one girl's journey across kpop paradise

Category Archives: K-pop

Sorry I haven’t been updating!

Lately I’ve been so busy with schoolwork and to be honest, I’ve been really preoccupied with Tumblr. Just looking at my blog, you can see how much I’ve been reblogging. I’m quite obsessed with Tumblr right now, and with the debut of SM’s new boy group EXO, which I’m slightly head over heels for atm, there’s no way you could pull me from Tumblr right now.

But I wanted to give you guys a bit of an update on my Korean learning. Since February, I’ve been meeting up with a Korean language buddy. He’s really nice but it’s still hard to actually practice Korean with him, given my poor speaking skills. However, last week I decided to do something I had once done with a language exchange partner in Korea. The idea is for both you and your buddy to get a journal, to write in it daily, and then exchange it when you meet, and have the buddy correct your grammar. It gives me a bit more responsibility to work on my Korean on a daily basis, so I think it’s a good thing. And he’s a native Korean speaker (and I’m a native English speaker), so it’s good for both of us. Some of the sentences he’s written are quite cute and funny (for me, he referred to me as “my Julie,” which at once amused and touched me, but I know he didn’t mean it in that way ^^).

I decided to do something random today and write a letter in my journal called “A breakup letter to my lover” because I’ve been watching this new drama Twelve Men in a Year and it’s inspired me to write about that. Here it is below, and I’m pretty sure the grammar is not totally right, and if you want, you’re free to correct me before my partner does in the comments below!

내 애인한테 헤어지자는 편지
안녕, 잘 지냈지?
우린 언제 부터 서러 알고 있었니?
3년 되었어.
우린 얼마나 행복했는 줄 알아?
그런데 네가 다 버렸어. 왜?
네가 왜 그런 식으로 날 다루는 건지?
이제 그만하자. 헤어지자.
마음대로 생각해. 난 상관 없거든.
날 걱정하지마. 내가 널 가장 필요한 순간때 네가 없었거든. 왜? 시간이 없을만큼 바빴건지?
넌 날 진심으로 사랑했어? 제발 나 좀 그만 웃겨.
난 예전처럼 널 사랑하지 않아서 다행이다.
그렇니까 날 좀 내버려둬. 제발. 부탁해.
에제 너의 마지막 기회다.
이기회가 놓치지마.
난 더 이상 찬을 수가 없을 테니까…
날 보내줘.

What did you think? If you read the entire thing, then props to you! I honestly had no idea what I was writing, and I did have to check my Korean expressions dictionary from time to time. Do you want a translation? If yes, then reply in the comments below. Remember, don’t take this as Korean studying help because I’m not sure about the grammatical correctness of it. It’s just my own personal writing exercise hehe.

On the lines of the drama, I really do recommend you watch Twelve Men in a Year (also called Twelve Signs of Love, but that’s the “American” translation). I see a lot of you came to my blog looking for a review of the drama I Need Romance, and although I don’t think Twelve Men in a Year is quite as good as I Need Romance, I think it definitely somewhat fills the gap in my heart that I Need Romance left. You can watch Twelve Men in a Year on Hulu if you live in the United States, but there are other links to it as well: Epdrama and KimchiDrama. Have fun!


To be absolutely honest, the past couple of days I think I’ve hit a peak with my k-pop. I go in and out of cycles of being obsessed with k-pop, and I think the recent attention put on SHINee has kind of died out, now that they’ve been performing on music shows for three weeks. A lot of established groups aren’t promoting new songs right now, so it’s been kind of dead on the radar. There are always a lot of new groups promoting, but I feel like there are so many of the same kind of groups that pop up all over the place that I’m starting to get a little impatient and sick of keeping up with k-pop a bit. I hate to say it, but I do need breaks from my beloved k-pop world at times too.

But I randomly stumbled upon SPICA yesterday and I’m been obsessed, watching all their MVs and listening to their first mini album. I think that in the mass sea of new girl group debuts, they have something special and could really succeed.

