I think some people confuse my criticism of K-Pop as a condemnation of all popular Korean music. It isn’t.

What I mean by K-Pop is the boy-band, girl-group franchise that is sold worldwide by gigantic and oppressive entities like SM, YG, and JYP. This is what myself and most people mean by K-Pop, because it is what most people are familiar with.

There are lots of problems with K-Pop: misogyny, lack of originality, banality with a pretension of subversion, and the list goes on.

I think one of the most devastating impacts of K-Pop is how parasitic and monopolistic it can be. This is how most people know about Korean music, even though it’s only really been a part of Korean music for not much longer than a decade. It is taking over the Korean market –making it one of the only ways to have a viable career as a musician in Korea. Furthermore, its toxic values –become popular and sell tons by all means– are taking over the country – and they beget a slew of negative consequences. Take for example the slave contracts and sexual favors that proliferate in this industry. They stem from the problems I mentioned above: “We have taken over this industry and if you want to have a career submit to us and obey.” This kind of mindset is highly corrosive to goods like originality, sincerity, diversity, and beauty.

I do not think K-Pop is the only brand that corrodes such goods. I would, however, argue that it is unique in this gargantuan web of crony capitalism; especially within the Korean music industry. It is an excellent vehicle for such toxins. It is unprecedentedly organized and effective. There has never been such a powerful agent of crony capitalism within the Korean music industry. Although commercial and popular music existed in Korea even in the 20th century, there also existed dissidents like 산울림 (San Ool Leem, in english it would mean something like the mountain’s echo) and 들국화 (a wild camomile). Their music music was authentic, dissident, and simple. It had a very different sound from the over-produced pop music we hear these days. These kinds of bands were very popular in Korea and they were able to compete with and often best the pop of its time. However, nowadays we see none of that. I cannot help but attribute much of this to the rise of K-Pop. 

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