Author: Linh Hoang



6903643-free-kpop-wallpaperKorean Pop

Korean Pop, otherwise known as K-Pop, is a multi-billion-dollar industry and the hub of music in Korea. Given the nickname ‘Hallyu’, K-Pop as an industry is highly regarded as the ‘Hollywood’ of Asia. As a result of social media platforms, K-Pop and its artists have become household names within a widespread Korean diaspora. By being readily accessible on a number of platforms — most notably YouTube, K-Pop has successfully transgressed former boundaries and borders, reaching audiences on a large scale. It is often noted that the industry specifically tailors its music and artists to reach Western audiences, as Dr. Roald Maliangkay adds “marketing to non-Koreans” is a norm. The K-Pop genre is distinctly characterised by its embodiment of audiovisual elements and often incorporates several stylistic elements including that of dance-pop, electropop and R&B.

Sistar is a South Korean girl group established in 2010 under the management of Starship Entertainment and are known for their fun, playful music often reflecting influences from electro hip hop. The girls of Sistar are moreover recognised as one of K-Pop’s most sexy and flirtatious groups.

When watching the music video to their lead single for 2016, ‘I Like That’, the group’s unique style and the sexualised nature in which they were presented was something Linh and I picked up on. What we originally interpreted as ‘pretty’ and ‘cute’ was later interpreted as sultry and seductive as with further research we found that ‘I Like That’ tells the story of a woman emotionally torn due to a disloyal partner. The music is sassy and the girls are depicted as elegant and empowered, each having their own opportunity to shine. Billboard described this anthem-like song as Sistar’s “most impassioned song yet.

Big Bang

Big Bang is a South Korean boy band created by Y.G Entertainment in 2006 and is regarded by the wider Korean community as the ‘Kings of K-Pop.’ The group is known for utilising current trends and emulates sounds similar to those of Diplo and Disclosure in their hit ‘Bang Bang Bang’.

Big Bang’s success as a boy band in Korea is immense with the group being the best-selling digital group of all-time in Asia. Their music has sold well over 115 million copies and the group’s involvement in the writing and producing process of their music has resulted in their respected stature in the K-Pop industry. The song ‘Bang Bang Bang’ was released in 2015 and won the boy band the Song of the Year at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards. It also reached number one on Billboard’s US World Digital Songs list in 2015. The video can be described as “an over-the-top affair, with the guys rocking a slew of wild looks, hairdos and fashions in a neon-tinged world.” 

With the popularity of K-Pop and the success of Big Bang came issues of copycatting. As Big Bang exceeded the success of pop groups in China, other groups began emulating their style and musical tastes. In particular, one Chinese group called OKBANG was heavily criticised for nearly plagiarising the K-Pop sensation.

Take a look at the following article by The Asian EntrepreneurIt shows just how closely OKBANG came to duping Big Bang.
Watching Bang Bang Bang, the first thing we noticed was the intricate detail each set had, and moreover how these sets or sequences seemed to reflect each group member uniquely. We also were able to identify small indicators of Western culture as an influence on the video, specifically with reference to the grills worn by one of the band members — a distinct acknowledgment on the impact of hip hop culture in Korean music. We both agreed that the song’s similarity to those heard on local radio stations within Australia was what made it so easy to listen to, making the influence of Western culture on our listening habits known. This allowed us to question our place in the world, and how this shapes the way in which we interpret or make sense of Asian pop as a cultural phenomenon.

Korean Hip Hop

Korean Hip- hop is a sub- genre of K-pop and is seen as the new trend in the Korean wave, reaching to wider international audiences that Korean pop might not satisfy. It’s become increasingly popular with apparent Rap based TV Shows in Korea as well as Hip- hop based K-pop groups. Emerging independent Korean hip hop labels such as AOMG and Illionaire records whom were previously underground are becoming mainstream and globally popular. Korean artist, CL even broke out of the Korean scene and debuted in the US with the song, ‘Doctor Pepper’ where she worked with Diplo and Riff Raff after signing with Scooter Braun’s label- home to Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Even so, K- hip hop it has its own unique sound and differentiates itself to American hip hop having Eastern influence.

