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Korean history boom among K-Pop stars

Posted May. 24, 2013 06:15,   


“There’s an app about Korean history. Let’s use it together.” (2PM member Chan-seong)

“Today is May 18. On this meaningful day, I’m studying Korean history about which I need to know more.” (KARA member Han Seung-yeon)

“Search ‘democracy movement.’ I hope my fans are well aware of our history!” (B2ST member Yang Yo-seop)

Korean idol starts are studying hard their history. Around the May 18 pro-democracy uprising, more idol celebrities mentioned about history study. Certain idols teach their fans how to study Korean history. For example, 2PM member Lim Seul-ong posted on his twitter account, “There’s no future for the people who forgot their own history,” while BIGBANG member Taeyang twitted, “I’ll remember those who have become part of the history.”

Fans in their teens have responded enthusiastically. Even a short message from a star without profound understanding of the history is followed by countless positive comments, such as “He is a sound-minded star having his own opinions!” and “I studied because of your encouragement. Thank you very much!” From idols’ perspective, mentioning history is a good marketing strategy because one short comment will make their fans to think of them as being knowledgeable.

The so-called “democratization controversy” triggered this history study fever among idols. On May 14, Jeon Hyo-seong, a member of girl group Secret, was severely criticized after appearing on a radio program of the SBS. She said, “We respect each others’ personality. We don’t democratize our group.” In this remark, Jeon used the word democratize to refer to the Procrustean bed or suppression. Though she made three official apologies, saying, “I am sorry for using the word democratize without knowing the meaning of it,” public sentiment has grown even colder.

The MBC’s entertainment program “Infinite Challenge” aired two episodes under the title “TV Lecture on Korean History” on May 11 and 18. In the two episodes, idol stars’ lack of knowledge of Korean history was uncovered, and this drove many idols to study the history. In the program, idols participated in a quiz show about Korean history. To a question that asked the name of an independence movement group related to martyred patriot Ahn Jung-geun, an idol gave the name of a girls’ gang group. Idols also gave wrong answers to a question about a diplomatic delegation in the Joseon Dynasty.

As the knowledge of Korean history has become one of the standards measuring idols, some celebrities were blamed even for their clothes. Girls’ Day member Hyeri was blamed for wearing a T-shirt for rehearsal, on which the Japanese imperialistic rising sun flag was used as a decoration. BIGBANG member TOP once wore a jacket on a TV program, on which the same rising sun flag was attached. This led to an official apology by his company’s CEO Yang Hyeon-seok. Netizens also criticized over a poster that reminds people of the imperialistic flag used in a music video of T-ara N4.

Regarding this boom among idols of Korean history study, historians say more fundamental solutions are necessary. Kim Tae-woong, a director of the Korean History Education Society and history professor at Seoul National University, said, “Students in general lack knowledge of history due to school curriculums focused on English and math. Though many idol singers say they will study, they cannot even meet dates of mandatory attendance at school. Entertainment agencies should see these idols not just as commercially useful products but give them a chance to get school education so that they will lack nothing as leaders of the K-Pop and the Korean Wave.