While most of non-Korean speaking people recognise the song, Gangnam Style by the South Korean singer Psy, the popularity of K-pop has exploded in recent years.
ANU academic Dr Roald Maliangkay has compiled a book called “K-Pop — The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry” which explores the history and complexities of the music with a particular focus on the fans.
In 2014 a music video for South Korean singer Psy's Gangnam Style surpassed YouTube's view limit, forcing the site to upgrade its system.
In 2015 K-pop superstar Rain was used in a Queensland tourism marketing campaign with the hope of enticing Korean travellers.
And yet when Dr Roald Maliangkay, Director of the ANU Korea Institute, first started researching Korean pop music or K-pop in the late 1990s, he was operating on a “lonely island”. It was a niche field of study both in Korea and the West.
Since the 2000s he says interest has been growing steadily and today he can hardly keep up.
Recently Dr Roald Maliangkay’s long interest in K-pop was recognised by the Korean Ministry of Education, which presented him with an award for co-editing and authoring, “K-Pop — The International Rise of the Korean Music Industry”. The book explores the history and complexities of K-pop, with a particular focus on fandom.
“K pop is so much more than just the music,” says co-author Dr Maliangkay.
“It’s about how you’re connected with the product – the look, the fashion, the attitude. This phenomenon called fandom; is about the pursuit of association and is a reoccurring theme throughout the book.”
The books sets out to explore how trends in pop culture can influence everyday life.
“We explore themes such as augmented entertainment, where we look at how K-pop can say a lot about someone’s social status. This is nothing new, but it makes for interesting investigation”.
Dr Maliangkay says understanding K-pop is like a portal to another frame of mind.
“Pop culture is driving people so much – constantly and subconsciously. It affects everybody and helps us understand what really is important to people in a particular culture. It helps us think about points of difference, but also common features,” says Dr Maliangkay.