[CfP] Second Round of CfP for IASPM XXI 2022 in Daegu

On behalf of the IASPM XXI 2022 Organizing Committee, we are pleased to invite you to the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) to be held at Daegu, South Korea on 5-9 July 2022. As you all know, IASPM 2021 originally to be held in July 2021 was postponed for 12 months. Due to this postponement, we are reopening Call for Presentations (CFP) for those who missed the chance to apply first time around and those who wish to revise or replace their original proposals.

Having been held every two years since 1981, IASPM is now one of world’s most prestigious international conferences of popular music studies. It will be a fascinating opportunity for participants to share the latest information and knowledge in the diverse areas of popular music.

For the conference, a wide range of current topics in Climates of Popular Music will be discussed in the forms of speeches, panel sessions, and poster sessions. You may refer to our e-Newsletter and Website for more information including keynote speakers, topics, the host city, and conference proceedings.

The IASPM XXI 2022 will be held in a hybrid format combining virtual and face-to-face conference sessions even when there is a dramatic improvement in the situation with regards to international travel. This is a decision based not only on the current pandemic situation but also on our concern about climate change. Details of how the conference is organized is to be announced later.

Please note that all of your proposals and papers must be submitted through our online submission page. Through this platform, we hope we provided an easy and convenient way for applicants to participate.

If your proposal was already accepted by the IASPM last year, you do not have to re-submit it. Your status as being accepted will be maintained. However, you will need to confirm your intent to maintain your presentation via online submission page.

You can also revise or replace your previous abstract accepted if you would like to. However, in this case your new or updated abstract will be considered a new submission and reviewed by the IASPM committee again.

Additionally, panel participants should consult with the panel organizer to make changes to their individual abstract for the panel. It is up to the panel organizers to confirm panel participants’ intention to continue to join the panel and to reorganize the panel if necessary.

Thank you!

IASPM XXI 2022_Key dates
1) Call for Abstract: September 1~October 31, 2021
2) Notification of Review Result: January 31, 2022
3) Early-bird Registration: March 1~April 31, 2022
4) Standard Registration: May 1~June 30, 2022

For further details, please visit the IASPM XXI 2022 official website.

Keewoong Lee. Hyunjoon Shin
IASPM XXI Organising Committee

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music by Hyunjoon Shin


Reviewed by: Hyunjoon Shin, Sungkonghoe University, Korea


The original link is at https://journals.equinoxpub.com/JWPM/issue/current 

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music-文化評論| 誠品網路書店

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music is part of the now well-established Routledge Global Popular Music series. Like its predecessors, it is a multi-authored volume: the fourteenth in total, and the third among popular music in Asia after Made in Japan (Mitsui 2014) and Made in Korea (Shin and Lee 2017). Its three editors, all based in the Taiwanese academy, have actively joined international conferences, especially those of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies (IAPMS). The book represents an effort by these editors to gather authors from a range of disciplinary specializations, admirably including some who have hitherto published primarily in Chinese, and is thus a product of painstaking collaborative work rather than just a collection of essays.

As a non-Taiwanese East Asian, I had assumed that popular songs made in Taiwan, along with those made in Hong Kong, were “Chinese pop music”. While the latter used Cantonese, a regional variant of Chinese, popular songs from Taiwan used Mandarin, the standard Chinese, which I (mis)perceived as “authentic” Chinese popular songs. Especially, I was aware of numerous songs sung by Deng Lijun (aka Teresa Teng), a “persistent figure of the Asian diva” (Weintraub and Barendregt 2017: 2), which had crossed national borders and not only symbolized but also defined what Chinese pop music had been. Yet it did not take me long to realize that such a set of assumptions was far from correct. Then I underwent a confused process of understanding the identity of Taiwan. It is a complex riddle. According to my memo before writing this review, Taiwan is adorable, unique, multilingual, complicated, troubled and cool at the same time. Is such a combination possible? The answer is yes, because Taiwan is currently “a state without nation” (73) according to one of the authors/editors. Taiwan is a multi-layered cultural formation that does not allow easy understanding. Compare this to the stance of Marc Moskowitz whose pioneering monograph on Taiwanese pop music presents it within a wider frame as a “Chinese pop music”, as shown in his book title (Moskowitz 2010).

Thus, it is hard work to define, delineate and clarify “Taiwanese popular music” in a focused and simple way. Even in a volume that is beautifully and consistently edited, different authors use different wordings at different places: “Taiwanese popular music”, “Taiwan popular music”, “popular music in Taiwan” and “Taiwanese language (Taiyu) popular music”. Rather than indicating a shortcoming, the nuances stemming from those contrasting wordings deserve close attention. While popular music made in Japan is predominantly sung in Japanese and popular music from Korea in Korean language, popular music made in Taiwan is not so simply delineated. Indeed, Taiwanese popular music or popular music made in Taiwan offers a more intriguing case than any in the region or beyond.

The co-editors of the volume tackle this complex point in their co-written introduction, which is followed by a tracing of three different trajectories of popular music in Taiwan. Chapter 1 is not only the most comprehensive and authoritative but also original and controversial. Here, Tung-Hong Ho’s conceptualization of “nativism” is original enough to deconstruct the misconception that Taiwanese popular music is all about Mandarin pop ballads. As someone who has used the term alter-nativism elsewhere (Ho, Cheng and Luo 2015), his desire would not be so different from the desire of popular music artists, industry workers and cultural intermediaries in Taiwan: achieving both native and alternative (as also reprised in the Afterword in the form of a fascinating interview with Lim Giong).

Chapters 2 and 3 focus on Mandarin popular music and on aboriginal popular music respectively. To those who only have had basic knowledge about popular music in the early Cold War period, these two chapters on the extreme poles of Taiwanese popular music are both surprising and intriguing. If spatial relocation is the key process in the former, temporal reinvention is dominant in the latter.

Tracing the trajectories does not stop discussion on identities, as is shown by four chapters in Part II: “Identities”. Contrary to my expectation that the part will deal with the identities associated with social identities such as gender, class or generation, the focus is still centred around “Taiwanese identities”, whether national or ethnic. Chapters 4 and 7 (by C. S. Stone Shih and Andrew Jones, respectively) analyse the identities of subaltern Taiwanese from case studies on specific artists and their products: Hsu Shih, a vanguard composer of Taiyu ballads in the 1960s, and the prominent Hakka folk rock band Labor Exchange Band in the 1990–2000s respectively. Both chapters show that modern popular music never does away with traditions and roots, no matter how much they are transformed, refracted and even distorted. I perceive the different writing styles of the two authors as relating to the contrasting temporalities and spatialities that each interrogates.

Chapters 5 and 6 (by Yu-Yuan Huang and Meng Tze Chu, respectively) tackle the enduring power of the cultural hegemons, Japan and America, respectively. The practices of “covering” Japanese popular music and Anglo-American popular music are assessed by paying attention to specific actors and social conditions. Avoiding abstract theories, each chapter has the strong merit of providing thick and factual description based on rich data. Some readers will be discontent with the rather uncritical and positive usage of the concept of “hybridization” in the former and the ambiguous or ambivalent evaluation of the concept of “Americanization” in the latter. To my belief, however, they contribute to advancing further discussion on the subjects.

Part III: “Issues” consists of essays on contemporary genres written by scholars who are well-versed in cultural studies: rock (Chapter 8, Chi-Chung Wang), EDM (Chapter 9, Eva Tsai) and hip-hop (Chapter 10, Hao-Li Lin). These cases as well as studies on them have the flavour of so-called globalization which has been believed to make everything unstable, mobile and disarticulated. Rather than providing a general description of the music genres and styles, each author takes his or her own specific focus and expands from it toward the bigger picture. By doing that, unexpected encounters are highlighted: the legacy of Confucianist ethic in amateur rock (sub)culture, inter-Asia (Taiwan-Thailand) connections in electronic dance pop, and intelligent and non-misogynic hip-hop masculinity. All of these case studies are based on detailed ethnographies that challenge any easy generalization on the subjects concerned.

