How did American music influence Korean music of the past and of the present? Are the influences of the past still prominent in Kpop today?
From the 19th century to the 21st century, the Korean music industry has been influenced by the Japanese music in the colonial era, and the American music during, and after the Korean War. Among all the foreign influences on the Korean music, I would say the American music culture has the most significant impact on the evolution of Korean music regarding the style of the music and the preferences of the domestic audiences, and these influences are still apparent even in the contemporary K-pop musical products.
The major influence of American music on the Korean music started during the Korean War. The USA MGIK, which was the name of the USA troop situated in South Korea, provided the opportunity for the Korean citizens to experience the “American Music” through a radio channel called the AFKN (Shin and Kim 2014, 275). The original purpose of the AFKN radio station was to educate the US troops in Korea about the Korean culture, and it also acted as a source of entertainment for the US troops by broadcasting the American hit songs from time to time. Due to the close relationship between Korea and the US, the AFKN radio station had also become a popular option for the Koreans. As a result, the US popular music got to spread among Korean society. Meanwhile, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, these two completely new music style had immediately attracted a group of Korean audiences, some people started to try to learn the songs from the AFKN radio station (Shin and Kim 2014, 275). The other primary driver that causes the Korean artists to learn the US pop music was the American Military Base Show. In order to become a high-ranking performer at the MIPALGUN show and earn a considerably high income, Korean artists learned to perform the latest popular American songs and dance moves to entertain the troops (shin and Kim 2014, 277). After the beginning of the Vietnam War, many US troops left Korea to fight the Vietnam War, the Korean artists who used to perform in the military camp now had to modify their performances and integrate Korean elements to attract domestic audiences. Although the US troops were out of Korea, the entrenched influences of US popular music still shaped the music preferences of the domestic music industry (Shin and Kim 2014, 276). After the 1970s, rock and R&B elements became increasingly popular, which motivates more and more performers to start performing songs that contain these two elements. In the 1980s and 1990s, new music styles from the US such as hip-hop, pop, and ballad has flooded the Korean music industry. Also, many new performing groups were formed, and some of the idol groups became the legend and the pioneers who integrated both rap and rock music into their songs, such as Seo Taiji and Boys. Since then, many young artists who studied aboard in the US returned to Korea and shaped the Korean music industry utilizing the experience that they had with the latest popular culture in the US (Jin and Ryoo 2012, 119). Due to the success of the cultural hybridity in the contemporary K-pop music, the present Korean performers are more encouraged to integrate English and foreign culture into their musical products, so the foreign audiences can enjoy and resonate with the music as much as the domestic audiences do (Jin and Ryoo 2012, 128).
In the past, the AFKN radio station introduced the new music genre from the US to the domestic residents, and the income from the MIPALGUN show provided the incentives for the Korean artists to learn and perform the US music. However, in modern k-pop industry, the main reason that drives the assimilation of Korean pop music and the American pop music is the trend of cultural globalization.
- Shin, Hyunjoon, and Phil Ho Kim. “Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Group Sound Rock.”In The Korean Popular Culture Reader, edited by Kyung Hyun Kim and Youngmin Choe. 275-95. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.
- Jin, Dal Yong, and Woongjae Ryoo. “Critical Interpretation of Hybrid K-Pop: The Global-Local Paradigm of English Mixing in Lyrics.” Popular Music and Society37, no. 2 (2012): 113-31. doi:10.1080/03007766.2012.731721.