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Export-Oriented Identity of K-Pop as Discussed in K-Pop―Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea by John Lie

Sa-Bin Shin 1

1중부대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In his book K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea(2015), John Lie explains K-pop as the emergence of export-oriented South Korean popular music, and makes sense of larger South Korean economic and cultural transformations. In K-Pop, John Lie provides not only a history of South Korean popular music―Japanese colonial influence, post-Liberation American impact, and recent globalization―but also a description of K-pop as a system of economic innovation and cultural production. However, John Lie’s description of the history and circumstantial background of South Korean popular music is too lengthy and based on inaccurate information and a prejudiced point of view, and thus is not free from criticism about undervaluation and factual errors. This might be because John Lie, who is known to have been raised in Japan, relied too much on Japanese documents. Nevertheless, this paper mainly intends to critically accept and re-interpret John Lie’s opinion about K-pop’s dilemma between capitalism and genuineness, rather than to point out the errors of his opinion. In addition, this paper intends to propose that the hybridity and diaspora of K-pop lay the foundation of building the identity of and developing K-pop. This paper also intends to criticize the current status of K-pop from the perspective of socio-musicology in reliance upon the main concepts (i.e., production, marketing, consumption, and listener regression) of Theodor Adorno’s theory of popular culture and to seek the measures to develop the future-oriented identity of K-pop and facilitate the sustainable development of K-pop in reliance upon the concept of “articulation” under Stuart Hall’s theory and methodology of cultural studies. This paper does not support John Lie’s assertion on K-pop’s naked commercialism after the 1997 financial crisis of Korea. Rather, based on John Lie’s view that the “lack of authenticity” of K-pop is attributable to its “severance from tradition,” this paper intends to put forward a new point of view on “how authentic music can be created.” If K-pop interacts with consumers (listeners) after its hybridity articulates with authenticity (tradition) and its diaspora articulates with regionality (identity), the tradition of Korean culture and the essence of global culture would naturally interact with one another. What is required of us now is not the vague prediction or expectation of K-pop’s improved capitalism, but the clear understanding and activism of K-pop’s recovery of authenticity.

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