While it has been over a decade since I got into J-Pop and the idolatry therein (God forgive me, for I have sinned), it has been longer since I was exposed to the musical and cultural cornucopia that lie in (South) Korea and Chinese-speaking locales.
These are my confessions as a fan who has long strayed off the path.
To go deeper into the K-Pop aspect of my past, I must admit something personal: one big reason I was fascinated by Korean culture and language was because of my fifth grade teacher, who was Korean. Aside from being one of the best teachers ever and a shoulder to cry on (because fifth grade was absolute hell for me for a variety of reasons), she shared some of her culture with her students. She came to America when she was young, but she was still in touch enough with her homeland to share Korean yogurt and a noodle dish whose name escapes me. Those were among my fondest memories and is probably why I’m obsessed with (Far Eastern) Asian culture period.
To delve more into Korean culture, I dipped my finger into K-Pop — even knowing little to no Korean aside from Santokki. It was a minor smidge with a language that sounded like nonsense (but not nearly as much as Japanese did, oddly enough), but I was curious. I was only 10-11 years old and when you’re that age, language barriers mean diddly squat to you.
I listened to a “Korean Mega Mix” featuring artists most of you probably never even heard of or hear about anymore like Fin.K.L. and Yoo Seung Jun. I can’t find it, but I do know that the following song was in it (one of my favorite moments – and it took me years to find it):
I also encountered S.E.S.’s cover of Dreams Come True, but it still wasn’t enough to hook me.
Every night, I would watch WMBC-TV, which aired a block of content from KBS. (9 times out of 10, I usually was glued to a show aimed at kindergarteners.) It was just an awkward time to absorb Korean culture or attempt to.
Interest would pique from time to time, between exposure to the aftereffects of the hype of MapleStory and Pucca (which I religiously watched the TV series of when it came on Jetix). However, nothing was enough to salvage what was left, especially since most energy went into other aspects of the Sinosphere (especially Japan, partially due to my self-study of the language). Nevermind a brief period around 2003 or so where I was into BoA and Towa Tei (who technically shouldn’t count due to him being a Zainichi Korean).
There was also this song and there was another. The melodies are in my head as I write this, but the names escape me. I know one had a title akin to “To Heaven” or something, but I doubt anyone would know it since (of course) this was before the Hallyu Wave. Another was sung by what appeared to be a group of boys and had a title called “Candy” or something like that, but I cannot be sure. It’s like grasping at empty straws.
Recent MapleStory coverage have also made me regret not studying Korean as I’ve grown to enjoy the Korean animated intros instead of the English ones. Then there’s Jang Da Yeon, who was a constant reminder of what could’ve been.
Fast forward to today. The Hallyu Wave is in full swing (or has the crest begun to come down?) and listening to K-Pop is more popular and acceptable than before. (In fact, one can argue if it’s a lot more “mainstream” to do so now.) Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get so hung up on Japanese music and culture, if I had studied effin’ Korean instead of Japanese? (That’s the main reason I stuck with J-Pop – unlike K-Pop, I actually had a better grasp on the language! Now I’m no better than those philistines who cry out “Why would you listen to that stuff? They’re not speaking your language?!”)
(On one hand, it probably had to do with the fact that I was exposed in a time where musically speaking, I wanted to get as far away from mainstream America as possible (especially of the urban variety) and as we know, K-pop tends to be musically intertwined with those very things. Or seemed that way to me. Again, I was young, naive, and unaware.)
I look back to today and see how acceptable it is. PSY, Wonder Girls, and After School are on the same level as the Black Eyed Peas and Britney Spears. This exposure were things Japanese music acts dreamed about, instead of being regulated to small indie venues and (*shudders*) anime conventions—and many who attend are there because they hear said act in an anime. (I shouldn’t say anything. It took me watching Princess Resurrection (of which I’ve read the manga) to divorce Ali Project from Rozen Maiden, an anime a friend of mine religiously watched.) Even then, such acts here can’t be divorced from the general “anime-lovers” scene in the West, unlike K-Pop (unless I’m wrong – I’m an outsider looking in so I am absolutely unqualified to speak).
What would happen? (For one thing, this blog wouldn’t have the world “Morning” in it, now would it?)
Which brings me to this tweet, which (for lack of a better one) is the Mantra of this M3 Meditation:
(Note to self, actually check that section.)