Jay Park: Aqua Man

Jay Park is the founder of the label, AOMG. He was previously a leader of popular Korean Boy group, 2PM and was born and raised in Seattle, before moving to Korea after being scouted by a K-pop entertainment agency. Jay Park is known for a wider, international audience even previously having his own YouTube channel where he posted singing covers. His music is mainly R&B, Hip Hop and rap based and has released both Korean and English albums.

After watching his music video, Aqua Man, we were able to identify with the song as it was heavily Americanised and was completely in English. It was very different to the other Asian Pop music videos we watched- from the general beats to even the background and setting of the music video. We linked his appearance and dance style to various US artists such as Usher and Justin Bieber as we saw a US influence from his music style. But as we know, he was born and raised in the US then moved to Korea, thus his music influences are quite different from other Korean artists and K-pop groups in general.

Another difference to K-pop is that a lot of his songs and music videos are extremely sexualised and similar to American music. They are actually banned from playing on TV or radio in Korea due to explicit content and sexual imagery. Viewing his other music videos, although they were sexualised, we found a similarity to western music videos; thus didn’t see any overly explicit content. This demonstrates the culture differences between sexualised videos in what we are used to in our culture and what we find appropriate to Eastern cultures. We discussed that the music video was something that we could listen to and found it similar to various American R&B artists such as Trey Songz and Usher. It was more comfortable watching this music video and wasn’t too much of a culture shock due to the Americanised culture what we were used to.

Japanese Pop

2d8478351eeb060b826b0283ac8c5bd3Japanese Pop, or J-Pop was coined by media outlets as a way to identify and distinguish Japanese local music from international music in the 1990s. Since the end of the noughties, J-Pop has seen the emergence of idol groups, and it is groups like these which have been some of the most successful artists to come out of Japan. Idol groups are known to draw inspiration from Western celebrities and music icons and are moreover marketed as sexually enticing. It is believed that this form of marketing is what makes J-Pop groups successful within the industry and across transnational borders with many artists sharing fan-bases not just locally in Japan and Asia but also spanning across Western countries like Australia.   

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is an iconic Japanese singer renowned for her intently unique style and expression. Associated with Japan’s kawaisa and decora culture centered in the Harajuku neighbourhood of Tokyo, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has been referred to as the ‘Harajuku Pop Princess’. Vogue’s Monica Kim described her as a viral candy-coloured sensation as “Kyary became the de facto queen of kawaii—pigtails, dripping in ribbons, and an endless array of Lolita dresses.” 

‘PonPonPon’ was Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s debut single, released in 2011. It quickly became a viral internet sensation as a result of its quirkiness and psychedelic style. Influenced by Western artists like Katy Perry, ‘PonPonPon’ incorporates elements of 2D and 3D animation and has been dubbed as one of the craziest videos ever.

Watching ‘PonPonPon’ for the first time was certainly a weird experience. We saw Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in a coloured skirt dotted with eyes, a distracting backdrop and animated animals float by whilst the music played — both catchy and repetitive. Unknown to us was the fact that ‘PonPonPon’ was depicting two worlds, one reflecting the girly reality of growing up, the other revealing a more personal mental world — this was presented through Kyary’s pink and distorted face. Confused from the beginning of the music video, the microphone which appeared out of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s ear was revealed to imitate the image of Freddie Mercury, a Western influence which impacted upon the creation ‘PonPonPon’. We were both unaware of this at the time and thought it was just a weird and wacky quirk characteristic of kawaii culture in Japan. When watching ‘PonPonPon’ we also had speculated the age of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, wondering if she was as young as she was presented to be — the cutesy colours she was dressed in and child-like nature in which she danced suggested she was a teenager —, or if the air of innocence we were shown was implied. After researching further, we found that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was only eighteen at the time ‘PonPonPon’ was released in 2011.

Upon experiencing ‘PonPonPon’, we agreed that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu seemed untapped by Westernisation, with her music reflecting what could only be identified by us as Japan’s kawaisa culture. As a result, this cultural experience was not only intriguing but enlightening too.

E-girls: Dance with me now!