Some background information – SPICA is a new group that debuted back in January, though they didn’t start actively promoting until February. They’re managed by B2M Entertainment and are produced by the famous Lee Hyori.

Here’s the song that caught me:

For me, the first couple of seconds of a song is very important, because it sets the tone for the rest of the song. This song, “Painkiller,” begins with a haunting piano tune and a fantastic voice. Hooked from the start. And then the set seems to mainly be an abandoned alley (that’s all too familiar for us k-pop fans), but there’s something I like about the way this MV is executed. Someone on YouTube commented that the song gave off the feel of a “tragic romance” and I have to agree – it has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet feel to it, somehow.

I think each member is really unique-looking and I think pull off the badass girl attitude without seeming pretentious or like they’re trying too hard. I love the outfits – there’s something about them that I like, can’t exactly put my finger on it – but everything about this group strikes to me as mature and professional, like they’ve been doing it for years.

Then I did some research and realized that they have been doing it for years. The youngest member is 23, and the oldest member is 25. Thank goodness. Most of the new groups (both boy and girl) have been way too young. Zelo – B.A.P – I know people love you, but 15? Really? The girls of SPICA have been in the business for a while. BoA, the lead vocalist, was Infinite’s vocal trainer. Bohyung was supposed to debut with 2NE1, and Jiwon almost debuted with T-ARA. These girls have been training for a long time, and I think it really shows.

Now, I’m not encouraging companies to train their talents for a long time or anything. I just think it’s better to debut your talent once they’re older and more mature – not only are they better performers then, but they’re more capable of handling the stress of being in the spotlight so often.

Here was another one of their singles, “Russian Roulette”:

The video starts off with the girls gathered around a circular table. BoA instigates a russian roulette game – for no given reason – and the girls take turns with the gun. The entire atmosphere of the MV is very sophisticated; it reminds me a bit of Casino Royale (2006), the suspenseful, mysterious, dark aura really works for these girls. The outfits in this part of the MV are fabulous. Admittedly, I’m really into fashion, and I felt like these outfits were sophisticated chic without trying too hard (like I’ve already iterated about the previous video). The song is catchy, not as heavy as “Painkiller,” but still very memorable.

Kim Bohyung, maknae

Kim Bohyung, maknae

With such good vocals on the MVs, I was a bit apprehensive when first watching their live renditions, worrying that it wouldn’t be as good as in recording. I mean, every group live won’t sound as good as their recordings, but I think SPICA did pretty good, considering they have only been performing on music programs for a bit over a month. I think they have room for growth, but I think they’re waaaay underrated right now. They’re flying mostly under the radar, and I think they deserve more recognition! If you like them, tell your friends about them :)


I’m not even joking here. The choreography for their latest song, Sherlock, is absolutely brilliant.

The music (which I’m just finally starting to like) and the music video aside (which was interesting, but did not properly showcase the choreo), SM finally released the practice video of Sherlock yesterday. And judging by all the comments on its YouTube page, people are really loving the choreography for this song. I personally have deemed it my favorite choreography in all of the k-pop dances I’ve seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot).

Here are the reasons why this dance stands out for me:

  1. The energy and freshness of the moves – I think I’ve seen this video like a bajillion times and I’m still amazed by how fresh the moves are. I’ve never seen these moves in k-pop before. It’s not your usual hip-thrusting and crotch-grabbing antics (which I’m not saying I dislike, lol NU’EST and EXO) – it’s really new and there’s no overt sexual moves, which I *really* like. Rookie groups, take some pointers from SHINee.
  2. How every member gets a chance to shine – the way this dance is choreographed, everyone has at least once or twice (usually more) to shine. When they’re in the spotlight, the other members are either completely still or doing a “backup” move. For Minho and Onew, the two weakest dancers in the group (but how much they have improved! So amazing!), they had many chances to be in the spotlight, and I really appreciated the choreographer for this.
  3. The collaborative nature of the dance – Most times, everyone in a group dance learns the same moves, and they try to make it as synchronized as possible. So you’d have 5-7 people on stage doing the exact same move at the exact same time, and if that was successful, then they would be praised for “amazing” dancing. (Infinite, I’m not criticizing you by any means) Take this move in which Jonghyun is in the center – all the members are collaborating to make a more impressive overall move. Coming from a theater background, I find this very impressive, and a big step in the right direction. K-pop, more of this, please :)