The remaining four chapters in Part IV: “Interactions and the Coda” wrestle with complex contexts that sometimes go beyond the local scale: the export of popular music associated with the state agenda (Chapter 11, Yu-Peng Lin and Hui-Ju Tsai), audience reception of the artist Jay Chou and his style (Chapter 12, Chen-Yu Lin), the myth of the border-crossing appeal of the national diva Teresa Teng (Chapter 13, Chen-Ching Cheng) and international or translocal networking of indie music on a regional scale (Chapter 14, Miaoju Jian). All these subjects and themes are too recent, pending and ongoing to be critically evaluated by this reviewer; yet, what is certain is that the authors bravely put maximal efforts into raising relevant questions. There is no doubt that these subjects will be heatedly debated in the future.

What I found unexpected here is a lack of specific chapters providing general description of conventional subjects and topics: the recording industry, broadcasting media, live music venues, digital-mobile platforms and so on. I am one of those who badly needs them! In East Asia, basic knowledge which may be taken for granted in one country can be totally alien in another, and there can be significant gaps in coverage in research in English as compared to that in the national language of each nation, leaving outsiders struggling to contextualize the more detailed content. The editors may have thought that such introductory description is not their job, or were perhaps afraid that such content could make their volume rather plain and banal. I nevertheless hope that they will consider providing such coverage somewhere else, if one edited volume cannot deal with everything.

Another unexpected detail is that some generic vocabularies are not precisely defined and their usages are not necessarily consistent throughout the volume. One example is the usage of the categories of “song”, “ballad” and “tune”. I am still not sure whether these three are sharply differentiated or largely interchangeable. If the former is the case, it would have been better to write down the Romanized term for each of them. In that sense, it would also have been helpful for the editors to trace or analyse the principles, rules and customs of genre division in Taiwan, which are hinted at in the beautiful mapping out of topics given in the volume’s Fig. 0.1 (14).

A last unexpected point is that some artists do not receive their rightful places in the volume. I will pick up only two artists, Luo Dayou (aka Lo Tayu, b. 1954) and Chen Qizhen (aka Cheer Chen, b. 1975). These two singer-songwriters redefined Mandarin popular music made in Taiwan during the 1980s and the 2000s respectively, and have achieved the status of cultural icons. If I may use the jargon of fandom, Luo is the “Godfather” (jiaofu) and Chen the “Goddess” (nüshen). They also show that even once-independent artists can sell out either to industry or to nation. It is in this sense that Luo Dayou is compared to Bob Dylan according to Guy (2011: 192). Thus, they should have been under critical analysis rather than mentioned in passing.

In that sense, this book performs its own cultural politics. Rather than focusing on Taiwan as the production centre for Mandarin popular music, especially during the 1980–90s, it sheds more light on multiple undercurrents produced during and after that period. Thus, it offers a serious effort at preventing Taiwan from being absorbed into China. It is true that everything made in Taiwan cannot be reduced to that made in China. The exchanges between the island and the mainland, more exactly the “continent”, which have been and will be going on would be another job beyond the scope of this book.

During my fieldwork, I sensed that different genres of Taiwanese popular music were flowing out of Taiwan. A Taiwanese pop-rock band was on a “world tour” all over the planet, old Taiyu ballads played in a Shanghai taxi, and a young amateur singer in Hong Kong sang indie pop from Taiwan on the street. All in all, Taiwanese has become more than just an identity. It has become a brand that generates diverse style. It is made in Taiwan and flows to the world. I am sure that this will be the next subject of study by these authors and other researchers. Taiwanese popular music is neither overtly global nor merely local. Thus, the book makes its readers ask questions as to how far concepts like hybridization, glocalization and transculturation are standing the test of time.

All the points above never undermine any single part of Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music. It is a groundbreaking book and highly recommended for scholars and students interested in Taiwanese popular music, and in East Asian popular music broadly. Political scientist and Taiwan specialist Shelley Rigger posits Taiwan both as a small island and global powerhouse (Rigger 2013): there is no doubt that Taiwan matters, and understanding Taiwanese popular music is of significant help in grasping the complexities of popular music on this planet much more generally.


Guy, Nancy. 2011. “Review of Cries of Joy, Songs of Sorrow: Chinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations by Marc L. Moskowitz”. Perfect Beat 12(2): 191–93.

Ho, Tung-Hung, Hui-Hua Cheng and Yue-Quan Luo, eds. 2015. Zaoyin fantu [Altering Nativism: Sound Culture in Postwar Taiwan]. Taipei: Walkers Cultural Enterprise.

Mitsui, Toru, ed. 2014. Made in Japan: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203384121

Moskowitz, Marc L. 2010. Cries of Joy, Songs of Sorrow: Chinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. https://doi.org/10.21313/hawaii/9780824833695.001.0001

Rigger, Shelley. 2013. Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield.

Shin, Hyunjoon, and Seung-Ah Lee, eds. 2017. Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315761626

Weintraub, Andrew N., and Bart Barendregt. 2017. “Re-Vamping Asia: Women, Music, and Modernity in Comparative Perspective”. In Vamping the Stage: Female Voices of Asian Modernities, edited by Andrew N. Weintraub and Bart Barendregt, 1–39. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvvmxv2.3

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music by Yiu Fai Chow

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music

First Published August 5, 2020 Book Reviewhttps://doi.org/10.1177/2059436420947368

Yiu Fai Chow

Creative Commons Attribution, Non Commercial 4.0 License

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular MusicEva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho & Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music. New York, NY; London, England: Routledge, 2020. xix + 260 pp, with a selected bibliography: ISBN 9780815360155 (hbk, £88); 9780815360179 (pbk, £26.39); 978351119146 (ebk, £26.39).

This anthology is a sumptuous and ambitious project. It is sumptuous because the contributors offer readers a unique occasion to understand Taiwanese popular music, along an expansive time line (from the late 1890s to 2019), across an unusual musical diversity (whether in terms of what we usually understand as genres, or pop defined linguistically or cultural-historically), and informed by a wide range of disciplines (media and communication studies, sociology, anthropology, history, literature, East Asian studies and ethnomusicology). It is ambitious because the editors are not content with a sumptuous collection, or, in their words, ‘the sum of Mandarin pop, Hokkien/Hoklo pop, Hakka pop, and indigenous pop’ (p. 1); they intervene and ‘highlight certain smaller, more interstitial narratives that put these dominant historical interpretations in perspectives’ (p. 5). In other words, Made in Taiwan is not preoccupied with defining what a certain kind of popular music is or should be; rather, it is intent on breaking open hardened pop histories in order to afford more academic contemplation and empirical curiosity, ultimately to release more energy and liveliness from popular music itself. We see the editors’ mission in the 15 chapters or studies that follow their poignantly formulated Introduction.

The main body of the book is divided into the following four sections: Trajectories, Identities, Issues, and Interactions. The three chapters under Trajectories zoom in on the formative years of Taiwanese popular music, the decades following the Second World War, albeit with different perspectives. Tung-hung Ho’s opening chapter examines the intricate connections between the rise of nativism and the emergence of Taiwanese pop, with a critical reflection on the pitfalls of nativism and a proposal of what he calls ‘alternative nativism’. Szu-wei Chen’s chapter recuperates the productive encounter of two professionals – the prolific composer Chou Lan-ping and the pioneering entrepreneur Liao Chien-yuan, to argue against the dominant view that Taiwan in the 1950s was only borrowing from neighbouring centres (Shanghai, Hong Kong) and never itself a site of original music production. The following chapter by Kuo-chao Huang foregrounds indigenous music, particularly in the form of ‘Mountain Songs’ and tracks its development in the 1960s and 1970s to underline its often neglected, or ignored, importance to the development of Taiwanese popular music as a whole. The second section, as its title Identities suggests, collects four chapters dedicated to exploring the relationship between identities and social and musical practices. The chapters by C.S. Stone Shih and Yu-yuan Huang concern Taiyu ballads. While the former is a case study of composer Hsu Shih and his significance, the latter focuses on Taiyu covers of Japanese songs and dissects processes of cultural hybridization. Turning from Japanese influence to Anglo-American pop-rock, Meng Tze Chu talks to aging lovers and music practitioners and weave a life-affirming inquiry from their collective memories of the rock scene and the Cold War period. Andrew Jones, in his chapter on Hakka folk rock, unfolds the complexity of ethnic, class and musical identities through the music of Labor Exchange Band.

