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“I want nobody, nobody but you. I want nobody, nobody but you” No matter you are a Korean mania or not, you must have heard this song somewhere before, as its great popularity among Hong Kong teenagers. Korean pop music (K-pop), which attracted much debate in the past several years, is considered as a part of Korean wave. One issue that the success of K-pop is merely due to the Korean drama effect (å°éŸ“åœ‹æµè¡ŒéŸ³æ¨‚æ-‡åŒ-çš„ç ”ç©¶, 2009). Research done in Korea has indicated that the success was bolstered by anti-Japanese sentiment, government subsidizes and outstanding dancing ability (Cho, H. J., 2005). Other points to the great diversity of music genres (æž-æ¬£è«, é™³å·§é›©, è‘‰ä¾å˜‰, 2010). The debate, however, has missed an important focus: Hong Kong teenagers’ dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong music industry. While people keep admiring the other’s advantages without introspection what self lacks, it may likely lead to providing a chance for others to step in.
The paper aims to argue that K-pop captivated Hong Kong teenagers as a result of dissatisfaction with the current Hong Kong music industry due to several inadequacies of the current Hong Kong music industry: lack of diversity of song genres, creativity and music TV programs.
The paper is divided into five sections. Following the introduction, in Section 2, some background information of K-pop and its progress will be introduced. Section 3 then focuses on the reasons of popularity of K-pop among Hong Kong teenagers. Section 4 tries to discuss how Hong Kong can emulate this successful invasion. The paper concludes with a reminder for Hong Kong people not to repel the strengths of K-pop, but to absorb them into our own Hong Kong style.
“Korean pop music became fashionable throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia in a phenomenon commonly dubbed ‘Korea[n] Wave” (Pease, 2006). K-pop is considered as a segment of Korean wave. Besides K-pop, there are TV dramas, movies, fashion and etc. In the past several years, there are continuously many discourse on this since its abrupt and comprehensive descent upon the other Asian countries with a systematic and tactical plan (æ¢æ-æ˜Ž, 2003).
K-pop in fact could not the most representative item that spread Korean wave abroad, but TV dramas. If we trace the history back to the first Korean product that appeared in Hong Kong, that is the drama named “Star in my heart” in 1997. The drama obtained instantaneous popularity among Hong Kong people (Hyun, O. S., 2004; Cai, J., 2008). With the increasing popularity of Korean dramas, many people started curious about Korea and hence expanded the Korean wave to K-pop.
The formation of popular music industry is quite different. In Korea, popular music industry tends to produce music groups rather than solo singers. However, in Hong Kong, popular music industry tends to produce solo singers. Thus it is fairly easy for K-pop to step in if Hong Kong teenagers seek substitutes.
In Hong Kong, with an increasing number of K-pop is imported and broadcast through two main broadcasting companies, the awareness of K-pop among Hong Kong people is booming. Ringtones in Korean songs, following the news of K-pop singers and watching K-pop TV programs could be considered as the typical characteristics of K-pop mania, “Hahanzu” in Mandarin. The proportion of K-pop mania in Hong Kong keeps rising rapidly. In the following, the reasons why K-pop is able to penetrate into Hong Kong will be introduced: (1) Great diversity of song genres; (2) Outstanding dancing ability; (3) Korean government subsidizes; (4) Anti-Japanese sentiment; (5) Drama effect – original soundtracks; (6) Dissatisfaction with the stagnant Hong Kong music industry.
In K-pop, many different sorts of music style can be easily discovered, from ballad to techno, classic to rock, and even the traditional Korean music has also intermixed in the current K-pop. As the traditional Korean music contains diversified music elements and special cultural features, it gave a consolidated ground for the development of the K-pop. Moreover, after the Korean War, as South Korea became more liberal to the culture from foreign countries and frequently interacts with United States, a constant flow of western culture and instruments have been penetrated into South Korea. As a result, with the integration of Western and Korean music, diversified song genres were developed and eventually turned into the Korean’s unique style of music (Sung, 2008). For that reason, it is easy for current K-pop to be accepted and liked by anyone in the world (å°éŸ“åœ‹æµè¡ŒéŸ³æ¨‚æ-‡åŒ-çš„ç ”ç©¶, 2009). However, as Cho stated, the Korean group music industry is in fact a duplicate of the United States’ (2005). This might be true when Western music first flew into Korea. Nevertheless, in the current situation, K-pop has already generated its own manner by absorbing and then reforming the features of Western music. Combining varied music elements together, K-pop, therefore, provides a fresh and distinct impression comparing to other countries’ music.
The rise of K-pop is, secondly, advanced by the Korean singers’ outstanding dancing ability. In response to the question “why Korean music attracted you”, half of the interviewees replied with the same reason that Korean singers have outstanding dancing ability and deeply impressed them when Korean singers perform a live show. During 90s, the Korean music industry abounded with dance music and many people greatly enjoyed this kind of music, which lead dance music climb up to the peak and spread abroad. As Sang stated, “[G]roups, such as NRG, Baby Vox, S.E.S. and Shinhwa began to penetrate China, Hong Kong and Taiwan”(2006). The great success of dance music provided a consolidated ground for development of contemporary K-pop, which is still principally occupied by dance music. Therefore, audience could have more chance to enjoying singers’ dancing. On the other hand, those singers also ought to raise their dancing strength to survive.
