SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Pop Nostalgia, Pop Canonization and Korean Music Reality Shows

Dr Haekyung Um (University of Liverpool)

Date: 16 January 2015Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 16 January 2015Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


Since 2009 TV music reality shows, such as I Am a Singer (Nanŭn Kasuda) and Eternal Classics: Singing Out the Legend (Pulhu ŭi Myŏnggok: Chŏnsŏrŭl Noraehada), have become hugely popular in South Korea. These programmes feature young artists’ cover performances of various Korean popular genres of the recent past, including trot, folk songs, pop ballads and dance music.

This presentation will discuss the process of selection, appropriation and reinterpretation of twentieth century Korean popular music by the 21st century music industries and their consumers. Pop nostalgia in these cover competitions is not limited to just the older audiences whose musical memories are closely linked to their own youth and identity. For younger audiences the original songs are historical musical texts from which new interpretations and appropriations can be made. There is a sense of reverence for the original songs, which are called ‘eternal classics’ or ‘popular musical heritage’, illustrating the process of pop canonization. In this way, a creative interpretation of the original songs becomes an elaboration and transformation of Korean pop heritage and its associated musical identity, which, in turn, has implications for the Korean creative industries and their strategies for growth and commercial success.


Dr. Haekyung Um is a Lecturer of Music and member of the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool. She specialises in contemporary Asian performing arts focusing on the politics of performance, cultural identity and policy, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. Her publications include: Diasporas and Interculturalism in Asian Performing Arts (RoutledgeCurzon), Rediscovering Traditional Korean Performing Arts (KAMS) and Korean Musical Drama: P’ansori: The Making of Tradition in Modernity (Ashgate). She has also published on Korean hip-hop, South Asian music in Britain, and Chinese Korean Dance Drama. She has directed a collaborative research project on K-pop fandom and reception in Europe.


This seminar is free and open to the public. No booking is required.

Organiser: Centre of Korean Studies

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