A celebration for the end of the spring semester was held at Korean Cultural Center L.A. on July 11 at 7 p.m. The event was full in attendance with students and their families. The students performed K-pop songs and dances. The selection of music was even more impressive as it ranged from the newest idol groups to 70s and 80s artist Kwang-jin Kim. The Korea Daily’s intern reporters were at the festival to see how much interest K-pop has garnered in the U.S.
# Boy groups over girl groups
“Flowers may die one day … today is not that day. No, no not today.”
Those youthful lyrics and the rhythmical tunes are obviously from Korean idol group BTS and their song Not Today. The student at the festival who performed the song really resembled the members of BTS.
However, once the lights turned brighter, the performer standing on stage was a girl. She was wearing a white mask and a black dress. Even the boyish mask could not hide her pretty eyes under the long eyebrows. She seemed young. One had to wonder why she was not performing a song of a girl group, such as Twice or Apink.
The screen behind her was playing the song’s music video. As soon as the fast beats began, she jumped on the stage, followed by some powerful dance moves that made it hard to believe that she was a young girl. Her dance moves resembled what was being displayed on the screen. It was as if she was a part of that video. Just how much did she prepare for this? The beats only got faster as the song went on.
Along with the lyrics that read, “Gun! Aim! Fire!” she aimed at the crowd with her hands, resembling a gun. A moment of silence followed. Wow. A big applause followed.
# I’m today’s king of fame
It was almost as if this festival began with BTS and also ended with BTS. Many female performers either sang the boy band’s song or danced to it.
There were also some male performers. They did not seem terribly excited about being at the event, but once they chose to sing or dance to BTS, their female colleagues applauded them rousingly.
It was just that he was a student in beginners’ Korean course. He was never going to get the lyrics right throughout his performance. Some in the crowd began bursting into laughter, but the boy stood pat and managed to finish the song. Once his female colleagues began applauding him, he even danced lightly. Unfortunately, Chris was not selected for a prize afterward.
# This is not a competition!
Some students seemed really nervous after watching others perform so brilliantly before them. One of those nervous students was Sophia, who finished her level two Korean course this semester. The curly-haired girl in a red hoodie stood nervously on stage.
Once the music started, she began moving closer to the corner of the stage out of anxiety. Her gestures became smaller. Once she lost rhythm, she stopped altogether. Then, something really heartwarming happened.
Sophia’s friends, sitting in a section of the audience seat, began dancing in unison to shoulder some of their friend’s pressure. That is when Sophia smiled and started dancing again. She was not selected for a prize, but she undeniably played a big role in uniting the performers.
# Creative Ideas
The festival did not just offer the newest K-pop music. There was a performer singing Kwang-jin Kim’s Hey Fox. As the background music filled up nicely with the sounds of piano and trumpet, the performer danced with a hat in her one hand.
“Rain is pouring outside the window, my mind is so sad….” Paulina, 27, began singing. Her voice was pure and clear. Her facial expressions were almost a part of her performance.
The hat in her hand capped off her performance during the hook of the song. She put on the hat just before the part when the original song would feature a male singer. Paulina sang with a deeper voice. When reverting back to her normal voice, she took the hat off and smiled. The crowd reaction was rocking. Her performance, even in terms of her delivery with the lyrics, was essentially perfect.
# I like both North and South Korea!
We approached Paulina after her performance. She is an English teacher who is studying Korean at KCC LA. When asked if she likes Korea, she replied, “Of course. Both south and north! I’ve taught English in South Korea and North Korea in the past.”
Paulina first got into Korean culture as she became an avid fan of Korean dramas. In 2012, she took part in the TaLK program (a social program in South Korea inviting native English speakers to serve as teachers at an elementary school) and spent time with young Korean students for a semester in the winter.
When asked how she ended up teaching English in Pyongyang, Paulina said, “I liked Korea as a country and Koreans as people. I wanted to contribute to promoting peace in the world.”
# K-pop lyrics are addictive
‘Someone’s sigh, someone’s breath, how could I understand? Your sigh. I’ll never understand its depth, but that’s fine. I’ll give you a hug.”
Those lyrics to console those who have been exhausted by life. The song is titled Sigh by Lee Hi. Would the young performers understand these lyrics?
When Jasmine got on stage, she sang that song as if it was her own. Every member of the audience listened to her performance and empathized with the lyrics. It was amusing to see how a non-Korean could evoke such an emotion by singing a song in Korean.
First place prize went to Jasmine, 24. A music major at Santa Monica College, Jasmine first got into K-pop 10 years ago by accident. She was doing an online search on Japanese music after a friend’s recommendation but ran into Korean boy band Super Junior’s music video. She now listens to almost every K-pop song that becomes available.
Jasmine said that understanding lyrics is key to fully embracing just how attractive K-pop is. That was also one of the reasons why she chose Lee Hi’s song for her performance. Her favorite part of the lyrics is “That’s fine. I’ll give you a hug.” K-pop is no longer just attracting foreign fans with dance moves and idol groups.
By Jaera Kim, Jiyoon Kim