South Korean singer-songwriter Lang Lee was awarded the Best Folk Song Award at Korean Music Awards and her sensational reaction to the award is going viral on Korean social media.
On Tuesday, February 28, 2017 Korean Music Awards celebrated musicians from various fields who dedicated to the betterment of Korean music. Including Wonder Girls, Jay Park, BewhY and Bolbbalgan4, selected musicians who released albums between December, 2015 and November, 2016 were awarded.
However, it was when Lang Lee was named at the awards when the audiences were startled – not because of her winning, but because of her reaction to the honor. Giving an acceptance speech, Lang Lee listed her trophy on auction.
“As I once had shared on Twitter, my January income was 420,000 KRW (approx. $370),” said Lang Lee. “It’s not the amount from music sales, but my whole income. Thankfully, in February, I’ve earned 960,000 KRW ($844).”
“So I’m continuing my life as an artist with difficulties. It would have been great if this award comes with a money prize, but since there is none, I think I have to offer this for sale.”
Lang Lee continued her speech, or rather, her sales. “If you take a look at this trophy, the metallic design makes it a perfect interior decoration. This cubic Korean Music Awards trophy is engraved with letters saying ‘Lang Lee, Playing God,’ and it must have cost… I don’t know how much but my rental costs 500,000 KRW ($440) so I will start my auction from there.”
To her speech, one of the audiences bid 500,000 KRW and Lang Lee sold her trophy right away on site. “Thank you. Today, I’m going home with money and fame. Everyone eat well and live well. I will do so myself,” said the musician wrapping up the speech.
Of course, her unprecedented speech kept the audience amused, but what she did at the awards implies something more than mere entertainment. Revealing her income, Lang Lee substantiated difficulties of lesser-known musicians and criticized the way distribution of Korean music is structured.
The musician has been sharing her thoughts on Twitter and her essay published last year about difficulties of life as a musician in Korea.
잡지 인터뷰나 촬영도 겉으로는 멋드러져 보이나, 페이가 없다. 차비도 없다. 여러분들은 그것을 모른다. 이것은 정말 문제이다. 나는 잡지에 개 잘나온 사진들만 남기고 굶어서 죽을 수도 있다.
— Lang Lee｜イ・ラン (@2lang2) February 28, 2017
“Magazine interviews or photo shoots look cool on the surface but they don’t pay me. I don’t even have fares for rides. People don’t know that. This is a serious problem; I can die of starvation with only cool photos on magazines left.”
Through her speech at this year’s Korean Music Awards, Lang Lee seems to once again express skepticism about the irony of distribution structure that makes it almost impossible for independent musicians to live solely off musical activities.
By Heewon Kim