K-pop is inexplicably popular. I’d never heard of it before coming to Korea, but according to the frighteningly nationalistic Korean press, it’s a world sensation. All across the global, people are dancing to the startlingly derivative nonsense that is contemporary Korean “music.”

But maybe I’m being too cynical.

Maybe K-pop will conquer the globe.

In the unlikely event that these derivative “musicians” take the West by storm – and given some of the bands that have achieved stardom in the English-speaking world, that’s not hard to imagine – here’s a guide for the uninitiated. Something you can use to seem hip when the time comes, or to bag yourself a young Korean lover…



Probably the one Korean singer that you may already know, thanks to an appearance on the Colbert Report. He is known as a great dancer, and an actor.

What to say:

“In Korean he’s called ‘bee’ (), which is the Korean word for ‘rain.’ I think that it’s really clever that his English name is a translation instead of a transliteration.” – This is worth many cool points.

What not to say:

“His inability to speak English has prevented him from global success.” – Instead, pretend that you’ve actually heard his songs and seen his movies.

“Wow, what a great body… If homosexuality wasn’t a dirty Western myth, I’d totally be into him.” – Instead, just call him sexy. If gayness doesn’t exist, it’s not gay to call another man sexy.

Lee Hyori


Lee Hyori is a veteran of the K-pop world at the ripe old age of 31. The exact opposite of a Korean car, she has a body that any guy would give his left nut to ride. She’s a kimchi-fueled babe whose history of plagiarism has in no way tarnished her “All-Korean” reputation. If anything, it’s made her more Korean…

What to say:

Mention that “Lee” is a common and accepted mistransliteration of “ee” () for extra cool points.

“I think it’s great that she calls herself ‘Hyorish,’ and I’m absolutely positive that she understands the pun.”

What not to say:

“Isn’t she the girl who always wears the exact same clothes as [insert popular North American actress] and plagiarized [insert popular North American singer]’s music?” – This statement is always relevant, so be careful. Barely a week goes by without Lee Hyori stealing someone else’s dress sense or music.

“Why does she sing a song called ‘U Go Girl!’ when she cannot pronounce the word ‘girl’?” – Never question why Korean singers use words they can’t pronounce. You’ll be met by a torrent of abuse you won’t be able to understand, despite being spoken in English.

Big Bang


Last year’s biggest boy band sensation, whose songs were all written about cell phones – explicitly for use in cell phone commercials. You cannot walk down a street in Korea without hearing their songs blasted from the nearest store.

Big Bang are supposedly a hip-hop group. Their fans are largely comprised of ten year old girls, but twenty-something guys aren’t afraid to throw down over suggestions that maybe Big Bang are a bit shit…

What to say:

Try and call them “Bik Beng,” because their Korean name is a mistransliteration of the English one. You may find this embarrassing, but it’s impossible to be understood in Korea without deliberately mispronouncing words.

Also, mention the name of one of the “artists” in the band. Two of them have English names: G-Dragon and T.O.P.

What not to say:

“I’m against the use of the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory sense… but this is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.” – Remember, it’s not nice to offend gay people by comparing them to talentless losers like Big Bang.



The most “gangsta” member of Big Bang is the effeminate twenty-one year old called G-Dragon. He speaks the fastest, and thus has a reputation amongst Korean people as being the world’s best rapper. His fans are mostly little girls, but his concerts include graphic depictions of sexual acts.

He also likes copying things he sees Western performers do, without understanding the context. This has resulted in accidental on-stage fellatio.

G-Dragon was recently caught plagiarizing songs from far more popular artists. Thankfully, this did nothing to hurt his image.

What to say:

“Man, he can rap way better than the black guys whose songs he’s been known to steal from!” – Although maybe you should omit the word “steal.”

What not to say:

“Hey, isn’t he the guy who fellated a lollipop in a cell phone commercial?” – Instead, say: “I don’t understand his strange gestures, but they’re giving me a raging broner.”

“It really isn’t that hard to rap in a language where all the words end in the same sound.”

Wonder Girls


What do you mean, “Who?” They’re only the world’s biggest musical sensation, right? That’s what the Korean media says. When the Wonder Girls went to America last year, they apparently stormed the charts and changed the landscape of American music.

