying albums hard copy.

Most of us can’t stream or download songs easily from Korean digital download websites, so the next best thing to support our artists, and get them on the charts, is to buy their physical albums.

And the price will be worth it.

Sure, the albums usually cost an arm and a leg. Shipping and taxes can be horrifying if you pre-order for two-day shipping. Buying in bulk may give you a heart attack. But trust me fellow Kpop friend, you will not regret it.

Kpop albums don’t look like other crappy albums out in the world. Their albums are very creative both from the outside cover and design to the beautiful photos taken of each Kpop member in the booklets the CDs come in. For years, I’ve been buying music online. Kpop brought me back to hard copy albums. When Koreans produce something, it is usually of the highest quality.

The outside covers are usually very artistic. There might be a very artistic design on the front, like 2ne1’s animation style on I Am the Best. Or possibly clever words written across BtoB’s album seducing fans to Press Play. And I really can’t forget f(x)’s album Pink Tape which was literally shaped like a videotape (if you all remember them from back in the ’90s).

2ne1 I Am the Best

2ne1 I Am the Best


f(x) Pink Tape

The CDs are usually carefully placed in a folder inside the booklets rather than in cheap plastic. The CD albums are designed to be carefully placed within a home so that they can be shown off. Flipping through the books alone can give fans a lot of pleasure before they even pop in that CD and give it a listen.

Most albums also come with collectible fan photo cards, signed by the members. You never know which one you’ll get. I guess that’s a good strategy for getting fans to buy in bulk. Some of the albums also come with posters.

For these purchases to count towards the charts and music shows, however, you must have purchased an album the week the artist starts performing on the music shows. The rankings are very specific. If you purchase too late, it won’t count. Usually, they are gathering stats the first week an artist performs. The second week artists are ranked and those shows use the tallies of the last week along with the live broadcasting votes to rank them. By the end of the week, they check the major charts like Hanteo, Gaon, and Melon before the next week rolls around.

International fans have to be clever and keep up to date with idols if they wish to support them at these events.

Not all websites support the major Korean charts. Itunes, Ebay, and Amazon are not good options though you may see Kpop albums for sale. The music shows don’t count them.

Here is a list of some of the best websites I’ve used, in order from my favorite to least favorite:





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7) Variety Shows, Reality Shows, Talk Shows, K-Dramas, Fashion Ads, And Magazines Promote K-pop Artists


Variety Shows, talk Shows, K-Dramas, fashion ads, and magazines all help promote Kpop artists and vice versa. In fact, a fan’s participation in watching the shows or purchasing these magazines could even affect music show rankings! Usually, this would be the case if people are searching for ads and magazines through search engines.

All celebrities get promotion through magazines and fashion ads around the world. Talk Shows are still big the world over. My favorite is After School Club and Global Request: A Song For You. They cater to international audiences.

Variety shows are a little bit more special. In Variety shows, fans get the chance to watch their favorite idols participate in games, conversation, and challenges. The shows are designed to make the idols feel a little more real, individual, and personable, almost like a reality show, only with other additions such as interviews and even performances.

Some variety shows could host a number of games and challenges in them, like the popular Running Man. Running Man is one of my favorites. It sets up scenarios and has popular Kpop idols and K-drama idols complete missions within the story. Almost like a live game of Clue.

Other variety shows can pitch idols in long-term circumstances that help them understand an alternate life style. We Got Married puts together two popular idols and arranges a marriage for them. They usually have a “wedding” and “live” in the house together. It’s all staged but interesting fun to see idols pitched together.

YG and JYP, the two major label founders, are known for creating reality shows to scout out new talent. YG came out with Who Is Next: WIN (Which produced Kpop groups Winner and iKon) and JYP launched Sixteen16 (Which produced Kpop group Twice)

Real Men helps idols understand the military life. This has particularly been popular for foreign male idols to try because most aren’t obligated to do military service (more on this later) and don’t usually understand the pressure to perform such duties. Women also have tried it. Most women are not required for service but this helps them understand the men serving their country a little more. Foreign idols have it hard on this show. Most can’t speak the language as fluently as natural-born Koreans and even those who can don’t understand the military dialogue.

These are all just examples.

Now on to KDRAMAS.

Kdramas are just as big as Kpop. In fact, the Hallyu wave began because of Kdramas. People who may not be into Kpop may alternatively say they love Kdramas. In their spare time, Kpop idols usually sign on to do Kdramas. Kdramas help promote their groups and can be a good source of extra income for the individual idol (especially during hiatus). Kdramas also give idols a chance to be someone else besides a singer and performer. Many Kpop idols leave their professions as pop idols for a career in acting!

Kdramas also help idols establish themselves as individuals and they help them develop their own fanbase.

The biggest problem many international fans face with watching the shows and dramas is the language barrier. If you don’t understand Korean, you may not gravitate towards the shows (because shows don’t have catchy tunes like music). Still, there are some kind fans out there who will gladly make subtitles in the languages most in demand. Some broadcasting stations are starting to provide subtitles for languages in demand for online streams so that international fans can watch their favorite dramas.

When I say ‘in demand’, that doesn’t mean fans should go and demand these people to make subs. Making subs is hard work, especially getting them to match up right. Some streams already have subs, but some don’t. And guess what? They aren’t required to. This is KOREAN entertainment.

This may be an unusual concept to foreigners. Everything we have comes in various different languages besides English. In the USA, it’s not uncommon to find both English and Spanish channels. Americans also have access to various versions of and Google. If we wanted to, we could change from language to language. In America, it’s important to cater to many different audiences. In Korea, it’s important to uphold Korean standards and values. We are all just along for the ride. So let’s respect them by being patient with subs and maybe try to learn the language.

How can international fans watch these shows? There are live streams online, just like for music shows. Kdramas come out on DVD and Korea just opened Netflix. You can buy them like you do your favorite CDs. Yesasia is good for that, too.

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8) Check Time Zone Differences


When thinking about what to watch or even when thinking about waiting for any comebacks, it’s important to remember time zone differences. International fans may get confused and frazzled trying to figure out when their favorite group’s comeback will OFFICIALLY happen. I’m here to tell you, just because it said July 1, 2016 doesn’t mean that’s the date it will drop in your country. The East is a day ahead of countries way in the West.

If you really want to support your favorite idols regarding music videos, variety shows, or music shows, you might have to stay up really late at times or even watch the shows in between breaks at school or work. XD This has happened on several occasions for me.

Or you could just wait a day later, but your views won’t count towards anything.

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9) Be on the look-out for international tours


It can be a little sad and disheartening to only be able to see your favorite idols from music videos, variety shows, kdramas, and fancams but never in person. After all, most international fans don’t get to see their idols every comeback, live in concert, or during fan signing events (unless those fans have the money). Most fans are happy to be able to buy the products online. Still, it’s exciting when idols organize a world tour.

Usually, only the most popular groups are able to organize a world tour. This is another reason why international fans want to try and support their favorite idols no matter the cost. Most fans hope their favorites will be able to come to their home countries!

If you follow some of the bigger Kpop groups, the ones that have an international following, you might be in luck! There are times when Kpop groups plan their tours in cities outside of Korea. I saw Got7 when they came to the USA last year. I never thought that would happen! But it did.

Just keep supporting your favorite group and try to increase their popularity in your area. Be on the lookout for tours and purchase your tickets early because they do sell out. They are actually cheaper in your own country than if you were purchasing the tickets in Korea!

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10) Groups are Bigger than Solo Artists


Based on stats dealing with the major charts in Kpop, it’s clear that Kpop groups are bigger than solo artists. Solo artists are lucky to get one song dominating the chart (and usually it’s because of a Kdrama), let alone win an award on one of the major music shows.

When solo artists make a comeback, their own fans love them, sure. But groups have more people involved; that means more fans for each individual member. These groups can have 5 to 13 individual members and all of their fandoms combined! That creates a large fandom. This largely contributed to the successes of major groups like Girls Generation, EXO, and Twice. If any of these members chose to go solo, it would reveal their real individual popularity as well as exposing true talent. The “group” strategy gives labels the opportunity to debut many kpop artists all at once. There are so many people auditioning for these groups. Sometimes, it can be hard for labels to choose the right one. So, why not debut them all?

Solo artists have to debut and be promoted at the right time, which is hard to predict. The success of a solo artist depends on the label’s promotion and the talents of the artist. SM, YG, and JYP have an easier time promoting their solo artists a little bit more than other labels. Still, even their solo artists flop sometimes.

If you still don’t believe that Kpop fans are obsessed with groups, watch those music shows long enough. They are infested with boy and girl groups. You might see one or two solo artists on these shows. But everyone else is riding on the backs of one another in the industry. Chances are, if you’re a new Kpop fan, it’s because of a group you liked.

There are several reasons why groups are more popular than solo artists. For starters, it’s cool to see so many people singing in harmony and dancing in sync. It feels more challenging than a solo artist doing it by themselves. Of course, solo artists can throw in some back up dancers, right? But for some people it’s still more interesting when all of the main members are doing it. People also like group interactions. It makes the artists seem less lonely. They seem more upbeat onstage.

There are fans who just like Kpop for the attractive figures. Why enjoy just one attractive figure when you can enjoy several? That’s the master plan behind the infamous Kpop groups.

Kpopstarz made a few other points as well:

The reason why there are so many idol groups is because there really is no alternative. Idol groups are able to bring in international revenue, which is necessary in the Korean market, where music revenue has decreased. Idol groups are easy to market, and are “weapons” to quickly get a return on investments.

Labels pour thousands of dollars into these groups to house, maintain, create their music, pay off music video producers and choreographers, hair stylists, fashion designers, advertise, promote, and much more. As smooth as it seems, debuts and comebacks take months of preparation. And yet, groups pull these concepts off flawlessly.

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11) Kpop Labels Follow the Trends

This kind of goes along with the last point but there are other things I feel need to be addressed under this heading. As I mentioned before, Kpop is infested with groups. I listed some reasons why, but the broader reason why you may see so many groups is because labels tend to follow the latest trends.

If one label strikes it big with a particular Kpop concept, other labels apparently think imitating the concept will put their idol groups on the map. It actually has worked. When all groups or solo artists do the same thing, it helps the Kpop genre form an identity all its own. When Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” dropped, just about every girl group came out with cute concepts just like it.

The cute, bubblegum trend has continued to take over Kpop ever since. Though other artists have promoted different styles throughout the years, the cute style trend has been stamped on Kpop.

The boy groups just tend to follow BTS, EXO, and Big Bang’s lead.

Again, outfits, music albums, and music videos aren’t too far away from the latest trends in Kpop. To add, they are mostly all the same race and they are all speaking Korean. If you’ve grown up in the west, where the celebrities are more diverse, this may confuse you. It’s sometimes hard to know which group is what. But eventually, you’ll be able to see the individual styles. Groups always try to add that one flavor of originality. Of course, the more original groups like f(x) and 2ne1 always stand out because they don’t follow the trends too much.

Why do Kpop labels do this? Well, in Korea, the fans of the genre value conformity, appearances, and charm more than anything. It was what attracted fans in the first place. Certain genres bring out those right appearances and charms more than other genres. Korean fans are also a bit slow to warm up to new and experimental sounds. Mostly, pop consists of “public-friendly” songs. Anyone who steps outside of the norm will be bullied or shamed into conformity by “Naver” trolls or other people who just don’t “get it”. Thus, Korea doesn’t adapt easily to new trends.

“Public-friendly” songs are usually of a pseudo rap and hip-hop style (though mostly pop), catchy bubblegum pop with a positive message, and/or ballads which can then be on the OST (soundtracks) of Kdramas. The rap and hip-hop makes the boys seem fierce and handsome. It can also make the girls seem strong. Bubblegum makes the girls more appealing to men and teens.

There are other genres in Korea like indie, jazz, and even rock. My personal favorite indie band would have to be Love x Stereo. But those genres are hardly recognized in Korean music shows or on the charts. While many nations of the world have adapted to garage-house-edm sounds, Korea is still skeptical about the genre.

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Behind the Scenes…

This next section deals with the shadow side of Kpop, the things that many casual Kpop fans may not know or understand. If you have never followed news articles in Korea (like on Naver) or the Kpop news media outlets for international fans (like Hellokpop, Allkpop, Soompi, and Kpopstarz), you’d probably never know the shadow side of Kpop and would therefore be swept up in the happiness and celebrations involved. Which is cool. But there will be times when your “bias” group meets some rough bumps in the road. Some of these things may seem confusing to international fans, even disappointing or annoying. The culture differences become more realized when our favorite groups come under scrutiny or when Kpop takes a different turn than we expected. Well, I’m here to give you the different, the beautiful, and/or the ugly.

Keep in mind that my goal is not to throw too much shade on Kpop or Korean culture. I love all cultures and all kinds of world music. However, I know that as a foreigner, there were some things that were more foreign than I expected. The glam and glitz of Kpop can create an illusion that makes the genre seem so “perfect”. It can make Korea seem like a perfect place, full of beautiful and well-mannered people. Well, if you’ve been paying attention to some segments above, you could probably see how this isn’t true. Let’s get into this, shall we?

12) Labels Are Blamed For Everything


When everyone’s favorite Kpop group flops on the charts, you might hear them say, “It’s the label’s fault for not promoting them enough”. You might also hear, “The label gave them a mediocre song”. If you remember my first segment about labels, you know they have a lot of power over artists. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.

Because most artists, especially groups in Korea are “pre-packaged” or “manufactured” by these labels, most fans believe that labels create every concept, are in charge of every song that is released, and are responsible for managing the artists in every area of life. When an idol seems to be jeopardizing their careers, some may criticize the artists, but most will blame the label.

International fans more quickly attack the labels, while Korean fans are more supportive. International fans have it in for any one in power who misuses it to bar people from their freedom. Many Korean fans, on the other hand, respect and honor the labels’ attempt at helping the idols make it in a difficult industry.

Where did the “blame game” begin? It began when some of our favorite Kpop idols left their groups and SUED their labels because of strict and binding contracts. This made many Kpop fans question the labels that are controlling everything. Of course, for Koreans, these labels aren’t just labels. They have created tourist attractions for the major cities. They show Korean prosperity. They feel these labels have made Kpop artists as famous as they are and that idols should be grateful that someone even took the time out to mold who they are. To international fans, however, these labels are nothing more than power-hungry monsters trying to get fat rich off of young, naive idols. It’s the same fight that most pop artists around the world have fought (Prince from the USA, Ayumi Hamasaki from Japan).

I say both are right and both are wrong.

It’s true that many labels have binding contracts, like any business. Back in the past, when I first got into Kpop, these contracts lasted for 13 years for most idols! And this is from debut; it doesn’t even include pre-debut and training.

But they do have a good reason for some of these contracts, even if they are stifling. For one, these contracts ensure that the label is able to properly and fully promote their artists with enough time to build their artists. Second, these contracts ensure that the label gets paid in FULL once the groups become big enough (after all, the workers and management team have to eat too, right?). Third, the contracts protect the label in many respects from scandals that could give them a bad name and bring destruction to the label. After all, a label will close down when enough people refuse to support its artists. That would put a lot of people out of work…Last, the labels make sure that they are not used up and dropped for other opportunities. After all, they don’t want someone using them until they get famous and then dropping them. That damages the label and makes them feel like they put money behind someone for nothing. Money is a precious thing.

On the other hand, this puts artists in a bind. What are their rights, you ask? Few rights.

Some contracts allow artists to “own” 1/3 of their music for the first few years of their contract. After that, they have more freedom and ownership of their art, especially if they are famous enough. BoA is one such artist that has so much seniority, she’s been there longer than SM’s current CEO! Her seniority gives her power in her label. She has more freedom than other Kpop idols. Newer idols, especially the really young ones, don’t have as much freedom.

Artists are also not allowed to date (more on this later) until they have given some years to the label.

Part of the reason these contracts are set up so tight is because the Korean idols debut so young (I will also address this later). Without some rules, imagine what a young idol teen could get into! They do need some structure. Labels are basically babysitting these idols before they become adults, ready and able to take care of themselves. Also, the Korean public values purity and a good social status. Idols are looked at as role models. Companies want to maintain a good reputation. If they have to monitor their idols to have that reputation, so be it.

Still, there are some shady things going on with these labels. Many labels distribute funds “unfairly” based on popularity. Even though all the members may have put the same kind of hard work in a group, it doesn’t often matter to some labels. This has been the cause of many issues between artists and labels. Some artists may feel that the labels aren’t promoting them as well as other members and may fight to be removed from the label so they can find better opportunities to shine as an individual. In Korea, though, it creates the opposite of “fame”. Koreans don’t often side with idols who leave their label and even call them “traitors” for “abandoning” their group members. This helps the labels stay powerful. However, there are also some Korean fans who are against the labels’ treatment. Because many Koreans were against SM Entertainment’s treatment of idols, they put pressure on the label to change the contracts.

Read About SM Entertainment’s Lawsuits By Clicking Me

Even though there are many shady things going on with these labels, many times the labels put pressure on artists because of the fandom. The “audience” has a lot of power over Kpop idols, whether they rise or fall from grace. This is where fans, especially teenage fans, fail to recognize their hand in the mistreatment of Kpop idols and fail to take responsibility. One of the main reasons Kpop labels restrict artists from dating is because they know most people get into Kpop because the idols seem like “dating” material. The idols are designed by the labels to appeal to the fans’ “fantasies”, true, but this is also because the labels know this is really the ONLY way to sell Kpop to people.

Honestly, if over half of the Kpop idols were “normal” or “unattractive”, how many fans do you think Kpop would have? It can seem like a shallow industry, from the labels to the fans. This is another subject I will talk about more in-depth later.

The bigger a fandom, the more strict labels are regarding the group. When a group blows up big, fan demands start pouring in:

“Please come to my hometown! When is your concert?”

“Oppa/Unni, you’re so attractive”

“This song is so, so good. Their style is not like others”

They also seem like compliments, right? And they are. But they do put a significant amount of pressure on Kpop idols. How so?

When fans demand idols to “come to my hometown”, this means that the idols have to work extra hard to increase their popularity so that they can get the approval of local venues in other nations and sell them out. Labels will overwork them so that they can meet fan demands. They want the idols to be able to reach as many fans as possible. Sometimes, this means they have to do more.

When fans love an idol for their appearance, the respect that artist gets for his/her talents is often lost (even though people, especially international fans, do appreciate their talents, looks mean a lot to the industry). When that idol gets older or something happens where they are no longer as attractive, the artist will suffer. Thus, labels put pressure on artists to appear a certain way to maintain fan interest.

When people really love a song, labels know that in order to maintain a fan’s interest, they have to keep making good songs. This puts pressure on artists to perform better time after time, which can wear them out. As these idols get older, it gets harder for them to perform the way they did in youth.