I think that’s the general gist of why I really love this dance. Plus, it really brings out the best in SHINee’s talents. Taeminnie’s rocking it as usual, Key’s fierce as usual, Jonghyun is surprisingly sexy here (like seriously outshining the rest in that category, sorry my bias Key haha), and Minho and Onew have improved a lot. I’m so impressed.

I cannot talk about the choreo without mentioning the choreographer, the world-renowned Tony Testa, who choreographed for the likes of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. He even flew to Korea to teach SHINee the choreo. K-pop, you’re really stepping up your game here, and I am more than happy to have been a loyal fan from the (almost) beginning.

And here’s the practice dance video again, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.


And today I will take a break from what I usually post about to talk about one of the greatest joys of my life…being a fangirl.

I have to be totally 100% honest when I say that the reason I got into Korean culture and learning the language is because of k-pop. K-pop and Korean dramas, but mostly k-pop. K-pop, with their attractive boys and girls, pretty costumes, beautiful sets, catchy songs, and sexy dances, is really, really appealing. And, like many other young girls, I fell madly in love with perhaps the cutest boys on earth.

But it’s not just the visual factor that keeps me going. Reflecting back on my almost three years as a pretty fervent k-pop fan, I have come to realize that what makes me coming back for more is the incredible level of unity and friendship I feel within the k-pop community. It’s not just me and just me liking a song or a music video or a boy group. It’s me, spazzing out with thousands of other fangirls and fanboys AROUND THE WORLD when the music video comes out.

Lately I’ve been keeping up with the SHINee and Infinite fandoms on Tumblr, and I swear, the level of dedication of fans is so awe-inspiring and just downright incredible. When Infinite’s Woohyun celebrated his 21st birthday back in February, there were dozens upon dozens of Inspirits who created picture sets of his best photos and wrote long, emotional letters dedicated to him. And then the thousands of Inspirits liked and reblogged the crap out of the photo sets. I was among them. I even sent Woohyun a tweet saying happy birthday.

 

And I know there’s a little mistake in the last sentence, but that’s okay. It was my little contribution to the millions upon millions of fans that want to reach out to the idols. Hell, I’m learning Korean so that I can understand my favorite idols. When I understand a whole sentence they say, a little bit of my heart warms up, knowing that I’m a little bit closer to them. The fact that Woohyun probably never read my tweet is saddening, but I’m okay with it. He has so many fans that do so much for him and the rest of the Infinite members – I just wanted to show my support in the very small way that I could.

Now on to SHINee. The past two weeks have been crazy hell for Shawols everywhere. Ever since SM announced that SHINee would finally be making a comeback after 18-something months of Korean prime-time inactivity, Shawols have been ecstatic. Finally, their five beloved SHINee boys would be coming back with a new single!! I’d just joined the SHINee world about two months ago, so I can’t really express the emotions of a true die-hard Shawol, but I could really feel the amount of love for the boys hardcore Shawols have. Last week alone, Shawols on Tumblr were going crazy trying to predict when SM would be releasing each of the five members’ individual photo teasers. My Tumblr dashboard was filled each night around 7 pm with antsy Shawols wondering what the hell had happened to SM that they weren’t uploading the photo teasers. All of us waited and refreshed our Tumblrs with bated breath as the teasers finally came out, one by one. And when the photos came out, Tumblr Shawols did what they did best – edit and collage the hell out of them. And then the notes piled up. Soon, each of the members had collages with up to 2-3,000 notes. The power of Shawols.

