[ENTERTAINMENT] Korean Dance Music Gets a Test in Japan

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[ENTERTAINMENT] Korean Dance Music Gets a Test in Japan

BoA, at 16 one of Korea's youngest pop stars, is due to make her Japanese debut in early April with her latest album "Jumping Into the World." The publicity drive has already started, with the singer-dancer giving a press conference and impromptu performance in Japan on March 7, showcasing her hit songs in front of Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong music producers and singing in Japanese, English and Korean.

But her assault on the Japanese market is being interpreted by some commentators as a test not only for the young performer herself, but of the validity of Korean dance music itself.

BoA has been preparing for her international debut for the last three years, undergoing a special training program organized by her production company, SM Entertainment. The firm was behind the launch of S.E.S., one of Korea's most domestically popular dance groups, on the Japanese market. That project did not meet with the anticipated success.

This time SM Entertainment says they've got it right. "Unlike S.E.S, which was not fully supported, BoA will be backed by SM Entertainment and a local big music company called Avex at the same time. Therefore, we are quite sure about her success in Japan."

Despite SM's confidence that BoA will get a different reception across the water, BoA and S.E.S already have one thing in common. They specialize in Korea's brand of dance music, which lately has dominated the entire Korean music community.

Her rigorous training and SM's insistence on the importance of promotion emphasize the corporate, manufactured nature of Korean dance music.

And the many critics who consider the music immature, even worthless, have gloomy predictions for BoA, whose music they say espouses the very essence of Korean dance music. These critics savage the music, ridiculing suggestions that its singers are genuine musicians, and arguing that all dance-music performers offer is flashy moves and cute looks, combined with a conspicuous lack of musical talent.

One critic, Lee Jong-hyun, remarked that, "Korean dance music is not even worth mentioning as a musical genre. Some of the producers and music companies, whose only concern is money, have just cleverly copied American and European pop music trends."

It cannot be denied that many Korean dance singers and groups, such as Clon, have made successful debuts in other Asian countries, such as China and Taiwan. Another critic, Song Ki-chul, said, "Those who are hard on Korean dance music should not ignore the fact that those Korean dance singers have been quite popular among the public, not only in Korea but outside of Korea as well."

But BoA remains for many a litmus test for Korean music on the international market. Not all will want her to succeed. Her failure, some say, could be just the spur Korean dance music needs to look for more originality and depth among its hordes of good-looking, gaudy dancers.

by Choe Jae-hee / Chun Su-jin

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