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Interview with UCLA Prof. Kim Suk-young

Posted August. 23, 2022 07:43,   

Updated August. 23, 2022 07:43


To Generation Z (born in 1996-2012), K-pop success stories are like the lost American dreams," said Professor Kim Suk-young (photo) of the School of Theater at UCLA, whom your reporter met at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "For the younger generation, K-pop singers bring out the underdog effect and have become a symbol of hope, achieving dreams after much effort,"

Kim, who is researching K-pop at UCLA, points out that Generation Z's fervor for Korean music, films and drama are closely related to their experience. "The generation grew up amid unstable international events and economic bipolarization such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the 2008 financial crisis,” she said. “They have lost the American dream of being able to buy what they want as long as they work hard. They are sensitive to fairness and social values.”

The 2017 Metoo movement and 2010 Black Lives Matter movement became an opportunity for the generation to distrust overall U.S. culture. At this time, BTS captivated Generation Z with 'kind impact.’ "Unlike other major advanced countries, Korea does not have any history of ruling other countries. To Generation Z, Korea is inevitably appealing as a country achieving economic success without bad history," Professor Kim said.

Professor Kim says she is quite surprised at the high level of interest of her students in Korean culture. Over 100 students signed up for a small course designed for 20 students that she opened for the first time in spring, titled ‘Globalization of K-pop.’ "The school was also astonished at the response and we decided to open the lecture online so that more people can join,” she said. “In the past, female Asian Americans led the drive, but more recently we are seeing growing recognition and interest from white men.”

Professor Kim added that Korea's unique endearment also appealed to the sensitive Generation Z in music, Korean films and drama. "Generation Z is the first generation in U.S. history to become aware of class. Squid Game and other aspects of K-pop culture have won the hearts of Generation Z by touching upon class issues with endearing design and contents. K-culture is even impacting children, so the trend is expected to continue," she said. She also pointed out that Korean entertainers should be more culturally sensitive, referring to recent events of some Korean singers' inappropriate comments on black culture.

Hyoun-Soo Kim kimhs@donga.com