Got S(e)oul?: The Cultural Implications of Performing Blackness in K-pop on South Korean Youthin K-pop on South Korean Youth




Williams, Alissa

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My thesis examines the appropriation of Black culture into Korean Popular music, or K-pop, as a) a tool that is used to authenticate the performances of K-pop idols, and b) an aspect of the industry that perpetuates negative stereotypes about Black people and exacerbates the discrimination and racism that occurs in South Korean society. Drawing on literature from sociology, performance studies, gender studies, cultural studies, media studies, Black studies, and Asian Studies, I offer insight into the formation of the K-pop industry, the fundamentals of its current state, and the roles that Black music and performance play in both. I also analyze trends in the consumption of Black music within the South Korean music market between the years 1959 and 1992 using chart archives from the South Korean music platform Melon. In particular, I highlight the consistent affinity that South Korean consumers demonstrated for Black artists under the Motown record label, which I assert had significant implications for its company model being utilized as a blueprint for the infrastructure of the K-pop industry. Furthermore, I dissect the visual components of three K-pop music videos to highlight patterns in the usage of Black cultural elements only within the context of certain themes or topics that sustain overgeneralized negative perceptions of hip hop culture. However, despite these criticisms, my thesis ultimately argues that with our society’s increasing interconnectedness through the use of interactive digital platforms such as social media which make limitations in the spread of information across cultures due to geographical barriers obsolete, the K-pop industry can come to be leveraged as a tool that can shift the conversations being had on race among South Korean youth youth.



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