Some labels nowadays are allowing artists to explore their own artistry. But labels aren’t pouring out a lot of money or promotion for these solo pursuits. This sometimes angers fans. Labels feel that their priorities are group priorities, which are the projects they’ve invested in and are sure will sell. Any other projects are considered “promotional” for their groups. The reason for this is because labels aren’t getting as much from these solo projects.

Despite what you hear, labels aren’t always the bad guys. Sometimes, they are just doing their jobs. There are people, just like in every profession, that do misuse their position. However, there are perfectly decent labels that are just caught in the crossfire. Sure, some may not make the best promotional judgments. Everyone working in a label is imperfect, but that doesn’t always make them monsters. At times, fans can be more monstrous than labels.

Still, it’s best to keep a close eye on everything going on.

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13) Many Kpop Idols Aren’t Korean

Jackson in marine hoodie

I think this should be an interesting one for you newcomers. You might hear Korean on the music video, you might see Korean on the music video, but the eyes and ears are deceiving you. This is the illusion labels have developed to both give you a taste of Korea and appeal to a larger demographic.

If you came into Kpop because of the group RaNia, you may notice that they are one of the few groups that have an African American member. She is not the first black artist in the Korean music industry, but she is the first to be accepted into a Kpop group. This caused quite a lot of controversy, which I will definitely have to address later.

Many fans have stated that they didn’t like the inclusion of this member because she takes away Kpop’s “purity”. I suppose what made Kpop special to most Kpop fans was the fact that it seemed more “Korean”. To many, Kpop isn’t just a sound but a “visual” (shows how shallow the industry can be). I will admit that, while the other nations around the world hardly respect Asian artists the way they do Caucasian and African American artists, Kpop has been one of the few to promote and produce Asian talent when the other nations refuse to. Having a black girl in the industry takes more from the industry than it does lift it. Even as an African American, I know that she could make it in any industry in the world if she wanted to while an Asian artist would have a more difficult time. If you look at the record of Asian artists that have tried to make it in the west and didn’t, you would be ashamed.

But, despite this, it’s laughable for anyone to think that Kpop is “purely” Korean. I chuckle to myself at all the people who fall for the illusion every year. Myself included. XD

That’s right folks. There are some members of groups who, while Asian by face, are NOT Koreans.

Many casual fans of Kpop don’t even realize or recognize this. I didn’t until I was introduced to f(x).

DramaFever, Allkpop, and Kpop Encyclopedia have all created lists of more than a dozen Kpop stars that actually don’t come from Korea or may have lived abroad! These lists don’t even name them all (Busker Busker’s Brad Moore, Yoon Mi Rae, Eric Nam, Black Pink‘s Lisa and Rosé, and Shannon Williams are to name an extra few). Many of our favorite Kpop idols come from the USA, Canada, the U.K., Australia, China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan! Many started off not knowing an ounce of Korean!

Some Kpop artists are of Korean heritage, but they were born in another country! Jessica and Krystal Jung from (f(are examples.

This is part of the reason Kpop has become such a global phenomenon. These artists can speak in their own native languages and are taught to speak in Korean, which brings a sense of diplomacy between the nations. They can act as interpreters and help Kpop spread. While many of them have a face that suits Kpop (except the ones who are African American and Caucasian), they represent various cultures and backgrounds at the same time.

These idols also give their lives over to Koreans. Through these idols, Korean fans learn a little more about the world and how different people live. That’s why these idols are good bait for variety shows.  F(x)’s Amber Liu, Super Junior-M’s Henry Lau, and Got7’s Jackson are examples of foreign idols who really give Koreans laughter. And don’t even think of putting them in a room together!

Kpop idols from different nations always bring a little something unique with them when they join these groups. Their cultural differences help members loosen up and become more open-minded. Their personalities as well as ideas help Korea become a melting pot and pushes Korea into a more progressive nation.

International Kpop idols also introduce new styles of music to their labels. They bring with them their own favorite inspiring artists from their countries, which greatly influences the music that is created and performed.

Of course, these idols give their lives over to Korea in more ways than one. When these idols begin to train in South Korea, they are giving up their homes, their families and friends, their customs, their beliefs, and often times, their identities to become Kpop stars. They are risking not being accepted or flopping right off the charts, only to return home with nothing. They are really sacrificing a lot. Some make it, some break.

Many of these idols train at very young ages. Many of them have yet to finish high school before moving to Korea! But the opportunities they receive are very valuable and equal any education they can get back in their own home towns.

Seeing how these idols have lived in Korea, many other “normal” (just your average fan :P) people have up and moved there, too! These idols are truly an inspiration.

Why are so many international Asian artists so attracted to the Kpop industry? Can’t they simply make music in their own countries?

Well, many international Kpop idols got interested in Kpop much the same way you and I got interested in it. Many of them will probably say they loved Kpop before they became an idol. They loved the whole feel of it and longed to be a part of the action.

As to why these artists just don’t debut in their own nations…Let me ask you all this: How many Beyonces, Britney Spearses, and Michael Jacksons are there among Asian artists AROUND THE WORLD? NONE. Who has had that kind of fame or influence? None. I know many of the Western Kpop idols struggle to be recognized in their own birth countries. In the USA, as much of a melting pot it’s supposed to be,  there hasn’t been ONE Asian American singer that has had significant success to bring them to the level of major “celebrity”. Even foreign Asian artists struggle to break the charts in the USA. Psy has been one of few that has gotten the attention of the west, but to most Americans, he is a one-hit wonder and a joke (though that makes him pretty entertaining to me. 😉 ). His music is hardly played on national radio stations. BTS has paved a road for some international Korean artists , but stateside Asian artists still struggle for attention against the novelty of Korean nationals. Bi-racial idols like Yoon Mi Rae felt she wasn’t “black” enough for Americans. 

Equally in the UK and Canada, Asians are hardly recognized in the music industry as much as Caucasians and those of African descent.

In China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan, Kpop is becoming the new thing. C-pop and J-pop artists, coming from major Far East Asia industries, see more opportunities to reach a wider audience when it comes to Kpop because there are many things that are more appealing about it than C-pop and J-pop to other parts of the world. Kpop is more progressive and advanced in comparison to the more conservative C-pop. China has closed itself off from worldly influence, while Korea strikes the balance between reaching out to foreigners and holding close to their culture. C-pop is heavily infested with ballads, whereas Kpop is full of upbeat, catchy tunes and flashy outfits.

The difference between Kpop and Jpop is that Kpop puts more emphasis on “appearance”, making their idols seem more attractive. Japan focuses on substance and original concepts, which tend to be unusual and too artsy to most people of the world.

And neither Japan nor China uses popular social media sites from the west as much as Korea. Kpop idols are in touch with Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. They are able to promote music to various different countries around the world this way.

Foreign artists are better able to stay in touch with friends through these websites and better promote their music to their homelands because Korea stays connected with the west.

So, to find better opportunities, these international idols decided to try their hand at Kpop.

So, you might ask me, “Can I become a Kpop star?”

You can audition! I know SM Entertainment hosts Global Auditions all the time. Labels also travel around and scout out talent. It would be even better for you to learn the language, work on your talents, then at least visit Korea so you can experience living there firsthand. Try doing those things to see if being a Kpop star is really what you want. Then, instead of waiting for labels to come to you, make an effort to go to Korea to see them! This will show labels how passionate you are.

Keep in mind that though some of these international idols are a big deal now and seem to be getting along well, there is still prejudice in and outside of Korea. I will have to touch on this separately…

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14) Many Kpop Idols Train Early, But Most Don’t Last Long


I think I’ve mentioned twice that Kpop idols train really young. In this section, I will explain more about this.

Labels are always scouting out young talent. Though they may occasionally sign someone on that is older, they know that Kpop’s primary demographic consists of teenagers and those people in their 20s. So, to ensure that they appeal to a young audience, and to make sure their idols appear “timeless”, they often train idols as early as possible to sing, dance, and present themselves in public. These labels hope that by the time of debut these idols will be attractive but polished performers.

When idols are in the training process, many of them dorm with other trainees. Labels provide dormitories. Their training begins early in the morning and ends late at night. They sometimes work an “adult-like” shift long before most of their peers are graduating from school! Many of them also balance school with training. Sometimes, idols go to regular public schools, despite their fame.

Why so young?

There are several benefits for the labels. For one, young people are naive and easily caught up in the glamor/glamour of Kpop. This allows them to be able to find as many idols as they can to feed the factory. Labels can easily persuade young artists to join the label and can better control them, too.

Second, when these artists start young, even as they get older, they will be able to give more years to the label. If someone debuts at 14, for example, 10 years into a label would put them at 24! They would still be young enough to produce music and keep the label on the map. If they debuted someone at 40, they fear their idols retiring too soon and starting families, which will halt many promotions and distract artists (considering the fact that idols usually work rigid schedules). And then there’s military service…

How young do idols start training? As young as 11. BoA and f(x)’s Sulli started their training around that age. That may seem like a very young age for people around the world. After all, how do these kids really know if this is what they want? Most don’t. This is why many grow up tired of the industry. But the labels use the younger ones because they are the most eager to please at debut.

These things may seem foreign to the west. It’s not foreign to have famous kids (Bow Wow anyone?), but foreign to see so much emphasis on youth. After all, it’s not uncommon in some countries to see artists as old as 65 still performing and releasing new music, with marriages, families, and all! But in Korea, people don’t feel the life of a Kpop star is “suitable” for a “healthy family”. And most Koreans expect those over the age of 29 to start families. Looking at the lives of American music stars, maybe they’re right…Still, at least American pop stars can continue doing what they love and still make millions.

This is why Kpop idols don’t last too long in the industry. Everyone grows up. In Korea, though they are more progressive than they used to be, traditional roles within the home are still honored by the vast majority. Most women are expected to be married by 30 years old! They are expected to be stay-at-home wives who cook and tend house while the man is out working. For many Koreans, adults shouldn’t be jumping around on stage singing pop songs.

Because labels cater their music to teens and young adults, their fanbase is normally really young, so it’s hard for older idols to be recognized because the younger generation is usually already ready for the next new thing. Koreans are also “age conscious”. The age hierarchy is a part of their culture. It is a rule of etiquette to consider the age of people. Since many Kpop idols are popular for their appearances, Kpop teens would get “strange looks” if they were huge fans of “older male or female idols”. I guess it seems perverted to them. Most people in Korea think it’s strange to crush on someone older, especially on someone 10 or more years older! In the west, we don’t care about age at all as long as you’re legal. And a little crush is not shamed as long as it doesn’t become an ultra serious relationship. I had a crush on Johnny Depp as a teenager during the Pirates of the Caribbean era. No one made a big deal about it.

Another problem is that labels mass produce group after group, not taking the time to develop the groups they already have. Teens and young adults in Korea are always interested in debut groups and the hottest new trends, so the older groups eventually get forgotten among the wave of newcomers. And if the group wasn’t popular to begin with, they really struggle to stay within the Kpop industry.

The Verge interviewed Ellen Kim, a Kpop dancer and choreographer. She stated “…The pace of the popularity of the music is quick. You got one song that can last for a week, and that’s it… that’s really scary. You put so much work into one song, but yet it’s going to get old quick. Korean people want something new every week, and I think that’s the hardest pressure, probably. To come up with something catchy all the time, a hit all the time, and you’ve got tons of artists and the lifespan of one song is so short. It’s pretty hard.”

Artists are presented on music shows weekly, so once the weeks of promotion are over, purchases die down and the hype is over…until the next comeback of another major group. Very seldom does popularity of one song last a whole year. This is also different from the west, where artists’ songs from over TWO years ago could still be popular on the radio and still may climb the charts suddenly! Popularity dwindles easily in Kpop.

Scandals, military service, and a label folding can end the “life” of a group. Koreans have a strong sense of morality. A scandal can permanently destroy an idol’s career. Military service takes idols out of the spotlight for awhile, causing fans to move on and forget about them. Labels that don’t make enough money to keep their groups afloat or labels that get involved with lawsuits eventually fold  or close down or get bought out.

As I’ve said, I’ve been into Kpop for over 10 years (since around 2004). I’ve seen major groups go from kings and queens of their kingdoms to obscure little nobodies trying to hold on to what little fandom they had. Some of it seemed to happen too quickly. It was always when I was just getting into an artist or just appreciating their music…

This all goes back to the “7-year Curse”. The “7-year curse” is the curse that is said to plague Kpop idols. It’s the curse that only allows a group to last 7 years before something happens that destroys the idols’ careers, fizzles them out of the spotlight, and ruins their Kpop reputation, ultimately resulting in disbandment. This name came out of the industry when it seemed there was a trend of Kpop groups breaking up only after being in the spotlight for 7 years after debut (or with debut year included). The “lucky few” make it past the “7-year curse”. Many contracts nowadays are only set for up to 7 years (in the past it was up to 13 years). A lot can happen in 7 years for an idol group or solo artist. Usually, they are at the height of their popularity those first seven years. But after awhile, everything gets tiresome, the fan pressure gets more intense, and as idols get older, it’s harder to avoid dating, “Korean” scandals, and to resist not wanting to do “something different”. Many idols start really young. But after 7 years, most are adults who have discovered what it is they really love and want.

The ones that last beyond 7 years or more still often meet a decline in sales because they are considered “old”. Newer idols end up taking all of the attention.

Because of this, I advise you fans to learn to appreciate your favorite artists for as long as you can. Support them to the best of your ability.

Another reason many Kpop idols may not last too long is because there are so many groups debuting, not all of them will make it big, especially if they are debuting with a small Kpop company. They don’t really work regular job hours, so it’s difficult for them to make a whole lot of money, and it’s especially hard for them to pay their companies back. If they don’t make it big before they reach their “expiration date”, usually in their 30’s, they may be forced to give up being a Kpop star.

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15) Idols Can’t Date Easily


One of the biggest scandals in Korea are the dating scandals. For all you western fans, you may find “dating” to be an odd “scandal”. What’s so “scandalous” about dating? If you think about it, this may even be laughable to westerners. Famous artists in the west are dating, married, and have children! In fact, artists in the west date for publicity and status! It makes no difference to their art in western countries. This is because westerners’ values are different from Korea’s values.

This was one of the most shocking revelations I had when first getting interested in Kpop. I think most international fans would be shocked. I mean, with so many attractive people, who wouldn’t want to date them? How can such pretty people stay single for the rest of their lives?

It’s quite simple really.

Labels design their artists to appeal to teen “fantasies”. These idols are not meant to be looked at as “real” figures. If they were, they would not get the same revenue they get from swooning their audience. In order to convince fans to buy into these groups, labels have to produce “available” and “pure” artists that seem untouchable, unreachable, and up for grabs. Every fan has to “feel” like they have a boyfriend/girlfriend out of these idols.

Because of the way these groups are marketed, many fans, especially in Korea, do feel they own these idols. When their favorite idols are revealed to be “dating”, some of them even look at this as betrayal! Fans feel that the idols aren’t doing their jobs. That “job” is to appeal to fans’ fantasies. Some fans are just spitting jealous. But these jealousies can end CAREERS.

When one member of EXO (a major boy group in Korea), Baekhyun, was revealed to be dating, fans were so angry jealous it affected Kyuhyun’s musical ticket sales, and he’s just a fellow member!

Labels have learned that their idols can’t date if they expect their idols to become major Kpop stars in Korea. Some labels prevent their idols from dating by making a contractual agreement about it. Most idols are supposed to be thought by fans to be “single” and “virgins” at the time of debut, no matter how attractive they look or how sexy the concept.

Koreans have a strong moral code. Koreans like their entertainment to be “family-friendly”. So, you may see some sexy concepts coming out of Kpop groups (especially as more international fans get into the genre and as the fan base reaches the “2030” crowd), but the groups still have to maintain a certain level of chastity and innocence.

Kpop idols’ business image affects their real life big time. This is one of the reasons so many Kpop members leave the industry and one of the reasons so many fall from grace. As pretty as Kpop looks, the idols live a lonely existence most of the time. Aside from that, at a certain age, there is pressure to be married, especially among women in their 20s. Many Koreans get married in their 20s. Many kpop idols feel the pressure to be like all of their other adult friends, but also feel the pressure to appear “available” to fans.

For some international fans, dating is nowhere near seen the same. To many of us, it’s not as big of a deal as having sex (and dating is in fact super innocent), but for Koreans it’s almost the same thing. Even too much public affection is uncommon. But isn’t that why most of us love the industry? They just don’t tolerate the same impurities other nations tolerate and they make sure they watch how they are seen in public. This can be a blessing or a curse.

Perhaps these sex-negative reactions are linked to Korea’s declining birth rate….but most experts argue that that has more to do with economics and progression.

Dating scandals are harsher on female idols than on male idols. Females are already not as respected as much as men are in the Kpop universe (which I will discuss later), but a dating scandal is just a way to completely destroy a female idol’s career. f(x)’s former member Sulli was run out of her group by fans who didn’t approve of her dating!  One fan is so obsessed with hating this girl, they created a whole twitter account for their hatred and post hate comments daily! The truth is female idols are supposed to appear as “innocent, without strong sexual urges” in Korea. Being too sensual or sexual is considered an area women aren’t allowed to trespass. If a woman is too sexual or confident about her sexuality, they are degraded in Korea. Men can sometimes get away with dirty jokes in media or music and can even get away with provocative names. Women can hardly skate by sexy concepts.

“Skinship” is a term flipped around in Kpop. This means that the two people involved seem really close or “intimate”. For Koreans, a little hug between a man and woman or two of them taking selfies or even wearing matching clothes could be considered skinship! Little signs of skinship will make Koreans question whether the two are dating. Because open displays of affections aren’t common, it’s hard to tell who is dating. Knetz will find some evidence and piece it together.

Kpop journalists are more respectful than western journalists, so they don’t often get into too many details about an idol’s private life. But Korean fans are pretty good, and often better than journalists, at being the paparazzi.

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16) Humility, Duty, And Hard Work Are Prized By Koreans


Ashyne, the poster I mentioned earlier from a Reddit discussion, makes a really interesting point about Kpop idols:

The idol is about being a role model in image, character, etiquette and personality, and that is strictly enforced. In America, people don’t care about these, because these traits about being ‘role-model material’ are not important in their individualistic culture.

Koreans hold themselves to a high moral code, as I’ve mentioned several times. The west honors freedom, liberty, and justice as a principle. We believe that people should be respected as human beings and should be treated equally (regardless of our personal opinions). So when we hear about our favorite Kpop idols suing their labels or leaving their groups, we are very supportive, even still considering those idols a part of the group (just going in a different direction at the moment). After all, in the west, groups break up all the time and come back together for reunions, like the Spice Girls.

