This may be a crazy idea, but here goes: K-pop will only become a viable, long-term music scene when the industry no longer seeks validation from Western media. The reason? Because it means that the people behind K-pop will finally respect its fans as something more than just a money making machine, but actually the target of Korea’s artistic pop culture.
You may wonder what brought along this thought, but after this week’s annual “freak out over a totally random blog’s ranking of the most beautiful people in the world” (this one,) I just felt like there was something to discuss here.
It’s not that I personally care that many foreign-language articles written about Korean celebrities and pop culture are ignored by Korean media outlets. That doesn’t matter, because they don’t need validation from Korea to talk about Korea. It’s about the fact that TC Candler, a film critic with little to no pull in the entertainment world, garners attention year after year for a list of physical rankings solely because Candler lacks any apparent connection to the Korean entertainment world and so is seen as a validating figure separate from “K-pop bloggers.”
Essentially, the less connected you are to K-pop, the better you are to the Korean entertainment industry. The Korea Herald’s K-pop site went further than usual and not only highlighted After School’s Nana as the clear winner, but also used the list to declare that TWICE’s Tzuyu is the prettiest face in China.
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It doesn’t matter that there are countless international news sites dedicated to K-pop for K-pop fans. It doesn’t matter that Billboard has people writing about it regularly. It doesn’t matter that 2015 alone has seen more K-pop concerts outside of Asia than ever before. To Korean entertainment related-agencies and individuals, K-pop fans are nothing when compared to validation from the outside.
Never-mind the fact that K-pop fans around the globe cough up millions of dollars each year to sign up for K-drama streaming services and to buy merchandise, albums, and concert tickets. Or that there are multi-million websites dedicated to K-pop and Korean entertainment. These fans don’t matter, because they’re already fans.
As long as a random English website says that a K-pop star is the most beautiful person in the world, that is newsworthy.
Forget the fact that TC Candler’s list is unimportant to anyone outside of K-pop, and that TC Candler has no credibility outside of his own website (which is seemingly devoted to film reviews, not beauty ranking).
Forget everything. Just think about the fact that After School’s Nana is now receiving a title that, had it been from a K-pop related website, would have been ignored.
If a K-pop outlet such as AllKPop or KpopStarz, both of which are read by thousands around the globe each day, or drama purveyors like DramaFever or Viki, which have brought K-dramas and films to millions of people, decided to release a list of this sort, it would be ignored. (And don’t even get me started on what would happen if KultScene released it. We’re a small fish amongst a big sea of K-pop literature, and we wouldn’t even register a blip in South Korea).
More so than the fact that “The Most Beautiful List” is a silly way to determine Nana’s overseas popularity (I’m going to guess here that maybe, maybe one out of every thousand Americans would know who Nana is), the list is an interesting point of contention for K-pop fans because it seeks credibility for Korean celebrities from an outside, non K-pop related media outlet. Regardless of what that outlet is or who writes for it.
I reached out to Candler via email to get a statement regarding the popularity of the list and received no response. The list is in its 26th year, but there is still little information about Candler or what the criteria for the Most Beautiful List is. I’m not honestly clear about why the Independent Critics List is, other than it being a website that reviews film. There is nothing appearance related other than the yearly Beautiful/Handsome lists.
Korean entertainment is widely popular. It is a solid genre of its own. But as long as the Korean entertainment industry and K-pop as a whole looks to receive validation from the outside with no regards credibility, the fans that K-pop and Hallyu as a whole have become the butt of a joke. These fans, and their opinions, are diminished and viewed as crazy fanatics rather than the supporters of K-pop.
Not only does Korean media and entertainment companies not value the opinion of Korean fans, but so do K-pop fans themselves. It’s as if K-pop hasn’t made it yet, so we need to know it’s cool, rather than being a pretty solid industry that is recognized around the globe.
The K-Pop industry’s reaction to non-K-pop media looks like a child crying because there’s no pink M&Ms in a bag, even though that’s not the normal color found in M&M’s bags; it’s something nice, but it’s not needed and doesn’t make K-pop better. It just looks juvenile.
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Psy is a perfect example. Back in 2012, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, and Big Bang were everywhere. The rapper? Less so. Psy had always been more controversial than popular in South Korea, but international fans hardly noticed the musician before his hit song. I was in Seoul after the song was released, but pre-craze, and it was pretty popular. But people were already sick of the song and the horse dance. The craze would have died down, and it would have been a summer hit.
Then “Gangnam Style” went viral and it was suddenly cool to like Psy. Which is great, he is a talented musician. But that doesn’t mean that Korean music itself isn’t innately valuable as a genre of music for the fans of it.
Belittling outlets devoted to K-pop as “fansites” and not valuing them in Korea is fine; but blowing a tiny blog’s list out of proportion year after year because it is not a solely Korea-oriented site is obnoxious. Not just to the writers who painstakingly create year end lists, but to all K-pop fans who are really devoted to the genre. This attitude of preferring a non-outwardly K-pop related site to one dedicated to Korean entertainment is akin to saying “K-pop fans aren’t good enough for us.”
If Korean entertainment purveyors want K-pop to become popular, it has to happen naturally. Jumping on something rather unimportant year and year again, while ignoring the adoration of those fans it already has, would be akin to rock stars turning their back on the fans have supported them since the start just in order to appeal to seemingly higher-class classical music audiences.
K-pop, you’ve made it. You’re a multi-million dollar genre of music with fans around the globe. Grow up and stop looking for validation. Not everyone likes, or talks about, metal. That doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing. But it doesn’t mean that bigtime metal musicians snatch up the most random bit of publicity from whatever outlet that doesn’t usually cover metal.
It’s 2015. The World Wide Web is older than I am (by about 50 days). There’s a lot on it. That doesn’t mean that anything about K-pop anywhere is something to get excited about. Google “K-pop” or “Nana” or “Beautiful Face” or “After School” or, I don’t know, “Turbo’s Again.” There will be thousands, if not millions, of hits.
We have to stop micro analyzing K-pop for what we want it to be (which, I think, most K-pop fans would agree, would be a mainstream genre of music worldwide) and start noticing the fact that it’s already here and we like it for what it is.
So, yes, good list TC Candler. No, I’m not going to link to it because it’s not any more reputable than me making a list.
You know what? Here goes:
KultScene Most Beautiful Faces List of 2015
Nah, I’m just joking.
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