The third section Issues covers three pop genres in Taiwan since the late 1990s. A vivid instance of how locatedness functions to produce knowledge on popular music, Chi-Chung Wang’s chapter studies the relationship between elite high school practices and the development of rock culture in Taiwan. Informed by feminist deconstruction, Eva Tsai maps Hsieh Jin-yen’s transformation from Taiyu singer to EDM diva, teasing out its subversive potentials. Continuing the gender problematic, Lin Hao-li considers the possibility of ‘alternative masculinity’ among a group of educated, middle-class male rappers in Taiwan. The final section Interactions brings readers to the latest development in Taiwanese popular music. The first chapter, by Yu-peng Lin and Hui-ju Tsai, enters the field of cultural policy, and examines government support to promote Taiwan’s indie music abroad. Turning to one of Taiwan’s most profitable musical exports, Jay Chou, Chen-yu Lin focuses on his China Wind songs and discusses the issue of Chineseness by way of Chinese audiences’ reception of Chou’s music. The final chapter, by Chen-Ching Cheng, ends the book proper, very appropriately, with ‘the biggest Mandarin pop star in history’ (p. 170) – Teresa Teng – and an analysis of her stardom in the nationalistic context.

I wrote ‘book proper’ earlier, as following these four sections are two more chapters. Miaoju Jian’s chapter, as Coda, explores further what is going on right now in Taiwan’s music scene; she presents three paths through which indie musicians may reach audience outside Taiwan: global Mandopop market, East Asian DIY networks, and translocal entrepreneurial promoters. The final chapter of the book, modestly presented as an afterword, is a conversation between the three editors and veteran practitioner Lim Giong. Perhaps, this last choice may serve as a trigger to offer some form of criticism – as a book review is obliged to – to this highly engaging, informative and political anthology. Namely, the bulk of the book remains dedicated to the past. As someone with vested interest – both personal and professional – in music, I long to read more about what is going on, what future we can envisage, how do streaming and other forms of technological developments impact on Taiwanese popular music, what are younger generations of fans ‘prosuming’? I am also not very sure what the section titles add; would it be better to organize the book somewhat mundanely according to themes or chronology? Finally, a very minor sigh: it would be helpful to add cited names and titles in Chinese, for those who may find it difficult to recognize them in ‘English’ renditions. All in all, Made in Taiwan is a must read for anyone interested in Taiwan, Taiwanese popular music and popular music at large. For the richness of musical genres, case studies and academic disciplines included in the anthology, it is relevant to scholars operating in a wide range of fields. It should also be a good textbook for courses on popular music, globalization and area studies. The selected bibliography on popular music in Taiwan is very useful.Yiu Fai Chow
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

CfP: Cultural Typhoon 2020

Cultural Typhoon 2020: Call for Papers

A Port of ‘Cranes’ in the 21st Century: Mobilities, Exchanges and Histories

Cultural Typhoon 2020 (CT2020) will be held in Nagasaki on June 27 – 28, 2020. It offers a great opportunity to discuss mobilities and exchanges of people, information, and knowledge in the age of globalization.

The Port of Nagasaki has been historically called “Crane Port” because the shape of the port looks like a crane with spread wings.

Nagasaki, with its Crane Port, has historically been a point of transit, hosting departures and arrivals between Japan and East Asia, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Korean Peninsula; Southeast Asia; and Europe, particularly Portugal and The Netherlands.

Nagasaki’s various foods, lifestyles, festivals, architecture, and urban landscape evidence cultural exchange through this transit of people, goods, and ideas. While no cranes can be found living in Nagasaki, it is indeed a “city of cranes”—that is, a city of mobility, which is aptly embodied in the migratory bird—where people, goods, culture, and knowledge move across national borders.

To think about the history of Nagasaki is also to (re)consider the history of mobilities of human beings and our transnational cultural exchange, and narratives of industrialization and modernization. Cultural exchange with China and Korea over the centuries; the propagation and suppression of the Christian faith; the import of modern Western scientific knowledge as well as philosophy and literature; the development of modern shipbuilding as part of military and naval modernization; the coal mining industrys industrialization and the ferrying of resources;, the immigration and, at times, exploitation of workers at sites close to the Nagasaki Port like Gunkanjima; and the devastation brought by war in the form of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the WWII—such phenomena have left a unique impression on the culture of Nagasaki.

CT2020 is will be held at University of Nagasaki’s Siebold Campus. The name of the campus comes from the German physician and botanist who founded a private school, Narutaki Juku, where he taught Western science, medicine in particular, during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868).

The Association for Cultural Typhoon (ACT, Japan) is calling for proposals for panels and individual papers for the 2020 annual conference to be held at Siebold Campus, University of Nagasaki, Nagasaki, from June 27–28, 2020.

The deadline for application: 31st December, 2019, Japan time 23:00.

See the details here: http://cultural-typhoon.com/act/en/2019/11/call-for-paper-cultural-typhoon-2020/

Remembering Popular Music’s Past: Memory-Heritage-History

‘Remembering Popular Music’s Past’ capitalises on the growing interest, globally, in the preservation of popular music’s material past and on scholarly explorations of the ways in which popular music, as heritage, is produced, legitimised and conferred cultural and historical significance. The chapters in this collection consider the spaces, practices and representations that constitute popular music heritage in order to elucidate how popular music’s past is lived in the present. Thus the focus is on the transformation of popular music into heritage, and the role of history and memory in this transformation. The collection is particularly interested in the ways in which popular music’s past becomes enacted in the present.

The chapters discuss a diverse array of topics but are unified by inquiry into the construction, curation, display, negotiation and perception of popular music’s past. The collection presents a critical perspective on academics’ involvement in ‘historian’s’ work of ‘reconstruction’ of the past through archival and analytical research. The cultural studies framework adopted in the collection encompasses unique approaches to popular music historiography, sociology, film analysis, and archival and museal work. Broadly ‘Remembering Popular Music’s Past’ deals with issues of precarity in popular music heritage, history and memory. The collection is a timely addition to a subfield of popular music studies and critical heritage studies that has grown exponentially in the past ten years.

Table of Contents

1. The Precarity of Memory, Heritage and History in Remembering Popular Music’s Past, Lauren Istvandity and Zelmarie Cantillon; MEMORY;
2. Consuming Popular Music Heritage, Paul Long;
3. ‘Back in the Day’: Experiencing and Retelling the Past as a Claim to Belong in the Current Northern Soul Scene, Sarah Raine;
4. Resilience and Change: Popular Folk Songs in a Cultural Landscape, Ashton Sinamai and John Schofield;
5. Remembering the Independent Record Shop: The Ordinary Affects of Leedin Records, Adele Pavlidis;
6. ‘Mean Streets’ as Heritage Object: Music, Nostalgia and the Museumification of Martin Scorsese, Amanda Howell; HERITAGE;
7. Mark II: Re-working the Heritage B(r)and, Shane Homan;
8. The Continually Precarious State of the Musical Object, Charles Fairchild;
9. Showing Off: Taking Popular Music Research into the Museum, Peter Doyle;
10. Preserving Icelandic Popular Music Heritage: Issues of Collection, Access and Representation, Zelmarie Cantillon, Bob Buttigieg and Sarah Baker;
11. Questioning the Future of Popular Music Heritage in the Age of Platform Capitalism, Raphaël Nowak; HISTORY;
12. Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Mystery Train’ (1989): Representing the Memphis Music Legacy on Film, Adriano Tedde and David Baker;
13. Phenomenology of the Surf Ballroom’s Winter Dance Party: Affect and Community at a Popular Music Heritage Tourism Event, Sheryl Davis, Sherry Davis and Zelmarie Cantillon;
14. Disappearing History: Two Case Studies on the Precarity of Music Writing, Ian Rogers;
15. Great Albums, Greedy Collectors and Gritty Sounds? A View from ‘Snobbish Connoisseurs’ on the Canonization and Archivalism of Korean Pop-Rock, Hyunjoon Shin and Keewoong Lee;
16. Towards a Feminist History of Popular Music: Re-examining Writing on Musicians and Domestic Violence in the Wake of #metoo, Catherine Strong;

[Call for Papers] International postgraduate workshop on creative labour in East Asia and Beyond: work, subjectivity and alternatives in the global creative economies

Call for Papers
International postgraduate workshop on creative labour in East Asia and Beyond: work, subjectivity and alternatives in the global creative economies

Dates: 16 – 18 May 2019
Place: Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

Jeroen de Kloet (University of Amsterdam)
Anthony Fung (Beijing Normal University)
Yiu Fai Chow (Hong Kong Baptist University)
Jian Lin (University of Amsterdam)

We invite abstract submissions from post-graduate and Ph.D researchers to a workshop on creative labour in East Asia.