But in Korea, when members leave or sue their label, as I mentioned before, that is utter betrayal and abandonment. Koreans have a “duty” culture. When you sign up for something in Korea, they expect you to completely serve out all contracts and do what you signed up to do, regardless of how challenging or abusive the circumstances. For them, why get involved in something you can’t handle? They don’t believe in fickleness and “changing one’s mind.” There is often too much money wasted, too much time spent, and too much involved. When kpop idols take a “break” during promotions, many Koreans feel that idol is being “lazy” and see this as betrayal, regardless of the reason. In fact, in most Korean businesses, “vacation time” isn’t included in the deal.

Many Korean fans expect idols to perform in all situations, as they promised in these binding contracts. This surprised me, a westerner, considering our celebrities take vacations all the time, even halting promotions! Westerners especially don’t mind halted promotions for legitimate reasons like being sick, tired, or stressed by scandals and bad rumors. For Koreans, they may talk bad about Kpop idols, but they’ll talk more trash about an idol who halts promotions because of it. They believe idols should learn to be strong and endure.

There is a strong bully culture worldwide thanks to the internet, but in Korea there are few programs or supporters helping those who don’t fit the “norm”. In fact, the victim of the maliciousness is usually “blamed”. I agree that some people in America should be held as accountable as those in Korea are, but there’s a reason why Korea has a high suicide rate. The pressure to live up to such high standards takes a toll on citizens who don’t fit the “norm”.

This sense of duty extends to military service, too. Though fans love their male idols, they all still expect the males to serve their country. Any idols who avoid military service or take their duty lightly will be scorned by Koreans and will lose the respect of their fans. In the west, we abolished the “draft”. In Korea, it still exists for men in their late 20s to early 30s. Some idols try to skate around it or postpone it but this causes controversy and can result in severe consequences. Korean fans find “draft-dodging” to be a sign of weakness. These people are treated as traitors. Unlike westerners, especially those from the USA, Koreans don’t usually question their laws or leaders (though they seemed to recently have been effective in impeaching their last president) nor do they question the military service draft. It is an insult to all those who have already served their time and can shame a person’s whole family. They believe this is for the good of their country. They are really trying to protect their borders because they are technically still in a 60 year -long war with North Korea.  This is no game for them. Even the children feel this service is important and prepare for the day they must serve. It is a sign of manhood. My next section will talk more about this.

Duty is intertwined with hard work. Again, there are very few businesses that offer “vacation days” like in western countries. Some Japanese and Chinese fans may relate more to this than western fans. Idols work their butts off to give their audience the best they can with hardly any sleep. This is why their performances are so sharp and on point! Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see tired eyes from these idols. Makeup and skin cream does wonders to hide those bags though.

Idols train early, as I mentioned before, and the training can be rigorous. Kpop consists of so much. There’s vocal, dancing, fashion, performing, and fan meeting involved. Kpop artists work and are expected to work extremely hard. They sometimes work around the clock, only getting four hours of sleep a day during promotions!

Koreans also encourage humility in their idols. This goes along with duty as well. When someone acts out to get attention or makes themselves out to be more than they are, that irritates most Korean fans. This is partially why Korean fans dislike international fans. Some international fans can be really loud, boastful, and know-it-alls (though you can find these types anywhere, it’s more common in the USA). Koreans believe in being submissive and following rules, especially rules that will protect others. Of course, even they have their limits. Still, they are not likely to encourage their idols to speak up and out. This is part of the reason so many idols don’t speak on behalf of themselves and let their labels speak for them.

Korean fans worship their idols, true, but they also expect idols to show a deep level of appreciation and gratefulness. After all, Korean fans put out a lot to support their favorite idols. In every culture where a “deep bow” is involved, respect and humility is valued over pomposity.

Their “bowing”culture shows how strongly they feel about humility. Though idols are famous, they find it highly offensive if Korean idols forget to bow to their fans after winning awards. They even get offended if idols forget to bow towards other idols at award shows. It is a sign of humility and respect. Bowing to Koreans is equivalent to the “handshake” in the west.

In some ways, people in the USA are not too different. We do like humility, but natural humility. However, we tend to like artists who are down-to-earth and honest, even if they aren’t the most honorable or humble. If someone is naturally humble, that’s great to Americans. But our culture looks down on anything that seems “fake”, even fake humility. Americans have a motto: Be Yourself. Being loud and obnoxious is just as irritating to Americans, but, admittedly, it’s also highly entertaining for us as well, especially if you are just “being yourself”. XD

Still, we also like Kpop because the artists are so respectful and humble. Very seldom do Kpop idols show that fame is getting to their heads (even if the reality is different).

Earlier I mentioned that this “humble” culture has a lot of respect for the “age hierarchy”. Age is very important in Korea. It decides the kind of “respect” that is given. The oldest is always respected by the younger ones. It’s common for the older ones to eat first at every meal (unlike in America, where the children and elderly eat first). But the older ones have to pay the bill (no matter if the others have jobs and are adults, different from America where the bill is split or paid by whoever offered or paid by the man or paid by the one who proposed the date). The older ones are expected to “take care” of the younger ones (even if the youngest is in his 50s!) It’s common for Koreans to ask your age (whereas it’s rude in America to ask age). It’s just important because it decides the level of “respect” someone should give. The young Koreans are expected to be humble and respectful around the older Koreans.

Kpop debut years are treated like “age” sometimes. Whoever debuts first is considered a “senior”, even if they are younger than all the “juniors”. You can imagine how awkward this makes things if the “senior” is younger than the “junior”. Kpop singer BoA is younger than many members of Kpop group Super Junior, but she is still their “senior” because she debuted sooner.

In Kpop, you might hear “Oppa” or “Unni” being used by the younger idols towards older idols. “Dongsang” may be used by older idols or used by idols that have been under a label longer (They usually tend to be older).

Despite how harsh or difficult everything above may sound, on the flip side, this is actually one of the reasons people have fallen in love with the genre. These idols work their behinds off producing high-quality work so that they can look like royalty, but they still always try to show respect to their followers and always emphasize how grateful they are for their fans, like a humble servant. That balance is hard to achieve for many celebrities around the world.

The humility shown in Kpop and in Korea is definitely one of the most attractive points of the nation.

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17) Male Idols Must Serve In The Military


Korea has a law that requires all natural-born Korean men between the ages of 18 and 35 to serve in the military or choose compulsory national service. All men can choose when to serve but they must serve. Kpop idols usually choose to serve in their late 20s and early 30s when their popularity has either been established well enough or when their popularity has dwindled due to “age” (XD Let’s face it, the industry’s demographic is Korea’s youth).

There are exemptions:

Certain medical conditions, depending on the severity, either exempts one from service or allows civil service instead. This includes those who have donated organs. Graduates from special high schools may work at selected workplaces for 3 years instead. Those with a master’s degree in engineering may work at research institutes or pass a test and do a PhD for 3 years instead. Those who have been imprisoned for more than 18 months or are in poverty (defined as monthly income lower than 1.5 million won and being the sole provider of income for at least 3 family members, of which at least 2 must be disabled or have an incurable disease) are also exempt.

Current conscription laws stipulate that athletes who win medals in the Olympic Games or gold medals in the Asian Games are granted exemptions but still required to do four weeks of basic training. In 2011, the Military Manpower Administration proposed amendments to the exemptions: to include men who have not completed middle school, and to change to a points-based system on a prescribed scale for athletes who win in prestigious competitions.

Sometimes, anyone who tries to get exempt is watched or monitored closely, even if they have a good reason. People do speculate and try to investigate these situations.

Men of mixed races were only recently drafted into service in 2011.

Anyone who is on a visa, visiting, or not a natural-born citizen may be exempt from military service. Anyone who has dual citizenship can be exempt if they fall under the following:

1)They reside in the country they were born in with parents who are permanent citizens.

2) They have resided in another country with their parents since the age of 17.

3) They have resided in another country for ten consecutive years and their parents do not reside in the Republic of Korea.

The government of the Republic of Korea will recognize a male’s dual citizenship until they reach the age of 22, at which time the law requires them to choose a nationality. If a male claims dual citizenship and he is not registered on his citizen parents’ Family Registry, he will not be subject to military service. If he is included on his parents’ Family Registry, he can avoid military service if he formally renounces his South Korean citizenship before March 31 of the year he turns 18. He must register the loss of his nationality through the nearest Republic of Korea Consulate General in the country he resides in.

Trip Advisor-Can Korean Americans Be Drafted?

All men are usually expected to serve about two to three years.

This mandatory service affects Kpop in many ways. It’s one of the reasons Kpop idols debut so early in their lives, why Kpop boy groups are super popular at debut, why many Kpop idols lose popularity, and why many labels are reaching out for talented foreigners.

How is the military law responsible for Kpop idols debuting so soon? Well, labels know that teenage girls are the target for Kpop and that girls like young boys. But they also know they possibly only have male idols for only a few years until they have to serve. The labels figure they can train the idols while they’re really young, work them hard enough to make a profit, and then possibly be able to move on to the next recruit of boys by the time the old group has to serve.

This is also why so many boy groups are popular. Labels exploit their boy groups as much as they can so they can make a profit off of these boy groups before they have to serve in the military. In the beginning phases of the Kpop phenomenon, labels would promote the boys way more than they did the girls because they knew the girls would be around longer. Over the years, this has created an industry that is mostly dominated by boy groups (the most notable rather than in literal number) and an industry dominated by a female fandom.

As I mentioned before, Kpop idols are usually away from the spotlight 2 to 3 years of their service. This gives other boy groups just enough time to replace the older groups on the charts. Sadly, for many Kpop groups, military service ends their Kpop career. It’s sad, really. The industry moves fast and songs get replaced on the charts week after week. Any time away from the spotlight can seriously bring a powerful group back to the point when they were rookies. You’d think that serving the military would make them MORE popular, because the group served their country honorably and helped protect the people within. Apparently, the youth could care less. Most move on to the latest and youngest eye-candy debuting.

Since many fans are international, I suppose they don’t really understand this military service or honor it as much. Really, these men should be honored more than any of the other groups. They had the courage to sacrifice their careers to protect others.

There are some groups that have done military service and have come out with significant fame, depending on their strategy to get back in the spotlight. Shinhwa and Super Junior manage to stay pretty relevant. But since most supporters of Kpop don’t just like music for music’s sake, and most of the demographic consist of teen girls who want to see “attractive” and “younger teen” boys (sorry gentlemen 😦 ), it’s still even hard for these groups to stay relevant. Perhaps the new 2030 crowd could give them a boost…

Honestly, most labels lose a lot investing in acts that won’t last. And this is why they have been searching for talent from around the globe. Foreigners are exempt from military service. They can speak multiple languages and attract a foreign following. This brings more money to the label with more lasting results.

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18) Boy Groups Are More Popular Than Girl Groups


As I mentioned before, because many males have to serve in the military at young ages, Kpop labels exploit the boys much more than the girls. When we look at the overall Youtube view count, the boys are always higher than the girls. When we observe the Korean charts at the time a boy group debuts in comparison to when a girl group debuts, we can see the stark contrast. Labels obviously promote the boys much more and the majority of Kpop fans are GIRLS. This is not just a stereotype. This is fact.

Since Kpop boys are trained to fit the “fantasies” of their viewers, mostly teen girls, they will obviously be more popular than Kpop girl groups, who could spark both admiration and jealousy.

Even Kpop fanboys, even as the minority, like the male groups better.  Many boys think the female idols are cute and attractive, especially many soldiers the girls perform for, but some find the girls to be too “cutesy” or not as “powerful” onstage as the boys.

Part of it is the labels’ fault for being too lax with the girl groups and part of it has to do with Korean society and their expectations of women.

Boy groups are given more powerful choreography, more powerful songs, and more interesting concepts than females. If we look at groups like EXO, Got7, Infinite, BTS, Super Junior, and many others, we will see this is the truth. In comparison, the female choreographies and concepts are weaker and more repetitive as well as less original. Of course people are going to pay attention more to the boys! Even on live stages, the boys just shine! The girls are settled with girly, fun, cute or sexy concepts, recycled dance moves, and innocent faces most of the time. I’ve found a few groups to be the exception, like 2ne1 and f(x). I even think Brown Eyed Girls steps away from the norm. But very few are like these groups.

I think I already explained that labels want to get the most out of their boy groups before they have to serve in the military. The money from the large female fandom keeps them focusing on male groups, too.

KpopStarz stated,

Girl groups tend to have more scandals and catty behavior that leads to groups breaking up. While some 1990’s idol groups have reunited formally, the most popular girl groups of the day like Fin.K.L and S.E.S have only reunited for short events…

In comparison [to boy groups], girl groups struggle to maintain proper fan bases. Female fans may be loyal, but will generally also have a favorite boy band, leading to split attention, while male fans tend to be less loyal and switch between groups based on their concepts…

There is also more of a saturation of girl groups with similar concepts, making it harder for fans to distinguish between newer groups. Girl groups from smaller companies have to gain attention in unique ways, such as Crayon Pop’s ridiculous “Bar Bar Bar” concept, but then struggle to maintain their identity.

Female idol groups also often lose much of their appeal as they get older, since most idol groups focus on sexy and cute concepts and the majority of fans don’t really want to see mothers dancing in high heels and sexy outfits.

Kpopstarz interestingly mentions that girl groups have more scandals. But I think the difference also has to do with what is considered a “scandal” between boys and girls. The Korean public is harder on women and expect them to live up to higher standards than the boy groups. Men like “Choiza” can get away with a sexual name in Kpop, while any female with a similar name will be looked at poorly. While both male and female idols get scarred for dating, considering most males have a larger fan base, the fans will attack the female for “stealing” the male idol rather than attack them both.

I believe the “catty” behavior among the members is a result of the lack of popularity in comparison to boy groups, the favoritism shown by fans of the group, and arguments with the label to be seen as multi-talented and multifaceted. Female idols probably often feel disadvantaged, especially when one female idol is more popular for being a “visual” while the others struggle to let their individual talents shine.

David Volodzko from PRI shows that female idols’ behavior on stage, in variety shows, during music shows, and the concepts produced are heavily monitored and controlled. There are serious double standards between the idols. He mentions some interesting points:

For instance, when the hugely popular group Girls’ Generation (SNSD) batted their eyes at a boy band during a television variety show in 2008, this prompted fans to publicly humiliate them at that year’s annual Dream Concert, where audience members typically show performers their support by creating oceans of light with glow sticks. When SNSD took to the stage, the audience greeted them with dead silence and pitch darkness for the duration of their set….

Or take the case of former f(x) member Sulli. When Kim Hee-chul, member of the boy band Super Junior, claimed he was the most handsome member of his band, fans found it amusing. Yet when they discovered Sulli had written in her diary, as a 9-year-old child, “I think I’m pretty but I don’t get why other people think so too,” many people virulently attacked her. Then, when Sulli acknowledged she was dating the rapper Choiza in 2014, her career took a nosedive and she later left f(x). Meanwhile Choiza, whose stage name means “big dick,” not only survived the scandal, he cracked jokes about it on SNL Korea.

“Most K-pop videos portray women as sex objects and that includes all the female K-pop singers and groups, too,” says Kevin Cawley, professor of East Asian studies at University College Cork in Ireland. Many have cosmetic surgery and dance provocatively, but are “still expected to adhere to outdated Confucian norms about sexual conduct in their private lives while men can do as they please.”

Nevertheless, slut-shaming remains a societal mainstay, as does the infantilization of female pop idols. Just last year, IU released the song “Twenty-three,” in which she sings about the pressure put upon female stars to appear child-like, despite the fact that she herself is becoming a mature woman. But, because she dresses like a child in the video, rather than spark a national dialogue about the pedophiliac overtones of dressing grown women like schoolgirls, instead she was accused of using pedophiliac imagery to sell records.

Whether or not you agree with these statements, it still makes us think about the issue a little more. Many times we do have to go to the root of issues instead of ignoring them.

You can still like Kpop as a sound, but not every aspect will cater to everyone’s needs.

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 19) K-pop Is Not Extremely Diverse

Above I mentioned that there were some foreigners who have been accepted into Kpop. It’s true that Koreans have accepted newcomers into the industry. But keep in mind that most of the people accepted into the groups have been of Asian descent, currently classified as “heterosexual”, fitting gender “norms”, and fitting typical “beauty” standards (which I’ll have to dedicate a whole different section to). Though most are Asian, some of the Asians that aren’t “Korean” may be treated like second-class citizens. Korea is a modernized nation and slowly opening up to new ideas, but some people in Korea are still rather conservative, especially the older generation.

Though Kpop has welcomed a vast number of Chinese artists into the nation, it’s clear that the Koreans favor the Korean native idols more. If we observe the Chinese and Korean music videos of the major Kpop group EXO, we can see there is a difference in the promotion of the two videos by the “view count”. Because it is Kpop (Korean pop music), some Chinese members may feel treated “second best” because their natural language is Chinese. The Chinese language is not spoken by most Koreans, so it’s understandable. Still, it’s hard for many Chinese to fit in. Most end up doing promotions in China. There are hardly any Chinese idols cast in Korean dramas or on promotional ads for Korean products.

There are still some things Koreans aren’t used to and there are still some things that haven’t been accepted in society yet.

As far as different ethnic groups or races, that’s mostly something Koreans are still not used to. Obviously, the country is homogeneous (meaning the majority of citizens “look” Korean). When foreigners of different backgrounds come into the nation, especially the ones of African descent, they really stand out as “foreign” (even though there are Far east Asians who are also from foreign nations, they just fit in better because they “look” Korean). Western and Middle Eastern Asians and some Southeast Asians also stand out.

With idols like Insooni (a woman who debuted in Korea in the 1970s, a real hard time for African Americans in the country), Tasha, Alexandra, and many others, Koreans are able to better understand black people. But it’s still hard for black people to “fit in”. When Koreans get used to them, most of them will treat these idols like everyone else. But at first, it will feel a bit jarring and different. Koreans may be a little shocked, but most are also curious because they just aren’t used to diverse groups of people.

Not to say there are no black people in Korea. Black people are just among the minority groups living there. Koreans still don’t see black people often and don’t know how to approach them or take them.

