Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Korean Wave is Corporate Corruption

I'm no fan of K-Pop. It's all shitty lyrics, stolen measures, awful samples, horrid dancing, insipid fashion, and happens to be strictly for children and pedophiles. I know, I hate it, right?!

Provocative rants aside, K-Pop is actually very Korean Wave, which is the idealized representation of nationalist sentiment in Korea as represented in the free market. If you could turn Korean culture into a transparent commodity that could be consumed by purchasing any object made in Korea to be distributed off-peninsula, then you'd have the ideal 한류 (Hallyu) Object. I'd say, K-Pop is an attempt at producing and distributing such an object. Korean Wave is stocked with corporations intent on exploiting markets, often via intentional and direct corruption of the market. In the music scene in Korea, it's called 증회. English speakers will know it as payola.

The Korean economy is often hailed by Koreans as strong as if by law they must say that it is strong. If we don't say it is strong, then it can't be strong. It's the thing I dislike most about life here. Sometimes it's as if there's no real world of consequence away from the peninsula. There's a grand delusional vision of The World that I don't understand in spite of witnessing its regulated distribution to citizens here. Although it's undoubtedly growing, the economy's strength is incredibly inflated. The fact is, much of its touted strengths are artificial and controlled. And part of that control exists in corruption.

I'm not going to delve into this too much, but it's rather obvious that the Korean government has its hands full regulating corporate corruption on the peninsula.

Here's a new story in The Economist:
Corruption in Korean pop music 
WITH its over-reliance on manufactured teen pop, and a leave-nothing-to-chance managerial style reminiscent of Phil Spector (minus the murder), there are obvious parallels between “K-Pop” and the American music industry of the 1950s and 60s. And perhaps now another box can be checked: the practice of bribing one’s way onto the charts. That's payola, or 증회 in Korean. 
Twenty-nine people, mainly radio and cable-TV staff, have been arrested on suspicion of accepting cash payments in return for airplay or fraudulent chart positions. New artists and their managers, keen to start their careers off with a hit, were the most frequent customers: Incheon Metropolitan Police believe that between April 2009 and May of this year, around a hundred wannabe singers paid a total of 150m won ($143,000) to several producers and the chairman of a cable-TV company. Such sums are dwarfed by the 400m won or so allegedly collected by the operator of a website that compiles a chart based on the number of radio plays each single receives. According to police, the unnamed 60-year-old took the money from singers and pop managers, promising six-month stays in his dubious top ten, for a price of 38m won each. (Read the rest of the article on The Economist's site.)

Don't get the wrong idea. I love it here. I hate nationalism. Even the left wing in Korea is awash in nationalist sentiment. I hate that. To be clear: K-Pop, for me, represents the pinnacle of corporate-driven, nationalist, commercial music--vacuous, meaningless, talentless, over-produced bullshit. In other words, all hype, all image. I'll shut up about it because it'll ruin my day. There's a ton of talent in Korea's various underground scenes and popular music history. You'd never know it, though.

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