V-pop (is NOT K-pop!)

Hey everyone!

This blog post is just here to accompany my podcast for my DA!

My Podcast (For some reason it wouldn’t upload to Soundcloud… .-. :

My Notes:

MV Research:





My Dad Reacts To K-pop Girl Groups!

For my main digital artifact, I have been investigating Korean girl groups. So far, I have reacted to three videos and also provided a bit of extra background information. In my second blog post, I realized the extent of my my prior knowledge and bias, and how they had effected my reactions to the K-pop. In order to gain another perspective, I had my dad watch and react to the same videos as I had in my post.

I thought my dad would be an interesting person to choose because we come from the exact same cultural background except he knows basically nothing about girl groups. As a bit of a disclaimer, my dad knows I like Fifth Harmony and therefor thinks that they are always the correct answer. Although it may seem like it, I promise I’m not threatening him to talk about Fifth Harmony. So with out further ado here is my dad reacting to Korean girl groups:

Only after filming and editing this video did I realize that it may not actually count as autoethnography. Ellis et al (2010) say “When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences.”. The ‘auto’ in autoethnography does of course refer to the self, but Ellis et al (2010) also say “In writing, the author also may interview others…to help with recall”. I would still consider this autoethnography, as I filmed it and am now using it in relation to my own experience. It allows me to generate epiphanies about my opinions and thoughts when compared to those of others.

Overall, my dad and I had pretty much exact opposite experiences with Korean girl groups. I enjoyed the bright colours and the franticness of the videos whereas my dad did not. The last video was my least favourite of the three, whereas my dad thought the videos got continually better. What I think the main take away is though, is that my dad didn’t want to watch any more videos after three, whereas I wanted to keep watching as many as I could.

I think this all comes back to me having a lot of knowledge and experience with girl groups. I know the formula, the tropes, I can see past a lot because I know what I’m looking for. Despite these videos being Korean, they were all very similar to what I was already used to. My dad could probably count on one hand the number of girl group music videos he’s seen (plus three more now), this is probably why he prefers the more simple videos with less going on. I also think it’s interesting that my dad was a lot more likely to comment on cultural differences within the videos than I was.

Overall, this made for an interesting comparison.



Ellis, C, Adams, TE & Bochner, AP 2010, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, viewed 11 August 2017, <>.
Fifth Harmony 2017, Wikipedia, <>.
MAMAMOO 2016, [MAMAMOO] ‘데칼코마니’(Decalcomanie) 안무 영상, <>.
SMTOWN 2012, Girls’ Generation 소녀시대_I GOT A BOY_Music Video, <>.
SMTOWN 2015, Red Velvet 레드벨벳 ‘Dumb Dumb’ MV, <>.

The Bigger Picture of K-Pop Girl Groups

Recently I experienced K-pop girls groups for the first time (as detailed in my previous blog post), and it’s only now that I realize how weirdly bias I was in my approach.

In a class called ‘Digital Asia’, the main point of my foray into Korean pop was meant to be to expose myself to Asian culture in order to investigate my cultural assumptions and biases, and yet throughout my entire post I barely make note of the ‘Asianness’ of the experience (whatever that would mean).

I chose to look into Korean girl groups in particular because I am already a big fan of girl groups. I thought this would be an advantage because i would already have some prior knowledge, but i’m beginning to think this is working as more of a disadvantage. By trying to keep an open mind about cultural differences, I instead ignored the ingrained culture of the experience all together. In the back of my mind, I was comparing every video I saw to those I had already seen, even though that was the opposite of what I was trying to do.

Autoethnography isn’t about ignoring your biases, it’s about acknowledging them and the way the affect your research. I thought I understood this, but I’m know realizing that my biases run deeper than I thought, and instead of ignoring them I should be embracing them. This is great in theory but now brings me into another difficult situation; how can I embrace my biases without falling into the trap of reducing my research to east vs west? This isn’t really a question I know how to answer yet, but hopefully the more I delve into my research the more I start to see culture as a spectrum rather than a binary.

Speaking of research let’s get into some actual information because so far this has felt like a very long introduction. One of the points I did make in my last post was that it seems that there is a lot of money behind several of these groups. Two of the groups I watched, Girl’s Generation and Red Velvet, are both signed to S.M. Entertainment.