Of course, there are those who really are racist and have very narrow perceptions about black people (like in every country). Some Koreans get their knowledge about black people from hip-hop and rap music videos. Koreans, particularly the elders, associate those genres with “bad” or “loose” behavior, particularly when it comes to violence and sex. Though rap and hip-hop has influenced much of Kpop today, most of it is watered down. The actual pure genre is ignored or even shunned. And even though they’ve accepted the genre as a part of “black culture”, many of them don’t really honor black rap and hip-hop artists within the nation. A rapper like CL from 2ne1 will get more attention than a rapper like Tasha Yoon Mi Rae. Part of the reason is because CL is of Korean descent and tried it, which inspires other Koreans to embrace hip-hop culture. They see CL as a representation of themselves. When looking at a black person perform the genre, it feels more “exclusive” to only blacks and many Koreans feel “rejected” from the genre. Not to say they won’t like it, but Knetizens like to feel “inspired to imitate” when they see idols perform. It’s hard for them to gravitate to something they don’t feel “included” in. Again, music is secondary; the way something “looks” or is “presented” usually comes first.

There are a few Koreans that get their idea of black people from American news articles online, which often misrepresent black people. They may not understand that all black people are various and diverse. This is partially because in their own nation everyone conforms. So for them, if they see one black person doing one thing, some will generalize all of them. Of course, there are ignorant people in every nation. Generally, most Koreans are respectful. Overall, again, the culture puts emphasis on respecting others and trying to remain humble. They also respect humility and hard work in others. Black people can prove to Koreans that they are WORTHY of respect by being respectful and humble when meeting other Koreans. The first impression matters, too.

Still, some Koreans may be a little distant or shun foreigners. Some can be angry at foreigners and talk racist trash. Of course, this is most common among the older conservative generation or the younger immature generation.

Many black women in Korea struggle to be seen as “equal” to Korean women. It has a lot to do with Korea’s standards for beauty. Many of their “ideals” greatly conflict with black people’s natural-born features. And I’ll mention later how much emphasis Koreans put on looks…

Still, as hard as it is for the women to fit in, do you see any black men in Kpop? I don’t think so. I think the black men have it harder to be seen as “normal” solid citizens who are respectful and talented as opposed to “thuggish gangsters”.

For many mixed artists, it’s even harder to fit in. They may feel both rejected by the black community for not being “black enough” and may equally be rejected by Koreans for being “black by skin”.

While there are hardly any black entertainers, there are even less entertainers of European descent. Asians can be just as unfriendly towards whites. Though many Asians admire their pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, though many try to adapt these looks, though some may want to have affairs with them, many Koreans don’t really trust white people much for the same reasons they don’t trust black people. They have very little experience with white people, only knowing them from movies and the news (or history books). Many Koreans also find white people to be “too loose”. Their idea of “white” is always associated with being “American”. They don’t often readily think the white people that come into their land are from the U.K., France, Germany, or any other place. They see them all the same. So, if Miley Cyrus twerks in America, that’s a representation of all white people. Some white people have experienced the same kind of racial attacks black people have received in the nation.

Despite the prejudices, blacks and whites are useful to Koreans. They can teach Koreans English.

Most have never come into contact with those from Central and South America, Latinas, and/or Hispanics. The Americans from those ethnic groups are not considered “American”  because most are bilingual. How they are treated depends on their skin color.

Most Koreans don’t even know what “Native American” or “indigenous” means. Some even think native “Americans” are white. Still, true “indigenous” people more closely resemble Koreans in comparison to white and black people. If they were to meet them more often, they would find more similarities than differences.

If you’re from areas in Southeast Asia, like India or Indonesia, some Koreans may not know how to respond to people from these nations. Some Koreans associate Southern Asians with “third-world” countries or see their nations as “developing” and not as advanced as Korea is. Southeast Asians that have moved into Korea sometimes work in factories and other laborious jobs. Some Koreans don’t see these jobs in a favorable light. And there is a strong social hierarchy in Korea. Ignorant Americans can treat different ethnic groups much the same way, such as associating laundromats with the Chinese or affiliating “lawn care” with Mexicans.

Three teachers, one of Indian descent, Scandinavian American, and half Filipino American, have shared their experiences on Youtube.

“Foreigners” or people of different backgrounds are never considered Korean. It doesn’t matter if the person was born and raised in Korea, or lived there for twenty years, or married a Korean and had Korean children. The word for “foreigner” in the Korean language isn’t specified by citizenship (unlike many western countries). The word separates “genetics”. So anyone who is not genetically Korean is NOT Korean, even if that person is a “legal” citizen. This makes many foreigners feel misplaced or outcasted. On the other hand, this makes some foreigners feel unique or special. It all depends on your attitude and whether your experience with being “foreign” in Korea has been negative or positive.

Again, there is prejudice everywhere in the world. Generally, Koreans are gracious, but you won’t hardly see these races or any other ethnic groups in Kpop.

Why not? Several reasons:

  1. Some Koreans want to keep the “face” of Korea purely Asian. It makes Kpop stand out from all of the genres around the world.
  2. Some Koreans are afraid of other races dominating the media, making Korean children, who are impressionable, “hate their appearances”.
  3. Some Koreans feel that “westerners” don’t respect Asian entertainers in their own countries (because they assume all blacks and whites come from the west) and may want to return the favor by barring other ethnic groups from Kpop.
  4. Korean teenagers, who endorse kpop the most, don’t relate to individuals who don’t look like they do. Most of the teens look Korean.

Labels, of course, are trying to sell a “product” to the Korean public. They always consider how their idols will appear to the nation. This, unfortunately, bars most other ethnic groups from the genre.

There are other groups that are barred from the genre. Korea is not very open to the LGBT community just yet. They do have a Gay Pride festival, which is a step forward. This clearly means there are some openly gay and bi-sexual Koreans. However, celebrities who come out gay often face public shame. Even at the festivals, some people protest against it.

Some idols who have dared to come out have lost their friends, their jobs, and get bullied by society. Many commit suicide, adding to Korea’s high suicide rate.

Much of the older generations look at homosexuality like a disease and blame foreigners for bringing it into the nation. This is also why many Koreans are distrustful of foreigners. They often don’t recognize that there were ever people within the nation who concealed their feelings long before foreign influences.

But this is common in all countries. The elderly just have a hard time adjusting to the changing times.

Still, some younger fans don’t relate to homosexual imagery outside of looking at “girl on girl” kissing as erotic or a sexual fetish for heterosexuals. And that is considered too “suggestive” for children. Gay men have it even harder than the females because it’s not even looked at as erotic.  Some Knetizens may have a crush on a “boyish” girl based on her appearance (because she seems like their favorite male idols), but may not openly express dating that girl in real life.

This trickles all the way down to “gender norms”. It is very rare to find tomboys in Kpop. Again, most labels design their female idols to appeal to traditional men. Some girls wear baggy pants, sneakers, ponytails, and, occasionally, an androgynous suit and tie if it fits a particular concept. But labels try to promote their female artists as cute and traditionally “feminine”. Social-gender stereotyping is common because Koreans believe in conformity. If one person doesn’t conform in one way, they are considered “odd” or “outside of their gender”.

F(x)’s Amber Liu, has been able to overcome the limitations placed on female idols, despite the pressure from others to conform. But not too many tomboys like her are lucky enough to get a spot in a Kpop group. They really have to work harder to prove themselves.

The men have been able to get away with more feminine looks, like Jo Kwon in “Animal” or Taemin in “Danger”, but it’s clear that the more “masculine” groups are bigger in Korea.

On the other hand, despite the fact that it’s hard to actually come out as gay, blending in as a gay person under the radar would not be too difficult. Many of the things heterosexual Korean men and women do with the same sex are often confused for being “gay” to most westerners. For example, it’s perfectly normal for two men to hold hands, stroke one another, or wear makeup in Korea, no matter their sexuality. In the west, those behaviors are stereotyped with being “gay”. To Koreans, these things don’t really indicate anything intimate.

No one openly shows affection in public, such as hugging and kissing, not even heterosexual couples, so anyone would get weird stares for doing that. But as long as gay people fit into the culture, no would ever assume their sexuality unless it was actually brought out in the open. Being “gay” is never a usual topic in Korea. The younger generation is more tolerant than the older generation. Still, if a gay person were to come out, it would be hard for them to maintain employment.

Being Tansgender is still a foreign concept in Korea, which is surprising considering so many people consider plastic surgery there. If there are any Transgender people, most probably try to blend in. Others that don’t pass may get bullied and their gender identity is hardly respected or understood. Western countries are just now getting educated on transgenderism. Koreans have barely accepted the gay community or even mixed marriages!

Kpop is also not extremely diverse when it comes to body shapes and sizes.

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20) Looks Are Just As Important As Talent


Considering that Korea is a homogeneous place, everyone tries to keep up with the latest fashion and beauty tips that apply mostly to traditional Korean appearances. In the western part of the globe and many other nations in the southern part, people come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t much pressure to look just “one way” like there is in Korea.

Guess who is number 1 in the world when it comes to plastic surgery? Korea! If that doesn’t show you how much they care about their appearances, I don’t know what does.

Some of the beauty standards that exist go way back in Korea’s history! The standards for beauty are

  1. Pale Skin
  2. Petite body
  3. Small features (facial, hands, feet, etc)
  4. Double eyelids and big eyes
  5. Pearly, white, straight teeth

These standards exist for both men and women.

Koreans also put emphasis on what is worn. They put emphasis on name-brands and trends. I think Fashion King (the 2014 film) describes the pressure to be beautiful and trendy in Korea’s fashion culture more than anything (though the movie exaggerates it).

I want to first dive into skin. Most Koreans have a lighter complexion. But there are some who have tans. Unfortunately, the ideal is to have pale-looking skin because that is considered most “naturally Korean”. This is what I meant earlier when I said Korea’s beauty standards clash with black people’s natural features.

This is not to say that Koreans think darker skinned people are butt ugly or unattractive, but if they could choose the ideal, for some, that person would be pale. Some do prefer their own “kind”.

For them, wanting lighter skin is no different than people wanting a tan in the USA (to have a darker complexion). Having a tan in America is linked to “prestige” because Hollywood resides in a warmer climate and many celebrities live in California, the home of Hollywood. Living off of the beach is also a sign of prestige in America (because of the weather and view, prices are higher). “Tans” are a reflection of living in a warmer climate with all the rich and famous people.

Well, in Korea, having lighter skin is linked to prestige as well. It means the individuals don’t have to spend a lot of time outside “tending the fields” like a poor farmer.

Unfortunately, this makes it hard for those of a darker skin tone to feel or be seen as “beautiful”.

Koreans spend a lot on whitening cream. These creams do several things for their skin besides make it whiter. For starters, because most of them are already pretty pale, it whitens out any uneven skin tones due to blemishes, freckles, aging, or tans. It’s important for Koreans to look “untouched” or “without imperfections”. Second, it makes their skin “glow”, like putting on a lot of oil. To most westerners, it’s disgusting. Americans are starting to promote natural beauty. Some of us don’t even like the “fake tan” culture we support in America. But in Korea, looks are everything. In Korea, it’s not uncommon for people to point out imperfections when they get comfortable with you. Many Koreans take pride in their appearance.

You might see many Kpop idols promoting skin-whitening creams in advertisements and on commercials. For many Koreans, it’s a part of having healthy skin.

This doesn’t mean that every Korean approves of skin-whitening. Some Koreans feel western standards have “white-washed” citizens into wanting to have a more European look (pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes). Some Koreans prefer people to be natural.

But most associate beauty with glowing, white skin. 

Koreans also spend money on makeup. They mostly try to wear makeup that “whitens” them rather than makeup that gives color (unlike in the west). They let it even out with the whitening cream to give them a “naturally flawless” look. Even the men in Korea spend money on makeup, which is considered unusual in the west. In Korea, it is common for men to be just as interested in their appearances as women. After all, for many in Korea, being attractive is the key to success.

Now focusing on body standards…

A petite body is associated with “good health”. Even having a big butt or big chest could be associated with being “fat”. Some Koreans don’t even like chubby faces or arms, even if the rest of the body is slender. The bottom-line is skinny is pretty and healthy to them. Weight is associated with poor health and is not very attractive to most Koreans. Most of the world is like this, but Koreans are a little more extreme at times. There are hardly any thick people anyway in Korea because of the diet. This is partially why the “ideal” is the way it is.

Music labels use their idols to promote Korea’s “beauty standards”. So, you will hardly see any thicker idols, though there are a few.

Fat-shaming is common in Korea. If Kpop idols even gain a little weight, it will cause an uproar.

Of course, there are Koreans who like thicker women. (Reality vs Idol Life).

Small features are also considered really attractive. Idols that usually end up at the top of most of Korea’s “beauty” lists normally have small lips, small noses, small heads, small hands, and small feet! This also has to do with most Asian women just looking petite. The majority travels down to the standard. But the idols who don’t have the “smallest” features rely on plastic surgery to give them the ideal look.

The double eyelid surgery is the biggest in Korea. Most of the far north-east Asians are born with a monolid. Some Koreans say it makes them look tired all the time. Foreign films and music stars have also influenced them. Many Kpop idols want to have wider eyes to have a “neutral” look about them. They also feel wider eyes make them look cuter, like an anime character or something. It gives more of an innocent look in their standard.

Plastic surgery isn’t just a way to get “beautiful” to Koreans. It’s also a sign of prestige. Plastic surgery can be expensive, so mostly those with enough money invest in it. Still, thousands of people try to pour their money into it.

Having straight, white teeth is a sign of prestige, too. Braces are expensive. I think most of the world is on board with this standard!

So you might wonder why labels and idols go to some extremes to look attractive. Isn’t being natural enough? Many idols are naturally attractive without the additional enhancements.

But the truth of the matter, and I won’t mince words, Kpop sells on attractive figures. Beauty is just as important, if not MORE important, than talent. Labels try to find attractive people or those with a unique look that can ALSO sing and/or dance. Often times, the beauty part is more profitable than the talent.

Take Kpop group f(x) for example. Luna is one of the most talented members of that group. But the most popular member is Krystal. Krystal is talented too, but not like Luna. So why is Krystal more popular? Because Krystal is “prettier” (according to Korea’s beauty standards).

Often times groups will have someone in the group just to be a “visual” (meaning someone to bop around onstage and look attractive). These individuals may have mediocre talents at best, but they “look the part”. Labels usually train all idols to polish up their dancing and singing. Still, it’s clear that the industry can be a little biased towards the more attractive idols. In boy groups, it’s common for ALL the boys to be a visual. The song could be the trend, nothing unique, but if the group is full of attractive people, they will stand out.

The idol world is competitive. Korea’s society is competitive. Because most of them are super smart and work really hard, everyone has qualities that are deemed worthy for just about any job or career. But it’s just not possible to hire everyone for every job. Some Koreans have to find a certain”edge”. Some Koreans use their “attractive” qualities as that “edge”.

In Kpop, I suppose anyone could be talented or work really hard to develop “talents”. But having the right appearance does something to the hearts of the main demographic: the teenagers and young adults. Most Kpop songs don’t really require good vocalists. Many are catchy enough to grab attention. But they do require at least ONE idol who fits the “standard” of beauty.

The main demographic consists of young females, so there’s plenty of pressure for males to be attractive. However, males can also get away with singing well and performing killer choreography (the males’ choreographers tend to give them more powerful dances and the males are able to take more risks).

The women are usually given very simple choreo in comparison. For women, their biggest selling point is their appearance. Since Kpop is dominated by a female audience, some Kpop fans may be jealous or hate on female Kpop idols (because these girls not only look attractive but are so close to the male Kpop idols). Yet, kpop fans in Korea may better warm up to female Kpop idols if they are “attractive”.

The idols that don’t fit the “attractive” mold often get bashed for not taking care of their appearance. And the fans don’t feel guilty about bashing others. They simply believe it is the “fault” of the “target”. It’s really common for Koreans to be blunt about another person’s appearance. In America, we find this to be rude and inconsiderate. For many Koreans, this is considered helping someone else improve. They don’t find getting plastic surgery or putting creams on the face a sign of “self-hating”. They simply see these as enhancers, like wearing makeup or styling the hair. Many Americans do like to enhance themselves, but we feel that it shouldn’t be mandatory. Americans embrace differences more and embrace naturalness. We also honor talent over appearance.

In Korea, everything matters to create the perfect idol.

Those who don’t fit with the standards may find it hard to fit in at first, but there are ways they can convince the public that their image is a positive one. Kpop idols like F(x)’s Amber Liu, Lee Hyori, and all of the members of 2ne1 have all been examples of that. One must be strong to be able to endure the Kpop industry, despite the pressure to fit one mold. Sometimes, people let the opinions of others get in their heads. Some people don’t have the confidence to go against the norm (especially when there are so many pressures outside of physical appearance). It takes a brave soul to take a stand against social pressures. There are four types in a competitive society: 1) The strong ones who just don’t care. 2) Those who feel they live up to social standards and can’t understand how others can’t thrive. 3) The ones who let others psyche them out, the sensitive souls who really care about the opinions of others. 4) The ones who try to be strong in public, but break down from the pressure in private. The pressure is so strong to live up to these high demands, some people commit suicide. And sadly, few have pity on these people. They are simply looked at as “weak”.

In the words of writer Ashley Perez, “In a culture where so many people strive to look the same way, any slight difference in appearance rapidly singles you out.”

However, despite the harsh pressures that go behind the scenes of the competitive Kpop industry, the appearances of the idols are still the most popular part of it. So many people support Kpop because of all of the attractive people involved. These Kpop idols work hard to be appealing and they sacrifice a lot of their natural beauty to appeal to their audience. They really can be like the humble servant.

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21) Standing Out Is Difficult In Kpop

cosmic girls

With the lack of diversity, labels constantly following the trends, and the competitive atmosphere, it becomes difficult for Kpop groups and their individual members to stand out. This can be a good thing at times. If all of the members have something special about them, it can bring a certain unity.

But when one member is favored more than the others, this is when there’s a problem.

No matter how much labels try to dress and promote their artists similarly, there will always be one that stands out. Eventually, labels will pay attention to the most popular members. Some Kpop idols have accused labels of “distributing money” unfairly according to “popularity”, as mentioned before.

When this happens, sometimes the “less” popular members may have a hard time standing out and being noticed, even if they are more talented. I think I mentioned this before too…

Kpop groups also tend to have way more members than most groups around the world (I think Japan’s AKB48 and Morning Musume are the only two that have way more members than even some of Korea’s groups). Most groups in the west have only up to five members (seven being the maximum). Kpop groups have had up to 13 members! With all of these members, sometimes it’s hard to find the individuality. It’s easier to get to know 5 members as opposed to 13. With so many idols, some members are treated as expendable. To most casual listeners of Kpop, any member can be taken out or replaced in these groups and it really wouldn’t matter.

The other problem with having large groups is that each member only gets a few moments to showcase whatever talents they have within each song. One idol could have amazing vocals but is only given one line to showcase those vocals, just to make room for the other idols. In bigger groups, some idols are left out of the verses entirely!

