A question of K-popLEE YOUNG-HEE
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“KCON 2022 Premier in Tokyo” held at the “Makuhari Messe” in Event 32 Hall near Tokyo on May 14 and 15 was a unique event.
The event, hosted by Korean company CJ ENM, was to introduce Korean culture to Japan, but interestingly, none of the participating artists were Korean.
The 6 idol teams that appeared in the concert and fan meeting were all formed through Mnet’s audition program “Produce 101 Japan,” season 1 and 2 winners JO1 and INI and 4 teams made of participants who did not make the final round.
All the members were Japanese, and only INI had one Chinese member. The reporters who came to cover the event were in agony. Should I refer to these teams as “K-pop idols” or “J-pop idols”?
Watching the performance, I felt more confused. They presented hip-hop-based strong beats, perfectly synced choreography and typical Korean idol music and performances, but the lyrics were in Japanese.
It is quite different from the existing Japanese idol group music, which offers a light and loose feel.
Undoubtedly, these teams belong to an agency jointly created by CJ ENM and Japanese agency Yoshimoto Kogyo, and are raised according to the training, music production, and publicity methods of Korean idols.
So, when describing them, complicated modifiers such as “K-pop style,” “with K-pop DNA,” and “localized by K-pop” are often used.
Response in the Japanese market is considerable. Every album that JO1 and INI released topped the Oricon chart. Fans are mostly women in their teens and 20s, and they don’t seem to have agony over the “identity” of the music they enjoy.
“I started to like K-pop because of BTS, and now I am a fan of INI. I feel close to the Japanese idols singing in Japanese.” “I became a fan from watching YouTube, and it turns out that they are ‘Korean-style idols.’ Then, I became more interested in K-pop.”
I met Masayuki Furuya, an expert on Korean culture and host of the event. When asked “Is it K-pop or J-pop?,” he joked, “Koreans seem to be too obsessed with ‘K.’”
It is true that K-pop has its own unique vitality and character, but his reply sounded to me like there was no “nationality” in culture. However, he said, “It seems clear that K-pop is changing the way people around the world enjoy music.”
Watching “Korean wave idols without Koreans,” it was a scene that confirmed that a culture from Korea has taken the world by storm and is creating something of a new level.