Generally all human labour is potentially embodied with creativity (McGuigan 2010: 324). In the past two decades, however, the circulation of capital has delimited creativity as a definitive feature that distinguishes certain occupations in the so-called creative industries. Policy makers around the globe, following the 1990’s British government, embrace the ‘creative industries’ discourse and trumpet creative work for its bohemian spirit, autonomy and playfulness. Nevertheless, critiques have noted that the real situation of creative work is not as autonomous, self-expressive and fulfilling as imagined by creative-industry policies. Creative workers have become a creative precariat, suffering under precarious working conditions and surrounded by problems such as short-term contracts, unequal earnings and a lack of unions (Curtin and Sanson, 2016; Hesmondhalgh and Baker, 2011). Discourses surrounding creativity function as elements connected by the ‘creativity dispositif’, to implement job creation while also to discipline youthful population – to be creative (McRobbie 2016; Reckwitz 2017).

Most of these claims are elaborated from the perspective of western, ‘neoliberal’ creative industries. The critical language used often directs all discussion of ‘inequality’, ‘precarity’ and ‘self-exploitation’ of creative labour towards a critique of ‘neoliberalism’, thus running the risk of overlooking different socio-political contexts. The global hierarchy of creative industries and the national political atmosphere often affect the condition of creative labour and make the discourse of creativity function in different ways (Fung, 2016; Lin 2019). For example, in the case of China, culture and creativity are not only touted for ‘restructuring economy’, but also designated as instrument for wielding ‘soft power’ and maintaining social stability (Keane 2010).
·      How does the creativity dispositif function differently across different geo-political contexts, such as in East Asia?
·      Instead of grouping all the creative labourers as ‘precariat’, how do creative practitioners from different social, political contexts experience precarity differently?
·      How do these distinctive social contexts also result in different modes of governance and subjectification?
·      Where and how can we look for ‘alternatives’ – when we take the issue of contextuality into account, how can we conceive ‘good cultural work’ and to make creative labour ‘good work’ (Hesmondhalgh and Baker, 2011)?

To bring the global perspective to the study of creative production and creative labour, this workshop invites scholars from both global and regional (East Asian) contexts to engage with the above questions on the labour issues in contemporary cultural production, and to reflect upon the possibilities for good work and alternative creative economies brought by the interaction between the global capitalism and the local geopolitical economy.

Abstracts (max. 300 words) and short biographical notes (max. 100 words) need to be submitted to j.lin2@uva.nl by 7 February 2019. Accepted participants will be notified by 1 March 2019. Workshop participation is free of charge and we will cover the flight and accommodation expenses for selected speakers.

A selection of workshop papers will be published as special issue in a peer-reviewed journal.

The workshop is part of the ChinaCreative project (http://chinacreative.humanities.uva.nl) that is funded by a consolidator grant from the European Research Council. It is co-organized by the University of Amsterdam, Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong Baptist University.

[Review] K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea (by John Lie) and Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop (by Michael Fuhr) by Keewoong Lee


The Journal of Contemporary Korean Studies (JCKS) – VOL.3-1,2



K-Pop: The Soundtrack of Korea’s Globalization

K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea, by John Lie. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015. 241 pp.


Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop, by Michael Fuhr, New York and London: Routledge, 2016. 256 pp.

LEE Keewoong[1]

The Rise of International K-Pop Scholarship

In July 2012, I was in Taipei attending the biennial Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Conference (IAPMS). The weather was scorching hot but the fever inside the auditorium felt even hotter. The heat I am speaking about emanated from the enthusiastic participants from all over Asia who were buzzing with new-found joy about K-Pop. The official theme of the event was, “Ways of Listening: How Do We Listen to Pop Music in/from Asia, and How Can We Talk about It?” Though the conference intended to cover the music of Asia in general, the star of the show was, without a doubt, K-Pop. Thirteen of the sixty-four papers presented at the conference were devoted to K-Pop or its related topics, and there were a number of other papers which covered non-K-Pop Korean popular music such as rock and trot. It was a dramatic change from the previous conference, held two years before, where the sum total of papers on the Korean Wave, not specifically K-Pop, was three. Personally, I remember the 2012 IAPMS Conference as the moment when international K-Pop scholarship exploded.

K-Pop is now a staple in the international conference circuit, particularly in the disciplines of Popular Music Studies and Korean Studies. In fact, we may even go so far as to claim K-Pop scholarship as a crowded field, inundated as it is with literature covering the many dimensions of the topic. Specifically, there have been studies on gender (Jung 2011; Maliangkay and Song 2015), race (Jung 2013) national identity (Jung 2015; Khoo 2015), language (Lee 2004; Jin and Ryoo 2014), the music industry (Epstein 2015; Kang 2015; Kim 2015), media (Oh and Park 2012; Ono and Kwon 2013), and fan culture (Siriyuvasak and Shin 2007; Khiun 2013; Sung 2013; Choi and Maliangkay 2015), to list but a few in English. Increasingly diverse topics are being covered and debated. This makes K-Pop a tricky subject as it is becoming increasingly difficult to say something that has not already been said. This is the first hurdle any new K-Pop literature needs to clear. Despite the great interest in the topic, it is still true that international K-Pop scholarship remains in its infancy, as the dearth in English-language book-length expositions on the topic testifies. Until very recently, K-Pop: Roots and Blossoming of Korean Popular Music (2012) by Kim Chang-nam was the only authoritative and systematic account of K-Pop apart from popular guidebooks (e.g. Russell 2014) and edited volumes (e.g. Choi and Maliangkay 2015).

In this circumstance, John Lie’s K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea (shortened to K-Pop in this article) and Michael Fuhr’s Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop (shortened to Sounding Out), the two books reviewed here, are welcome additions to the hitherto scant K-Pop bibliography. Both Lie and Fuhr are of Korean descent. The former is a Korean-American scholar of sociology who grew up in Korea, Japan, and Hawaii, whereas the latter is a German ethnomusicologist with a Korean mother and was brought up in Germany. The authors’ dual identities render them ideally positioned to play the role of cultural translators, as they are acquainted with the cultures concerned. To an extent, that is indeed the role they perform with their books–transferring what is considered an aspect of Korean culture to a target audience of Anglophone, presumably non-Korean, academics and intellectuals. Both authors appear competent in the job. They are at once knowledgeable of Korean history and culture, and have a sense of the demands of their target audiences. While Korean authors sometimes find it difficult to engage foreign readers since they tend to be too fixated on local interests and agenda, Lie’s and Fuhr’s keen understanding of their readership is certainly beneficial for initiating a new dialogue on the subject.

However, the work of cultural translation is far from straightforward. In the cases of K-Pop and Sounding Out, there are two concerns. First, both authors expose themselves as non-experts on Korean popular music. Popular music is very difficult to study for newcomers because of its ephemerality. It is music of here and now always subject to oblivion. This means the field of popular music is rife with misinformation, wrong memories, and ungrounded rumors. Furthermore, popular music feeds on myths. The past is constantly reconstructed and re-remembered. Without a certain amount of expertise, it is very difficult to distinguish reliable sources from those that are not. In this respect, it is not surprising to find so many errors in their accounts of Korean popular music, particularly in the historical details. Second, the in-between position of our two authors does not mean neutrality. They have their own issues to tackle and agenda to pursue with regard to their identities. To an extent, these issues and agenda dictate the contents of the books. For example, Fuhr’s discussion on mixed ethnicity in Korean pop music (Fuhr 2016, 199-202) is off-topic since this has not been an issue thus far in what is normally called K-Pop. Fuhr’s discussion is more an outcome of the author’s desire to talk about it than it is relevant to the theme.

