Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cosmopolitan Strivings and Racialization: The Foreign Dancing Body in Korean Popular Music Videos

I'm almost done with the rough draft of this paper-- if it passes review it will be part of a book. If I can figure out how to divide it up into two papers, it will also be part of something else. ㅋㅋㅋ.

The paper analyzes videos released in the past year, with a focus on these:
Cosmpolitan Strivings visible in a search for Authenticity:
Park Jiyoon, Beep

Cosmopolitan Strivings visible in creating an international atmosphere:
TVXQ, Something
Taeyang, Ringa Linga MV
Rain, La Song

Cosmopolitan Strivings in sex/love:
CN Blue, Can't Stop
Jay Park, Metronome

Here is a snippet from the end of the introduction:

           Korean popular music videos have stories to tell about Korean culture. These videos, increasingly created with one ear tuned to the reactions of international audiences, and increasingly employing video directors and choreographers from abroad, "play a crucial role in Korea's increasing dialogue with the outside world" (Epstein 2014: 317). Part of that dialogue is the visual internationalization of the videos. It has become common to catch glimpses or even see featured foreign dancing bodies in Korean popular music videos. The visual internationalization of K-pop follows the less visible, but well known, internationalization of the stars themselves—many of whom now hail from diasporic Korean communities or other parts of Asia (although so far there is only one non-Asian performer).[1] What role do these foreign dancing bodies play in these popular music videos? An expert dancer, often black or Latino, may lend an aura of authenticity to a group of back-up dancers, projecting a message of the star wattage of the Korean performer who is able to hire "the best" back-up dancers from anywhere in the world. Or the presence of non-Koreans partying together with the Korean stars may situate the foreign fan within the K-pop narrative. Other foreign dancing bodies bring exoticized, sexualized spice to what would otherwise be a conventional hetero-normative narrative.
            Any observer of these K-pop videos will notice the foreign dancing bodies. They are highly visible, standing out to the eye, in their obvious non-Koreanness. Are the foreign bodies in the music videos for the foreign eye, or for the Korean eye? How are these foreign dancing bodies received? How has the portrayal of foreign dancing bodies changed as K-pop has grown into a more international phenomenon? In this paper I seek to use dance, or at least appearance in the dance context, to examine the role of the foreign dancing body. After a brief survey of foreign dancing bodies in K-pop's past, and discussion of racialization in the Korean context, I outline, with examples, the ways that I see K-pop videos released between summer 2013 and summer 2014 displaying cosmpolitan strivings through the foreign dancing body. Finally I conclude by returning to wrap up the inter-related topics that arose in the course of the chapter.               

[1] Here I refer to Brady Moore, a member of the group Busker, Busker. However this group is not K-pop, but rather strongly self-identified as an "indie" group. In addition non-Koreans appeared in years past performing with artists who began rehearsing with them while outside Korea, such as Seo Taiji. A K-pop group including a white French woman, The Gloss, debuted in mid 2013, as discussed on the blog Seoul Beats (available at, accessed on 7/9/2014), but the group has not managed to release their own original song or a video that is not a cover, more than a year after their first upload to Youtube—at this point it is likely that their fifteen minutes of, if not fame at least buzz, has already come and gone. To learn more about Brady Moore and read a discussion of foreigners as actual K-pop stars, see Accessed on 4/20/2014.

Some visuals that may be used in the paper:

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