Japan was the trailblazer for exporting Asian culture to the world, but Korea is becoming the new leader. Today on Think, Krys Boyd talked to an expert in Korean culture about how the country is putting its stamp on pop culture.
A video by the Korean boy band EXO has been watched more than 42 million times on YouTube. And if the song sounds both foreign and familiar, there’s a good reason for that.
“They’re very, very good packagers. Koreans are very good packagers," says Euny Hong, the author of a new book about how Korea is trying to become a world leader in pop culture. “No one that I spoke to when I was interviewing people for this book – no one from the top levels of government to film executives to film executives – ever said this music was wonderful. That’s not the point.”
K-Pop is a government funded industry in Korea. The charge is to take fads from across the globe and bundle them into one irresistible package.
“So they get their songs from Sweden – the music, not the lyrics. They get their dance choreography from all over – a lot of them are from America," Hong says. "Since it is kind of a mix, it is by definition not going to sound super original. What is original is the particular packaging, the way the whole thing is assembled, the way the whole thing’s put together.”
And when the rest of the world hears little bits of itself in the product, it’s easy for the makers of K-Pop to churn out international earworms.
Euny Hung’s book is called The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World of Pop Culture. Think re-airs tonight at 10 or listen to the podcast.