S.M. Entertainment certainly does have a lot of money. Wikipedia says that last year (2016) they made US$313 million in revenue and a net profit of US$21 million. This makes sense as they are arguably the largest music label in all of Asia. I did worry me slightly that this large profit may not be reflected in the pockets of the artists, but in 2012 S.M. Entertainment gave shares 47 of their signed artists, including Girl’s Generation who each received 680 shares. This sounds like it would earn them a massive profit as the company has continued to nearly double its income every year since, but unfortunately this hasn’t been reflected in their share price which has instead dropped significantly over the past 5 years (small disclaimer I know nothing about the stock market).  


S.M. Entertainment stock price over the last 5 years

Over the years, S.M Entertainment has actually had numerous disputes with acts signed to them usually over unfair pay, being overworked, and the length of their contract, which for some was a shocking 13 years.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how can I be overworked and exploited in order to attract millions of fans? Well you’re in luck because auditions to be a be apart of S.M Entertainment are held almost constantly. If you are a Singer, Dancer, Model, Actor/Actress or Composer/Lyricist you could be the next big thing in Asia and around the world, with auditions held all around the world. In fact, almost all of the members of Girl’s generation and Red Velvet joined their respective groups after auditioning (with a few being scouted) and being accepted into the S.M. Entertainment training system.

Although this may seem a strange system, it’s actually how most girl groups anywhere in the world are formed. Fifth Harmony and Little Mix all auditioned for and were put together on their countries X Factor, the recently broken up Neon Jungle were all scouted in person or online, even the Spice Girls all auditioned for their part in the group. Unfortunately, bad contracts and poor treatment also aren’t uncommon for girls groups across the world. Audio was recently leaked of Lauren Jauregui of Fifth Harmony complaining that the group was being treated like “literal slaves”. I’m not making this point to show that this is acceptable but rather to highlight that girl groups around the world aren’t really that different. I’ve heard people make comments about the way k-pop girls groups are inauthentic and overworked but the same arguments can be made against almost any girl group.

And on that note this post comes to an end. Did I manage to avoid east vs west comparison? Not really, but I think I did it in such a way that looked at the music industry as a whole instead of just comparing the two.

This project has really changed direction in the last couple of weeks but I’m happy where it’s going. I feel like I’m looking deeper and I’m really getting a better understanding of something I thought I didn’t know a lot about.

Join Me, As I Fall Down A Hole Of Korean Girl Groups

I’ve been on Tumblr for about six and half years now, and in that time, I’ve seen many of the blogs I follow go through many transitions. Changes in fandom, hobbies, or even sometimes location, all affect what people post. However, no change is as immediately apparent as when someone discovers Korean girl groups. Overnight, entire blogs change. Icons, URLs, content, even the blog’s layout, is completely different to reflect their new-found love of K-pop. If I’m honest this is probably the reason I had never even googled any Korean girl groups before today, I was slightly scared that I would become one of these people; that I would seemingly forget all other interests, and my life would be consumed.

Now I know this all sounds a bit over dramatic but this is genuinely what it seems like from my perspective. However, today this will all change, as it is finally time for me to take that leap into the world of Korean girl groups.

In order to even find a starting point, I looked on one these blogs I mentioned earlier…and was immediately overwhelmed. Just looking at tags I couldn’t tell what words were people’s names, or names of groups, or maybe even just unrelated words. Eventually though I did find three groups to look into: Mamamoo, Girl’s Generation, and Red Velvet. Of the three, Girl’s generation was the only group I had previously heard of, and even then, all I knew was that they had a lot of members.

In order to find videos to watch I went to find the different group’s YouTube channels. Mamamoo have their own YouTube channel, but Girl’s Generation and Red Velvet’s music videos are posted to their music labels channel, S.M. Entertainment (a music label to which both are signed).

The first video I watched was Girl’s Generation’s most viewed music video ‘I Got A Boy’. The video has nearly 200 million views and was released four years ago.