As two books handling the same subject matter, K-Pop and Sounding Out cannot be more different. K-Pop is a highly opinionated and at times insightful essay-style offering centered in theoretical speculation. It locates K-Pop in Korea explaining it in terms of the country’s history and internal dynamics, and focuses on K-pop as a cultural text, painstakingly debating its artistic merits and values. In contrast, Sounding Out is more a textbook account of K-Pop, an empirical analysis rooted in extensive and rigorous fieldwork as it is based on the author’s doctoral thesis. It conceptualizes K-Pop as a flowing cultural form, an outcome of transnational mobility and cooperation, and attempts to draw a larger picture of K-Pop as a global cultural phenomenon by analyzing the multiple layers of its construction. In these respects, these two books can be seen as complementary to each other, shedding light on different aspects of the phenomenon. With some reservations, which I will go into in the remaining parts of this review, both books can serve as good starting points for in-depth understanding of K-Pop. In fact, there are few alternatives at the moment for the English readership. In the following sections, I will discuss each book’s handling of K-Pop in more detail.

Subverting the Aesthetic Hierarchy

Frankly, the first impression of Lie’s K-Pop is not very positive. Despite its title, first of all, there is only one chapter that discusses K-Pop, and the length of the chapter is sixty-six pages, just one-fourth of the entire volume. Long preceding chapters on the history of Korean popular music and Korea makes it feel as though two-thirds of the book is introduction. Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, these chapters are replete with errors. I gave up counting inaccurate facts and misjudgments after just first twenty pages. Lie claims, for example, after the marijuana scandal in 1975, that “until the mid-1980s, rock music was silenced in the South Korean soundscape” (Lie 2015, 46). He obviously ignored Sanullim’s sensational debut in 1977, Saranggwa Pyeonghwa’s the next year, and the explosion of campus group sounds from 1977 to 1980. Contrary to his claim, the late 1970s was a heyday for rock music in Korea. Lie’s error-strewn lecture on the history of Korean popular music goes on and produces some unintentionally hilarious examples: “Kim Hyŏn-sik distinguished himself with songs of his own composition” (Lie 2015, 52); “Shinchon Blues were a minjung kayo outfit” (Lie 2015, 53); “repression of rock music made young people listen to rock music on short-wave radio” (Lie 2015, 54); “For an ear attuned to the post-Sŏ (Seo Taiji) period, Yi Sŏn-hŭi or Yi Mun-se might as well have been trot singers” (Lie 2015, 59). He also speaks of Hyeuni as Hye and as a trot singer (Lie 2015, 50), when Hye is not her surname and she is not a trot singer.

Lie is said to have grown up in Japan and it shows as he relies heavily on Japanese sources for this book. Perhaps he might feel more comfortable with the Japanese language than Korean. In my view, however, it was a fatal mistake since most of his erroneous claims came from Japanese sources. Furthermore, I find his use of Japanese nomenclature for Korean persons and song titles deeply disturbing. He refers to Cho Yong-pil’s hit song, “Dol-awayo Pusanhang-e” (Come back to Pusan Harbor) as “Fuzanko e Kaere,” its Japanese title (Lie 2015, 43); idol group Dong Bang Shin Gi as Toho Shinki (Lie 2015, 105); and composer and saxophonist Gil Ok Yun by his autonym Ch’oe Chi-jŏng (which he spells incorrectly, Ch’oe Chi-Sŏng is correct) and by his Japanese name Yoshiya Jun (Lie 2015, 44). In the last case, it is his stage name—Gil Ok Yun—by which he is known in Korea, but Lie does not mention that a single time. Although I understand and am willing to ignore faults and errors in historical details, mistakes of this kind are difficult to turn a blind eye to. These are not just oversights but a matter of scholarly integrity. Unless this book was written for Japanese readers, which it does not appear to be, the author should have done a basic check. It is incredible that Lie thought it was fine to address Korean people by their Japanese names, particularly when those names are not used outside Japan. Even if the book contained great ideas and insights, grave negligence like this tarnishes its reputation and leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of readers.

Thankfully, the chapter on K-Pop shows a significantly lower error rate. This time, however, the chapter is marred by poor organization. The chapter titled “Seoul Calling” is divided into seven sections. The length of each section is uneven and some longer sections are crammed with too many topics. In the section called “Internal and external transformation” (Lie 2015, 130-136), for example, the author charts changes in Korean culture during the last thirty years to explain the global rise of K-Pop. He touches on everything from the noraebang or karaoke craze, Confucian ideology, competitive and meritocratic schooling, and plastic surgery to copyright protection, the spread of Western musical conventions, globalization and consumerism, and the Korean Wave–all in six pages! Inevitably, the account is superficial and unfocused, revealing that the author does not have much to say about K-Pop in detail. There is also a vague thematic relationship between sections in that they do not seem coherently linked but arbitrarily placed. It is difficult to understand why some sections are there, such as one on Japan and J-Pop (Lie 2015, 136-140). Even though I tried, I still do not know the function of this section with regard to the thesis of the book. It only serves to distract the reader’s attention.

With my complaints out of the way, which I realize are many, I will now concentrate on assessing the book’s accounts and key arguments. It is instructive to start with recapitulating Lie’s encounter with K-Pop, which he notes at the beginning of the book. What we see here is a typical reaction from a Western-educated culture-rich Korean male intellectual towards what is supposedly populist, lowest-common-denominator music. Initially, he was not interested in K-Pop, and failed to find its artistic merit. Lie’s world turned upside down when K-Pop became a global sensation not just in Asia but also in Western Europe, North America, and Japan. The implication of cultural discrimination aside, Lie appears genuinely unsettled by the fanatical reactions from people in “advanced” countries towards the music he once despised. This book is a sustained effort for him to come to terms with this unsettling experience and the cultural shifts K-Pop instigated around the world.

Lie handles the issue by mobilizing various theoretical resources and reassessing K-Pop, and mainstream popular music in general, as legitimate music. It seems that one of the main purposes of the book is to persuade readers as well as himself that it is okay to like K-Pop. This topic is intensively discussed in the final two sections, namely “The aesthetics, branding, and character of K-Pop” (Lie 2015, 140-155) and “The legibility and legitimacy of popular music” (Lie 2015, 148-155). These two sections count as unqualified high points of the book and the two redeeming features of an otherwise very problematic work. As Lie saved the best for the last, I would like to outline the author’s thought process and how he eventually reaches his conclusion.

The main argument of K-Pop is summed up in its subtitle Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation in South Korea. Lie sees K-Pop as an outcome of the combination of cultural amnesia and economic innovation. Cultural amnesia denotes two-fold severance from tradition: one is from the traditional musical form of Kugak, and the other from the dominant culture of Confucianism. Throughout the book, Lie repeatedly emphasizes that K-Pop has nothing to do with Korea’s cultural tradition. Presumably it is his reaction to the influential essentialist discourses of the Korean Wave that relates the global success of Korean popular culture to the supposed superiority of the country’s national culture (e.g. Im 2013; Yun 2014; see Cho 2005 for a critical assessment). Against this, Lie argues that it is ruthless Westernization or Americanization rather than Korea’s cultural tradition that was the key to the worldwide triumph of K-Pop. Lie’s praise of Seo Taiji–“Seo Taiji wa Aideul invented K-Pop” (Lie 2015, 99)–is in the same logical vein. In his view, Seo’s greatness lies in his being able to narrow the gap between Korean and American popular music culture (Lie 2015, 58). He contends that K-Pop is post-Seo Taiji Korean dance pop that is contemporary to American or global pop music, and that it is thanks to the breakthrough achievement of Seo that K-Pop has been possible. While this contention is entirely agreeable, questions still remain. If K-Pop is Americanized contemporary pop music, does that mean it is indistinguishable from the latter? Does K-Pop have distinctiveness? If so, in what ways?

