K-Pop: A Century in the Making Draws a Packed Audience

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The Center for the Study of Asia‘s event, K-Pop: A Century in the Making, with Pil Ho Kim (Ohio State Univ), took place on October 25, 2023. The event was a resounding success, with a packed house of enthusiastic attendees. The anticipation had been building for this event, as K-pop’s enduring global appeal, spanning from the era of Psy’s iconic “Gangnam Style” to the meteoric rise of BTS, had sparked widespread curiosity about its origins and evolution.

Pil Ho Kim, an Associate Professor in Korean from the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at The Ohio State University, delivered a captivating talk that provided a comprehensive view of K-pop. He traced its roots back to Korea’s rich musical heritage, spanning over a century. The journey began with early twentieth-century folk songs and extended through the Japanese colonial-era influence of jazz. The impact of the U.S. military bases in South Korea during the 1960s, introducing rock and soul music, was another pivotal chapter in K-pop’s evolution. Finally, the emergence of home-grown musicians who would later become the driving forces behind K-pop entertainment giants was explored.

What made this discussion particularly fascinating was its exploration of K-pop as a tradition marked by continual transformation, shapeshifting crossovers, ingenious hybridizations, and intercultural collaborations. These elements were identified as the key ingredients that propelled K-pop’s unprecedented rise to global prominence.

The event was not just an intellectual exploration but also a cultural celebration. Attendees were treated to a delightful spread of Korean cookies, enhancing the experience and immersing them in the essence of K-pop’s cultural roots.

As the event came to a close, attendees left with a deeper understanding of K-pop’s century-long journey, appreciating the influences that contribute to its present-day success. Pil Ho Kim’s insightful presentation shed light on the historical and cultural significance of K-pop, leaving the audience with an increased appreciation for this musical phenomenon that has captivated the world for decades.