E-girls is a 20-member girl group from Japan. They are sorted in various subunits, Dream, Flower and Happiness as well as various trainees. They have a very unique member system called E-girls Pyramid where they currently categorise members according to their talents. If members need more training they get classified as Bunnies or Rabbits and return to training whilst the other remaining girls that are approved promote new singles. This strict, hardcore member system and large group is quite common in Japanese music idol groups with girl group, AKB48 originally having 48 members but now having, 130 members – including those that have left and joined overtime.

Dance with me Now! is a retro, club song and the music video was highly significant in having a uniformed dance sequence at the end which is very common in Asian Pop music videos. The outfits were all similar, and it was hard to differentiate each person, especially in group shots. We identified the music video to be fun, girly, innocent and simple with hardly any sexualisation. After looking up the lyrics it was generally about having fun, dancing. However, with more research, this innocent, girly image is more than intended. ‘J-pop idols, although they are mostly minors, are marketed as sex symbols. They target the desires of men who can’t maintain a relationship’ (Kincaid, 2016).  They have a ‘dating ban’ written in their contracts where they must stay single so they don’t shatter the fantasies of fans that ultimately bring money into the company. ‘Their availability, is part of their marketability’ (Kincaid, 2016). In 2013, a girl group member who was 15 was seen entering a hotel with two men. She was fined later on for $5400 USD due to breaching her celibacy clause. Rather than worrying about her being underage and in contact with two men in a hotel, the financial damage and image of the group was more important. Boy groups however, don’t have a dating ban.

Read more: How a girl group member from AKB48 shaved her head off to apologise for dating 

In western culture, there is definitely no dating ban against artists dating others. Rather it can be encouraged and sometimes seen as positive publicity. Although fans might not like the idea of their favourite artist dating, there is no legal fault and the image of the company isn’t badly affected but rather gives publicity to the artist for front page gossip. This difference between western music culture and the eastern music scene comes as a culture shock due to the strict and hardcore ‘robot’ like lives of these girl groups and idols that is just not evident in western culture.

Autoethnographic Experience 

The Asian Pop music industry is distinctively unique compared to what we are used to in Western culture. Korean artists are individually scouted as teenagers, from large entertainment companies where they train in singing, dancing, acting, modeling, language and even entertainment and talents and live in dormitories with other trainees for years waiting to debut as a group. Western artists are generally scouted or found through talent audition TV Shows and tend to debut straight away. This training culture is commonly evident in the Asian music industry and in Western culture can be seen quite intense, fake, strict and ‘robotic’. Rather from just pure talent, asian pop idols are scouted for their marketability.

Asian Pop artists aren’t like the general bands that play instruments but rather dancing, singing, performing machines that concentrate on connecting with audiences through love heart hand gestures and winks. A lot of the industry is based off physical appearances with many artists going through plastic surgery to get ‘double eyelids’, sculpted jaws and taller noses to look more western, satisfying the high standards of beauty. It is common for Korean girls and boys to get rewarded with plastic surgery after graduating high school, especially double eyelid surgery. Although this may be common in Eastern cultures, it’s quite unusual in Western cultures. Yes, changes in physical appearances is evident, through botox and plastic surgery, but it isn’t acknowledged and many celebrities tend to hide their fixtures.

Asian pop music videos are filmed over 2-3 days and are high budget videos. Music is mostly composed by others then given to the group, however due to the idea of being a musician rather than a produced, ‘idol’ this is transitioning to become more artist creative. Songs are generally about love, friendship and break ups rather than sex, drugs and alcohol, evident in Western music. K-pop can be said to be becoming more westernised as evident in Jay Park’s music videos whereas J-pop has stayed the same: innocence in terms of both dancing, lyrics and music videos.

Fans in eastern music culture demonstrates dedication and complete love to their artists. They shower them with gifts, fan chants and consistent support. Each fandom has it’s own unique name and colour with their own fan chants, lights and emblems. We found similarity to this through western music fandoms such as the popular, ‘Beliebers’ (Justin Bieber fandom) and ‘Directioners’ (One Direction fandom) that are renowned for being obsessive, emotional and very dedicated. Through this, evident in our cultures, we were able to understand the idea of idol fandoms in the Asian pop music industry.