Lie answers these questions by referring to the second factor, economic innovation. Economic innovation here signifies the entrepreneurial spirit of the entertainment industry whose invention of K-Pop was conditioned by dire financial crises and driven by the “export imperative” of the Korean economy (Lie 2015, 109). Thanks to the sudden collapse of the record industry, and the disastrous Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s, the Korean music industry was forced to embark on a series of innovations. Among them, the most successful and enduring was the invention of the K-Pop formula. Lie enumerates a number of elements that he characterizes as distinctive features of K-Pop: first, the group structure that is flexible, efficient, and has reach; second: the performer self who is polite and professional; and third, almost complete eschewal of the independent musician-artist. The last one is closely related to other peculiarities such as the embrace of the studio system to develop talent, and an extreme division of labor in the creation of songs and videos (Lie 2015, 123-124). Lie considers these traits as purely commercial characteristics of K-Pop. From his point of view, K-Pop is an archetypal commercial enterprise completely devoid of artistic concerns such as authenticity, originality, and autonomy. In this respect, Lie sarcastically poses, “The ‘K’ in K-Pop has more to do with Das Kapital than with Korean culture or tradition” (Lie 2015, 130).

On paper, this kind of inauthentic, calculated, and formulaic music cannot be good. This is the kind of music that should be loathed and ridiculed forever. In reality, however, worldwide K-Pop fans are not dopes or dupes manipulated by evil “captains of consciousness” (Ewen 1976), but people who genuinely love K-Pop music and acts, and actively engage in various fan activities purely for pleasure. How is that possible? How can so many people the world over wholeheartedly embrace what is essentially cynical commercial products? This is the challenge Lie takes up. Here, he adopts an anti-Adornian position (see Adorno 1941) and takes the trouble to question the dominant aesthetic dogmas of romanticism. He claims, “if we can liberate our senses from romantic ideology […], then it may become possible for us to appreciate K-Pop’s interesting and innovative features” (Lie 2015, 145). After criticizing romantic ideals of creative genius, originality and authenticity, Lie goes on to reevaluate what have been deemed negative aspects of K-Pop such as the “hook” and “formula,” and underrated elements such as lyrics, song craft, choreography, and music videos (Lie 2015, 146-148). Lie sees artistic achievements and innovation in all of these areas. In the end, Lie argues that popular music is different from classical music. The former is about everyday beauty, not sublimity (Lie 2015, 147). Being conventional, repetitive, and formulaic is not vice but virtue as popular music should be legible and comprehensible (Lie 2015, 155). It is undeniable that popular music provides joy, pleasure, and even a moral compass to millions of people every day (Lie 2015, 154), and there is nothing inauthentic about the tears and laughter it brings to the listener. Like popular music in general, Lie argues, K-Pop marks the beautiful in ordinary life: a promise of happiness, the anticipation of bliss (Lie 2015, 155). 

Reassembling K-Pop

Michael Fuhr’s Sounding Out is K-Pop scholarship tour de force. It is often the case that a doctoral thesis is a scholar’s most ambitious work. Fuhr’s book certainly fits this statement. Here, he attempts to disassemble and reassemble the whole phenomenon of K-Pop. Virtually all the elements are taken apart and thoroughly analyzed, and then put back together again to produce a comprehensive picture. This research strategy is reflected in the organization of chapters. Seven chapters are grouped into two parts corresponding to the processes of disassembling and reassembling, respectively. In his analysis, he draws on his specialties in anthropology and ethnomusicology producing an exemplary interdisciplinary study. The main purpose of the book is to demonstrate the complex and dynamic relationship between the concepts of global imaginary and national identity in the transnational cultural flow of K-Pop. The author explains this with the concepts of three asymmetries–temporal asymmetry, spatial asymmetry, and asymmetries of mobility–which I will go into later.

Unlike K-Pop, the first impression of Sounding Out is positive. It looks well organized and substantial, and has a much wider scope. Whereas Lie’s sights are fixed in Korea, Fuhr takes into account the more complex dynamics of K-Pop such as the global flow of the talent, songs and technologies of its own creation. By doing this, the scale of the research extends to the global. He approaches K-Pop as an arena, cultural traffic and networks. It operates well beyond the boundaries of Korea. This conceptualization of K-Pop allows Fuhr to go further than Lie’s take on it as Westernized or Americanized Korean pop or a tamed/commercialized version of American pop. Fuhr refuses to take this stance and tries to make sense of it as a source and result of an ongoing process of cultural globalization. For him, K-Pop is “a thoroughly hybridized product, a unique coalescence of music, visuals, lyrics, dance, and fashion, a postmodern product of pastiche and parody, a carnivalesque celebration of difference, a shiny world of escapism, and a highly participatory cultural practice enacted through digital media” (Fuhr 2016, 10). It means K-Pop is not just cultural text but a whole universe of production and consumption. Adopting this view, Fuhr is able to specify the innovative aspects of K-Pop better than Lie does. Another virtue of this book is its extensive analysis of fieldwork data. It provides readers with the joy of new discoveries and interesting facts. Although it lacks the impact of Lie’s last two sections, Fuhr’s is a very solid and informative work on K-Pop.

Part I of the book is made up of two chapters: one on the history of K-Pop and the other on its production. Chapter 2 traces the history of Korean popular music from 1885 to the present. This is the weakest chapter of the whole volume. Although considerably less serious than Lie’s, it is another error-strewn discussion all the same. It is regrettable to find claims like “hip-hop and R&B act 015B,” (Fuhr 2016, 83)–015B was a pop/rock outfit–and “[g]roups such as the Add4, the Key Boys, the K’okkiri Brothers, and He6 initiated the new sound era” (Fuhr 2016, 46)–He6 were latecomers debuted in the 1970s Mercifully, Fuhr made a wise decision in keeping the chapter short, thus minimizing the damage. The next chapter, “Producing the global imaginary: a K-Pop tropology,” is the longest and most ambitious. Here, Fuhr engages in full-blown analyses of various aspects of K-Pop production: terminology, artist names, lyrics, fansubbing, the industry, idol nurturing and training, musical text and convention, group dance, and music video. You would be hard-pressed to find a more systematic and comprehensive analysis of K-Pop.

The results are impressive. Here, I can only list a few highlights from Fuhr’s observations. Near the beginning of the book he discusses the mixing of English codes in lyrics, claiming the practice as not a shallow attempt to copy American pop, but rather as a way to provide both a lingua franca for international fans and a sense of modernity to the young Korean audience (Fuhr 2016, 64-66). Fuhr also dissects K-Pop artists’ common use of enigmatic initials, acronyms, and numbers, rather than their real names (unlike their American counterparts), asserting it as fulfilling the double function of ensuring accessibility for non-Korean audiences and conveying the image of globality to Korean audiences (Fuhr 2016, 62). Fuhr’s next topic is the performance-centered aspects of K-Pop songwriting, i.e. the way the songwriting itself is rhythm and dance-based and takes into account dance choreography from the beginning (Fuhr 2016, 82). He then delves into song hooks, which he claims are strategically composed over a maximum duration of thirty to forty seconds in order to fit the length of ringtones and ringback tones. And unlike Western mainstream pop songs, Fuhr says, K-Pop songs often have fragmentary structures and moods, and show unexpected changes, e.g. Nu ABO by f(x). (Fuhr 2016, 92). He also touches on the signature moves in K-Pop choreography and the ways they elicit active participation from the audience through their kinesthetic qualities (Fuhr 2016, 112). His discussion of K-Pop music videos as heterotopic sites—in the way each opens up a new space or a non-place removed of locality—and his assertion of K-Pop music videos as visual representations of the globalization strategy pursued by Korean entertainment companies (Fuhr 2016, 118), are compelling.

Though his findings are generally informative, there are a few questionable claims in the chapter too. First of all, Fuhr’s “flexible” categorization of K-Pop is confusing. When analyzing K-Pop’s rap flow, he takes LeeSsang as an example (Fuhr 2016, 99-102). It is dubious whether LeeSsang could be classified as a K-Pop band. In later chapters, he presents YB (Fuhr 2016, 174-179) and Skull (Fuhr 2016, 179-183) as other examples of K-Pop’s entering the American market. At this point, you start wondering whether Fuhr’s K-Pop is synonymous with Korean pop. Next, Fuhr engages in a lengthy discussion on the “ppong” factor (Fuhr 2016, 102-108), which he considers a unique characteristic of Korean popular music. In fact, he argues that the ppong factor makes the K-Pop sound uniquely Korean. Perhaps it must have been an exciting discovery for him during his research. However, he appears to oversell it. Ppong is deemed a necessary evil. Music businesspeople are in favor of it because they believe using it is commercially beneficial. Musicians hate it because it represents quintessential uncoolness. To put it simply, ppong is good for making money, but bad for style. Some K-Pop songs might contain ppong elements here and there, whether intentionally or not, but it is far from being embraced or deployed as a marker of “Koreanness.”