But if you’re that clueless that you still don’t know… The Wonder Girls were mostly born in the 1990s, making them alarmingly young. They were the first Korean group to enter the Billboard 100, and have had several outrageously successful songs in Korea, the lyrics of which are known by every person in this country, and treasured like a second national anthem.

What to say:

“No, I don’t find the lyrics mind-numbingly tedious, even though I’ve heard the song several thousand times.”

“Let’s give Perez Hilton honorary Korean citizenship for his role in promoting the Wonder Girls in American.” – But remember to punch him in the face if you ever actually see him.

What not to say:

“They remind me of dozens of other girl bands who came along first, and thus will probably never have any impact on the world outside Korea.”

“I wonder (pun definitely intended) if the number of sales of Wonder Girls albums in the US corresponds to the number of teenage Korean-Americans…?”

Girls’ Generation (SNSD)


The new Wonder Girls. Now the Wonder Girls are in their mid-teens, they’re no fun to ogle. Girls Generation is comprised of nine members, so there are even more skinny school girls to stare at!

What to say:

Er, there’s not much to say. Perhaps mention the name of one of their songs. You’ll find these names on a list of recently manufactured Korean cell phones.

What not to say:

“One of their album covers featured the girls dressed up as Nazis…” – Just ignore this. Nazism in Korea doesn’t have the bad rep it has elsewhere.

Super Junior


A thirteen member boy band. That’s right… Thirteen! They exist solely to endorse products and appear in advertisements. They’ve been referred to (positively) as “interchangeable.”

What to say:

“Wow, that’s the biggest boy band I’ve ever seen.”

What not to say:

“I can’t really tell them apart, and I can’t recall a single one of the names.”



Multi-lingual R&B star who has achieved success throughout Asia.

What to say:

“She can speak English and Japanese, and has recorded songs in Mandarin Chinese.” – This is true, but you should also mention that you hate Japanese and Chinese people. It’s always important to mention that you hate Japanese and Chinese when talking to Koreans.

What not to say:

“Is she Chinese or Japanese?”

Baek Ji-Young


The one you saw on YouPorn. Go on, admit it… She was secretly filmed having sex, and was thus ostracized from Korean society. People like to throw things at her now.

What to say:

“I have a bunch of stuff we could go throw at that poor woman!”

What not to say:

“I think this brings to light the troublesome issue of gender in Korea…”


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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

93 responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to K-Pop”

  1. Judy Prince says:

    HOOT!! David, total hysterical about Wonder Girls, Super Junior and B o A (Bank of America?)

    I can’t quote the whole piece, natch, but am gonna re-read and hoot some more. HOOT!

    • Thank you, Judy. Glad you liked it. There are a lot of music-related pieces over the past few weeks. Felt I needed to add a little to it.

      • Judy Prince says:

        You’re having fun over there in Korea, David—–but I think it’s time you went home to Scotland so you could dis the Scottish. heh heh.

        Right to take advantage of the plethora of posts on music here. I’m as clueless about USAmerican pop groups as I *was* (until your post) about Korean ones. Maybe if the post’ers would exoticise the USA groups I’d be eager to read about them. I said “maybe”.

        • Perhaps I should start writing about Scotland… but I have no intention of ever going back for a prolonged period of time.

          Pop music doesn’t interest me, but people foist it on me wherever I am. It’s easy to make fun of it… so I do! K-pop is especially weird. At least in America they (mostly) use real words.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m guessing that USA-Pop is equally silly to adult Koreans, David.

          Do you plan to stay in Korea, then?

        • Actually, people here idolize America, in some weird way.

          I’m here until the end of August, then a few weeks in Cambodia, a few weeks in Scotland, and then a year in Taiwan.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m not surprised at the idolizing of America, David.

          A year in Taiwan? Same thing I did. Wow. Where in Taiwan?

        • Not sure yet. The South, somewhere. The weather is apparently better. Where were you? What did you think?

        • Judy Prince says:

          I taught for the year at a uni on the northernmost tip of Taiwan and lived in a room in a high-rise in Taipei. I did travel with friends met there to Ilan and some other places in the island’s middle, but never got south. Heard it was The Vacation place, though, but I never had more than a weekend vacation to allow my going there.

