Korea and J-Pop: Correcting the Record

Over the past couple of months with the debut of groups like NiziU and JO1 there has been a rise of what I would call “popularity alarmism”. This is a feeling that is very real on both sides of the strait with K-pop fans becoming alarmed by the number of non-Koreans in K-pop, and J-pop fans lamenting over the supposed lack of popularity that J-pop suffers in Korea.

South China Morning Post article on the debut of NiziU
Unseen Japan also weighed in on this issue

This is honestly a topic that I’ve both really wanted to address, but also have completely been disgusted by the current coverage, the above included. This frustration is due to multiple fronts.

  1. Most of the coverage seems to assume that much of the censorship was only on one side, like the Unseen Japan or South China Morning Post article, thereby completely missing the primary rationale behind the birth of groups like JO1 and the various seasons of Produce 101 Japan. The way that the birth of these groups has been covered – both within Korean language press and overseas – has completely erased the impact of Japanese anti-Korean racism on the reception to all-Korean groups in the past, right down to completely ignoring the extremely controversial decision to erase all K-pop groups from terrestrial television from 2012 onward. It was only due to a heavy marketing campaign selling TWICE as a Japanese group that they even got on Kouhaku, and yet this effort was not even worth a mention to anyone of note either in Korea or overseas. The equivalent for more Western-centric readers would be to try and explain why Elvis Presley made it with not a single mention of …continue reading