While Part I focuses on microscopic analyses of K-Pop’s elements such as text, performance, and management, Part II presents macro-level analyses of K-Pop’s dynamics. In particular, Fuhr’s concern is asymmetries in the global flow of K-Pop, which he breaks down into the three categories of temporal asymmetries, spatial asymmetries, and asymmetries of mobility. The first is temporal asymmetries. Here, the author touches on the question of temporality, coevality, and cultural lag. Drawing on Iwabuchi (2008), Fuhr discusses different temporalities in the consumption of cultural artifacts. For example, while Taiwanese reception of Japanese TV dramas rested on a sense of coevality, Japanese consumption of imported Asian TV dramas was based on its denial (Fuhr 2016, 151). In the same way, Japanese audiences received Korean TV dramas with nostalgia as if they were transferred from the past. With the advent of K-Pop, however, the temporal gap between the two countries vanished and a sense of coevality replaced the nostalgia. This time, however, Fuhr observes that Koreans show a denial of coevality against less well-off Asian countries. The Asia Song Festival is symbolic of this attitude, which places Korea at center stage and musical acts from other Asian countries as foils. He warns that this could create “bumps and blocks” (like the backlashes against the Korean Wave in Japan, China, and Taiwan) that impede cultural flow and exchange.

The next chapter is on spatial asymmetries. Here, Fuhr tries to show that the transnational flow of K-Pop is “a complex, multi-layered and at times contradictory phenomenon entangled in multiple strategies, contingencies, and attempts to reference and construct places through musical and visual imaginaries” (Fuhr 2016, 162). For doing this, he analyses the different strategies four artists–BoA, Wonder Girls, YB, and Skull–adopted in entering the American music market. Despite different strategies, a sense of spatial asymmetry was crucial in shaping their respective approaches to the market and produced transformations in their sounds and appearances. BoA conformed to the stereotypical image of the American female pop star; Wonder Girls employed mild ppong melodies to distinguish themselves; YB used kugak to highlight “Koreanness”; and Skull completely erased his Koreanness and presented himself as a reggae artist. Whatever the method, the sense of spatial asymmetry was forceful in Korean artists’ attempts to make inroads into the American market, Fuhr says, expressed in the belief that Korean pop music will never make it in its original form in the United States. Unfortunately, the book was written just before Psy’s 2012 global smash, “Gangnam Style,” which was never intended for release in the American market. Psy’s success all but brought to an end all those elaborate strategies and costly operations by proving those are not necessary in the age of YouTube and Facebook. It also exposed that spatial asymmetry was a form of ungrounded fear of pop music’s biggest stage rather than a material reality. In this respect, it was interesting to see the way K-Pop’s attempts to “conquer” the U.S. market dramatically subsided after “Gangnam Style.”

Finally, asymmetries of mobility indicate the flow of talent. K-Pop is a paradoxical construct. The “K” in K-Pop signifies Korea but the scale of its operation is global. While “deterritorialization is central to the K-Pop phenomenon” (Fuhr 2016, 18), Korea’s status as K-Pop’s symbolic and material home is indisputable. To put simply, K-Pop is simultaneously flowing and fixed, which produces contradictory sentiments, namely global aspiration and nationalist/patriotic fervor. This is an inflammable contradiction that can develop into full-blown conflict at any time. Although K-Pop has kept an apolitical image, it could always potentially become intensely political due to this contradiction. In this chapter, Fuhr charts the conflicts and negotiations in K-Pop as global mobility. K-Pop recruits talents from all over the world, but the recruited must come to Korea and transform him/herself into a Korean entertainer. The process inevitably involves cultural clashes. In this book, Fuhr examines a few cases including those of Park Jaebeom and Yoo Seung-jun who caused controversies by contradicting the nationalist sentiments of Korean people. Fuhr argues that K-Pop’s contradictory demand produces a contradictory subject out of an immigrant body, the subject who embodies cosmopolitanism and self-censorship all at once. Fuhr’s contention here is difficult to disagree with. However, I would like to point out his narrow sight with regard to the issue of nationalism. Korea is not the only country where K-Pop is embroiled in nationalist controversies. From the abuse of Girls’ Generation’s images in a Japanese far-right cartoon to the latest case of Tzuyu’s forced apology for waving the Taiwanese flag, K-Pop has been a minefield of nationalist dispute for quite some time. As K-Pop’s reach broadens, it is put under increasing pressure to toe the line not only to avoid offending the Korean people but also the nationalist sentiments of global people who follow K-Pop.

A Perfect Textbook?

In July 2012, I taught a popular music class at a summer school for a group of overseas students. It was the time when K-Pop’s popularity was at an all-time high and had culminated in the explosive success of “Gangnam Style.” Although the course title was “Understanding Korean Society through Popular Music,” it was apparent that the majority of the class was only interested in learning about K-Pop. The problem was that it was very difficult to prepare for the course since academic literature on K-Pop was extremely limited. I used to consider myself lucky when I came across anything K-Pop-related that I could use in class. Thankfully, things have much improved on this front. It is not difficult to find at least a handful of journal articles on virtually every topic. However, a decent textbook is still a necessity. Between the two books reviewed here, Sounding Out fits the bill nicely. Yes, it is undeniably flawed: it not only makes some factual errors, but also misses out on quite a few topics such as media, fan culture, gender and so on. However, its advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. On the other hand, K-Pop is too awkward to be considered a textbook, but, thanks to its powerful arguments in the last chapter, it could make a decent auxiliary text as long as the first chapter is skipped.

It is an exciting time for students of K-Pop. Starting with K-Pop and Sounding Out, long awaited books on the topic are finally being released, and others will soon follow. Just when K-Pop scholarship gathers momentum, however, K-Pop is becoming an unpredictable entity. On the one hand, it is showing signs of decline no longer producing such heavyweights as Girls’ Generation, KARA, Big Bang, and 2NE1. On the other hand, however, its popularity is belatedly rising in the Anglo-Amerian world having been refigured as the latest hipster music. This unexpected turn of events makes K-Pop even more interesting. Hopefully, it fuels further enquiries and debates.


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Maliangkay, Roald, and Geng Song. 2015. “A sound wave of effeminacy: K-pop and the male beauty ideal in China.” In K-pop: The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry, edited by J. Choi and R. Maliangkay, 164-177. New York and London: Routledge.

Oh, Ingyu, and Gil-sung Park. 2012. “From B2C to B2B: selling Korean pop music in the age of New Social Media.” Korea Observer 43 (3): 365-397.

Ono, Kent A., and Jungmin Kwon. 2013. “Re-worlding culture? YouTube as a K-pop interlocutor.” In The Korean Wave: Korean Media Go Global, edited by Youna Kim, 199-214. New York and London: Routledge.

Russell, Mark James. 2014. K-Pop Now! The Korean Music Revolution. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing.

Siriyuvasak, Ubonrat, and Shin Hyunjoon. 2007. “Asianizing K-pop: production, consumption and identification patterns among Thai youth.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 8 (1): 109-136.

Sung, Sang-yeon. 2013. “K-pop reception and participatory fan culture in Austria.” Cross-Currents 9: 90-104. Accessed July 31, 2016. https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/e-journal/articles/sung.pdf

Yun, Young-in [윤영인]. 2013. K-pop DNA and History. Seoul: Bookshelf [북셸프].

[1] Lee Keewoong is a research professor at the Institute for East Asian Studies at Sungkonghoe University. He holds a PhD in sociology from the London School of Economics. His research interests include the cultural industry, popular music, and urban change. His latest publication is “Gentrification effects: The flow of cultural refugees and place making in the vicinities of Hongdae” (City Studies, 2015).


[Review] Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music (Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee eds) by Keith Howard

Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee (eds): Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. (Routledge Global Popular Music Series.) xiii, 247 pp. New York: Routledge, 2017. ISBN 978 1 138 79303 3.