Growing up listening to The Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls the idea of boy/ girl groups wasn’t uncommon. These groups are a representation of our current culture and our social values and norms are something which they portray throughout their music. Western aspects of culture and the traditions we have seen in groups like The Backstreet Boys, One Direction and the Spice Girls weren’t reflected in the Asian Pop groups we watched, as elements of Western culture were lost in translation. However, from our prior knowledge of such groups, we were able to fully appreciate the history Asian Pop as an industry.

In our attempts to discern unfamiliar cultural phenomenon, we have been able to expand on the knowledge we previously shared on the social values and norms presented in Asian pop music. By reflectively analysing our  experiences of Asian pop we have been able to make sense of others and how culture has an influence on both cultural insiders and outsiders.  Exploring Asian pop as a phenomenon has consequently changed and challenged our “assumptions of the world” (Ellis. (2011, pt.1).



Astar TV, ‘K-Pop Wallpaper,’ 2016, Accessed October 19 2016, <>

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1
World Wide Colour Coded Lyrics, ‘Sistar Wallpaper,’ 2014, Accessed October 19 2016, <>

Unknown, ‘Korean Hip Hop’, 2015, Accessed October 19 2016, <>

Unknown, ‘J-Pop Group,’ 2016, Accessed October 19 2016, <>

Japan through my eyes

Experiencing the unique Japanese culture, I was able to distinguish differences from my own. Being from a westernised culture, there were many significant confusions and cultural misinterpretations, however past and present research has allowed an understanding of this cultural experience.


Meji Shrine, Tokyo

A cultural model by Hofstede distinguishes various cultures through five dimensions of power distance, individualism vs collectivism, masculinity vs femininity, uncertainty avoidance and long term vs short term orientation. This allows an understanding of Japanese culture by comparing it to Australian culture through these five dimensions enabling to make sense of my experience. Japan is a hierarchical society with importance to age and power which isn’t significantly different to Australia. Bowing is a form of greeting and respect consistent in Japan especially when entering an establishment. When entering restaurants a formal loud greeting from staff followed by a bow was practised. This is understood as being an exchange of greeting or showing kindness. Even the various Japanese language has informalities and formal language. I used ‘arigatou gozaimasu’, meaning Thank you; however I was told it was a more polite way such as ‘Thank you very much’ rather than just a simple ‘arigatou’.

I also noticed many people brought their palms together in front of their chest before and after eating; saying ‘Itadakimasu’ which means ‘to receive or accept’. This expression of gratitude towards food and the person that prepared it demonstrates the etiquette absent in western culture. I took upon this etiquette as well as bowing in Japan to avoid any culture misinterpretations and to ensure that I was polite in all situations.


Ramen in Shinjuku, Tokyo

When eating, wet towels (oshibori) were provided to clean hands as simple hygiene and commonly replaced with napkins. Some sushi establishments actually don’t provide cutlery and customers are expected to use their hands to avoid spillage and allow easier dipping techniques. In Australia, wet towels aren’t provided and using your hands may be considered rude or lacking of table manners. Slurping soup and food in Australia is considered to be quite rude, however in Japan when consuming Ramen, slurping can be heard throughout the restaurant and is common, displaying to the cook that you are thoroughly enjoying the meal and is actually rumoured that this technique makes the noodles actually taste better (Japan National Tourism Organisation, 2015). I was worried about etiquette when finishing meals and made sure everything was finished- this is actually a common etiquette in eastern cultures.

Japan is highly dependent on convenience. Lots of restaurants had a ticketing system such as a vending machine to choose your meals and prepay in which you would be given a ticket to give to staff with your order. Although most menus had only Japanese, images were accompanied at almost all restaurants. When eating at a popular ramen branch, Ichiramen, customers are able to fill out the degree of spice, how flavoursome the soup is etc. according to how each person specifically likes it. This was then given to staff for your own custom ordered ramen. Every process in Japanese lifestyle practices was convenient and efficient. In saying that, every tourist attraction or popular restaurant had a waiting line but due to the efficient and fast systems in Japan, everything went quite smoothly- even though we did have to wait from 30 minutes to 2 hours sometimes. This is also when I realised that we, in western cultures are quite impatient. Eastern cultures see patience as a virtue and associate it with Buddhism as a value of perfect enlightenment. They tend to take longer in making important decisions and are patient in that due to being a long-term orientated society (Bergiel, 2012).