In order to survive, long training period is necessary for being a singer in Korea. Normally, if someone would like to be a singer in Korea, he/she have to pass an audition and then receive several years of training organized by the company in terms of dancing, singing, instruments, and etc. Training of dancing is the part that will never omit because dance music occupies a great proportion of K-pop. Therefore, singers in Korea, almost everyone, are possessed of great strength of dancing. According to Seo, with outstanding dancing ability and a country that a number of people enjoy dancing, Korean dance music could be exported to the world successfully (2002).
Subsidies offered by the Korean government is another reason that bolstered Korean pop music groups captivate Hong Kong teenagers.The subsidy policy was trapped and launched internally in South Korea before 1996. However, as times goes on, in order to recover from the economic downturn, the government tried to revise the subsidy policy to support producing and exporting Korean cultural products, which became more extroversive to other countries (2003). Hence, with the great support by the government, pop music groups or their music companies could produce songs or other related products without any worries and have a more smooth way to export their productions. Furthermore, as Cho stated, “the [Korean] government moved quickly to increase the national culture industry’s budget, to station government specialists in large cities in China and elsewhere and to set up a “hall of the Korean Wave” (2005). When the government noticed that great benefits could be made from exporting the cultural products, it speeded up to advance the progress of internationalization of Korean culture, which thus provided more resource for Korean pop music groups to entre other countries’ industry.
Another factor that boosts the popularity of K-pop in Hong Kong is the anti-Japanese sentiment, which has been discussed in many articles regarding discussions on Korean Wave (Cho, 2005). Japanese cultural flow has entered into Hong Kong for many years. Before the widespread popularity of K-pop in Hong Kong, Japanese pop music groups were the most popular foreign culture. 19th century could be said as the peak period of the Japanese culture. However, with weary of the long-lasting Japanese culture, Hong Kong people started seeking something new, something different from Japanese’. Therefore, started from 20th century, as Korean cultural product were broadcast or sold in Hong Kong, the popularity of Japanese culture declined. Nevertheless, some people indicated that it will not disappear completely.
Another reason is that similar cultural background and appearance brings people cordial feeling more than westerners. “As globalization develops and cultural exchanges become more and more frequent, Asia is no longer dominated by American popular culture. Asians are choosing things that are more culturally similar.” (Cai, J., 2008). In many aspects, it is obvious that there are many similarities between Hong Kongers and Koreans. For instance, we celebrate the same festivals such as Lunar New Year and Middle Autumn Festival and also the same ideology Confucianism that has been rooted in both Hong Kong people and Koreans’ mind. Besides, both places were also colonized by Japan and received great influence from Japanese culture.
The following reason is that the songs which come along with TV dramas generated people curiosity and interest on K-pop. In every drama, there must be at least one theme song. Almost all the hit dramas in Hong Kong, the theme song will also gain great popularity without any additional promotion but the drama itself only (2009). Once the drama succeeds, a chain reaction would normally occur. In other words, a popular drama would bring its theme song popularity too. Therefore, there could be a good chance for those, who never listen to K-pop before, get to know K-pop.
The last but the most important reason, that previous research and studies have missed, lies on Hong Kong teenagers’ dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong music industry. Normally, while people keep pointing out and admiring the other’s strengths, it may likely lead to less reflection on their own. Without introspection what self lacks, no progress would be made. It, hence, could be doubtlessly bombarded by the others. The Hong Kong music industry now is exactly in that situation. When K-pop was penetrating Hong Kong, the Hong Kong music industry just kept praising K-pop’s strengths but did not act to fight against the huge constant flow of K-pop. It, hence, is doubtlessly bombarded by K-pop. Nowadays, K-pop or other related products could be easily discovered everywhere.
There are three inadequacies of the current Hong Kong music industry that contributed to dissatisfaction: lack of diversity of song genres, lack of creativity and lack of music TV programs.
Firstly, the Hong Kong music industry contains few song genres. Lack of diversity of song genres could not satisfy all people in Hong Kong, which lead people seek their flavor in other countries.
Secondly, lack of creativity Moreover, according to… the innovation ranking of Hong Kong among the world is 23 only, lagging behind Korea, Japan and Singapore (2010), which implied that lack of creativity is another inadequacy.
Lastly, lack of music TV programs
As the influence of K-pop is increasing day by day, if the Hong Kong music industry still does not act to contend with. Therefore, Hong Kong has to enhance the competiveness of our own industry to emulate this successful invasion. The first thing we should do is refer to the success of K-pop, learn the strengths and even try to duplicate it. Intermixing with our style,
K-pop, a part of Korean Wave, successfully penetrated Hong Kong, especially among teenagers due to several reasons: great diversity of song genres; outstanding dancing ability; Korean government subsidizes; Anti-Japanese sentiment; Cultural proximities; Drama effect – original soundtracks; and the main reason: dissatisfaction with the stagnant Hong Kong music industry.
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