I just want to start by saying this video is a lot. There is a lot of girls, and a lot of locations, and different clothing changes. They’re also mostly singing in Korean which I don’t understand but they do occasionally sing some lines in English. The actual style of music seemed to constantly change and transition throughout. It pretty much feels like several songs smashed into one but in the best way possible. This is only the first video I’ve watched, and I think I loved it. I forgot to mention before but I’m a pretty big fan of girl groups already, and Girl’s Generation – just going off this one video – to me seems to be almost perfect. The level of production, the dance routines, the outfits, the signing (the harmonies!). In every aspect, the girls were individual but also cohesive as a unit. The video felt flirty but not overly sexually. I honestly would love to watch this a million more times, but I have other videos to watch.

The next video I watched was Red Velvet’s ‘Dumb Dumb’ music video. This video was released a year ago and has over 80 million views.

I really liked this one as well. I can already feel myself falling into a hole of Korean girl groups. This video felt a lot more stylised that the last, it was more focused on a certain aesthetic. Once again, I couldn’t understand most of what they were actually singing, but the song reminded me a lot of Ariana Grande. This group only had five girls, compared to nine in the last video, which made it a lot easier to focus on the girls as individuals, which was also help by the fact there was roughly half the amount of costume changes. Overall, although this didn’t impress my quite as much as the Girl’s Generation video, I was still really impressed. Just the sheer production value in these videos is incredible; it clear there is a lot of money behind these groups.

The third video I watched is Mamamoo’s music video for ‘Decalcomanie’. This video was released nine months ago, and has nearly 4 million views (which is much much less than the last two).

I don’t want to be too harsh, but this video felt almost boring compared to the last two. It could have almost been a live performance, as there was only one costume/location change, and the video seemed to focus mainly dancing. This video felt to have a lot lower budget than the last two, and overall was just less flashy. Don’t get me wrong, if a girl group I liked came out with a video like this I would still be happy with it, it just feels like a slight let down compared to how much I liked the first two.

Overall, I really enjoyed this delve into Korean girl groups. Mostly I’ve just been blow away by the high production value. I can really see how people become all consumed by the groups, seemingly overnight. As to whether my own Tumblr will be receiving a sudden transformation, at this point I’d say no, but I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. Watching these videos made me want to watch more, but it also made me wanted to know more about this industry; how much money is in it, who are the girls in these groups, and what are the companies and structure like behind the scenes? These are all question I’m actually kind of excited to look into.


K-Pop 101

Even as someone who has been following the K-Pop scene for years, the industry still holds many secrets from me and even with the music itself, the language will always be a small barrier to my complete understanding. Although my sister will be the one participating in the autoethnographic study, researching deeper into the industry and the music videos has shown me that the ideals and themes are absolutely teeming with Korean culture – even more so than I initially realized.

The final product for my digital artefact will be Prezi which will include not only my sisters experience with K-Pop, but also a breakdown of what are the most important parts of the music and a small case study to give a relevant example. One question that I chose to look at was whether K=Pop is actually Korean. My initial reaction was yes, of course it is. It comes from Korea, the choreography and fashion trends that become popular because of their video clips is not something seen in American music charts, and just the sheer size of some these groups is unheard of in Western culture. But then I delved a bit deeper and found that it is definitely more Westernised than you’d initially believe.

When the latest wave of K-Pop rose in the 1990s, artists began incorporating popular styles of American music like rap and techno house while simultaneously following an American song model. There are quite a few K-Pop songs out there that are essentially covers of popular American tracks although the lyrics are changed to Korean and a memorable choreography is also included. Girls Generation have done this several times and to great success with a track called Run Devil Run which was originally sung by Kesha. Surprisingly, I actually heard Girls Generation cover of the song first since Kesha’s version did not gain much traction on Australian billboard charts and I wasn’t a big enough fan to listen to her full album. It was interesting to learn that this had initially been an American song, but in my mind, with the addition of the music video, Girls Generation definitely changed it to a K-Pop track.

Although the music is influenced to a degree by American music, the K-Pop industry itself is unique to what you would find in the USA and this can be be attributed partly due to the differences in culture. Even in Australia, we grow up with an “every man for themselves” mindset while Korea holds a more collectivist culture which can be reflected through the way the K-Pop industry operates. Being a fan, it has been clear for me from the onset of my interest that solo artists are definitely the exception rather than the rule and many of those who end up moving towards a solo career were often in groups beforehand. However, I didn’t look further into this unique characteristic and, as it turns out, there’s actually quite a few reasons why Korean music companies prefer larger groups.