Dontonburi- the nightlife district of Osaka, Japan

Site seeing in Japan is largely focused on historical shrines and temples. Rather than being religiously based the temples were spiritually based and are provided as beautiful architecture and landscapes within parks and mountains for tourists. Many shrines visited such as the Meji Shrine or the Fuishimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto were places full of tourists and were the first shrines I’ve ever encountered. Personally I expected these places to be relaxed, reverent and respectful and assumed it to be similar to religious places in Australia that I have been to; however the nature of it being a tourist attraction was strongly evident. However, they were still seen as spiritual places with wishing paper/ wooden plates where people could write down their wishes and prayers and hang them on trees. Souvenirs available at temples related to personal wellbeing, health, money and good luck which were different to typical souvenirs available here, such as a magnet of the harbour bridge. They also highly value a clean environment which was demonstrated through the lack of pollution on the streets and even the high use of public transport or bikes rather than cars.


Wooden boards with visitors wishes at Meji Shrine, Tokyo

Japan according to Hofstede’s Five Cultural Dimensions Source: Geert Hofstede



Japan was a unique experience and was very different to my own culture. The whole culture was recognised as being completely opposite to what I’m used to in Australia as shown in the graph above from Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. My expectations of Japan were different to what I encountered. Due to pictures and online videos of Tokyo, I perceived Japan as a high tech, busy nightlife city but was presented with a much more relaxed country. It did exceed my expectations with its advanced systems and busier suburbs at night such as Shibuya in Tokyo and Dontonburi in Osaka, but overall the cities were quiet with not many people on streets and empty during the day.

Follow my individual artefact instagram for more pictures/ videos of my trip to Japan @linhdoesjapan_


*All photos are my own unless stated*


Bergiel. EB, Bergiel. BJ, Upson. JW, 2012, ‘Revisiting Hofstede’s Dimensions: Examining the Cultural Convergence of the United States and Japan’, American Journal of Management Vol. 12 (1) pp. 69-77

Frost. A, 2013, ‘Japanese Culture and Hofstede’s Five Dimensions‘

Hofstede. G, ‘Japan’

2015, ‘Japanese Table Manners’ in Japan Guide

Japan National Tourism Organisation, ‘Shrines and Temples’ in Japan: the Official Guide

Mooji. MD, Hofstede. G, 2010, ‘The Hofstede model: Applications to global branding and advertising strategy and research’, International Journal of Advertising, 29 (1) pp. 85-110


NIHON Encounters


The individual research project practices autoethnography by allowing us to document personal experiences of a particular culture, different to my own and brings further research to allow social, cultural and political understandings of the experience. You can say that I’ve basically cheated and went ahead before this semester started by already incorporating myself into a cultural experience.

Earlier, during the break between semester one and two, my friends and I went for a month’s holiday in Japan and South Korea. I vlogged, recorded and took pictures of my whole journey. Coming back to Uni and going through the DIGC330 course, I realised that everything I recorded, everything I did and experienced in Japan and Korea could be used as an advantage for this individual research project. So, as Chris said, I’m basically cheating- but in a good way!

For my individual project, I’ve decided to draw upon my experience in Japan (not Korea, because it was my second time there), travelling through Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto within a week for the first time. This includes cultural experiences through historical sites and landmarks across the country, social encounters with Japanese citizens as well as indulging the gourmet food. In doing so, I plan to incorporate all the images and video recordings I’ve captured through not only my camera but also personalised Snapchat stories – and using all this footage to form a sort of journal – like story. Combining photos of landscapes, mouth- watering food shots, cultural sites and cities that I’ve taken myself; I intend to personalise my individual artefact and reflect on my autoethnographic experience.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The platform I’ve decided to use is Instagram. I thought this would be most suitable in uploading images and short videos quickly and easy without having the need to heavily edit. The platform allows hashtags to help people navigate my images as well as GPS location tagging. Having the option of adding a description for the image or video enables reflection with each individual experience. Overall, Instagram would be beneficial as a visual journal of my encounter in Japan and its culture.