This past Sunday, I woke up at around 6 am to find out that the music video teaser and the digital album would be released soon. Shawols once again scrambled together to wait for the teasers, and then also edited and gif-ed the hell out of the short 39 second teaser. But it wasn’t until this morning (Tuesday) at 11 AM that I truly felt the love. Apparently, at 11 AM Tuesday (00:00 Wednesday KST), the full music video was to be uploaded onto SM’s home page on YouTube. The time came and went, and with no music video uploaded, Shawols went absolutely NUTS. They spammed the comments section of the music video’s teaser video like there was no tomorrow. For a whole hour, I turned on automatic comments and just watched the comments streaming in like the opening of a dam. A dam that had been in hibernation for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. It was probably one of the most amusing hours of my life. Here are some memorable YouTube comments that I’ve saved:

 did the uploader fall asleep?

guys. just breath…there OMG WHERE IS THE FUCKING MV???

sm is too busy preparing for exo’s new teasers

I’M GOING CRAAAAAAAAZZZY!!! >:((((((
STOP JOKING AND UPLOAD THE MV RIGHT NOW!!! -____-

Not here yet? I faked sick and didn’t go to school for this! *anxious*

I am eating popcorn while reading comments on atomatic mode LMAO (dead serious)
I could seriously wait hours while doing this lol so helarious XD

only SHINee can get a over a million views for a 39 second teaser :P

I am very very frustrated right now.

OMFG SM, YOU’VE JUST TROLLED US.
GET READY FOR SHAWOL’S REVENGE
LOL
BRING THE BOOOOOOOOOOOOYS OUT

IM SO FURIOUS YEAHHHHH~

maybe SHINee will upload short videos telling us where to look for the MV

Oh I’m so curious Yeah~
Oh I’m so curious(what SM is doing now) Yeah~

This is not the reality we wanted.

EVERY REFRESH = NEW TOP COMMENT. POWER OF SHAWOLS

Calm the fuck down, people. It’s not like SM had been punctual before. Give the slowpokes some time to figure this shit out.

people we broke youtube again ……

This went on and on. Until people had to go to sleep, or school, or work, or they simply grew tired of waiting and decided that SM simply wasn’t going to release the video at that time. It’s still not released, and we Shawols are at a loss of when SM will release it. But one thing is sure – through this ordeal, I learned the power of Shawols and k-pop fans. In the span of an hour, SHINee’s music video teaser accumulated over thousands of comments. Oh how I love you, my fellow Shawols.

When people think about the demographic of people who are k-pop fans, they think they’re all pre-teen Asian girls. They could not be more wrong. I’ve encountered k-pop fans from all around the world – England, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore – just to name a few. People who don’t speak Korean at all and who cannot understand the language nonetheless devote tons of their time to Korean music and culture. This absolutely astounds me. How this has happened is completely beyond me, but it really floored me. At this time, I realize that I have never been more proud of being a k-pop fan. I truly believe k-pop has the power to change the world. It already has. It’s brought people from thousands of miles away with nothing in common to become a tight-knit community of people who have to come to understand and love each other. If that’s not world-changing, I don’t know what is. K-pop doesn’t have to be a charity to change lives. I know of countless people whose lives were changed by k-pop, and thus they give much of their time and energy to giving back to the stars who changed their lives.

As long as I live, I will remember this special and precious time of my life – when I was a k-pop fan. I don’t think it will last forever, and I certainly don’t believe any of the other k-pop fans expect it to either, but it’s just such a unique thing that I will forever remember and treasure. Thank you k-pop and thank you fellow fans, for making my life so much brighter and warmer.


It’s official: I just never get any sleep here in Korea. And you know what? I’m used to that fact. I’m just going to be constantly tired, and that’s okay with me, because I’m going to be leaving in just over a month. And there’s still too much left to do.