Even if you haven’t experienced it first hand, many music fans would have had to deal with a cancelled concert due to an artists sickness or even injury. With the large amount of performers that these K-Pop groups have, if a misfortune befalls one of the members the rest of them are still able to continue a concert allowing for more flexibility for the label. Recently JinE, a member of group Oh My Girl! was put on hiatus because she has been suffering from anorexia nervosa and her label felt it was best for her to receive the treatment she required. However, since the life of an idol is kept busy with promotions and performances, the rest of the eight-member girl group will continue with their activities. This example raises questions about beauty standards in Korea and the pressures idols receive to maintain an ideal look, but that is a whole topic within itself.

Apart from the focus on groups, K-Pop artists tend to hold lower agency over their work. When I was approached with this idea, it made me think of record companies and how in the Australian industry, making music independently from any label is seen as a badge of honour. Then, when I thought about the K-Pop groups I followed, I realized that every single one was part of a larger entertainment company. This means that K-Pop songs are heavily regulated and prepackaged which you can see through their pin-point choreographies and the similar fashion they wear in music videos. Although fans will have their bias (favourite member of a group), it is only through variety shows and sometimes live performances where viewers actually get a better glimpse of individual idols personalities.

It was interesting to find that even after years of following the K-Pop industry, my knowledge was still quite limited and, in some ways, I was still an outsider looking in. I was aware of the typical themes found in K-Pop such as the choreography, fashion and those memorable English phrases scattered throughout the songs – after all, this is what drew me to the genre in the first place. However, there will always be things I don’t understand simply because of cultural and language barriers; some of the translations may not be exact in English and there are some cultural references that I would never have heard of before. Luckily, completing this digital artefact will hopefully fill in a few holes of missing information and allow me to continue enjoying K-Pop, just on a more detailed level.

Making Sense of K-Pop


After much debate and thought about the different Asian foods I could try for this study, I settled on going in the complete opposite direction and detailing an autoethnography of K-Pop for my digital artefact. However, since I have a decent understanding of the music genre because I’ve been listening to it regularly for the last couple of years, I am going to show my sister (who has minimal knowledge on the topic) several K-Pop music videos and analyze her experience. (more…)

How K-Pop and J-Pop Construct Masculinities

Masculinity as it is constructed in Australia is seen as typically “hard”. An idealized Australian male is white, rugged, practical, heroic, and dependable, but also laid back (Morris; Murrie, cited in Tunstall 2014). Let me be perfectly clear about this right now, I am not even close to meeting the criteria of Australian masculinity. During my autoethnographic studies exploring YouTube, SBS PopAsia, and the internet at large I have come across videos of both Korean and Japanese male performers (singers/dancers/rappers) that not only construct masculinity in a very different way, but are also labelled as “attractive” and “sexy” by fandoms coming from a range of cultural backgrounds (see screen grabs of YouTube comments found below).

My Thoughts and Experiences on the Masculinity constructed by EXO-K (Sheridan n.d.)

EXO-K are a Korean “boy group” who serve as good examples of the complex mix of masculinities that seem to typify Korean pop music. The men in the group are portrayed as young, slightly built, clean, and conscious of their appearance in terms of their makeup, fringe-heavy haircuts, and clothes that I could only really describe as “cyberpunk-urban”. These things that I have been socially conditioned in an Australian context to view as more feminine qualities are also seen coexisting with facial expressions of male brooding as well as aggressive, “primal” characteristics such as shouting and harnessing wild natural “elements” such as fire and wind, which I think would also fit into the Australian masculinity model.

