The Relationship Between K-pop's Popularity And Self-esteem

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Scholars have analyzed the impact that K-pop has on its audience and listeners (Lie, 2012). The popularity of South Korean popular music (K-pop) has since spread from “Japan and Taiwan” to “the Americas and the Middle East” (p. 340). This is because of the gradual and inevitable cultural influence that the U.S. has had on South Korea. At first, South Koreans were unfamiliar with the Western sound, as the “Park regime resisted American-style pop music,” as it may corrupt South Korea by its association with “sex and drugs” (p. 347). Soon after, South Korean brought forth its own forms of entertainment such as variety shows and karaoke. Seo Taiji and Boys broke barriers for K-pop through their music that featured never-before-seen rap and hip-hop elements. Their music did not sound traditionally Korean, as it had major western influences along with dance as a critical part of the performance. Seo Taiji and Boys’ new style of music resonated with the youth and opened doors for more western-influenced music to come.

Why K-pop?

Although the youth had American popular music to resonate with, it did not completely satisfy. Lie explains that “K-pop [filled] a niche that was relatively open for clean, well-crafted performers” and also “filled the gap left vacant by the urbanized and sexualized American performers” that the youth, particularly, East Asians may have been looking for (Lie, 2012). Based on racial isomorphism, physical appearances may have attracted the East Asian youth to K-pop, showing that one may be more attracted to one “of identical or similar form.” On the surface level, the perfect package of catchy music, clean dance, eye-catching visuals, and cool clothes give listeners a complete experience that cannot be found elsewhere. K-pop also has a universal appeal, whether it be to “Muslim Indonesians” or “Catholic Peruvians” through its “clean-cut features and “genteel demeanors” (p. 355). Because of this attraction that K-pop presents, fans and listeners are able to identify and resonate with on a new level. “K-pop exemplifies middle-class, urban and suburban values that seek to be acceptable at once to college-aspiring youths and their parents: a world that suggests nothing of inner-city poverty and violence, corporal or sexual radicalism, or social deviance and cultural alienation” (p. 355). It is shown that there is a tie between K-pop and self-identity, whether it be racially or personally, like self-esteem. Thus, based on existing literature discussed above, the following research question was asked: Is there a relationship between Korean popular music (K-pop) and fans’ self-esteem?

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