Lately I’ve taken a sort-of part-time writing job for this Korean pop culture website, and though I don’t have the job yet, I have to say I really enjoy writing again :) Writing in this blog is a really nice release and I can just write whatever the hell I want on it, but it’s nice to see my (good) writing published once again. I realized how much I love writing – it is still one of my greatest passions – and I think I will continue to pursue it, as I pursue my other passions.

I just rediscovered my love for singer Kim Bo Kyung. The girl can fucking sing. Unlike the kpop stars these days who can skate by just by staying on tune, Kim Bo Kyung has a mighty good voice. I’ve been following her for almost a year now, ever since her Haru Haru/Brand New Day days (her first mini album). She showcased her fantastic belting voice then, and in City Hunter’s OST, her song Suddenly was just amazing. I had it on repeat for god knows how long. And I’m sad to say that I just discovered her latest mini album, called Growing. The title song, 아파 (It Hurts), is fucking brilliant. Sorry for cursing so much in this post, but I’m kind of like head over heels in love with this girl’s voice. It’s the voice I’ve always, always envied growing up. I wanted to be a singer for the longest time, and if I had to choose, I would take Kim Bo Kyung’s voice over anyone else’s…except maybe Kelly Clarkson. Bo Kyung really admires Kelly Clarkson and people have dubbed her the Korean Kelly Clarkson. Here, listen to her latest song and you dare tell me her voice isn’t amazing!

I just found Kim Bo Kyung’s fansite. On it, it lists her upcoming schedule and there’s a concert on Monday and you can bet on your house, your horse, and your father’s entire family that I will try my best to go see her perform. Otherwise, I will just go see her perform at Music Bank next Friday. Either way, I’m gonna go see this girl live before I leave Korea. She has been such a long-time inspiration of mine for me not to see her perform.

Anyway, fangirling over Kim Bo Kyung aside, I just remembered that City Hunter has the most beautiful cinematography. And oh wait, what was a big part of that? The shooting locations. Seoul is so beautiful – there are so many parts of it I still haven’t discovered that I need to explore. One of them is the Seoul Color Park (서울색공원). I found this great thread for pictures. Gorgeous, right? Gonna put it on my bucket list.

There’s that place that I saw in City Hunter that I’ve been just dying to go to….and I just can’t find the name of it. If you watch this video, it’s the place that Lee Minho and Park Min-young go at the beginning of the cut…they’re standing on this bridge overlooking a high-speed bypass. It’s beautiful…and I need to find where it is, so I can go, if even for several minutes.

On the other hand, I received my first role here in Korea. It’s for a student film, and I’ll be speaking in English (thank goodness!). I think I’ve developed quite a thick skin for auditioning and rejection over the years, so I’m not as excited as I would have been years ago, but I’m still very excited to work on this project. I’ll update you guys on it as I have more information, and I might even post the final product on here :)

As for my Korean, I am improving steadily day by day. I can actually speak in broken sentences and convey basic ideas and feelings now! Even though my Korean is still very broken and my vocabulary is very much limited, I feel like I’ve made great progress and this success is helping me feel like I can keep working hard toward mastering the language. I can officially check of the ‘Have a conversation only in Korean’ as of today! I had two Korean conversations today :) 好好学习,天天向上。Chinese proverb, hollaback at ‘cha.


I have this poster hanging in my room right now :)

So last Friday I finally got my butt down to Yeouido, where the KBS Broadcasting Station is located, to see Music Bank.

Now I have to precursor you guys on what it means to “see” Music Bank (or any other music show). Each artist/group has to do about 15-30 minutes of pre-recording before the live show, which starts at 6 pm (for Music Bank). The recordings start late morning and end before the live show. Each group that is performing that week, whether it be Super Junior or F.T. Island, or whoever else, has to pre-record their performance several times before the start of the live show, so that instead of rushing between set changes, some groups might not get to perform it live during the live show (I’m not sure who doesn’t get to perform…I might have to get back to you on that one).

