Whack-a-mole, the talents of Kpop: An interview with Mr. Kim. (A Collaboration with the K-Pop Club)

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K-pop, a genre of music full of pop and color, whether that is in the music videos, or the diversity of concepts. It’s been around since the 90’s, creating a spider web of sub genres. From dream pop to metal rock, it’s certainly caught Carver Center’s attention. That attention built what we now know as the K-pop club. This club is sponsored by Mr. Kim, esteemed math teacher. How did it come to be? ”One of the students…came to me and asked me to start it up, and I was like, totally!” Mr. Kim responded to my question. “I am Korean-American, I enjoy k-pop, and I want to support all students who share that love for k-pop as well.” 

Where did this interest in K-Pop come from? Whether it began with a middle school obsession or a really funny and interesting story, it is always nice to hear what sparked a person’s interest. So I asked Mr. Kim how he got into K-pop. He said, “I’ve been a K-pop fan since I was in middle school–I just saw my parents watch some Korean music shows and I was like– let me see what’s up. And I was like ooh- this is really interesting, this is different to what i used to listen to. I really got into k-pop and just Korean music in general quickly and I’ve loved it ever since.”

There’s so much to say about all of the amazing groups and songs out there; it’s just endless. It is specifically the fact that it feels like K-pop will not stop growing and there are so many varieties of concepts and group focuses that make it hard to pick a group to follow closely. I personally have gone through my phases of only staning one group and then staning more than I could follow, finally coming to what I do now: I support my favorite groups and listen to others casually. I asked Mr. Kim what are his favorites in K-Pop. “My top artists are– currently right now MAMAMOO in terms of best girl group, SUPER JUNIOR–that’s a little bit old school. I actually did like G.O.D and H.O.T as well back then, Girls Generation. My favorite solo artist is Aliee, and I have so many others, but those are my top favorite artists. But in terms of songs, there are way too many songs to account for that I enjoy, so I can’t even mention one. There are a lot that I love.”

What does the Future store for the K-pop Club? I asked Mr. Kim what his goals for the K-pop club were, “My goal for the club is to bring students together and share their love for K-pop. And I think that will build more friendships within the group. And I also want to bring more cultural diversity, especially with Korean culture. So if students are ever interested in asking me about Korean culture… anything that’s traditional, maybe not just K-pop. They can ask me some questions that I can possibly answer as a Korean-American.”

 

How do you think K-Pop has helped advertise Korean culture at Carver?

“Oh, I think it’s been a huge upbringing through Culture Fest. I think Culture Fest has helped a lot. Not just Korean culture, but multiple cultures throughout the world. And that makes Carver a very special place where everyone can enjoy different cultures and grow together as one whole community. That’s an amazing thing to see in a school community.”

“So actually, Kpop has had a pretty big success for a while. Actually, from my knowledge, in the early 1990s, there was a group. The leader of that group was called Seo Taiji. He was the one that pretty much started this whole K-pop trend. He merged Korean music with American music, probably with some other people that he connected with in America during that time, particularly rap and hip hop. And through that, K-pop has transcended ever since then. But within the past couple of years, K-pop became popular worldwide by the group BTS. Everyone knows, especially the song Dynamite, which went viral like crazy. But ultimately, with their music, their choreography, and pretty much how they dress, has become more trendy these days.”

 

The question that has separated K-Pop fans for years was brought up during the interview. Who do you think paved the way for K-Pop, BLACKPINK or BTS? “I want to say BTS, I feel. they are more prominent worldwide”. I agree with him on that, BTS was the one who made K-pop be recognized in the mainstream. Yes, BLACKPINK is incredibly famous for their hip-hop influenced style that granted them more acceptance by western countries. But, if you asked people with no interest or knowledge of K-pop, they would most likely know BTS and then BLACKPINK, showing how truly impactful BTS has been. “So I would agree to a certain extreme. I always use the word very popular for BTS just because, especially with YouTube and everything becoming more prominent on social media, I think BTS became still popular these days. However, there was Super Junior who was actually popular worldwide. Big Bang has been popular worldwide… around during the early to mid 2000s, even G.O.D. and H.O.T like in the late 1990s, they actually were popular during those times. They’re not as well known now but during that time as BTS is now, but a lot of the teenagers were crazy about them. If you ask people around my age, or maybe close to even, like those in their 40s, they would say the most popular group was either, like, G.O.D, H.O.T, Fin.K.L or S.E.S.”