          My impressions are from 20 years ago, David, and those impressions are layered over my first impression of Taiwan in 1968; hence, all will’ve changed dramatically by the time you see it.

          I’m very nostalgic for the 1968 Taiwan bcuz the “rural” areas were closer to the big city where I lived, and I got around quite a bit on a bike (motorcycle). I also didn’t have a job tying me to the city like I did the second trip to Taiwan.

          Unfortunately for me, I didn’t like the food there, except for the Buddhist, Japanese and Korean dishes. Two notable exceptions: I loved the baudz and jaudz and the chicken noodle soup.

        • I have actually been to Taiwan. I went to Taipei last year and fell in love with it. The people were so much nicer than anywhere I’ve ever been. And the scenery… wow. Amazing. So many animals, too. And I’m a big animal person.

          It’s cool that you biked around Taiwan. It’s one place I didn’t get a bike. I’ve had motorcycle adventures in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Korea. But Taiwan? I just took the subway.

          I never really tried Taiwanese food because I didn’t speak Taiwanese. I ended up eating Japanese one night and subsisting off a carefully balanced diet of booze for the rest of the week.

        • Judy Prince says:

          David, I’m still chuckling over your “I took the bullet for the community”—and “I’ll send you a few G-Dragon cds… The only problem is that you can’t just buy a cd. It’s in a case shaped like his head! Seriously…”

          OMG! Stop! A person has to get to work, you know, and I’m way overdue.

          Yes, I agree totally about the people in Taiwan; they’re a wild mix of native Taiwanese, as you know, and the progeny of Chinese Mainlanders who began new families after “establishing” themselves on Taiwan. Yeah, some of the wonderfullest sights are of the farms and hilly regions. Downtown Taipei was way too concrete-ised for me! Some guy had to’ve gotten beyond wealthy by constructing concrete buildings on every inch of that part of Taipei. I had a preference for little open markets for food and clothes. Oh, and the bakeries (very westernised) are awesome. I’d be greeted by one baker who’d smile widely and yell: “Hello! I speak English!”—-and that was all he could say in English.

          Desperately trying to find deodorant in Taipei, I last asking the equivalent of a pharmacist for it, but not knowing the Chinese word, I flapped my elbows several times, gesturing toward my underarms. He immediately said: “You want chicken!”

          The only truly nutty folks I ever met in Taiwan were Americans. 😉

        • That baker sounds hilariously like people you meet all across Asia. I don’t mean that everyone is like that… but there are thousands of people just like him: who love to show off their English. I love those people. So friendly. So enthusiastic.

          There’s a woman who owns a coffee shop near my work. She thinks she can speak English… After a while it got embarrassing, so I told her I was French. The next day I came in and she shouted: “BONG-JEW-ER! JUH PARL-AH PLANG-SUH!” (Which, after careful analysis, I realised means “Bon jour, je parles Francais.”

          And getting deodorant… Let’s just say my deodorant runs involve sneaking onto American military bases.

  2. You have all the good tips!

    • Thanks, David. But remember… the most important tip is to never actually listen to K-Pop. This list will help you pretend you know about it. There’s no need to actually find out. I took that bullet for the community.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    That last girl was really beautiful. She could come here and being in a porn film would give her credibility. If she can sing in Korean and Japanese and Chinese, she can sing in English.
    She’d make a fortune.
    People would pay to just look at her.

    • Yes, and apparently she’s very nice. One of my friends met her in a bar downtown a while ago. Said she’s hotter in person. I’m really not familiar with her music, because she’s mostly been blacklisted since the sex tape. I only know her by reputation.

      • Irene Zion says:

        David, she should get the heck out of Korea and work where people aren’t so prudish!
        (I clicked on “reply to comment,” honest!)

        • Agreed.

          The guy who filmed her also filmed himself having sex with a child… Strangely, no one cares about that. One rule for men, another for women…

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          “One rule for men, another for women….” Always, in just about all cultures. My wife and I were discussing this last night when there was some story on the news about a teacher having sexual contact with a minor student. When it’s a female teacher, it’s all snickers and “wish I had teachers like that” jokes (to everyone except the D.A., victim’s family and teacher). If it’s a male teacher, the discussions tend to drift towards castration, beatings and prison rape justice. Go figure.

