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Film Screening and Talk on K-Pop

Oct 20, 2016

A documentary about Korean Indie Rock organized by Cluster members Stefan Knoob und Harald Fuess was screened at the KJC on October 24. Before the screening, co-producer Associate Professor Stephen Epstein from Victoria University of Wellington gave an introduction to the topic. 

The documentary with the title “Us & Them: Korean Indie Rock in a K-Pop World” focused on the Korean independent music scene in the context of the global rise of K-pop.

The spread of South Korean popular music, or K-pop, has been a striking global phenomenon. In 2012 PSY’s viral sensation “Gangnam Style” became the most viewed video on YouTube ever, generating over a billion hits and scores of imitations. But Korean music is not only idol groups and viral videos. There is also a vibrant indie and punk scene that has been active for the past two decades.  A lot of the energy driving the scene has come in opposition to mainstream Korean music. Yet, just as K-pop is becoming more well-known internationally, bands from the Korean underground are now touring overseas and have become more professional in their own pursuit of global connections, and the documentary follows several of Korea's most well-known indie bands as they embark on their first US tours. The spotlight lands in particular on Crying Nut, the godfathers of Korean underground rock; the stylish RockTigers, Korea's most successful rockabilly band; and Whatever That Means..., a melodic punk band led by a married couple: bass player Trash and her American guitarist husband.

Before the screening, co-producer Associate Professor Stephen Epstein has situated Korean indie and punk rock within a broader context in order to demonstrate how what may seem a byway within Korean culture serves as a useful index of important recent societal transformations in Korea's relation to a global context. As the nature of not only international media flows and musical circulation but Korean national identity and economic structures all undergo significant change, how should observers understand “Korean” “indie” music and its meanings as of 2015? How have the local punk and indie scenes developed in concert with, and in contrast to, K-pop? 

The documentary is co-produced by Stephen Epstein (Director, Asian Studies Programme at Victoria University of Wellington) and Timothy Tangherlini (Professor at University of California, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures). The film was selected for the Association of Asian Studies Film Showcase in 2015 and has screened in numerous university venues and festivals. In November 2015, a companion article to the documentary was published.

The event took place at the Cluster “Asia and Europe” in room 212 on October 24, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. It was organized by Harald Fuess, Professor for Cultural Economic History at the Cluster "Asia and Europe", who also teaches for the Centre for East Asian Studies and the History Department, and Stefan Knoob, Korea Foundation Lecturer in Korean Language and Korean Studies at Heidelberg University's Centre for East Asian Studies and the Cluster. 

Further information on the documentary is available here.


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