Getting into the pre-recordings: It’s not hard to get into the pre-recordings. All you have to do is show up at the KBS Station about 2 hours before the start of pre-recording with a copy of the latest album of the group you want to see. You will almost always need this in order to get in. Go to the person in charge of the fan club (they will probably be wearing a badge that says they are fan club staff) and tell them you want to see the show. Show them your album, and they will collect your name and (in my case) write a number on your wrist. And then all you have to do is wait until the pre-recording starts, and then enter with everyone else :)

What to do in the pre-recording: The authorities say no photography or videos once you’re inside the KBS Building, and if you’re caught, you will probably be thrown out. They’re kind of strict about this. My friend, however, sneaked a picture inside the studio…so it is possible, if you’re sly enough. Fangirls (in my experience, a lot more girls than guys love kpop) are SO crazy. When I went to see Infinite, the girls around me were all screaming the members’ names at the top of their lungs, and waving incessantly, in the attempt to have the members wave and smile at them. And the fan chants during the actual pre-recording performances are so intense. Half the time my ears were bleeding from the fangirl screams. It’s like you’re at a sports match or something….maybe this is the sports culture of Korea :o

About the live show: I’ve never had any experience getting into the live show, and none of my friends have had either. For Music Bank, Music Core, and Inkigayo, there’s apparently some lottery system online for getting tickets. This most certainly requires a Korean social security number, which none of us have. There really must be another way to get tickets to the live show, but I just haven’t figure it out yet. I hear that Music Core is possible, but you’d have to get there really in the morning, and right now I don’t have that kind of patience. I will update later if I get any more information.

Now, finally let’s get to my experience!

So I got to the KBS Station via the National Assembly station on Line 9 (next to Yeouido). Unfortunately I don’t quite remember the exit I took right at this moment, but I will update with that information later. The KBS building is quite close to the subway, only about a 5-10 minute walk away. When you get to the KBS Station, make a right at the first intersection (after the traffic bars) and walk straight until you see a sign for KBS Hall (written in Korean), turn left, and walk up the stairs. It’s like an open space with a roof overhead, and the entrance to the recording studio is to the right. Find the fan club staff roaming around in that area.

This is what the place looked like when I got there (the entrance is actually on the left side of this picture):

And then once we started to line up, it looked like this:

And we waited a longer than I thought we would, actually. We were supposed to enter for Infinite at around 2:30 and I think we waited all the way until 4:10 pm…and I might’ve caught a cold, but it’s so worth it. INFINITE!!

And once we got in, I was so amazed. The studio was a lot smaller than I thought, but the set was beautiful! Really gorgeous. They were promoting Paradise, which I think is a great song. The choreography is really smooth, less intense than the Be Mine choreo, but great nonetheless. And the boys…well, they were a lot smaller than I thought they would be. They were sooo skinny, like malnutritioned kids from a third world country. Yes, I did just have to make that comparison. They looked exactly the same as they did on camera, so that was a happy surprise. Myungsoo looked really tired, so he was the only one who was not really waving back at us, but all the others were really enthusiastic at waving and smiling at us. It was a really good experience. I really didn’t want it to end, but sure enough, after 3 takes, the security guards were ushering us out the door. They were a bit rude about it too, but oh well.

Afterwards, we went to Handel & Gretel, which is the little cafe owned by Yesung (from Super Junior)’s parents. It’s right outside the main KBS gate – you cannot miss it. It was beyond adorable, but it was tiny as hell. We had to sit outside in the cold >___< Here are some pictures of the place.

And there’s the conclusion of my first attempt at going to Music Bank! I will actually be going back again this week, and seeing if I can get any more information. Hope this was helpful and I love reading comments, so please do comment below!