EXO Comment

Comments of the YouTube videos indicate that the band members are sexually appealing to many of the fans, with one female fan joking that a members’ voice alone is potently masculine enough to get her pregnant. There also appears to be some confusion amongst fans outside of Korea in regards to singings about their mother (“mama” meaning “mother” in a range of non-Korean languages), which can be attributed to oedipal, “mothers boy” qualities in an Australian context.EXO Comment 2EXO Mama Confusion

My Thoughts and Experiences on the Masculinity Constructed by Yohio (Sheridan n.d.)
(embedding has been disabled for this video for whatever reason, so please find it via the link above)

Image sourced from here

Image sourced from here

Visual Kei is a subset of Japanese rock where the sound is a combination of punk and heavy metal, and the artists dress in elaborate makeup and costumes, often with an androgynous appearance (Landes 2012). It is a genre of music I was not aware of when I had first seen Yohio’s video, which to a completely clueless viewer like myself was full of many surprises. Yohio looks and dresses like a feminine “Lolita” and sings in Japanese (adopting a typical, male vocal register), but is also actually Swedish. It’s interesting to see that a Swedish performer has become such a successful personality in a fandom built around a Japanese culture.

More Yohio CommentsYohio was my first big experience in reconstructing what I thought I understood about gender. I didn’t judge the performer in a negative way and I will readily admit I find him as beautiful as I found any other feminine figure. But I suppose what got my thinking about gender fluidity and the social construction of gender was the fact that Yohio chose to completely embody the feminine in appearance whilst completely adhering to a masculine style of singing. It really challenged a lot of assumptions I wasn’t even truly aware of about what masculinity and gender identity really mean, especially in relation to the binary-gender values perpetuated by the Australian “hard male” construct. Yohio’s popularity has also prompted gender-discussions to take place within various Asian pop fan communities.

Yohio Comment


Landes, D 2012, ”A guy wearing a dress is not a sexual thing’: Yohio’, The Local, 23 November, viewed 5 October 2014

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014

Tunstall, E D 2014, ‘Un-designing masculinities: K-pop and the new global man?’, The Conversation, 23 January, viewed 5 October 2014

참가 (participation)

Upon reflecting on what I personally experience as a fan of EYK, I could see a multilayered, physical and intangible quality to the EYK fan experience, which has grown from EYK’s focus on giving fans an unique, customised insight into South Korea which recognises that “social interaction and knowledge work effectiveness depend heavily on user engagement” (Orsatti and Riemer 2012).

Firstly, it is inherently important  to define what constitutes a ‘fan’, in order to understand how important interaction with EYK is in the context of this discussion. According to Brough & Shresthova (2012), “fans are typically understood to be individuals who engage deeply with, and often assert their identity through, popular culture content.” Thus it is important to reflect on how deeply fans are permitted to engage with the content and the hosts of the channel, physically and intangibly, and how much the content creators are facilitating the integration of their culture into the identity of fans.

Simon and Martina’s approach to YouTube has changed significantly since they started vlogging (video blogging) in 2008. To once again experience this change, I took a step back in time to their archives channel. The format and filming/commentary style was the immediate change I noticed; I felt like I was intruding on personal holiday videos, a pure auto-ethnographic approach which focused on their reactions to new cultural experiences. In comparison, their current filming style is much more professional and performative, almost educational in tone, and they place a very high importance on the opinions, interests and engagement of their fans. This is demonstrated most obviously in their TL;DR videos (Too Long; Didn’t Read, crowd-sourced questions about South Korea and comparisons with other cultures/countries are answered by Simon and Martina) and F.A.P F.A.P.s (Food Adventure Program For Awesome People, videos which help viewers understand Korean traditions and culture).

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio! Credit: @leechangsun

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio!
Credit: @leechangsun

Secondly, Simon and Martina’s establishment of a permanent physical presence in the heart of South Korea provides fans a space to amplify their fandom experience and extend their learning experience. The Eat Your Kimchi studio, where Simon, Martina, Leigh and Soo Zee film videos, edit, hang out and conduct interviews with KPop bands, is a tangible space where they can meet up with fans and where they also film one of their highly interactive video formats: LiveChats. During LiveChats the EYK crew interact with fans through Twitter and YouTube comments and open fan mail. They also do this at their recently opened cafe in Seoul, the You Are Here cafe, an additional physical space for fans to engage with EYK and become part of the content themselves!

The You Are Here cafe Credit: DailyBap

The You Are Here cafe
Credit: DailyBap


Finally, Tumblr, a slightly underrated part of their digital presence, is a great demonstration of how deeply EYK values their fans and exemplifies how much EYK has become part of fans’ social interaction, hobbies, and happiness,  e.g.