Some artists try solo projects to showcase their individual talents. Still, the solo projects’ successes depend on the idol’s individual fandom, which they should have gained when they were in their groups. If the person doesn’t have particular “charms” or isn’t attractive, even the solo projects will be ignored. If their groups were super large, like 13 members, all fandoms were split 1/13!

Even Knetizens think the large group numbers are getting out of hand. Some feel that large groups are too difficult to manage. I guess there’s just so many talented people trying to get into the industry, many labels are finding it hard to choose! But this can make it difficult for everyone involved, so I see where the Netizens are going with this…

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22) Kpop Idols Are Traditional At The Core


With the pressure to be “pure” and beautiful, the pressure to conform to a homogeneous and heterosexual society, the pressure to work long hours, and the pressure to serve the country, international fans with a different culture might think that these kpop idols should be “saved” from what many westerners would call an “oppressive” system. We might feel that these idols need us to support them by removing them from these “threats”.

We would be both wrong and right. The idols do need us. One of the reasons labels are trying to make kpop appealing to western audiences is because of the “free-minded” views of the west. This means the west will support idols regardless of scandals or hiatuses, as long as the music is good. This means more money for Kpop labels and more creative freedom for idols.

However, let’s not forget that some of these idols are KOREAN. Many of them have the same beliefs that all Koreans have. KOREA is the country they live in. They don’t see these things necessarily as oppressive. It’s just living. Many of the idols’ ethics are in line with Korean thinking, even if they don’t live up to their own moral standards.

International fans have to remember that many idols pressure themselves to be beautiful and look good just as much as society pressures them.

So don’t be surprised if they make prejudiced remarks or  rudely ridicule foreigners who are “fat”.

Idols are proud of the hard work they put in and are USED to working long hours. It wouldn’t be any different if they had a job outside of entertainment. Some Kpop idols’ values are the same as most Korean citizens’ values. For many Kpop idols, getting to know their international fans can be just as much of a culture shock as when we international fans learn about their culture.

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23) Kpop Doesn’t Always Reflect Everything In Korea


Whoever did this is hilar!!

From the many sections above, you can already guess that there are some things not visible to the casual kpop listener when watching music videos. Yet, some people may think that everything they see or hear regarding Kpop reflects ALL of Korea. Many international fans form distorted views of both the people and the culture from these filters.

In Kpop videos, we see attractive, skinny, and talented young men and women. They all seem sweet, friendly, and happy. They are presented as young, respectful, and humble. They seem fashionable and trendy. They seem pure and chaste.

But fans of Kpop should keep in mind that media around the world has a way of distorting the truth. Korea is no different. Kpop obsession can cause international fans to generalize a whole group of people. It can cause fans of the genre to suffer from disillusionment.

Foreigners should never tell Koreans, “I’m so interested in Korean culture. I love Kpop.” It’s great to love Kpop, but Kpop can produce unrealistic expectations.

Kpop is only one part of Korea’s vast and glorious history and culture. For some Koreans, it doesn’t even represent Korea (as many think it is over-saturated with westernized concepts). Some Koreans don’t like Kpop. There are many genres in Korea, just like there are many genres around the world. You may run into a Korean who likes Indie music or rock. You may run into Koreans who really don’t care about pop culture at all! Just like anywhere around the world.

After seeing so many attractive and happy faces on music videos and variety shows, many foreigners make it their life’s goal to move to Korea and find them a nice girlfriend/boyfriend that’s just as beautiful/handsome as the faces in the video. Some may say, “I think Asian men/women are hot. I love men like Taeyang/I love women like Taeyeon”…

You’re not going to find a Kpop idol out of an everyday human being. Being an idol is a profession. Being a human isn’t. Even idols don’t look the way they do in music videos all the time.

The reality is that Koreans actually come in all shapes and sizes. Though most are skinny, everyone isn’t skinny. Though there are many stylish clothing stores, everyone doesn’t have the same income to keep up with the stylish idols. Some Koreans don’t want to and may have their own unique style. Not all Korean men and women have the same talents that Kpop idols do. Not all Korean men and women are “perfect looking” like Kpop idols (who usually have enhancements, personal stylists, and extra money in their pockets). Not all are sweet and humble, not all are super friendly, not all are dorky and cute, not all of them are ALIKE. There may be pressures for Koreans to conform and be like one another, and there may be a lack of diversity in the media, but when we step outside of media, everyone is average.

It also depends on the city you visit. Of course if you visit the city of Seoul you will see more “jazzed up” individuals. It’s a city for business, culture, and entertainment. But other surrounding cities, especially Korea’s rural areas, are full of individuals who don’t fit what is on the music video.


Though many Koreans try to keep up with one another, some hate the pressures just as much as other people hate pressures in their own countries. No country is perfect.

Why some Koreans don’t want to live in their own country

Though idols are expected to be pure and chaste, many have affairs. Many drink and party. There are some who are irresponsible. There are some who are not. Though idols seem respectful, all are imperfect and will say bad things once in awhile. Some are traditional; some are not.

Idols are different from how they’re presented in music videos. They have to be nice to people in public. This doesn’t mean they will find every one of their fans to be marriage material and this doesn’t mean they will fit every fan’s desire in a REAL relationship. Sorry to break hearts; it’s the reality.

You might find Kpop idols on variety shows eating some of Korea’s famous foods. It doesn’t mean every Korean will like the same foods. Think you’re going to open up a conversation about Kimchi just because you tried Kimchi once and liked it? News Flash: Not every Korean likes Kimchi. My Korean exchange friend, born and raised in Korea, hates Kimchi. She thinks it stinks. XD You are entitled to choose what you want on Korea’s menus, but just know that there are tons of foods in Korea. There are even some restaurants that are familiar to westerners.

Even the negative things we hear regarding Korean Kpop fans aren’t all true. Not all Knetz are strict and hard-nosed. Not all bash idols for their actions. Some are sympathizers. Many Knetz are reasonable and respectful. Though Koreans do have their own culture and standards, there are some things they are against in their own nation. After all, if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t find any Kpop idols who have dated or went against the norm in some other way!

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24) Kpop Is Always Changing

Finally, I want you newcomers to be aware that Kpop has and always will change.

Western-style music began seeping into the Korean nation as early as 1885 when an American missionary introduced folk music to the nation. But after the Korean war in the 1950s, the war Americans assisted South Korea with, many western clubs and radio stations were set up. Records were introduced to the public. Popular genres from overseas began to influence Korea ever since then.

But the style of modern-day Kpop, the Kpop we know and love today, began in 1992 when a boy group Seo Taiji & Boys dropped their song “Nan Arayo” (난 알아요, I Know). The song and album incorporated the then-popular and modern genre of New Jack Swing which rose out of the African American and Afro-British community in the 1980s. Michael Jackson also helped popularize the genre overseas, though he didn’t originate the genre. With more technology, like radios and television, these styles from the Black community influenced the world.

The song “Nan Arayo” (난 알아요, I Know) wasn’t just catchy and modern, it was also meaningful. It focused on the problems facing Korean society. The song also stood out because, in the 1980s, mostly everyone was singing ballads.

Seo Taiji & Boys paved the way for modern Kpop, incorporating many western styles into their music.

Shortly after, in 1995, SM Entertainment was born, and the rest was history. They were one of the first labels to create an “idol” boy band, a band designed to appeal to a teen audience. The teens brought in most of the bacon to the industry, and they wanted to jump on that demographic.

Since then, Kpop has seen several generations:

1st generation: 1992-2000: Some of the biggest artists being Shinhwa, Baby V.O.X, Lee Junghyun, H.O.T., Fin. K. L, S.E.S., the infamous Seo Taiji & the Boys, and more,  this era marked the beginning and formation of modern Kpop. Hip-hop, rap, R&B, electronica, and New Jack Swing was a heavy incorporation into much of the music that came out of this era.

2nd generation: 2000-2009: Some of the biggest artists being Big Bang, TVXQ, U-KISS, SS501, SHINee, BoA, Rain, Se7en, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Wonder Girls, and more, this era was the beginning of the Hallyu Wave. BoA, a pop idol from SM Entertainment, was the first to bring the Hallyu Wave on a massive scale (though H.O.T. is rightfully the first Kpop group to perform internationally). Girls’ Generation also gained a huge international following during this time. The Hallyu Wave marked a time when Kpop went global. At this point, Kpop was starting to dominate much of the East Asian music market. Catchy bubblegum pop, Pop urban, pop-rock, and heavily synchronized dancing was incorporated into the style of Kpop at this time. Japan’s industry still dominated Far East Asia, so many fashion styles were adopted from Japan, giving Kpop idols a neutral appearance.

3rd generation: 2010-2013: Some of the biggest artists being PSY, 2NE1, f(x), Sistar, Girl’s Day, After School, miss A, G-Dragon, HyunA, SPICA, CROSS GENE, B.A.P, EXO, and more, this era marked the height of the Kpop phenomenon, and the highest point of the Hallyu Wave. Artists like Psy, EXO, and 2ne1 helped to bring Kpop to a massive global scale, even reaching the hard-to-break Western music market. This era showed the influence of the Digital Revolution, which saw the shift from emphasis on physical sales to digital sales. More people around the world had access to the internet, and social music and video websites, such as Youtube, began to gain traffic and bring attention to music from around the world. There weren’t as many restrictions on streaming or uploading as it was just becoming a popular thing. Western music had an even greater impact on the music than ever before. Electro-pop and dance music genres gained popularity and was incorporated into many Kpop songs. Kpop labels began actively searching for Kpop idols in countries outside of Korea to maintain global attention. Music shows gained more power and had an affect on a Kpop fans’ view of success. Kpop idols developed their own mark and fashion styles in the industry.

4th generation: 2013-now: Some of the biggest artists being MAMAMOO, EXID, G-Friend, Taemin, Taeyeon, Red Velvet, WINNER, Got7, BTS, Black Pink, Twice, and more, this was an era where the biggest stars of the Kpop height began to break apart. Many of them began solo careers. Newer, younger, and fresher artists were trained to replace many of the older artists so that labels could keep their hold on the Kpop global market and maintain their “soft power”. But these artists have more perks thanks to the generations that came before them. Contracts aren’t as harsh as they were, artists have more creative liberties, and those who “stan” a label and its older groups helped to bring the newbies along for the ride. This generation is marked by a more westernized and globalized sound incorporated into much of the music. There is more of a variety in sound and substance as well as fashion.

These are the “Kpop generations” as based on what’s been seen as a trend throughout the years (according to many people on several Kpop message boards), however it is often widely disputed and many people have different ideas of when certain eras began and ended and even on how to define these eras. Some say an era begins when one major group, particularly a boy group, breaks a world record in sales, topping the last biggest group. Some say an era begins when the style of music shifts from one sound to another. Some believe a new era begins with the decades (1990s, 2000s, and 2010s). However the eras begin and end, there is clearly one thing we know: Kpop changes.

As said before, I’ve been interested in the genre since 2003 and I’ve seen things change seemingly overnight. Some of my favorite Kpop stars, who were once thought of as “Kings” and “Queens”, have fallen behind a new generation time and time again.

At one time, BoA and Lee Hyori were the reigning queens of Kpop. I remember them dominating the charts and stage. I remember when DBSK (ahem…TVXQ they now call them) were just rookies. I remember when Super Junior was a rookie group! I remember when S.E.S. was the major female idol group next to Fin. K.L.

Now, TVXQ’s members are considered veterans. Lee Hyori has dropped out of the Kpop spotlight (only to come back here and there). S.E.S. and Fin K.L. have disbanded. Se7en and Rain have had to serve in the military. Super Junior is now at that age, too!

I’ve had to readjust my ears to many different Kpop styles over the years. When I first got into the Korean pop industry, hip-hop, R&B, pop urban, and even a bit of pop rock influenced much of the music in Kpop. There was a very urban scene back then, which was why I was attracted to Kpop. The girls had much more sass and didn’t force “cuteness” in every scene in their videos. Solo artists still had a hard time being recognized, but not as badly as these modern-day solo artists.

Over the years, almost too soon, I saw Kpop change into something different. The release of Girls’ Generation’s “Gee” brought a new energy to Kpop, one that I really didn’t like at first. It was very hard for me to adjust to the changes. I also saw electropop take over after Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby”. And kpop still keeps evolving and changing…

So don’t get upset if a new sound begins to take over Kpop. Don’t think “This no longer sounds like Kpop”. Just remember my words: Kpop always has and always will evolve and change. They’ve been following the global trends just like all the other countries. Do you really think they want to be left behind?

Kpop has received more attention for its distinct style, so maybe that will make the current trends last much longer. Still, as more and more people from around the world get interested in Kpop, their ideas will also begin to influence the trends in Korea, whether we want to accept this or not. Labels will be interested in appealing to their demographic and that demographic now includes foreigners of many backgrounds.

For you newcomers, learn from Korean culture: Remain humble. Though not all Koreans live by this principle, it’s still a valuable lesson to learn. Don’t think that your favorite groups are such “kings” and “queens” that no one is capable of stealing their thunder. It can happen and it will.

Admittedly, in the “technology” age we live in, it’s much harder for artists to be forgotten (internet helps you search for anything). This doesn’t mean the next best thing isn’t waiting behind the scenes, waiting to devour your favorite solo artist or group’s popularity. I learned this through all of my global musical experiences (I also listen to French, Turkish, Irish, and Tanzanian pop to name a few), but it seems to be a hard concept to many fans of Kpop. I guess with so many being young, they don’t really know any different because this new age of Kpop is all they’ve experienced.

I used to hear people often shout, “This group is good, but GG/2ne1 are the QUEENS. No group will ever top them!” This was when I was still into BoA. I had to hear others call my favorite Kpop star “washed-out” or “losing her edge”. I had to sit by as my favorite idol was no longer everyone’s favorite anymore. It was the same with S.E.S., The Grace, and many others. As my favorite idols’ popularity decreased, so did the comebacks.

Now that the “4th wave” of Kpop is entering the industry, fans of the “2nd wave” and “3rd wave” are feeling it. And the cycle will continue.

Clearly, as 3rd generation groups started losing members, we’ve been seeing a change in the atmosphere among the fandoms. There is a decline in popularity among the “3rd Gen” Kpop stars. The newer stars have risen to take power: Got7, BTS, Twice, EXID, Blackpink and many other newbies. As these artists gain popularity, and even newer groups are introduced, older groups and solo artists will become veterans, striving to hold on to their fans.

So what can we do about this? Hardly anything. Change is inevitable. But we can continue to support our favorite groups as best we can. We will still have their great songs. We still can appreciate the music for what it is. Forget the petty fan wars. Forget who wins what music show. Enjoy what you have and experience every moment. Every Kpop artist has something to contribute to the industry. If we ignore that now, we might be missing out on something amazing.

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25) What Does It Take To Be a Kpop Idol? What is the Kpop Life Like?


Do you absolutely just love Kpop? Ever dreamed of being a Kpop star? Guess what? You and everybody else!

The Kpop industry is so attractive and alluring. Would you get to look like your favorite Kpop star one day, too? Would you be admired by millions of fans around the world? Could you make a statement and do something different for the industry, maybe be the first black or white girl in a major kpop group? Or maybe you’re just interested in meeting some of those cute boys and girls from your favorite Kpop group, huh?

Well, let’s keep in mind that once Kpop became more of a global thing, more people became interested in it. Kpop was always a competitive industry, but imagine, with so many people interested in it in recent years, just how competitive it is now.

Hundreds of people sign up every year (even every few months) to be Kpop stars. So what can YOU do to become one?

First, there are auditions around the world.

You could audition online or you can go to one of their audition locations, which they usually schedule. Over 2,000 people will usually be auditioning with you at one time if you’re going to an open audition. Even online, there are thousands of people signing up every year and posting their videos of their talents.

SM has been known to “street-cast”, which means they pick someone they think fits their company and ask the person to audition (Former Girls’ Generation’s Jessica and f(x)’s Krystal Jung got their auditions this way).

Online, mostly you can follow the steps. I’ve heard that online doesn’t work as well as face-to-face, so it may be better to travel to the audition locations. Some people have stated that there’s usually more auditions online and scouts take their time scrolling through them. Furthermore, scouts are more than likely to choose you based on how you look on camera that way, without really paying attention to anything else. And it’s not like they can ask any further questions about you that way.

Kpop scouts are looking for the following things:

  1. Passion and Dedication
  2. Willingness to learn and accept criticism
  3. Charisma, charm, stage presence, natural talent

Mostly, after auditioning online, if you are selected for “round 2” of the audition process, you may get an email, letter, or phone call. If you live overseas, it’s more likely that you will receive an email. Contact them back right away.

Things you will need for a “round 2” audition:

  1. At least 3 songs prepared (some say at least 10) and one dance choreography. Pick songs in your range, don’t try to hit high notes.
  2. To learn Korean, especially the Korean terms common in the industry
  3. Money-to fly to auditions, to get a passport, etc. You must be prepared to shell out cash and travel
  4. The right attire-Black is often preferred, but as long as you’re not wearing anything too distracting, it’s fine. Wear casual attire, good running shoes and jogging pants. No makeup.

Once contacted, they may host private auditions or have you come to one of their open auditions, depending on the time they call you back. Be EARLY.

If you don’t audition online, you can still go to their open auditions and sign up.

Be at least an hour or two hours early. It not only looks good, but thousands of people will be there, making the lines long. There’s always paperwork to fill out and the place is usually packed full of other people auditioning. If you are a teenager, you will need a responsible adult with you to help you fill out your paperwork.

If you are asked to come to a private audition, you should still be early so you can fill out paper work. But you won’t have to worry about the lines or the competition (though most people didn’t feel they were in a competitive atmosphere).

They tend to ask many basic personal questions about your life, interests, and talents. This is how they build your profile IF you make it through the audition process and become a trainee. They will also ask you which category you are auditioning for. Many people recommend you only choose ONE category to avoid delay. If you choose more than one category, the audition process becomes harder to get through.

If you’re at an open audition, all of these questions will be down on paper. Don’t worry, many people have said they have it in English or they have interpreters. Still, I advise you ask many in-depth questions whenever you release personal information about yourself.

If you are having a private audition, they may ask these questions directly. If you are underage, they may discuss some things with your parents.

At the open auditions, after you fill everything out, you will get a number that you have to put on you. If you are at a private audition, obviously you won’t have to wear a number. Usually at a private audition, you are the only one there. There may only be one other person.

Now, whether you are at a private audition or an open one, most people have said they had to go through a camera test or screening during the initial audition process, just to see how they would come off on camera. Afterwards, they had to introduce themselves clearly and confidently on that camera. Whatever goes on that camera is sent to South Korea. It’s important that you look at the camera at all times.

People have also reported that there’s modeling involved. They might put you in many outfits and have you pose as they take pictures. I suppose this is how all those trainees get professional pictures of themselves early on.