Keith Howard (a1) 

Published online: 23 February 2018

This volume brings together eighteen Korean and Korean-heritage authors to cover the major bases of South Korean popular music, dividing their contributions into four broad sections: “Histories”, “Genres”, “Artists”, and “Issues”. A “Coda” basically profiles an additional issue, while an afterword transcribes an interview with the rock and metal artist Shin Hae-chul. “Histories” contains chapters by Shin, Keewoong Lee, Jung-yup Lee and Sun Jung, and, rather than offer a chronological timeline, looks at music on stage, in recordings and broadcasts on the media, and pop’s global marketing. We read how recordings in Korea almost always had less importance than live or broadcast performances, how musicians “uniquely” honed their skills working for American military shows (why “uniquely”, given the entertainment needs of American forces posted elsewhere during the Cold War?), and how the notion of “spreadable media” (taken from Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media (New York: New York University Press, 2013)) has in recent years challenged notions of copyright. The last is given as a reason why Korean fans created myriad parodies of Psy’s Gangnam Style; surely, though, Gangnam Style was sufficiently hated by Korean pop aficionados that its parodies were created by just about anybody other than fans.

“Genres” curiously occupies a politics-free zone as its four authors attempt to tie specific music styles to times, places, and people. Yu-jeong Chang’s consideration of the early popular genres of trot and ballad ignores too much previous scholarship on both genres and on Japanese equivalents, and has inaccurate moments, but Pil Ho Kim and Aekyung Park in contrast provide excellent discussions of rock and modern Dylanesque folksong. Jaeyoung Yang’s account of soul, funk, rap and hip hop is particularly informative and readable, although he admits that his title, “Korean Black Music”, “is contradictory as it implies a socio-geographic and racial incongruity” (p. 95). Yang reveals his personal tastes openly: mainstream hip-hop, he tells us, relies on “sweet melodies over rapping”, while massive idol groups such as Big Bang and 2NE1 lack “rhythmic diversity and beat variations” (pp. 102, 104).

“Artists” starts with a useful consideration of the colonial-era jazz musician and composer Kim Hae-song by Junhee Lee, although eyebrows will be raised by the claim that Kim “was Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix, all compressed and accumulated into one” (p. 108). It closes with Eun-Young Jung’s account of Seo Taiji lifted, though no credit is given in Made in Korea, from my edited volume, Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2006). In between comes an analysis of rock by Dohee Kwon that finds Korean identity in pentatonicism (based on an outdated Korean musicological theory of mode), and Okon Hwang’s splendid discussion of the multi-talented Kim Min-ki and his legendary status as a dissident songwriter. Within “Issues”, Haekyung Um offers a finely detailed account of vocal style, Hyunseok Kwon explores how Korean traditional music (kugak) relates to popular music, and Soojin Kim gives an over-simplified account of pertinent legislation during the rules of successive South Korean presidents. Dong-Yeun Lee’s “Who’s afraid of Korean idols” is likely to be the most cited chapter: his somewhat rhetorical discussion is excellent, detailing how 50,000 aspiring idols are tested each year but only 10 or so will end up debuting after four or five years of strenuous training. Oppressive management masks “emotional” labour that from a Marxist perspective results in privation for idols as workers. Finally, as the “Coda”, Sunhee Koo and Sang-Yeon Loise Sung explore the circulation and reception of Korean pop beyond Korea, but the coverage is severely limited because they focus on their personal Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and Austrian expertise.

Some editing is poor (particularly in the first section), and a few errors have made it into print. For instance, a German trader is said to have demonstrated a gramophone in Korea “in 1866” (p. 24), when Edison didn’t invent the phonograph until 1877 (the gramophone followed later). How can the claim that Korean TV broadcasting “started prematurely in 1961” be justified (p. 38)? For “Drunk Tiger” read “Drunken Tiger” (p. 104). The group Sarang kwa P’yŏnghwa did not, as claimed, only “prolong their career into the 1980s” (p. 99), since they disbanded in 2000. The volume sadly excludes any coverage of North Korean music, on the disingenuous grounds that “conditions for studying it are not mature”, with too few researchers existing in North Korea and insufficient data available outside the country (p. xi). Hundreds of albums featuring the groups Pochonbo and Wangjaesan as well as the “Songs of Korea” series are available, along with many clips on YouTube, providing plenty to study; indeed, I profiled North Korean pop in my edited volume (2006: 154–67). However, the editors of Made in Korea elect to critique my volume rather than engage with it, claiming that it and its constituent scholars make it “difficult to know the views of the scholars based in Korea” (p. xii). This is then used to justify only including authors who are Korean. However, my volume includes six Korean authors (three of whom reappear here, one reproducing the same contribution) as well as several foreign academics working at Korean universities. If the claim to provide a local take on Korean pop is to be taken seriously, then how is it that 12 of the 18 authors either work in, or completed their doctorates, in Europe and America? And, why do so many authors reference standard Euro-American popular music scholarship – Nicola Dibben, Charles Fairchild, Simon Frith, Bruno Latour, Keith Negus, Roy Shuker, John Storey, Tim Wall and Peter Webb all make an appearance before page 30?

Rather disconcertingly, recent years have seen two groups of Korean gatekeepers emerge for Korean pop, one led by Shin, and the other, the World Association for Hallyu Studies, led by Oh Ingyu and (until 2017) Park Gil-Sung. Shin points out that Oh and Park would not agree with his perspectives (p. 8), but otherwise ignores them and their group. Again, it is disappointing to read Shin’s comment that his participation in the 2005 conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) in Rome “marks the emergence of Korean scholarship on Korean popular music on a global scale” (p. 8), since this denigrates the contributions of so many. It also ignores the fact that my volume resulted from a series of conference papers and panels begun a number of years earlier at conferences of the Association for Korean Studies in Europe, the British Association for Korean Studies and the Society for Ethnomusicology, and for the International Institute for Asian Studies. Any attempt to police or sideline the efforts and scholarship of those with non-Korean ethnicity needs to be resisted, particularly in books like this designed for a non-Korean readership. We deserve better from Routledge, and the Made in Korea editors.

[Book] Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery The Linguascapes of Popular Music in Mongolia by Sender Dovchin

Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery

The Linguascapes of Popular Music in Mongolia


The title seeks to show how people are embedded culturally, socially and linguistically in a certain peripheral geographical location, yet are also able to roam widely in their use and takeup of a variety of linguistic and cultural resources. Drawing on data examples obtained from ethnographic fieldwork trips in Mongolia, a country located geographically, politically and economically on the Asian periphery, this book presents an example of how peripheral contexts should be seen as crucial sites for understanding the current sociolinguistics of globalization. Dovchin brings together several themes of wide contemporary interest, including sociolinguistic diversity in the context of popular culture and media in a globalized world (with a particular focus on popular music), and transnational flows of linguistic and cultural resources, to argue that the role of English and other languages in the local language practices of young musicians in Mongolia should be understood as “linguascapes.” This notion of linguascapes adds new levels of analysis to common approaches to sociolinguistics of globalization, offering researchers new complex perspectives of linguistic diversity in the increasingly globalized world.

Table of Contents

1. Language, Media and Globalization in the Periphery

2. Globalization as World of Scapes

3. A Theory of Linguascapes

4. Linguistics (N)ethnography

5. Derivative Linguascapes

6. Symbolic Linguascapes

7. Relocalized Linguascapes

8. Bi/Multilingualism, Linguascapes and Language Education

About the Author

Sender Dovchin received her Ph.D. from University of Technology, Sydney in 2015. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education, Curtin University, Western Australia. Previously, she was an Associate Professor at the Centre for Language Research, University of Aizu, Japan. Her research explores the linguistic practices of young generation in the current age of globalization. She has published her works in the Journal of SociolinguisticsInternational Journal of Multilingualism, Multilingua, English Today, World Englishes, Asian Englishes, International Multilingual Research Journal, Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts and Inner Asia.Her most recent book is Popular Culture, Voice and Linguistic Diversity: Young Adults Online and Offline (2018) co-authored with Alastair Pennycook and Shaila Sultana.

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[Review] Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music (Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee eds) by Michael Fuhr