Tag Archives: K-pop

Ten things I hate about South Korea.

In no particular order:

Bars and restaurants

One of the worst things is going to restaurants and bars on your own. Koreans have a hatred of doing things on their own. Don’t expect to be welcomed by other Koreans when you go to restaurants as a foreigner, they will completely avoid any interaction with you. Although I enjoy eating Korean food, the pressure of sitting in a restaurant being glowered at is too much sometimes. The bottom line: Korea can be very lonely place for a single person.

Korean language

Aaahh, the Korean language. When I was England I was serious about studying Korean. I took lessons, went on language exchanges and used apps to improve my Korean. THe worst thing is when you have a conversation in Korean and people ignore you, or laugh, or answer you in English. I have learned very little Korean here and I am convinced my Korean is going backwards.


Wow, is dating hard work here. Its not that dating is unpleasant, it’s mroe the attitude Korean women have towards dating foreigners. For example, a common excuse is “I can’t speak English so I won’t date anyone who isn’t Korean.” It’s hard to approach someone and simply ask them out, at least, in my experience.

Traditional culture

I visited the Korean palace in Seoul. Apart from a nice garden and a pond, there was little else to see. As for traditional culture, Korean’s traditional music, pansoori consists of a drum being banged loudly for half an hour whilst a woman makes a noise like she is being slowly impaled. Apart from concerts and Koreans wearing Hanbok, I see very little signs of traditional culture here. At least in Japan you can easily see kimonos and visit traditional restaurants.


When people talk about Korean Wave, Hallyu, it’s K-pop that often comes up. Now, I like K-pop. I think some of it has been good fun. What I don’t like is that for most people K-pop is the only music they will hear in Korea. There are some great rock and Indie bands but due to the large record companies that produce and distribute music its very difficult to hear anything but the Melon 100.


Korea has the most miserable work culture in the world. But at least Koreans can talk to each other and share food at work. As a foreigner, I feel excluded from most work activities. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to my colleagues to ask me any questions about my life or pay any interest in what I am doing, or invite me to lunch. Although many Koreans teach English, they would much rather talk to their colleagues in Korean than speak English to me.

Old people

Encountering old people is one of the hardest aspects of life here. For example, there are seats marked for use for the elderly, one of the many areas where old people have privileges over everyone else. It’s quite common for older Koreans to take up every seat in a carriage while young people who have been working all day must stand.  Korea has a real problem with age. There are places where you won’t see anyone under thirty. At other times, you can visit an outside market and it will be mostly be seniors. It’s hard to reconcile the behaviours of older Koreans with younger people. It’s a problem that is going to get worse as Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world.

Clothes and fashion

I try not to buy many clothes here. It’s hard to find clothes of very good quality. Unfortunately Koreans have a mania for new things. It’s not socially acceptable to wear old clothes here. everything has to be brand new and up-to-the minute. I can’t deny that Koreans are well-dressed, stylish people, but the desire to follow the latest fashions seems exhausting.


This is certainly the least serious problem because there’s always the option of simply turning the TV off. There are typically three types of popular shows here:

1: Lifestyle and travel shows. A group of foreign tourists visit Korea and try kimchi, wear hanbok, etc. I can’t watch without cringing, but there are at least five programmes I can see which follow this theme.

2. Wacky and zany variety programs, the most popular is Running Man. They sometimes feature famous Americans such as Tom Cruise and Steven Youn.

In the last category are dramas. The good ones are ‘The Good Wife”, “The Return” and “Mr Sunshine.” There are also Korean soap operas which usually revolve around family relationships. A very common trope is a mother-in-law who criticises her daughter for not being a good wife, or making bad food or something. These are the least interesting programs on TV. There are several news programs which seem to be exclusively focused on domestic news. Which brings me to…….

Attitude to foreigners 

As many have pointed out, Koreans have a strange attitude. On the one hand, I think they want foreigners to know about Korean culture. I see that they have a lot of information about Korean attractions on line. On the other hand, a foreigner could easily come to the conclusion that Koreans don’t want to have any interaction with foreigners unless it involves money. Come on Koreans, you can do better!

Produce 48 – New Korean competition show

“Produce 48” is the latest iteration of Korean competition programs which in the past have given us Wanna One and I.O.I. “Produce 48” is a  collaboration between Mnet and Japanese producer Yasushi Akimoto.