        • Yeah, a lot of double standards flowing both ways… Strange, pathetic and predictable. Oh well, that’s life.

  4. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Note to self: Do not read “Humor” pieces by David S. Wills when on a conference call unless you are certain you muted the phone.

    The G-Dragon commercial had me rolling – the joys of missed context. But, um, are you sure Lee Hyori wasn’t the one in the sex vid? Maybe with Baek Ji-Young? Never mind – it’s rude of me to impose research upon such a busy man as yourself. I’ll just have to check it out for myself tonight. After the family turns in. Just, you know, for intellectual satisfaction.

    • If it helps you to imagine Lee Hyori and Baek Ji-Young in a sex video then please don’t let my boring version of reality ruin that for you. Go ahead and imagine… then describe it to me. I’d really like to see it.

  5. Becky says:

    You make Korea fascinating, David Wills. I have to say. I’m tempted to move there at once.

    It’s a bizarro-world wonderland full of Don Quixotes and toxic sexual repression, as far as I can tell. Knock-off Disneyworld with no-big-deal swastikas. And I do enjoy a laugh at the expense of Japan, a place which, I am shocked to find myself saying, may be less strange than Korea. Here that, Korea? You are weirder than Japan! You win!

    Oh man. What’s the cost of living like? Need a roommate?

    • I’m glad that I’m push people towards this weird country… I’ve actually brought five people here before. Three of them won’t talk to me now. Seriously. They hated it that much…

      That’s a fantastic description… Did you see my “View from my Phone” photo of the swastika? It was against barbed wire… made it look a little stranger.

      And yes, Japan is odd but Korea is odder because they’re not trying. Japanese get a kick of of acting crazy. Koreans are just living… and seem crazy to the rest of the world.

      The cost of living? Tiny. You can save a grand a month without trying. And I have two apartments so you could use one. Unfortunately that’s the one where people send death threats, so you will need to bring a gun.

  6. Matt says:

    Wow. K-pop seems like the aural equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup: cheap, mass-produced, consumed indescriminantly, and utterly unhealthy. I can feel myself getting fatter just at the thought of listening to it.

    • I was trying to work “high-fructose corn syrup” into the introduction, actually. But I took it out at the last moment. Strange.

      But it is a perfect description. You senses just start to burn when you’re near K-pop. Burn.

      • Sam Kim says:

        K-pop is truly an abomination. I’m not sure which is worse, k-pop or the Joseon dynasty court music my parents once forced me to listen to as a child (a-ak, what an appropriate name). What shocked me was how k-pop could have possibly found success in other countries throughout Asia, and even very limited success among non-Asian Canadians and Americans.

        Then I listened to some Chinese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese pop music. Dear God. I didn’t know it was even possible for idiots to create a derivative of something that is already so derivative.

        Congrats, Korea! You’re the best among the worst. Keep inching your way on up.

  7. Quenby Moone says:

    Sweet fancy Brown, the first time I loaded this page, the video of Lollipop dude didn’t load. And when I came back to have a little look-see, HOLY CRAP! That is hilarious! He’s wearing a band uniform hat and making the international sign for fellatio ALL AT THE SAME TIME? With no sense of irony or nuthin’?

    I’m extremely fond of your cultural dissection of Korean pop music. Do you think that my inability to keep a straight face while using these formidable tips in getting a little *BOINK* and trim will lower my chances? I’m just not sure that I can say the words, “I have a bunch of stuff we could go throw at that poor woman!” with the proper level of gravitas to get me in it to win it, if you know what I mean!

    • No irony. Irony is a totally alien concept over here. And it’s not the worst misunderstanding of a western sexual gesture, either. It’s just my personal favourite. There are blogs devoted to these idiots bumping and grinding and honestly not even thinking that it’s about sex… they just saw Americans do it on MTV.

      Hmmm… You might have a problem if you can’t keep a straight face. But you have to be strong. Remember… Western pop music tells you that you need to keep a “pa pa pa pa pa pa pa poker face.”