 

How does K-Pop impact a student’s life?

“I know K-pop music has been trending based on what I’ve seen here, at least at Carver. During the short time that I’ve been here, this type of music has definitely given a great positive energy to the students. And I guess with any type of music, if students are getting frustrated or something with their work at home, then they can just have that music video or some type of music, especially K-pop music in the background, that can motivate them to get through that work. I think in terms of those who are interested in dance, I think K-pop has just made it to another level with a lot of K-pop fans who are interested in the various, unique dance moves that K-pop groups showcase in music videos and stage performances. And I also think for sure, which I’ve seen in our first interest meeting, that K-pop also brings new friendships from students having the same interest in K-pop.

Over saturation has been a large issue that has come up the last couple of years in the K-Pop industry. Like I said in a previous article of mine, being exposed to such intense concepts and songs, being shocked or excited over each comeback can burn fans out, and it’s the main cause of people leaving the K-Pop fandom, it leaves them with really high expectations that can later not be met, and gives those fans great disappointment. “I watch a lot of Korean music shows during my free time. As time goes on, I have seen Korean music videos that I feel like it’s kind of repetitive. I think that people can get tired and overwhelmed by the repetitiveness in the music flow, singing, etc. Like obviously everyone likes new things, like something that’s different than what they are used to viewing. So I feel like that is one negative aspect of that is that I see that a lot these days. I notice so many different groups coming out in which I can’t follow all of these new groups because there’s so many groups showing very similar dance moves and singing styles. It’s the same thing over and over again. So that’s the one thing that I’m concerned about with the K-Pop industry in which possible changes in the choreography should be made. So different K-pop groups or idols should showcase more innovative choreography. If not, I would see K-Pop slowly dying down over time due to the over saturation”

 

 

 

What do you think growing up through all the generations of K-Pop has been like? What have you seen? What has changed over time? How was your experience?  

“I’ve just seen so much talent in the K-pop industry and with Korean music in general over time. Like I mentioned earlier, Seo Taiji just started the K-pop revolution. He was the one that merged American music with Korean music to make something else. And then other Korean music artists built upon that to make more different dancing styles, music styles, etc.. And there are so many different music programs that people audition for, like K-Pop Star or Superstar Yeah, there’s the Voice of Korea, too. I mean, not just it doesn’t just have to be K-Pop. I mean, I listen to all that and the hidden talent that people have, it’s amazing. Speaking of Korean culture, I feel like, you know, there’s been so many things, positive things that’s happened in South Korea in general that I feel like has been shown. I feel like South Koreans are fairly strong in which the people have persevered through a lot of hardships, if you go back into history since the Korean War. And it’s one of the most technologically advanced countries in the entire world.”

 

How Has K-Pop Impacted Your life?

“Throughout my life, ever since I enjoyed K-Pop, I think K-Pop has impacted my life in which it helped me improve my Korean speaking skills. Well, I was born here, but through looking at the lyrics and going through some Korean school institutions, as well as listening to all this K-Pop music, it helped me improve my Korean speaking skills over time. Also, I think K-Pop has connected me with other friends who enjoy K-Pop as well. And like I said earlier, listening to a variety of Korean music is one of my hobbies. Watching those music competition shows is a way for me to take a break sometimes.”

 

 

What would you say to someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of K-Pop or Korean culture? What would you tell them? 

“Have you had this Korean food before? You should go and try it. I think what has made me like Korean culture in general, bypassing the whole K-Pop aspect of things, is like the Korean food that’s been promoted all across the country, especially in Maryland. I mean, there are some Korean barbecue places 20 or 30 minutes away from Carver, and people from different cultures have come and tried it out and people love it. I would encourage others to expand their horizons a little bit and to experience listening to Korean music, trying Korean food, and getting to know a little bit about Korean culture for those who don’t have knowledge by taking a basic Korean class. And just either want to try out if we’ve never tried to before, or just listen to one popular song, like, what’s your favorite type of genre? We can find some Korean music that matches, it’s different from what you’re used to listening to and seeing,  if you want to keep going from there or not.”

I commented “Yeah, that’s like whack a mole. Like you hit something and then another thing pops up.”

 “Yeah. Yeah. A domino effect, in a way.”