THEN, after all of that, you will be asked to sing on camera. Some people say you have to have your face looking straight at the camera. It doesn’t feel very natural, but you have to do it.

It would be best to prepare three to TEN songs on hand. It appears that English songs are preferred.

I know you’re wondering why. “Why, why should I choose English songs to be a Kpop star, especially after I’ve been practicing my favorite Kpop songs for months now?”

One seasoned Kpop star (H.O from Madtown) came out of the box about the trainee process that occurs AFTER auditions. During one of the stages, there are monthly “evaluations” or “check-ups”. During these evaluations, Kpop idols are forbidden from singing Korean pop songs (it’s unclear whether this applies to traditional Korean folk songs).

There could be two reasons for this:

One, trainers could be trying to see the flexibility of Kpop idols. If you aren’t a native English speaker, companies may be testing to see how versatile you are or how easily you adapt. English is a universal language and most of the world’s most popular genres came from the west. Many companies do expect their idols to speak more than one language and to be able to memorize hard lines quickly. Learning to sing in a different language not only shows how dedicated you are but also how flexible and quick you are at catching on to new material, no matter the challenge. It’s unclear whether native-English speakers are required to sing in their native tongue, but it’s certain that Korean-born and other non-English speakers will be expected to abide by this rule.

The second reason companies might require their trainees to only sing English songs for evaluations could be for the simple fact that most Kpop labels are silent competitors. Imagine a YG trainee singing an SM song during evaluations. Though the competition is generally friendly and civil, it’s fierce. Labels are competing for promotion, finances, and stock value. To make it fair, all Kpop songs are off-limits.

Though this seems to only be a requirement for evaluations, later down the line, once the person makes it pass the audition process, it’s a good look when you know what they are looking for before your first audition. At least, it would be good to keep a mixture of Korean and English songs handy for auditions.

If you pass all of these tests, you could be selected to become a trainee. You will be given a 2-year contract, 7-year contract (which seems to be the most common for Kpop idols, considering the “7-year curse”), and the 13-year contract. In the past, most Kpop idols were required to sign a 13-year contract. I believe this led to a lawsuit by one Super Junior Member and even led to some issues with DBSK (now TVXQ) in the past. Now, there are more options.

There’s a lot to consider when becoming a trainee, even before you become an idol. If you’re not from Korea, and you’re a teenager, you’d need your parents’ permission, a passport, and you’d need to figure out what school you will be attending or your schooling situation (unless you plan on leaving school). Most labels pay for their idols’ room and board as well as their meals (which are usually VERY healthy), so you wouldn’t have to worry too much about that. Still, you’d more than likely be room-mating, so it’d be best to pack light so you won’t take up ALL of the space. Decipher what you can live without. The first lesson of becoming an idol is learning to make sacrifices.

If you’re over the age of 21, keep in mind that younger idols are preferred, usually idols in their teens because they could spend most of their youth training and still debut at a young age. Having a family of your own isn’t really considered normal for a Kpop idol and it may be considered “unappealing” to the target demographic. If you have children by the time of debut, you probably won’t last too long as an idol, especially if you are debuting with a smaller company.

When you are selected as a trainee, get used to being without your phone (and sometimes other electronic devices) often. They take phones, computers, and tablets. Some idols have stated that companies do this to keep the process of their up and coming trainees a secret. They don’t want anything leaking out. This keeps them ahead of their competition.

But this is where it gets hard for many people. It can be lonely and boring at this time if you’ve gotten accustomed to socializing through your phone. Bigger companies put you in groups, so you will have to make a few new friends! It’d be best to see the bright side of this situation. It’s a good time to bond with your group (if you’re in one). That means you have to break any anti-social tendencies you might have.

If you’re expected to be a solo artist, this might be the hardest time for you. But it’s a good time to prove yourself as an artist. You could be using the spare time for practice.

Next, comes the physical training. If you’re used to working out, this might not be bad. People who are used to a workout routine and are pretty athletic usually find this part to be a breeze. If you aren’t particularly athletic, this might be a grueling process for you. Be prepared. This will be your life from now on. You will be up early, training and practicing and perfecting your skills, and you will not leave until late at night, possibly the next morning. Kpop idols don’t get much sleep, even during their trainee days.

You get vocal lessons, dance lessons, acting lessons, and language classes (though it’d be best if you at least learn the basics before auditioning, since you will be hearing a lot of Korean words during the audition process), on top of your physical workout. Some exercises aren’t necessarily put into place so the idol is healthy, but also so the idol maintains a certain figure or curve to their body.

Dieting is important. If you’re already skinny, it won’t be too much of a problem, you just have to maintain it. If you are what Koreans consider on the “thicker” side, you may be required to go on a diet. And remember, this isn’t based on YOUR standard of “thicker”.

Dieting as a Kpop idol isn’t just eating your veggies and exercising regularly or eating small meals a day. Sometimes, trainees just don’t eat very much at all.

Some companies have offered to pay for their trainees’ plastic surgery to get “tummy tucks” and to thin “rounder faces”. The option is usually brought to trainees, and some labels do pressure their idols to get it. For Asian trainees, they are usually asked to get double eyelid surgery (since many tend to have a mono-lid). In the above sections, I talked a lot about Korea’s beauty standards.

Physical appearance is very important. Companies need to find you “marketable”. It’s not really enough to have talent. Some people do make it with their talent alone, but most people make it because they have a certain appeal, both physical beauty and charisma.

If you’re not “Asian”, but White or Black or some other racial or ethnic group, your chances of getting chosen are much slimmer than if you were Asian. If you speak Korean, you might have more of a chance. But Asians are generally chosen, simply because they look like the majority of people in the country.

Even if you are Asian, if you aren’t Korean, you may have a tougher time as well.

Korean companies can be very strict overall. Remember, they are a business first and foremost, not just a glamorous spot to flesh out your hobby.

Here are some rules you have to follow as a Kpop idol:

  1. You’re not allowed to date
  2. You’re not allowed to talk to the opposite sex (especially within the Kpop industry)
  3. You are not allowed to eat junk food
  4. You have a curfew and are required to check in with your boss
  5. You’re not allowed to have social media as a trainee. When you do get one, all posts have to be pre-approved.
  6. You’re not allowed to really style your own hair
  7. Strict against part-time jobs
  8. You must bow the right way to your elders

You need to have or develop certain traits to make it in this industry:

  1. Patience-Don’t think you will get in the doors that easily. Don’t think you will meet all of your favorite Kpop idols just because you become a trainee. Don’t even expect idols to even acknowledge you. And don’t expect to make a whole lot of money (if you read the sections above this topic, you know exactly what I’m talking about). The training process is long and arduous and MANY trainees drop like flies after a few months of training.
  2. Tolerance- Tolerating Korean culture is very important. It’s fundamental to have knowledge of the culture. If you’re a pre-teen or teenager trying to audition, respecting those older than you is a BIG thing. You can’t really speak out like you can in other cultures. Understand what’s polite and acceptable, do as you’re told, and the transition will be easier. There are a lot of things you may have to put up with culturally.
  3. Humility-Again, humility is not only an attractive trait in Korea (and most parts of the world), but you will not be a rich divo or diva like you may have been thinking. This means you have to learn to live with little and love it. You can’t complain and ask for a raise or payment after two years of training, as that’s not really customary and you’re on the company’s dime anyway. You will have to deal with your lot, and try to work your way up with few resources. You will have to work hard to live the life you want to.  There will be many humbling experiences along the way. Part of being humble is also knowing that you are in a new country and a new setting. Respecting your elders, respecting the culture, and letting it mold you is part of the humbling process. Learning when to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in Korean would be the best thing for you. Another part that comes with humility is accepting criticism.
  4. Independence-If you’re moving to Korea, you will be without outside contact while training and even at certain times during a comeback once you become an idol. You can’t be too attached to your family and friends. Also, most idols are on their own. Even if you are 13, YOU have to be responsible for getting yourself up on time for practice in the morning, not your mother or father. Hopefully, you will have kind roommates that will help you wake up so you won’t be late. Dating is also a no-no, if you read all the sections above, so no flirting with other idols (though that may be why you decided to become an idol, right?).

After you become a trainee, you could train for a few months or even years. Every day, you will attend all your lessons. Every month, you will be evaluated, as mentioned before. During this part of the trainee process, companies will decide whether you have the passion and drive to keep moving forward with them or whether you just aren’t good enough for their company. Some trainees will leave after a few months to a year before even debuting. Eventually, though, if a company decides that you aren’t developing your skills or that you don’t seem to put forth the passion and drive they are looking for, whether you want them to or not, they will let you go. The companies like to see their trainees training for long hours, with few breaks in-between.

As mentioned in this article, companies spend a lot of money on trainees. Trainees who leave suddenly before their contract ends may have to pay some companies back all the money owed. If you don’t want to end up paying all of that money back (which could range from thousands to millions), my advice is that you stick with a company at least until your contract expires. If you’re not sure whether you want to be an idol or not, choose a 2-year contract. The longer you’re with a company, the more you will owe the company.

Sometimes, you may be a trainee for many years and may not debut for many years. It could take years for a company to get a solid group together, especially a smaller company. In this case, your debts will add up. Many trainees and Kpop idols get part-time jobs to help them out.

Once you debut, you will be doing the same things you may have been doing as a trainee, only this time you will now be in the spotlight and have to deal with all the other lists above.

So, there’s a lot that goes into becoming a Kpop idol. If you’re really interested, think long and hard about the sacrifices, think about whether becoming an idol will strip you of your actual love of the genre, and think about how passionate and physically agile you really are. If you think you have what it takes, go for it! Don’t let anything stop you.

I know what I said may have scared you all a little bit, especially if you’ve been thinking of becoming a Kpop idol. But I want you to know that there are pros and cons to everything. Unpretty Rapstar idol Grace broke down the pros and cons for us.

The pros? Cute idols are always around you. You would have a flexible schedule. You’re not really working a 9-to-5 job. And you get to wear whatever you want! Many jobs have a dress code. The Kpop industry doesn’t.

But again, you have to deal with the cons. The people’s attitudes, the pay-scale, and competition may be too much as well.

So weigh both things in your mind and if you’re okay with it, follow your heart.

Grazy Grace breaks it down.

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26. Kpop Idols Don’t Make As Much As They Should

In 2010, the average Kpop star made really only 23 million won (which is $21,000 USD) a year. That’s not even meeting minimum wage in the USA. By 2015, Kpop stars made around 47 million won ($43,000 USD) a year. Though that’s more than what they used to make, it’s still considered in the lower middle class in America. American celebrities live lavishly in comparison. However, this increase tells us one thing: Kpop is getting more popular. Without the global market though, these numbers wouldn’t have been possible. We can see that the global market has a lot to do with it because the numbers began increasing around the biggest Hallyu years: from 2010-2014.

This is why so many Kpop stars have been looking for overseas revenue, especially from America. Doesn’t it make sense for Kpop idols to try to break into a market that will pay them MORE for all of their hard work? Kpop’s industry is growing, but some want and need the kind of money American celebrities are making annually. The easiest way to make millions is to appeal to markets that will pay to support their favorite artists.

Kpop Star earnings

The figures I listed above mostly refers to the average Kpop star.  The top idols make make from around the equivalent of $100,000 and $500,000. The highest-paid salary was around the equivalent of $510,000 (USD). This numbers might sound good to someone who has no money. But in comparison to celebrities around the world, they fall far behind.

Few Kpop idols are making millions individually, no matter how big. The biggest Kpop groups might make up in the millions as a GROUP, but individually, they hardly see that money because the money is distributed in so many different places.

And the few top idols who make money in the millions individually certainly don’t see the billions and trillions that American celebrities are making.

American celebrities are making billions more on average.

A Kmusic article entitled “Korean National Tax Service Reveals Severe Wage Imbalances In The Entertainment Industry”, revealed stats that show not only how little many Kpop stars make, but also the huge wage gap between small stars and major stars.

“According to the statistics of Korean National Tax Service, the upper 1% of Korean singers earned 2.6 million USD averagely in 2015, and the upper 10% of them earned 510,000 USD averagely in the year. However, the sum of the upper 1%’s incomes account for 45% of the total income of all the Korean singers, while the upper 10%’s incomes account for 89% of it.”

To add to the fact that many idols don’t make close to a million USD, some idols might get an allowance after their money is distributed out to everybody else. One idol reported only receiving the equivalent of $500 a month, according to an Aminoapps fan post…

The top well-paid groups are probably groups that are well-known to most Kpop fans. But some of the most well-known and extremely talented groups (Shinee and Got7 to name a few) are not paid as well as you would think they should be paid.

Highest Paid Male Groups

Highest Paid Female Groups

You might ask yourself, “Why aren’t they rich?”

1. First, Kpop isn’t fully global (yet). It’s getting there, but it hasn’t reached every corner of the world, like American pop. They are depending on mostly Korea’s fans. There are fans overseas, but not enough to make them millions. This isn’t to say there aren’t any Kpop idols making millions as a group. The really popular Kpop groups like Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Big Bang, and 2ne1 have been reported to make in the millions as a group.   Still, these artists aren’t making the billions American artists are making, especially not individually. The millions these Kpop idols earned have been partially do to their popularity overseas, thanks to the efforts of their labels to market these idols outside of Korea. But very few Kpop idols are popular around the world, especially if they are from smaller labels.

2. The popularity of one album is so short-lived in Korea, sales tend to drop after two weeks of promotion. Without the support of the globe, they are more dependent on Koreans’ perception of the music. Most Koreans into Kpop are teenagers who get bored quickly. In America, people of all ages, genders, and the like can be interested in pop music and the same album for more than 5 years, which makes the music industry in the USA a very lucrative career. In Korea, Kpop idols are appealing to a very tight demographic and competing with western artists in their own country as well (considering American music is popular around the world).

3. Most all Kpop idols are in groups. Group-idol culture is big in Korea. The money idols get is split between the different people in the group and the label’s management team. They’re also paying choreographers, designers, back-up dancers, the make-up team, and whoever else is involved with their success. With more groups having up to 9 or 10 members, you can imagine this stretches the salaries very thin as well. In Korea, the management team (the label) gets a large sum from the idols as well. Labels bind Kpop idols in contracts that require the idols pay them the sum owed to them.

What could idols possibly owe the labels? Room and board, for one. Many labels provide room and board for Kpop stars before they make enough money to own their own places. Sometimes, it takes a long time for Kpop idols to make enough to pay their own rent. It could take years. So, when the Kpop idols do manage to make a good number from their record sales, the labels make sure they take it out to pay off those debts. Idols also owe their labels for developing them into idols. Singing, dancing, or even speaking the native language are not major requirements for being a Kpop star. Even being BEAUTIFUL or HANDSOME is not a major requirement! Why? Because labels often offer to pay for these things. They train their artists to sing, dance, and speak the language, and if someone doesn’t look attractive, plastic surgery is readily available and acceptable! They only require that the artists be charming, charismatic, respectful, and youthful. Everything else is built for the idols. But it comes with a large price. The idols end up indebted to the labels, especially because most of them wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without these labels.

Even when they finally do pay off their debts (which they call “break-even”), that’s just it. Afterwards, they still have to work to accumulate money after pouring all of their money out towards their debts. This keeps them in a bind for many years.

American artists also have to pay their record labels some of their money, sometimes a large sum. But American celebrities are better able to pay off their debts because they make money faster (being a “global cultural beacon”), they often debut solo (so they get to keep more of their money), and many American  artists have some talent or abilities BEFORE they are signed (so labels don’t have to shell out as much money to package and market them).

A former Kpop idol, Prince Mak, revealed this:

“These companies have a system called “break-even” in which all the money earned by its idols go towards paying back all the money invested in them, such as training, food, accommodation, staff, and production of MVs. Prince Mak says that an average rookie K-pop idol group earns about USD$4000 per show (more if overseas), which is then broken down to a 90%:10% split between the company and the artist. Of that 10% going to the artist, it is then split between all the members of a group before it is spent on repaying back debts, meaning that it is incredibly difficult to earn money.”

He also mentioned that idols from the big companies will be fine. They have enough money to cover all losses from even their biggest flops. It’s the idols from smaller companies, even some of the biggest idols like BTS and Wanna One, that may have the most difficult time in the long run.

4. If we compare Kpop idols to American pop stars, Kpop idols are more limited in regards to what they can work at and when it comes to building wealth. American artists can build their wealth in other areas BESIDES music. They can be multifaceted in their careers in America. Research shows that most American celebrities get their wealth from their “side” projects. Steven Tyler, from the band Aerosmith, said he got most of his wealth from the video game Guitar Hero!

We all saw what happened to Jessica Jung when she tried to balance her passion for fashion with her passion for music

The Kpop industry and its fans expect idols to give 100% to their career as pop idols. Any outside projects have to be through the label or related to the pop idol’s group. Otherwise, most will see them as “traitors” or people who don’t have the passion and drive to give their all to their work. Considering that, it’s difficult for Kpop idols to acquire the riches people expect them to have.

Looking at how dedicated and passionate a lot of these Kpop idols are, it can be disheartening to find them getting paid so little in comparison to other famous people. However, with Kpop’s popularity increasing overseas, many Kpop idols from even the smallest companies will start to see an increase in funds in the next couple of years.

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27. Kpop Songs Get Banned For Reasons Other Countries Don’t Understand

You may not know this, but the biggest networks in Korea, like KBS, MBC, and SBS, have the authority to ban certain songs from being aired on their networks, which can affect the success of certain Kpop songs. KBS has such a reputations for banning songs, they got the nickname “Korean Banning System”. Korea has a history of censorship. It’s still a rather conservative nation, despite the risks some Kpop idols and their companies take. Some of the reasons are logical for some countries. Some songs might be banned because the videos showed too much nudity or a sexually explicit dance or maybe the language was crude and sexual. Though people in the USA would find this to restrict art in a large way (I mean, there is a reason the USA has the largest music industry), every country is different. Every culture is different.

So, some songs and their titles might be changed from their original (which might produce awkwardness when the lyrics sound nothing like the title). An example would be EXO’s “Lotto” being changed to “Louder”. Even more awkward were the lyrical changes of TVXQ’s Mirotic, changing from “under my skin” to “under my sky”…

Sometimes, when the songs are being performed, dance numbers will be different from the music video’s performance, too.

Sometimes, words will be changed or blurped out (f(x) had to change from saying “Caterpillar” in English to the Korean version of the word).

Most of these networks just request changes to the performance or song. When airing music videos, they might cut out parts of it. It’s seldom they avoid airing complete songs. However, some Kpop idols may refuse to negotiate their artistic integrity.

