About K-Pop in Europe (an interpretation)


As it may not be common knowledge yet, I was teaching Italian secondary school students in Ireland for a month for pocket money while spending the summer here with Herself and +1. It has been fun.

Of course I explained to them that I did not actually live in Ireland, and that I was a resident of Korea (no not North, South). This got a reaction sometimes, and other times it didn’t. The students I was teaching were nice, with a decent standard of English, but I was lucky to have the higher levels, as there were other teachers who were considerably less fortunate. But anyway.

With one class the students were mostly around 17, they liked music, boys/girls, fashion, and having a good time, like most people their age. They were, for want of a better word, normal. At the end of an early class, some students came to me and asked me if I listened to K-Pop (note: they didn’t ask if I knew it), but they gave me an appropriately skeptical look as they asked me. In their defence I think they were looking for a way to start a conversation.

Well, anyway, it turns out they were familiar with all the hit makers, and they were particularly fond of Shinee (or however the fuck you spell it). I wretched, naturally. “No, you don’t like it?” they asked. I shook my head with pursed lips and explained about the noise pollution and saturation in Korea. They looked like they understood.

“Well”, said one, “I like it. It’s fun. I mean I don’t love it. It’s fun. It’s something to listen to. But, like my favourite band is Muse, so… “. I think she was hoping I wouldn’t judge her too harshly. And we left it at that.

I suppose because I am not left with K-Pop burnt ears that I can approach this subject with a mature outlook. What I got from this exchange was that, yeah we know it’s poppy manufactured crap but it’s got a certain amount of quirkiness to it that makes it different from the usual manufactured pop crap. Which I can recognise from a musical perspective.

What’s also emerged from this thought process was that, you know the way you see those programmes in Korea showing millions and millions of European kids going to a K-Pop showcase in Paris or wherever, the reason why people are excited is because they’re at a concert and concerts are exciting, and people will say anything when a camera is put in their face when they’re excited.

Anyway, maybe I’ll look a little more favourably on the K-Pop in Europe thing as something musically different, and that’s why people listen to it, for a change, and because it’s fun. Which I suppose it is when you aren’t subjected to listening to it all the fucking time.

From this lesson maybe I’ll try to be less of a cynic. Actually that won’t happen. Maybe I’ll be more mature in my cynicism. Perhaps.

Is it Safe in South Korea on worldirish.com


I was asked to write an op-ed by worldirish.com, a news website from Ireland which connects stories and activities of Irish interest from around the world, about the ongoing crisis between South Korea and North Korea. Most importantly, they were interested in the situation here and the international media’s response.

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The line which divides North and South Korea at Panmounjeom.

While I believe I carry the same opinion as many expats, and even experts here, my biggest concern at the moment is that I am not wrong about what I wrote. I wouldn’t be alone in this regard.

Here’s the article:

Is it Safe in South Korea? An Irishman’s Reflection on Living in the Country

To back me up a little, here are some links which will support my reasoning:

North Korea News is all Hype

Is North Korea Being More Restrained than we Think?

High Tensions on Korean Penninsula – interview with Andrei Lankov – Lankov’s closing statements here are most significant.

Signs of North Korea Easing Off War Message at Home

Map: This is How Far those North Korean Missiles Can Actually Reach

South Korea has Already Won

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The Korean Penninsula

If you’re interested in actual news sources worth following, I find that both the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are reliable and don’t over embellish the reality, and both actively report from Korea with journalists who are aware of the ongoing situation and history between the two countries.

From Korea, most of the major dailies have English language editions online, but I would recommend Yonhap News, the Korean wire service, and the Hankyoreh as it is no where near as conservative as some of the other more famous papers.

Twitter is an invaluable resource during times like this, and if you’re on twitter and interested in following some people on the ground who live tweet updates regularly, Mashable put out an article recently with a list of very worthwhile follows with a good variety of opinions.

I hope that this post helps any of you to understand the situation a little better and will let you rest at ease somewhat.