A few raw observations from my experience:

  • Sushi preparation and whole etiquette was very different with either set menus or a la carte with options with or without wasabi on the actual sushi rather than on the side. Soy sauce is usually not needed and seafood was very delicate and melted in your mouth
  • Gave you a small wet towel to wipe your hands before you eat as well as serviettes if needed
  • Tea was usually accompanied with meals at sushi restaurants or miso soup
  • Convenience store has full meals available- not just average sandwiches but bento sets and noodle meals as well as microwaves to reheat and hot water for instant noodles
  • Restaurants are small; some with only even 8 seats while watching food get made in front of you. It was very intimate and allows communication with the chef
  • Cities like Tokyo and Osaka were much quieter during the day than expected- not many people walking around the streets but rather busier at night
  • Lots of natural scenic views and historical sites- such as shrines, temples, rivers, bridges and forests
  • Lots of English on street signs and restaurant menus- or they had images to choose
  • Subway system was very confusing with various transportation cards for different rail companies and subway tickets were small like a coupon and had no English- it was confusing figuring out what ticket we needed for each destination
  • People are very welcoming, friendly and bright and always went out of their way to help. I noticed people would offer to take a photo for us when we were taking ‘selfies’ or video blogging.
  • Although there was lots of English around the street and on signs but the people didn’t know English very well- evident language barrier
  • When ordering food they had either vending machines where you choose your meal then received a ticket to give to staff or they had English menus with images.
  • Lots of souvenir shops at shrines and temples had ‘good luck’ charms for different aspects of life such as money, relationships, health, family and safety.
  • Restaurants displayed menu items through shop windows at the front with waxed figures that resembled the exact meal. Presentation was very bright, colourful, neat and to high standards
  • Seafood was very cheap compared to Australia however, fruit was very expensive- an apple cost around $5AUD at a convenience store.
  • Lots of places opened quite late- at around 10-11am and closed late also; thus attracting nightlife
  • Alcohol was allowed to be consumed in public- In Kyoto people gathered at night beside the water bank and drank alcohol, ate and enjoyed live music.
  • Arcades had sticker photo booths that were very westernised and edited photos to have bigger eyes and whiter faces with bright lighting and funny edits. Beauty products, hair tools and costumes were available to be used for people to take photos which were surprising. Gamers were fast paced, devoted and very competitive
  • Temples and shrines had wooden panels that can be purchased and written on with wishes, then hung and showcased.
  • Very little pollution on streets and public bins were very difficult to come across; noticed a lot of people taking their own rubbish home to dispose.
  • At temples and shrines, I noticed lots of people wearing traditional kimonos and was dressed up with appropriate attire- including wooden shoes.
  • Cars were mostly petite and cubed with lots of older models. There wasn’t a lot of traffic and I noticed lots of people on bikes and using public transport than cars.
  • When eating we were worried about leaving leftover food when we couldn’t finish the meal as it could be rude.
  • Whenever we entered a restaurant, staff would welcome and bow. Bowing was very common whenever entering or leaving an establishment

You can follow my instagram account @linhdoesjapan_ for all the images and experiences of Japan!




Reconnecting with State of Play

Re-examining ‘State of Play’ and looking through others blogs, I realised that a lot of people were unaware of e-sports and were surprised about many of the culture’s aspects, including myself. Before this encounter, I understood the addictive aspect of online gaming but never considered it as an actual competitive sport that was recognised with its own leagues. Watching the documentary opened up curiosities to e-sports and the obsessive, competitive nature. Describing my autoethnographic experience watching State of Play, I was able to link certain Korean cultural aspects that I was aware of and understood due to my own experiences and knowledge about the culture such as training groups, dormitories and the fan culture.

South Korea is the leading country in E-sports and as identified here– there is a simple reason for it. I guess you can agree that the strict training systems in Korea that may be surprising to us, in Western cultures can actually be beneficial. This reddit user believes that dorms only brings further improvement by players being surrounded by other pro-gamers and be completely absorbed in gaming. It’s mainly a cultural difference to western cultures where eastern cultures are focused on specialisation- thus the extensive, hardworking schedules apparent in State of Play is somewhat expected out of pro-gamers in the Korean gaming industry. I connected this intensive training system to the Korean music industry where young teenagers are scouted by large entertainment agencies, live in dorms and are trained in singing, acting, speech, language- basically everything including change of physical appearances.