You might sometimes find that songs and dances are changed for very confusing reasons. Some confusing reasons might be:

  1. Your fav spoke in Japanese
  2. Your fav used a brand name
  3. Your fav’s hair is dyed an “unnatural color” while he’s sitting in a classroom in the music video (or dyeing the hair period if this was in the late 1990s)
  4. Mature content (too adult which isn’t necessarily about sex or violence, just being an adult)
  5. Your fav promoted unhealthy dating habits
  6. Your fav has exposed too many tattoos
  7. References to homosexuality
  8. Showing destruction of public property

Interestingly enough, the music video can be enough to get a WHOLE song banned, even if the two aren’t related.

For example, Lee Hyori’s music video “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was banned by KBS because she was driving recklessly without a seatbelt, dancing on top of buses and cars, and doing other reckless things. But that’s not what the video is about. Still, the artist might be banned for performing the song just because people FEAR others will seek out the video and imitate the behavior.

So look at the list about. I know you’re wondering, “What’s wrong with speaking Japanese? What’s wrong with using a brand name? What’s wrong with hair dye or tattoos? Why are all these things bad?”

As to the first reason, using Japanese words, South Korea and Japan have a long history where they didn’t get along during WWII. It’s understandable that Japanese is still a sensitive language. However, it’s ironic that many Kpop artists have made their debuts in Japan despite the fact Korea won’t let any of them speak the language in their countries…

The brand name issue has to do with the avoidance of lawsuits and paying extra money for the rights. These networks want to avoid using the brands without permission and they may be too cheap to want to pursue getting the rights, especially if the brand name is foreign (which means it might cost more).

Korea has a thing where they associate hair dyeing and tattoos with “bad behavior”. The US has pretty much moved passed seeing certain styles as “bad”, but Korea associates these styles with gang culture, rebelliousness, and such. Many of their schools ban students from dyeing their hair or having tattoos and piercings. Because Kpop primarily is supposed to target teenagers, people are more concerned with how pop influences youth.

Basically, that’s why the bans are in place. The broadcasting stations want to “protect families” from harmful content. Yes, homosexuality is still seen as harmful content, especially in a nation that’s trying to increase the birth rate.

With all of these networks placing bans, especially SBS, it’s no wonder Kpop idols feel like they have to stay children their whole life. It’s no wonder their content is so boxed in. If they expect to get any airplay at all, they basically have to play it safe and remain super clean.

That’s not bad all the time, but it does stifle idols from expressing themselves totally. That says something about the culture in general. Really, the whole idol industry is for the entertainment of others, not the expression of the idols. Some idols have found ways to balance these demands, but it’s challenging.

So, if you see any life performances of your favorite Kpop idols, and the lyrics are oddly changed, that’s probably why.

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Well, this about wraps up my article on Kpop. I’m truly sorry about the length, but I hope you fans learned a little bit more about the industry and took some thoughts with you.

For all of you major fans, what do you think? Do you agree with my points?

Everyone is invited to leave me a comment and give their thoughts!

f(x)’s Luna Has Gone Solo With ‘Free Somebody’! +Debut Review

31 May

f(x)’s Luna has finally debuted as a solo artist with a fierce new music video and EP album called “Free Somebody”.

If you don’t know who f(x) is: f(x), the Korean Spice Girls

Of all the f(x) members, Luna has been known to be the most talented but the most outshined member. Many of her fans labeled her the “underdog” among other “lead vocalists” in other groups and fans have been anticipating her solo for a long time. f(x) as a group has been considered the underdogs under their powerhouse label SM Entertainment.

Luna is a very talented young woman. Everyone has known this. Take a look at my collection of her talents when you get a chance: f(x)’s Luna, How Talented is She?

It’s about time she went solo! Luna has come with it this time! She’s singing, dancing, WRITING, and looking fierce and beautiful at the same time!

I just want to take this time to review her overall comeback: her teasers, her music video, and her album!

Teasers dropped around May 28, showing her natural girl-next-door charms and beauty.

Luna teaser 2 Luna teaser luna


10_9E7B17C813501CC9 download IEgnl4l tumblr_o8033ctVMC1qbgdrko1_500

Luna makes her natural look both sporty and sexy! I love it. She’s really bringing out her real self. Ever since she went on a diet, she has slimmed herself down and now looks healthier than ever. But she always looked naturally pretty even with her chubbiness. Her photos are fantastic and even better when you see them in her album booklet.

Next, take a look at her MUSIC VIDEO:

This music video is fierce, sexy, sleek, but also artsy and unique! There is definitely an f(x) vibe going on here. You can tell Luna has a hand in choosing some of the songs that make it on f(x)’s albums. Everything is perfect for me. She is showing the world that she isn’t just a lead vocalist but also a terrific dancer. But fans already knew this.

I always loved that Luna had unique facial features, nice strong legs, and an overall separate look from the Kpop standard.

The DHL shirt is being spotted as well as the Powerpuff Girls’ Buttercup. I ❤ it so much. I want to rock this look. Yellow seems to be the trend among SM Town artists…

The dancing in this video is a little bit of Janet Jackson and I see some BoA Kwon (that ponytail reminds me of BoA’s “My Name” and “Quincy” days). Luna used to be known as BoA’s little sister back during her debut days. I see it even more now that she has gone solo. XD

The video shows Luna with a young man (not sure who he is, someone drop a bone and let me know). She seems to be fantasizing about him in this elevator and wants to be free to get with him. With all of these idols trying to date, I can kind of see where this music video is going…

By the way, at the end, it is NOT a condom. There are so many people misinterpreting it. It’s candy. 😉 You know Kpop is subtle…

And now, her album:

1)Free Somebody 

The title track of the album has an EDM feel, which has been really popular in Kpop for a while. It has really influenced f(x)’s music. f(x) is known as an experimental group and her group’s music really seems to have influenced her style.

It’s groovalicious, seductive, and catchy. It’s definitely a nice dance-pop song. It’s my favorite club song of the year. Luna doesn’t bring out the strongest of her vocals here, but she still certainly delivers. I wouldn’t call this song sub-par, but Luna can certainly sing stronger. Perhaps she’s saving her voice, knowing that she will have to perform this live…Since this is the promotional track.

It’s still one of my favorite tracks from her album. It’s something, as many pointed out, that could be good for a fashion montage at Forever 21. This is a song that can get stuck in the noggin.

The song is about being free to follow your dreams. It seems to be in regards to Korea’s strict rules about dating and wanting to be free to date. If not, it can certainly relate to people who have that desire.

2) Breathe

A nice, smooth ballad that really showcases Luna’s powerful vocals. I’m happy this was the second track because it balances out the pump of the first song. It may sound like your average ballad, but the chorus brings a unique flavor that I love. It suits Luna.

The song seems to reflect time and how it is passing by. People are changing, people are forgotten, and everything becomes distant memories. It could be a break-up song, where you are left alone, or it can relate to how friendships break and change over time. It depends on how you want to relate to it. I love the lyrics.

3) Keep On Doin’

Definitely an SM-style sound, definitely reminds me of BoA (except that rap-talk part, that’s more f(x)). This a funky electronic pop tune that may be good for going out with friends at night. It has a mature and yet happy feeling. It has a touch of retro in it.

I love the part: It’s Ok.

That makes this song ok with me. 😉

The lyrics seem to be helping to boost someone’s confidence and making its listeners feel good. Just keep dancing, just keep smiling, just keep being yourself. It has a nice message that suits Luna’s cheery personality.

4)예쁜 소녀 (I Wish)

Luna wrote this song herself! Amazing! It’s a lovely, dreamy ballad that seems to be to her younger self or to any younger girls who need guidance. It is saying ‘try to “pour honey” into everything to make it better and avoid disappointment or “bitterness”‘…From what I’m hearing…

It’s a good message for young ladies who are just trying to find their way into the world. Luna has certainly grown up from the little girl she used to be.

5) Galaxy

Also could’ve been a BoA cut once upon a time, I love it. It’s upbeat and kind of reminds me of the electronic music in 2010 to 2012. It is upbeat and new-age. It’s catchy. Her vocals actually shine in this song, surprisingly. It’s hard to achieve that in such an electronic pop song. It takes me to another world, honestly.

Sounds like a love song about getting lost with someone and escaping into the “galaxy” with them.

6) My Medicine

Just six songs aren’t enough. This is the final song on the mini album. 😦

This is another smooth ballad from Luna. This was also written by Luna! I’m so impressed with the talent she has put forth with this debut. She has shown her individual color for sure!

This song is so sweet and wistful. It brings out Luna’s vocals well. I hope she sings this live along with all the others. The song is so beautiful down to the lyrics. The song is for her mother and also seems to reminisce about the past.

Readers, please support Luna and her solo endeavors! She’s really worked hard for this and it shows. I’m so happy that she’s finally getting the shine she deserves. This album is currently on repeat and will probably be one of my favorite Kpop albums of the year.

If international fans want to Buy Free Somebody: Click Me or Me for a better price!

Vote for Luna on MCCountdown!

Watch Luna’s solo performances!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you fellow K-poppers think of Luna’s debut!

f(x) will be attending KCON FRANCE June 2, 2016! Get your tickets! 


Pre-Order f(x)’s ‘DIMENSION 4 – Docking Station in Japan’ on DVD/Blu-Ray!

8 Apr

Get ready for f(x)’s concert to enter into your home! Couldn’t be there to watch live? Don’t worry! People around the world can show their support for f(x) by pre-ordering the concert!


(^ Temporary pic. Official cover to be released)

Release date: July 6th

Information via Yesasia

Region Code: 2 – Japan, Europe, South Africa, Greenland and the Middle East (including Egypt) (DVD); All Region (Blu-Ray)
Release Date: 2016-07-06
Publisher Product Code: AVBK-79333/AVXK-79335
Language: Japanese
Disc Format(s): DVD/Blu-Ray

Links (click the photos!)

CD Japan


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f(x) Comeback “4 Walls” Review

26 Oct

Vote For F(x) On Show Champion!


Vote For F(x) for MAMA Awards

A major f(x) fan is back to give you a review of f(x)’s latest album 4 Walls. Honestly, I’d been so preoccupied with life that f(x)’s comeback creeped up on me without me even being fully prepared. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.

After f(x) member Sulli left the group, I was a little worried about this comeback. I made up in my mind not to expect too much.

Like always, f(x) managed to surprise me…Which wasn’t surprising at the same time? But it was. DARN IT ALL! Just when I think I have this unexpected thing nailed when it comes to f(x), here they come with something I never even expected. They are very different from any girl group comeback this year. I can’t say that I was totally prepared. I didn’t have many expectations, but I did expect something upbeat.

I don’t think I was entirely prepared for what we fans actually were handed.

I’ve touched on f(x) before, so check out some of my links below:

Who is f(x)? Take a detour and click me!

f(x) Pink Tape Review

GN’s LEAST FAVORITE f(x) album?

Why f(x) of all K-pop groups?

The Most Unique Girl Groups in All of History (f(x) makes the list)

If you want to hear other f(x) albums, just to get an idea of who they are, you can listen below:

What isn’t unexpected about this album is the experimental sounds. I was prepared for that. Still, how can someone prepare for experimental sounds without feeling a little uneasy?

I’m going to start by reviewing their photo images for the comeback.

The images for this album have a 1970’s retro vibe. Still, the girls are quite natural. They seem chilled, relaxed, and fresh-faced. They are wearing comfortable clothes. I really like the natural and comfortable feeling. Really, it’s not as unusual as last year’s Red Light concept.

It seems f(x) keeps getting lost in forests. Electric Shock‘s images also put the girls in a forest. Only this time, their outfits aren’t as eclectic.

f(x) 4 walls krystal f(x) 4 walls fx 4 walls amber 2 fx 4 walls amber 3 fx 4 walls amber 4 fx 4 walls amber 5 fx 4 walls amber 6 fx 4 walls amber 7 fx 4 walls amber fx 4 walls fx fx 4 walls krystal 2 fx 4 walls krystal 3 fx 4 walls krystal 4 fx 4 walls krystal 6 fx 4 walls krystal fx 4 walls luna 2 fx 4 walls luna 3 fx 4 walls luna 4 fx 4 walls luna 5 fx 4 walls luna 6 fx 4 walls luna 7 fx 4 walls luna 8 fx 4 walls luna fx 4 walls victoria 2 fx 4 walls victoria 3 fx 4 walls victoria 4 fx 4 walls victoria 5 fx 4 walls victoria 6 fx 4 walls victoria

I love these photos. I really wish Sulli’s face could magically show up. She would do so much justice to such natural photos like these.

The album cover looks like a booklet. It doesn’t look like it holds a CD, but it does. I really like this design. It blends in well on a bookshelf. It’s amazing to flip through. There are random versions. There’s a red one and a white one. On the back, you can get any random f(x) member’s picture.

4 walls album booklet

The most amazing part of this comeback was the promotion. I covered that here —> f(x)s art exhibit

The Music Video was very unique. I really liked how aesthetic and different it was. I’m glad it was meaningful and not some generic dance number. The meaning is kind of hard to digest, but the visuals and imagery are captivating. I keep finding myself watching it over and over just to get the sense of it…

This is kind of what the video means: The video is showing the girls in their own world, or dimension. Victoria is first, Krystal is next, Luna, then Amber. They follow each other in the same patterns: wake up, fix their hair, look out the window, put a jacket on, head in the kitchen, get cup, pour tea. What’s interesting is that they are all doing the same things within this 4-wall dimension.

But Amber dropped the cup first, breaking the pattern. So when it was Krystal’s turn to pour the tea, she didn’t have a cup, so it spilled, which made Victoria slip and fall in her dimension. They don’t realize that what one girl is doing will affect the whole group within the walls because they aren’t aware that they are sharing this dimension.

When Victoria falls, her “illusion” is breaking. She starts to see visions of them in a forest. She runs first, the other girls follow her in the dimension, but they start to see visuals of the last dimension that occurred, but was frozen because of the break in the dimension. Victoria was pouring the cup, which froze. Krystal began to realize that Victoria was in her dimension then. Luna frozen in the air was like when Victoria slipped and fell. Luna stepped on the cup that was broken by Amber. The girls are starting to realize they are part of the same dimension. Krystal runs, scared, and end up falling in water, she tries to emerge and Victoria comes up, then she goes back under, Luna does the same, and ends up coming up for air. She gets out of the tub, probably afraid this is crazy. She hurries and goes to sleep, to try and fix all of this. The next morning, the girls are now aware that they are in the same dimension. All are rushing, getting ready, and the routine is going back to normal. But Amber is about to drop the cup, and Victoria remembers when she was in the 4-walled dimension. Victoria reaches the cup first and saves it to stop things from happening again, showing that they are no longer in their own world. She is able to step into Amber’s world and save the cup.

The broken cup may represent Sulli, the fragile member that was broken away from the group. All of the other members were so busy in their own world, that they let her break, which affected the group strongly. Victoria, the group leader, in the end tries to prevent it from happening again.

But their choreography on MCountdown! That choreography was so polished and crispy like chicken, they snap, crackled, and popped! I was TOO impressed. Their outfits were sharp and the girls shined. I kind of hope they release a dance version just to please fans who can’t appreciate depth.

Now, let’s get down to the music. WOOT!

If you didn’t like Red Light for its strange trap beats, then you’re in luck! This album is ten times better. The songs are smoother and more addictive. It’s still experimental. I love every single song on this album. I feel that f(x) really adapted the EDM-electronic style of music well on this album. This is actually my second favorite album from f(x), still after Pink Tape though.

Most of the songs on this album seem like love songs. It doesn’t have the variety of topic that Pink Tape had, and yet, somehow, I don’t mind it.

1)4 Walls

The first song on this album is “4 Walls”. It is the title track and the lead track. Surprisingly, it has a smooth, EDM indie sound. It is quite addictive after the first listen. And with some nice speakers and headphones, too? It’s a melody you can listen to while going to the store or dancing at a hot club. I was definitely not expecting this kind of song to be the lead. But it really is unexpected in a good way. It’s a classy number and I love it.

It really reminds me of Utada. And I’m a huge fan of Utada! I can really see Utada taking this song and nailing it.

I’m sure f(x) fans would be deliciously surprised to hear a song like this as a title track. But guess what? It’s still a great song. Even Amber’s rap gives this song such a strong feeling. I’m just so…in shock right now. I hope all of this comes across clear.

4 Walls seems to be a hint at them being stronger four members even after the departure of Sulli. It’s supposed to be about falling in love for the first time and having confused feelings about it.

f(x) definitely shows that they are growing up, and they are growing up nicely. I’m really impressed with this song. I wasn’t expected to be this satisfied…And yet, I feel this isn’t the f(x) I knew before. And yet, I like it. It’s so strange…

The music video was quite unique. It was natural, and yet a bit mysterious. I feel that the events in the music video possibly distracted viewers from the actual song and it takes a few listens to really grasp it all. It’s so different from everything f(x) has done, yet it also feels like an f(x) vibe. The video may be a little confusing to people.

Maybe this explanation can help:

2) Glitter

A song that brings me back to BoA’s old days. It’s light, and yet has that electronic style I’m really starting to dig from f(x). This has an amazing beat if you listen to this song with some headphones or speakers. This feels like an f(x) song. This sounds like it could be off of a Disney soundtrack to some people, but I would best describe it as a re-vamped version of the Rugrats’s theme song. This song is catchy.

This song is about loving someone so much that they shine in front of you.

3) Deja Vu

This song is really upbeat. It’s not at all what I expected when I first saw the title. I guess I kept thinking of Beyonce’s “Deja Vu”. It’s a happy, light number in comparison. It still has the electronic style f(x) has gotten comfortable with. It’s mixed with some funk. It seems suited to their 1970’s retro theme.

Clearly the song is about seeing someone you love everywhere, to the point it seems like deja vu.

4) X

If you thought the last one was funky, let’s get down to this number. It definitely sounds like a re-vamped 1970’s song. It’s funky, soulful, and fun. I love it. From the very beginning, the sound was very distinct and different. This is just what I expect from f(x). I actually hope they have an MV for this song and set it in the 1970s. That would be epic and unique.

And yet, this still feels like an f(x) song.

When they say, “Chemical X”, I keep thinking of the Powerpuff Girls. XD What’s with me and 1990s cartoons?

This song is about some body to body, skin to skin action…Though I don’t think it’s sexual…At least I don’t think so…

5) Rude Love

Amber is singing…Enough said.

This is one of my favorite songs on this album besides the title track. It’s very catchy. It’s EDM, electronic styled with melodious voices present throughout. Rude Love is pretty self-explanatory. I really can’t help listening to this song over and over. The voices! Wow! I really just think this slays my heart into many pieces. It’s definitely going to be the song of the year for me. I feel so much talent in this song.