The show has recruited ninety-six female trainees from music companies in Japan and South Korea. They are competing to become part of the final idol group, which will be active for two and a half years.

From the preview clips, it’s clear that there will be as much focus on the girl’s interactions with each other as on their musical talent. Episode 1 introduces the girls, many of whom are from some of the most famous music companies such as YG and Starship. Many of the Japanese girls come from the section group AKB48 and it was interesting to note the differences in appearance between the Korean and Japanese singers.

While there was no music, the tension came from watching the girls reacting to each successive incoming talent, wondering who would take the chair marked ‘Number 1.’ I.O.I. member Jeon So-mi and Wanna One member Kang Daniel participated in the show’s first taping.

The show aims to create a ‘Global Idol Group’ and the public will have the chance to select their favourite singers when it comes to the elimination rounds.  The show has received impressive ratings so far and looks likely to be one of the most popular Korean TV hits this year, with the show’s contestants’ names becoming popular keywords online.

Although music shows aren’t normally my thing, it will be interesting to watch these beautiful women perform and talk about their lives.

“Produce 48” airs every Friday on Mnet at 11pm.

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Why are K-pop fans so unattractive?

Now this post may upset people so I will ask the question straight away:

Why are so many fans of K-pop music so freaking ugly?

If you think about it, the fans you normally see listening to k-music, attending concerts or looking at fan merchandise are hardly attractive. But when it comes to the musicians themselves, it’s a different story.

I did a search online and it seems there are other people who have noticed the same thing. Here is a sample quote:

Even in countries who have the most prettiest people, only ugly people like kpop. Like you’ll rarely find a pretty kpop fan.

I kind of agree with the post. This isn’t too say that attractive people don’t listen to K-pop, of course they do. But the bulk of K-pop fans are strange looking and nothing like the idols themselves. I saw in Korea that the fans who were waiting outside the offices of JYP’s offices in Cheongdam-dong were mainly older and less attractive than typical Koreans. And when I went to the busking area of Hongdae the international fans were all overweight and unattractive.

I’m not shaming anybody, I’m just pointing this out because I consider it of note.  And if you don’t believe me, have a look at this photo I took on my phone in the Dunkin’ Doughnuts opposite JYP in Gangnam:


Female K-fans: are they ruining things for the rest of us?

Sometimes it’s not easy to be  a fan of Korea. The language is very difficult for one thing. The country can be hard to understand and the people can be fairly intolerant of foreigners (not all, but definitely some). What makes it really difficult are the many fans who seem to like Korea because of the recent Korean wave, known as Hallyu. The popularity of Korean dramas and pop-music has led to fans calling anything Korean  K-something or other: from food to dramas.

I don’t hate K-pop, I think it’s enjoyable if inane part of Korean culture. I like the old traditions and I don’t think that K-pop, or K-drama has anything of value to say about Korean culture. That hasn’t stopped seemingly thousands of fans from making annoying you-tube videos with pop-up emoticons and sappy music. Most of them are extremely boring  They also try and copy Korean behaviour such as age-yo, where every expression is exaggerated and baby-talk is used. Most korean women rarely act in this way but that hasn’t stopped them from adapting it in a bizarre piece of cross-cultural appropriation.

Korea has a rich history dating back thousands of years but most fans (they seem to be mainly female) seem to think Korean culture starts with Girls Generation and Super Junior. I would be surprised if someone based their love of England on songs by the Spice Girls and Take That.

Although I enjoy learning about Korea (I’ve read several books about its history) I don’t think everything that has come out of the country has done in recent years has been great. However these fans are making me wonder if I should start loving a different Asian country (like Japan) instead.

Is the Korean wave over?

In response to the THAAD defence shield, China retaliated by cancelling a concert in Shanghai for the K-Pop Idol group Exo.

Now people are worried that it could lead to further restrictions on other K-pop performers, or TV programmes. The ban is particularly worrying as China is perhaps the biggest exporter of Korean music and TV programmes, all part of the movement known as Hallyu or Korean Wave. Shares have already fallen in Korean stocks after the news.


The demise of Hallyu has been reported many times. A backlash from other countries, who resent Korea’s dominance on the airwaves has led to restrictions on the amount of Korean songs played on the radio in Cambodia, and China and Japan have tried to limit the number of Korean dramas shown on the airwaves.

