Superficiality Matters #1: Korea is a goth kid

(This post is part of the “Looking Past Korea” series which is a run down of all things I think are superficially important, culturally important, and things foreigners think are important but I think are pretty over rated. This is the 5th of 5 posts about Superficial things that stand out to me.)

Superficiality: Really sad music videos

Why it happens:

After watching countless music videos that involve bright colors, candy, roller blades and Wonder Woman, I have to think that the sad music videos are reactions to the little kid “bubble gum” pop that dominates South Korean pop music.

It’s artists who, believing they have actual talent, want to differentiate themselves from the pre-packaged groups such as Wonder Girls, Jewelry or Super Junior.

In essence, it’s Koreans answer to early 90’s grunge music. Only if instead of not caring about life in general, grunge was really sad because their girlfriend was put in the hospital by a vicious street gang while she was babysitting your mentally challenged friend who you were ashamed to be friends with but finally came around to when you began to get repeated nose bleeds and realized the shortness and importance of life.

What it says about Korea:

The question really goes back to why it happens. There’s the obvious answer I discussed above, but why is sadness necessary at all to show artistic ability?

Supposedly, misery loves company. So I guess happiness loves…not company? I always founds this statement to be odd as happy people tend to have more friends. Maybe it was a Korean who originally coined the phrase.

Korea is a society that, at it’s core, is constantly on the defensive. After a history that has been spent warding off foreign invaders Korea has developed a very “us vs. the world” mentality.

So, just like in middle and high school when you secretly believed the world was out to get you this defensive mindset could make a person, or in this case an entire society, a tad depressing. Korea is a goth kid.

Visual Example:

Monday Kiz

This song gets me pretty excited when I here it while walking down the street. It feels like the video should be pretty happy, but then a little girl dies. Of course…why shouldn’t she?

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3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Korean MTV, Videos

3 responses to “Superficiality Matters #1: Korea is a goth kid

  1. Mia

    That “little kid ‘bubble gum’ pop” severely annoys me but everyone around me loves it. I place it below modern rap just because it’s so annoying and yes, MODERN rap because when rap was old school it was quite good.

    Sigh, I have a feeling that if I lived in Korea I would be an unhappy Goth too. Either that or an angry rocker of some sort.

    By the way, I love the Blog.

  2. “Korea is a society that, at it’s core, is constantly on the defensive. After a history that has been spent warding off foreign invaders Korea has developed a very “us vs. the world” mentality.

    So, just like in middle and high school when you secretly believed the world was out to get you this defensive mindset could make a person, or in this case an entire society, a tad depressing”

    do you think that being a foreigner in a particularly xenophobic society has made it easier for you to stereotype that society?

    or, do you feel that the personalities of middle school kids in post-industrial societies really are a good analogy to the ‘historical’ culture of that society?

    if so, then that means the history of an entire country essentially creates the modes and methods of it’s commercial ‘artists’ operating in the modern free-market system, i.e. under the conditions of the culture industry : manufactured need (ads), capital manufacturing of popularity, hegemony (the mind set that being successful as an artist means being richly compensated) etc.

    this logically means that the history of a nation is more important in creating the type of ‘artists’ in the society than the economic system that literally creates those ‘artists’.

    does the american historical experience of settler-colony aggression, towards the ‘natives’, slaves, immigrants, and nearly constant war, then define the aggressiveness in american metal, rock, and hip-hop?

    what kind of person would that be in high school? a bully? an arrogant jock?

    of course not, because american music is also blues, jazz, new age, elevator, minimalism, american pastoral, gospel, etc etc. the complexities of the society are felt in different expressions, which all societies encompass.

    the idea of popular korean music as an accurate expression of the culture is laughable, for it ignores the complexities of the globalization (war and posturing for trade, basically) that brought the ‘modern’ system of music into being in korea and also ignores the vast and varying types of traditional, classical, non-commercial (eai, for example) and folk musics of korea.

    and generally, probably every society has some amount of sad songs because as humans we all feel sadness. the portuguese fado is based around a specifically portuguese feeling of ‘yearning’, for example, but those guys also dance to a lot of polka – not very ‘yearning’. doesn’t this just mean that all people experience a range emotions, which can be expressed or exploited by song, no matter what the history of the country that one is born into, even in what could be considered a ‘melodramatic’ society like korea?

    but if we are going to devolve into judging national character by the most trivial of it’s pop culture, then the two minute pop song is the quintessential characteristic of american thought : catchy, short, satisfying, shallow, and confident in it’s own natural attractiveness, no matter what the content.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_industry

    • “but if we are going to devolve into judging national character by the most trivial of it’s pop culture, then the two minute pop song is the quintessential characteristic of american thought : catchy, short, satisfying, shallow, and confident in it’s own natural attractiveness, no matter what the content.”

      agreed

      additionally, yes, there are tons of types of music for every culture…but you have to admit there are lots of unnecessarily sad music videos (something which is not limited only to korea) and yes, it does say something about the culture

      as art is a reflection of culture the sad music video trend does represent something…what it represents and why i leave up to you…my opinion has already been stated in the post

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