I think this may be a little sexual. 😉 A guy who’s polite during the day, but rude at night? Okay…

6) Diamond

This seems to be a favorite of everyone. I agree. This would be a very public-friendly song for everybody. But I’m so happy it’s not the title MV. I love f(x) for making their artistic splash wherever they are.

This song is definitely my jam. I think this will be on repeat until times get better.

The beginning of the song sounds like it has so much attitude, and then f(x)’s lead vocalist just comes out of the box to make her splash, as usual. This song is amazing. I really do hope they have a re-package and that this song becomes an MV as well. There’s so much potential with this album. The artistry is impressive. I even love Amber’s rap segment. OMAGAWD.

With f(x), music videos don’t make their group, their albums define them.

The meaning of this song is empowering. It’s about having a strong heart and learning to love one’s self without a man in your life. I think it speaks of a woman’s success and being happy with her accomplishments and not looking for someone to give her self-esteem. It compares a woman to a “diamond”. She’s worth a lot and should know it. I love this song, wow.

7) Traveler

This song is a bit quirky. It brings to mind a 1980s song. It sort of reminds me of Vacance from Red Light, though not in sound. It just reminds me of traveling in that same upbeat way. This song is a little more relaxed, but it’s still fun and light. Block B’s Zico is featured on the track. His raps are fresh. I really like this song.

To put it simply, it has a 1980s background with some 1970s funk, peppered with f(x)’s unusual splash.

This song is about traveling and exploring the world and branching out of one area. It’s a great traveling song.

8) Papi

Also a favorite of many people. Really catchy. It has a Latino theme obviously. But it’s also upbeat and pop-ish. It brings to mind some of Ricky Martin’s songs back in the day. It’s upbeat and fun. It’s a cool, upbeat, catchy dance number. “Papi, let’s go, I kind of like it!” That’s one of the lyrics, and I kind of like it.

This song is quite unique as well. This would be nice with a music video.

This song is about being a hot partner, possibly a dance partner (?), and appealing to all the fellows. They are looking for someone just as amazing.

9) Cash Me Out

From my understanding, this song was meant to come out in 2013, around the Pink Tape era. It sounds like it. It has an electronic feeling that is reminiscent of that time. This song is really catchy. It’s a really good dance numbers. f(x) has quite a few good dance numbers. But it’s always peppered with f(x)’s original flair. I really love this song. This is also on repeat.

There are quite a few songs about valuable things on this album. This is about finding someone so valuable, everything else seems worthless.

10) When I’m Alone

This song is dream-like and melodious in the beginning and strong in the chorus. It sounds like an f(x) song. It’s so catchy. I really love it. It sort of reminds me of a Madonna song…I can’t put my finger on it…

I hear that Carly Rae Jepson was the writer behind this song. WOW.

It’s a really interesting song to end with. But I’m satisfied.

This song is about being alone with one’s dreams. Though the outside world may ridicule or say something about your dreams, sometimes you can’t help but hide those dreams deep in your heart. Perhaps they have fantasies of someone they love and people feel it’s just a fantasy (?).

Overall, I feel this album is way better than Red Light on many levels when it comes to appealing to the public. Still, it doesn’t top Pink Tape in delivery (the cover was a pink VHS tape!) or variety (every song sounded uniquely different on Pink Tape; every song on 4 Walls has an EDM style or retro vibe, making them seem more related). And yet, I can’t stop listening to this album front to back…I love every song. I feel the music on this album is more addictive than Pink Tape. There isn’t one song that doesn’t feel like an easy listen. This album gets a 10/10 from me.

Unlike with Red Light, I honestly feel satisfied at the end with just 10 songs. Great job girls.

If you want to purchase from Yesasia, follow the links below:

For the United States and Canada: Click Me

For other countries around the globe: Click Me


For those of you who don’t know what happened to Sulli, I will explain:

Fans, especially fans in Korea, ran her away. She was never on bad terms with the group or SM. This all started in 2013. Sulli became bogged down with both her acting and her music career. She started to seem tired and “lazy” on stage to some people. During Rum Pum Pum Pum performances, people noticed she did the choreography different. They assumed it was because she was lazy or assumed she lost her passion for the group. According to her, she was actually uncomfortable in the short skirts, as she was always put in the shortest skirts during that performance.

But fans can be ruthless. They slammed her, calling her talentless, lazy, and claiming that she was unimportant to the group. One fan even made a Twitter account as a “campaign” to remove her from the group. Well, things got even worse when pictures leaked showing her dating Dynamic Duo’s Choiza, a man several years older than she is and with a name translated to mean “Big Dick”. Her representative from SM kept telling people that she’s not dating and that someone’s spreading false rumors. Then, in the later half of the year, around the time of Red Light promotions, word got out that she actually WAS dating him. So people felt Sulli lied to the public, and that made them lose respect for her. Soon after that, Sulli was missing from the live performances. She said it was because she was sick, but pictures were released showing her out on dates with Choiza. People assumed she was skipping out on promotions to be around Choiza. Soon, Sulli went on a hiatus, saying she was mentally exhausted from all the malicious comments. Soon, all of f(x) went on hiatus, causing all RL promotions to be halted. This angered fans more. F(x) only comes out with one comeback a year, so people were devastated. They blamed Sulli for it, but actually the girls could’ve just continued without her. All of f(x) were actually busy with schedules, so they all thought they needed a break.

Still, Sulli couldn’t shake the anti-fans. She left the group this year to focus on acting. Fans of her Kdramas don’t give her as much grief.

Sulli still loves her members and SM. She still wanted to be a part of the group. But what is an idol without fans?

So now f(x) is back as four members, and they have done really well actually.

To Read More About f(x):

f(x) the Korean “Spice Girls” + Amber Liu in the Spotlight

f(x) Summer on GN!

Which f(x) member are you? quiz

f(x) Around the World

f(x) in the USA

f(x) on Olleh: Korea’s most Unique Girl Group

Just how Talented is f(x) Sulli?

Just how Talented is f(x) Victoria?

Just how talented is f(x) Amber?

Just how talented is f(x) Krystal?

Just how talented is f(x) Luna?

GN’s Top 10 F(x) songs (so far)

Girls’ Generation vs F(x): Chocolate Love

Why does GN love f(x) so much?

Who is your f(x) bias?

GN’s LEAST FAVORITE f(x) album?


Top 15 Most Unique Girl Groups in History

USA’s Nylon writes about Girls’ Generation’s Jessica and F(x)’s Krystal, Jungsis!

F(x) Amber and Got7 on We Got Married Global! Which man wins Amber’s heart (Natal chart reading)?

F(x) Gets treated unfair by SM? And EXO is treated better?

Make Your Move, SM’s first American movie has songs from F(x) and Girls’ Generation in it!

F(x) Amber, a part of androgynous inspiration!

The Korean Wave

Venus signs and Love Stories, F(x) Amber Liu is mentioned

Music Core, f(x) mentioned

Jackie Liu, Amber Liu’s Sister, Gets Hurt by Fan

f(x)’s Amber in a parody Korean drama for A Song for you!

SM TOWN WORLD TOUR 2014! f(x) will perform!

f(x)’s 4 Walls Exhibit is REAL—Until October 26, 2015!

23 Oct

Hello, Gen Next readers and Kpop fans!

Anticipation is high in the Kpop community for the girl group f(x)’s 2015 comeback! As a huge f(x) fan, I’m super stunned at how f(x) is promoting themselves this year…And yet, should I have expected anything less?

If you don’t know who f(x) is, take a detour to f(x), the Korean Spice Girls + Amber Liu in the Spotlight

As most fans know, f(x) usually only makes one comeback a year. This means fans don’t often get a lot from them. But when they do come back, they are never like anyone else. Their concepts and music are usually eccentric. Thus, we always expect promotion to be different.

But this time, f(x) has really done something different.

Many fans, including myself, were a little worried about f(x)’s comeback after member Sulli’s departure from the group. It still may not feel the same for many fans. But this comeback seems to represent f(x) as being as strong as four walls despite everything they’ve been through. It seems like the other remaining four members have been working hard.

This comeback album is called 4 Walls Exhibit. The album will be released October 27, 2015! What did they do to promote this concept?

f(x) and SM have decided to rent out an art space and created a four-wall exhibit. The exhibit will last through the weekend until Monday, October 26, the day before their comeback.

The exhibit shows a cut-out, boxed-up space in a wall with holograms of the various visuals of the members shining on all four walls. There is glass protecting this space. On the front of the glass is the track list for the album!

What an innovative way to get the promotion off the ground! Let’s just hope the music is as amazing as the promotion.

The song is said to be EDM-styled with a dream-like sound. I’m not sure if we’ll be getting the usual upbeat sounds we’re accustomed to hearing from them. But time will tell.

f(x) 4 Walls Exhibit Rights go to AllKpop

f(x) 4 Walls Exhibit
Rights go to AllKpop

f(x) 4 walls exhibit all kpop 3

f(x) 4 Walls Exhibit Rights go to AllKpop

f(x) 4 walls exhibit-AllKpop

f(x) 4 Walls Exhibit Rights go to AllKpop

f(x) will perform for the first time since being a four member on M! Countdown next week! Stay tuned for more updates!

Teaser photos have already surfaced and can be found at

Kingdom Hearts III: The Theme Song Dilemma and the Utada Hikaru Controversy

23 Jun



Kingdom Hearts 3 has already been high in anticipation, but it has really been the talk of fans lately since the E3 gameplay trailer was released several days ago. Many speculations, rumors, and desires have been spreading around fiercer than before.

One of those speculations and desires involve the theme song vocalist Utada Hikaru…


If most of you haven’t heard, Utada Hikaru has been on hiatus since 2011, four years now. Utada Hikaru also stated in a 2009 interview that she wasn’t “paid enough” by the developers of Kingdom Hearts, considering the fact she created the melodies and wrote the songs in both Japanese and English. This was why she never sang new songs for the other Kingdom Hearts versions.

But it seems Utada plans to come out of hiatus soon (YAY!).

Still, we don’t know if she’s willing to work with Square again.

This leaves many to question whether the iconic Japanese pop singer would return as the main theme songstress for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Okay, I know some of you might think that it’s pretty petty for some fans to whine and complain about Utada not being able to sing for the game. Some of you may feel bitter-sweet about her demanding more money to sing for Kingdom Hearts. It does sound kind of selfish, and some of you may wish to move on because of this news.

However, we all know that Utada Hikaru has come to be the staple singer for the series. Without her, it seems that the series isn’t complete. It’s almost like a character is missing. It’s like Kingdom Hearts without Dearly Beloved, the song that introduces Kingdom Hearts.

And sure, let’s not take it as far as to say the game will be awful without her because I’m certain the game will be awesome with or without Utada Hikaru. Whatever new singer, the game may still deliver.

But music has its purpose in any movie or game: It tells a story all its own. A good song and story add to the appeal of a game. This is why game developers work hard to choose the right music for each game. Without the right song, it is hard to advertise the game to appeal to the right demographic. It is hard to grasp the feelings of the characters without the music. The opening theme shapes the tone of the story. It is hard to remind “lost fans” of the games through commercials that remind them of the old days. And let’s face it people: the longevity of the series depends on the sales of the games out now and games coming out. If anyone expects this series to continue, Square-Enix needs to know that the game series isn’t disappointing. And they will know that through sales from hard-core fans, new consumers, and consumers who fell from the series but may want to return. New consumers need to be appealed to.

I remember, if you want the honest truth, that Utada Hikaru’s Simple and Clean was the exact song that really got me into the series. Yes, I would listen to that song on the commercials so much back in 2002, it got stuck in my head. I wanted to buy it. It was also the visuals, the Disney worlds we would fight in, and the foreign appeal. But the song sealed the deal. I mean, why do commercials have songs? To make the product more effective, right? When I bought it, I was fascinated to find the song to be the actual opening theme song! And there were lyrics in the back of the booklet that came with the game. The music drew me into the series. Who knows how many other people were drawn into the series because of the song! What a turn-off it could be for those fans! Some of you may think those fans are immature, but everyone is entitled to their preferences in a game. Is it immature to ask for anything in a game you are paying for? That’s like saying it’s immature to ask for worlds, keyblades, or expect the game to have excellent gameplay. They are all demands. There is no demand that is too immature if you are expected to buy the product. If someone complains, it’s because that’s what they expect from the product. And sure, they can just not buy the series. But think about the bigger picture. If that person doesn’t buy it, that’s one consumer who will not purchase the series. That’s one loss for Square-enix. There could be others who follow suit.

When Kingdom Hears II first came out, I had been waiting for the trailer. I was busy doing chores when I heard a familiar wistful voice on the t.v. I knew it was the same singer from Kingdom Hearts. It reminded me of the game. It was familiar to me. Therefore, I was able to notice Kingdom Hearts II had come out. Had the song been completely different, it would never have caught my ears the same way. So, it is not far-removed for fans to be concerned about the theme song.

The music has always been one of the most iconic things about Kingdom Hearts, and whatever songs they choose will set the mood.

So, this leaves us with two questions: what will be done and what could be done?

If fans want a new song from Utada and no one or nothing else, this could prove to be a challenge, even a legal one. Though Kingdom Hearts 3 is still in development, the release of a game-play trailer shows that development may be winding down. If we want Utada as the theme songstress, with a brand new song, we are going to have to act fast.

A petition will NOT work. The only way Utada will sing for the series is if she is paid to do so. This means Square-Enix has to pay her more than what they have been paying if they expect her to sing in Japanese and English. As fans, there are several things we can do to maneuver this situation in our favor if we really want this.

1) We can urge Square-Enix to loosen their demands and just ask Utada for a Japanese song, just one song, and put it on both games. In this case, they can pay her for less work. Lately, localized ( Dubbed) animes have been adapting the Japanese theme songs straight from the original Japanese animes. Why can’t this be done for Kingdom Hearts? We could still get Utada as the theme songstress and the game could even feel more authentic.

It may sound weird to other regions and it may have a hard time relating to new consumers….But at least the feeling of Kingdom Hearts will not have changed.

We can equally urge them to just ask Utada to make just one song in English, considering it’s a global language. But Nomura is Japanese and his main demographic is Japanese. It just wouldn’t be right.

So perhaps they can have Utada sing the Japanese version and get another artist to sing the English version… But just like with the Final Mixes, you’ll have people who will feel cheated because we weren’t “treated fairly”. And People, it’s very important that everyone feels satisfied with the series. This will increase the game’s popularity and sales.

The only overall conclusion to this solution is for Square to ask Utada to sing one Japanese song and apply it to both games, risking the judgment of those overseas who do not understand the language. There are more pros. Old-time fans will get to hear Utada and the Japanese will be happy. And who knows what new fans may like it better because of the authenticity…It may be an effective risk.

2) We can raise money towards the Utada Project. I’ve thought of this little idea where I could donate some money every month towards the project of Kingdom Hearts III to speed up development. Considering Utada is looking for money, (And who can blame her! Think about how much work it is to make two songs) we, as fans, could donate money towards the theme song. We could organize a plan between Square-Enix and Utada. We could talk to both parties. Somehow, we could pitch in to keep Utada as the theme songstress, at least for one last game in this saga.

If you are not willing to put time and energy into getting anything, then it is not worth fighting for. How many of you would like to organize this sort of project? Leave me a comment and select an option in my poll below if you do. Then we can discuss further.

But if you are not willing to do all of this… Then there’s always option number 1….If you really want Utada back….And you really want a new song from Utada….

If you want Utada but don’t mind using an old song, this would probably be the easiest option for Square, but not the most creative. I mean, come on, this is our LAST GAME for this saga. We need to reminisce on the series through the music. We have to feel this series is coming to an end. We have to feel completely whole by the end of this series. We have to feel we have gone through this journey. Kingdom Hearts II managed to feel like Kingdom Hearts but it also felt like a major leap forward in the story because the song was so different. And let’s face it, using the same song over and over can get boring. We want KHIII to be epic, right? Maybe you don’t care. But we do want this game to appeal to everyone. This will decide sales. Music can influence sales, believe it or not.

I think in order to appeal to everyone the best idea would be to use an orchestrated version of Utada’s songs. That could make it feel new but also give an old feeling. The orchestrated version could be re-mastered in some way.

If you want a completely new song, with Utada or not, there are several things to consider here.

1) If they choose a completely new artist, the artist would have to “feel” like the game. Choosing any random anime Jpop/Jrock artist could completely take away the story-telling tone of the music. It would sound unfamiliar in commercials. Some people learn of the game’s arrival through commercials if they haven’t been following the series closely. Music really connects others to advertisements. Would they really take notice if the song had a completely different feeling? Some may, some may not. It may not feel like the final KH game, but more like we’ve already started on a new game entirely. It wouldn’t feel like a “wrap-up”. The game could lose its identity. Theme songs, characters, worlds, game-play-they all cater to a game’s identity. We want a game that has everything well-presented, especially if we are the ones spending money, correct?

They would really have to choose an artist that can match Utada’s melancholy, yet wistful, voice. She had a distinct voice. She also spoke excellent English and Japanese. Keep this in mind. Choosing the right artist is very important.

2) They don’t have to actually have a singer. Perhaps they can have an epic orchestrated song as the opening to show that this is the finale. It doesn’t have to be a Utada song, but they don’t have to screw up the “feeling of nostalgia” signing some other singer into the series at the very end of one of its most anticipated sagas. When we anticipate a saga, we anticipate how everything will fit, including the music. This solution might be the best one.

3) They could use one of Utada’s other songs even if it isn’t specifically written for KHIII. They could buy a song from her. Perhaps they could use a song she never got to release or something…

Even though Utada has showed disinterest when it comes to being involved with Kingdom Hearts, she doesn’t seem to be on bad terms with Tetsuya Nomura. Last year, Tetsuya Nomura made a beautiful design of Utada in Kingdom Hearts style for her 15th Anniversary album. It seems to be a sign that the two are on good terms…


Overall, this theme song mess really tells me that KHIII still has a lot of kinks to iron out before anything is released. Tell me, readers, Which solution appeals to you? Leave me a comment in the comments’ section and tell me what you think!

Venus Signs: Music and Venus-Generation Next M and V

3 Jun

Venus and music

There is a new section above for all of you astrology lovers! Want to learn more about “Venus” signs? Click that section!

There will be other information about all the planets in signs. Most of you may know about zodiac signs, or better called “Sun signs”. But there is more to our chart than Sun signs. Click that link to learn more about Venus!

I know. I used to have plenty of articles on the subject. But a mishap happened in January where I lost all of my information.

All astrology articles–Click me to learn what happened

But, as a start, you can click the section above to learn the relation music has with Venus signs!!!!

Or you can explore this link—>

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