  8. Zara Potts says:

    G -Dragon Rules!
    You are such a funny man, David. Your posts are like having a satisfying lunch, with good wine and good conversation. You make me laugh so..

    • Thank you very much. That’s an awesome compliment. If I save enough money I’ll send you a few G-Dragon cds… The only problem is that you can’t just buy a cd. It’s in a case shaped like his head! Seriously…

  9. Brian Eckert says:

    I must say, despite the vastly improved air quality, the lack of open sewer and kimchi fart stench and not being subjected to random acts of racism, my life outside of Korea has improved most of all due to the fact that I don’t have to listen to this type of “music.”

    Funny piece, man.

    Have you ever listened to The Rock Tigers? Pretty cool band…kind of a knock-off 50’s rock surfer band. They play in Hongdae quite a bit.

    Yeah, those little Korean chicks may not have an ounce of musical ability…but they are pretty goddamn hot, I have to admit. Baek Ji-Young was in a home porn? Interesting…if you’ll excuse me, I have to um…blog…

  10. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    SO funny. My 8 yr-old actually saw Wonder Girls in concert (opening for Jonas Bros … an event I narrowly escaped, phew!), and right about now I’m hoping she never finds out about G-Dragon.

    • Ah yes, the Jonas Brothers… America’s answer to Korea’s answer to the musical monstrosities of the ’80s and ’90s. Godawful.

      And yes, you better keep him away from… well, I’m probably now responsible for unleashing G-Dragon on the world. I’m sure no one had heard of him outside Korea until now.

  11. James D. Irwin says:

    K-Pop sounds like the greatest form of music ever created…

    I don’t understand how one poor girl can be ostracized for being in a porn video, but it’s perfectly fine for a guy who looks like a 13 year old girl to fellate a lollipop. It’s not even an unfortunate angle or anything. He’s really going to town on that thing…

  12. Simon Smithson says:

    “Wow, what a great body… If homosexuality wasn’t a dirty Western myth, I’d totally be into him.”


    I’ve actually heard of Rain before. But none of the others. Although a boy band named ‘Big Bang’ has such shades of Back Door Lover from Josie and the Pussycats that I want to buy all of their albums right now.

    • Buy their albums? Why Simon, all you have to do is take a look at YouTube to learn about Big Bang… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIRW_elc-rY (Bare in mind, these are Korea’s most hardcore hip-hop badasses…)

      • Simon Smithson says:

        That is the single most gangsta zipper/cape combo I have ever seen.

        In my life.

        • Isn’t it? And he’s a trend-setter. Half the guys in Korea dress like him. The other half try to dress like him.

          There was another “hardcore hip-hop badass” called “Crown J.” He used to shout “Aaay!” every few seconds in his songs, showing that he’s from Atlanta… The only problem is, he’s not actually from Atlanta. Crown J is from Korea, but one of his aunts moved there. He went to visit her as a child and now his street cred is based upon being from “Da Ghettos of Atlanta.”

  13. Joe Daly says:

    Absolutely loved this. Especially all the wanton musical thievery is not unique to the West.

    I also enjoyed seeing that Korea has embraced the publicity photo cliche of “girl-in-a-dress-leaning-against-an-unpainted-house/barn-staring-wistfully-into-the-distance-just-to-let-everyone-know-that-her-artistic-soul-feels-trapped-by-the-world-and-if-that-won’t-get-people-to-relate-and-buy-my-albums-then-nothing-will.” (Baek Ji-Young)

  14. Ah, yes, this is great. Really. K-pop is in my lexicon.

  15. Jordan Ancel says:

    Maybe this is why North Korea controls access to/of/by the media? To protect themselves against K-pop.

    • That might be true. If so, I’ve gained a whole new respect for tyrannical dictators. Sometimes they really are looking out for the people…

      Incidentally, South Korea hold the rights to World Cup broadcasting across the peninsula. As punishment for blowing up a warship and killing 46 S. Koreans, Seoul is withholding the World Cup from N. Korea.

      • Jordan Ancel says:

        Wow. That’s a really suitable punishment for 46 deaths, withholding the World Cup. They don’t take things lightly, do they?

