What is K-pop?

By Kiersten Kimminau

Korean popular music, known as K-pop, has risen to striking prominence and shows no sign of slowing down. The rapid rise of this field has led to it being utilized by the South Korean government, adored by Asian-American youth, marketed by businesses, and employed by the entertainment industry.

Led by Dr. Suk-Young Kim, this talk, ‘”What is K-Pop?” will explore the dynamic history, practice, and cultural implications of K-pop by considering the various aforementioned factors that comprise it.

Who is Dr. Suk-Young Kim?

Dr. Suk-Young Kim is the Head of Theater and Performance Studies at UCLA where she also directs the Center for Performance Studies. Her research interests cover a broad range of academic disciplines such as East Asian Performance and Visual Culture, Gender and Nationalism, Korean Cultural Studies, Russian Literature and Slavic Folklore.

She is the author of multiple works, most recently “K-pop Live: Fans, Idols, and Multimedia Performance” (Stanford, 2018). This book examines connections between the rapid rise of Korean popular music with technology and digital consumerism, while also considering historical context of Korea from the early 1990s to present day.

The Dynamic History & Meteoric Rise of Korean Popular Music

The topic of K-pop was chosen due to large interest on CWU’s campus. Perhaps you have heard of the wildly popular group, Blackpink, who performed at the 2019 Coachella Festival. Or, maybe you are familiar with the seven-member band, BTS, who have collaborated with with U.S. artists Halsey, Nicki Minaj and DJ Steve Aoki.

Whether you are familiar with the K-pop genre or not, there are plenty of people who are. There is no denying that the genre has broken into the U.S. mainstream in a big way.

“I think K-pop… fills an interesting gap between mainstream Hollywood billboard culture and a more obscure world music scene, and I think K-pop kind of fills that in-between space nicely.”

Dr. Suk-Young Kim, UCLA

In addition to offering a fresh and unique sound, K-pop typically covers themes that one may find less of in traditional U.S. popular music.

Kim explained that, “Lyrics, performances and self-presentation (of K-pop artists) are not really filtered through typical U.S. hip-hop scene that puts a lot of emphasis on, you know, kind of precarious urban life.”

When U.S. audiences desired something new and different, she said, “K-pop presented itself to foreign audiences as a kind of interesting alternative to the mainstream hip-hop scene,” only to be aided by “…the fact that it was so, easily and freely available through YouTube.”

Interested and want to know more? Come to this talk and learn about about the fascinating subject of K-pop along with the various cultural, societal implications of this popular genre.


Event Details

Feb. 6 | 5 p.m. | Samuelson 104 | FREE

Sponsored by the Korean Studies Grant (Academy of Korean Studies’ Seed Program for Korean Studies). Co-Sponsors: Asian Studies Program, Department of History, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Geography, Department of World Languages and Cultures, and Office of International Studies and Programs at CWU.


Kiersten Kimminau is a Student Writer at the CWU Publicity Center. She is a Communication Studies major and student-athlete on the Cross Country & Track teams.