1. mightaswellbeonjupiter:

So this girl walks into the lounge while I’m listening to some music and studying when I notice she has a “Soy un Dorito” shirt on. I was so excited and then suddenly, Sherlock started playing. It was drama-like fate.

EYK: Did you become bestest best friends? I hope so!




The promised fanart for EYK! 😀





Looking at examples like these clearly demonstrates the value of participation and engagement to both fans and the object of the fandom. I hope to demonstrate this relationship on the EYK Compendium, and maybe add to or amplify the role of this relationship within the culture of Eat Your Kimchi.

장애물 (barrier)

Autoethnographers strive to use language and methods of interaction to find themselves in the crosshairs of ‘autobiographic impulse’ and the ‘ethnographic moment’ (Spry 2001), but what if there is no convergence of language and access points, such as may be the case when using social networks in other languages (Sina Weibo). I have experienced this struggle when attempting to derive further external cultural experience from the learning and curiosity which the EYK community and content has fostered within me. It became important to me to reflect on the ‘interactional textures occuring between self, other, and contexts in autoethnographic research’ (Spry 2001). Thus, I ventured out from the protective wings of the EYK community to explore the wider context of their content through consumption of pop music throughout Asia without the lens of EYK and ‘KPop Music Mondays‘ (their weekly KPop review) filtering what I see and like.

The creation of a personal narrative and the ability to recognise the occurrence of reflexive ethnography allows an autoethnographer to identify the cultural baggage which we bring to a personal experience and subsequently reflect on the reflective changes which result from our participatory cultural experiences (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011). In order to examine my cultural baggage in an environment where a detailed personal narrative could develop, I decided to start at home (Australia) with SBS PopAsia. SBS PopAsia is a comprehensive source of Asian pop content from many different countries (particularly South Korea), in the format of a television show screened on SBS 2 and a 24/7 live music stream.

Reflecting on my first impression of the SBS PopAsia television show screened on Sundays, I can see an unfortunate and unexpected mirroring of MTV and the Top 40 countdowns of my childhood, with the hosts standing in front of a cheesy green screen background while introducing slightly 1990s-feeling segments such as ‘what do all these videos have in common’ (this time it was ‘rain’ and ‘mobile phones’). In the first few minutes I notice a complete lack of interaction with artists and fans. Immediately I feel the deprivation of the freedom which digital platforms such as YouTube have given me when exploring new forms of entertainment, as I can’t skip any of the content that I’m not interested in. Similarly, the 24/7 digital radio stream forces the listener to experience the whole song being played, and there was no cultural context offered e.g. country of origin of the music, or information about the band. Ironically, the part of the SBS PopAsia experience which I struggled the most with ended up being related to language barriers (considering it is an Australian program); I expected the music videos to have a subtitle option, particularly in English, to explain why they are so popular amongst their regular viewers, as I have found a barrier to my enjoyment of KPop is that I don’t understand the lyricism or cultural context of the songs. However, there were no subtitles, and very little explanation of each video, so I ended up turning off the television 20 minutes before the show ended. This drove me back to digital platforms.

This time I attempted to involve myself in the weekly Korean show Music Bank. Immediately I was drawn into the show, as there were English subtitles for each KPop act’s song, and I found myself really enjoying the experience of actually seeing major KPop idols dance and sing to a passionate (and very loud) local audience. I hadn’t realised until now what a big fan of KPop I had become until I realised I was ‘fan-girling’ over Taemin and his performance of ‘Danger’. I really loved looking through the comment section and seeing others feel exactly the same; after all, ‘fandom is not just about expressing to the object of your fandom that you love it — it’s also about connecting with other fans (Miller 2014).

Upon reflection, I could see how incredibly important my research of KPop bands and idols and observation of online fan communities had been in fostering a genuine connection within this cultural context. This experience has shown me just how valuable the EYK community is to me and the breaking down of barriers to participation in the wider Korean entertainment context, and how digital platforms allow much more inclusive access to the enjoyment of new experiences, particularly in comparison with traditional media forms.