The main markets for Korean entertainment has been in other Asian countries but as they develop their own entertainment (or simply improve the ones they already have) there will be less dominance by Korean culture. This is particularly true of Japan and China who have often been fiercely nationalistic.

Sadly, the conglomerates which manufacture Korean groups and singers have simply been churning out too many of the same looking and sounding groups. No-wonder the public are losing interest. Internationally, there hasn’t been a song anything like as popular as Gingham Style, which was nearly 4 years ago.

No-one can doubt the popularity of K-Pop. SNSD’s Gee has ranked a phenomenal 166,417,458 youtube views, but the group haven’t been able to match the super hit (the departure of lead singer Jessica has really hurt the group’s chances).

It’s well-known that the government of Korea have interested in TV and music production as part of promoting the Spirit of Korea overseas. But nearly all of it been on pop-culture which has meant that traditional aspects of Korean culture have lost out. It could be time for a change of tack. Changes in music and TV come about thick and fast but people will (I think) always love Korean food, the people and the history of Korea.

K-Pop review: Ailee + Vivid

Let’s start with the packaging: all Korean CDs come packaged in lavish cardboard folders that are closer to hard back books than the standard plastic jewel cases used by Western manufacturers.


This one is no exception: the cd comes in a hard book with several glossy photos of Ailee looking very seductive. The CD itself is housed in a rubber inlay.

So what about the music?

Track 1 starts with a saxophone blast over which the singer repeats the word Crash several times. It’s a strong song to begin with and bodes well for the rest of the album.

Track 2, Insane, reminds us that the singer can do a good English accent. It sounds like modern, mid-tempo R+B. Could potentially be a big hit.

Track 3 roughly translates as Love My Love and it’s a middling track that goes nowhere fast. Skip!

Track 4, Second Chance, is a bit better but by this point I was expecting more from this album. So far, nothing has come close to the energy of her most famous song Don’t Touch Me.

Track 5 is more unimpressive R+B .

Track 6, Come on Man (thanks Google Translate) plods along without doing very much.

Letting Go sounds like a potential single. It has a good hook and some nice backing vocals from Embassy.

Lastly, after a few more middling tracks, is an Emile Sande sounding ballad.

Final verdict: a few good tracks, but nothing to get very excited about. You don’t really need this album unless you are a die-hard fan.

Score: C-

Five great Girl’s Generation songs

If you’re not already loving this great 8-piece girl group from Korea then you damn well should be. For the uninitiated, here are five great songs to start off with:




The one that got things going in a really big way. If you sing just a few bars of this song to anyone from Korea they will instantly recognise it. Check out the video for some great choreography.


From the same time period as Gee, the song’s video showed a more mature look than the innocent outfits of their previous songs. Listening to Tiffany sing ‘DJ, put it back on’ is one of the great moments of K-pop.



Another great song and video which showcased some great dancing and costumes.

‘The Boys’


“The Girls Bring the boys out” they sing on this Teddy Riley produced number and you know they’re not lying. It’s the first song they recorded in English and there’s even a mix which has Snoop Dogg rapping on it.

‘I Got A Boy’


This dazzling five minute pop symphony has been compared to Bohemian Rhapsody by Pitchfork. It blends five different genres of music and is simply the best song they have recorded so far in their career.

Academics gather for third World Congress of Hallyu, Dubai

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K-pop group Sistar

It seems that as well as being a pop-cultural phenomenon that saw Gangnam Style become the most watched video on Youtube, K-Pop is now leading academics to write scholarly papers on the “symbiosis and parasitism” of attempts by fans to mimic idol groups’ dancing.

There has been resistance from the establishment who worry that erudite work on subjects like neo-Confucianism is being overtaken by papers about squeaky-clean Korean boy bands.

Clark Sorensen, a Korean studies professor at the University of Washington, says that while he understands the appeal of K-Pop for younger academics, “I myself have not chosen to do that kind of research, and I don’t care about that kind of research.”

Despite the ivory tower resistance, K-pop scholars may be winning the argument as K-pop’s scholarly appeal spreads within the academic community.

Last year, Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton Economics professor, uploaded a fake course online for “Introductory Korean Drama” to Princeton’s website.

After watching Korean soap operas every day for six years, he deconstructed the cliches at the heart of these programs’ appeal.

Among the ironclad rules, he argues: ‘No Korean daughter in-law can  make kimchi, or cook rice, or prepare muddy fish as well as does her mother-in-law.”