‘Koreans spend the same effort on everything, whether it’s college entrance exams or an office job. Korea stands for hard work’. – Lee Moon- won, a culture critic


E-sports are recognised to be alarmingly addictive to the point where the ‘government is subsidising treatment programs for game addiction’ (Groom, 2014). The pressure on elite players was identified in State of Play with Jae Dong becoming stressed with his image of being the best pro-gamer as well as the pressure on amateur players to hopefully reach that level. Online gaming is a bigger issue than I could have imagined. With research I was able to discover various reported deaths relating to online gaming. In 2002, a twenty-four year old man in Korea collapsed and died in an internet café after playing non-stop for eighty six hours. In 2005, another Korean male went into cardiac arrest after playing StarCraft for fifty hours and the list goes on. South Korea’s availability of cheap internet cafes (PC Bangs) that are open 24/7 and high- speed internet allows the online gaming culture to blossom- something that we in Western cultures don’t readily have. We see online gaming as a regular hobby or something you do in your free time, but in Eastern cultures it could be considered as an actual sporting practice. In the documentary, E-sports are compared to physical sports such as football, with all the appropriate stadiums and even fan audiences.

‘State of Play’ opened my eyes to a different culture that I was initially unaware of. I found myself completely interested and curious about the online gaming industry and with further research I was able to reflect on the Korean culture that were questionable and completely different to my own.



Choe, S. Kim, SY. 2013, ‘Never Stop Playing’ in Academia. visited 23/8

Groom, N. 2014, ‘Online Gaming is South Korea’s most popular drug’ in VICE. visited 23/8

Hong, E. 2014, ‘The Lean, Mean, Star-making K-pop Machine’ in The Paris Review. visited 23/8

Maestrosc, 2014, ‘Why Gaming Houses are NOT holding back E-sports’ in Reddit. visited 24/8

‘We don’t play games for fun, we mostly play for work’

Starting DIGC330, I didn’t know what to expect, but the first few weeks of it have definitely met and well exceeded my expectations. Our topic, autoethnography was something unfamiliar and unheard of but after looking into it, it helps put a name to the method that allows us to understand cultural experiences. According to Ellis, it is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005).

From this reading, I understand that it is qualitative research in which one gathers through personal experiences from being a part of a particular culture then assessing it and allowing further cultural and social meaning and understanding.

This week’s text, ‘State of Play (2013)’ was a particular interest due to my own in depth knowledge about South Korea and it’s culture (and because I just came back from a holiday in Seoul). While watching this documentary, I managed to connect what I knew about the culture to what was being demonstrated. Thus, some things that came as a culture shock to others; was something I had expected and already understood about the principles of Korean life. However, the idea of e-sports and its popularity was still a new concept.

A few observations picked up throughout the documentary:

  • South Korea is considered the home to E-sports and is accepted and viewed like regular physical sporting events with a stadium, wide screen TVs and cheering audiences. From my knowledge, cable TV in Korea also has its own station dedicated to E-sports that has people playing games and tournaments 24/7.
  • Players, such as Lee Jae Dong are treated the same as celebrities and have a fan culture. The fans in Korea are known to be very dedicated and protective towards idols and actors. Thus, the screaming fan girls weren’t a particular shock, but the fact that pro gamers did have a broad fan audience was unheard of.
  • They have a team house in which pro gamers are scouted, leaving home at a young age and trained, living together in a dormitory. – I noticed this was very similar to the way Korean K-pop idols were scouted and trained for years by entertainment agencies until they debut. This way of constant, consistent training must be quite understanding in Korean culture and seen as highly beneficial.
  • There is no fear or taboo about kids playing games and wasting time compared to western culture; but seen as dedication and benefit- much like sporting events.
  • Teams are sponsored by huge companies in Korea such as SK Telecom and CJ E&M Company; large well known corporations.
  • Jae Dong has a ‘game face’ in which he hides his emotions- due to his beliefs growing up of how a man should act. The masculinity and gender through e-sports is also demonstrated due to the lack of female involvement. These expectations of a male can be somewhat related to western culture.