        • After the sinking, everyone praised S. Korea for being so patient and not jumping to conclusions and harsh reactions… now we know for sure that the North was responsible, and they’re too scared to respond. No one wants a war… but withholding the World Cup from a nation of people who really don’t know what goes on outwith their borders, doesn’t seem like a fitting punishment.

          But then again, all economic sanctions are already in place, and have all already been undermined by China. Every time South Korea withdraws aid… China fills the gap.

        • Jordan Ancel says:

          I’m all for avoiding war. It must be fascinating to be there and observe the way N. & S. Korea interact with each other and the world.

        • Fascinating? Yes. Also try: boring, terrifying, monotonous… It varies from month to month. Last month was bad. I’ve twice been awoken by a little something called “The Doomsday Siren.” Also known as an airraid siren. Of course, if you speak perfect Korean and read the local papers, you’d know in advance that these are just drills… But you can still get arrested for going outside when the siren rings. Almost shit myself the first time I heard it… a few days after Kim Jong-il threatened nuclear war.

          Most of the time the American press blows everything out of proportion and the Koreans just laugh it off. It’s not a big deal here. But the Koreans have begun calling up discharged soldiers, and the US military have all but disappeared from the bars and clubs… Kim Jong-il fled China at a minute’s notice… All arrows point towards something bad.

        • Jordan Ancel says:

          That’s gotta be, well, unsettling to say the least. Maybe K-Pop was invented and launched subversively by North Korea to distract everyone from the impending doom. To keep them happy and ignorant to what’s really about to happen.

        • It’s possible. But more likely they invented it to melt the brains of the South Koreans, so that one day everyone would be too stupid to resist the takeover. That’s what the Soviets did with pop, hip-hop, disco and all other shitty forms of music. Of course, their government were too highly exposed to the infectious crap that they gave up around 1989 and America is still rotting away.

  16. angela says:

    this is so awesome and i have so many things to say.

    1) i’ve heard of Rain! if only because i saw the dreadful Ninja Assassin, which seemed so kick-ass in the preview but in reality was really really boring.

    2) that G-Dragon lollipop thing. holy fucking shit.

    3) i have to admit i kind of like the Wonder Girls. my Chinese parents inexplicably love all things Korean, including soap operas, food, and music. i saw the Wonder Girls perform on some show they were watching, and i have to say they were entertaining, at least compared to the other acts. there seems to be one Wonder Girl with “flava,” ie, she has an R&B voice and can dance.

    4) girls dressed in Nazi gear: so wrong. i saw that in harajuku too.


    “She can speak English and Japanese, and has recorded songs in Mandarin Chinese.” – This is true, but you should also mention that you hate Japanese and Chinese people. It’s always important to mention that you hate Japanese and Chinese when talking to Koreans.

    What not to say:

    “Is she Chinese or Japanese?”

    HAHAHAHAHA!!! ::wipes tears from eyes::

    hope that laugh doesn’t make me seem crazy. oh wells.

    • 1) I never actually saw Ninja Assassin. Everyone I know hates it. Even the Korean people who love anything that helps boost Korea’s profile.

      2) Yeah.

      3) Did you ever see the Wonder Baby? Korean TV is a little… paedophillic… They had a little baby dancing like a Wonder Girl – grinding on old men’s laps. It was disgusting. That was something that actually brought the Wonder Girls to a larger audience, thanks to YouTube.

      4) Yup.

      5) Of course, I’d never say something like that… but the idea of watching a Korean person explode with rage amuses me a little.

  17. Greg Olear says:

    K-Pop has to be better than K-Fed, though, right?

    Also: will there ever be a North/South Korean rap war that mirrors the West Coast/East Coast American rap war? Perhaps a way to resolve the crisis…

    • I would argue that there is nothing in the horrible history of Western music to rival the shit that comes from Korea. Remember, an imitation of a shitty band is always worse. You could say have the K-pop stars out there are K-Fed wannabes.

      And no, there will never be a war because it’s all so fake that they don’t even care. Besides, you’re out of the game by the time you’re old enough to buy a gun.

  18. This is hilarious, David. The perfect thing to wake up to. The dude with the lollipop… Jesus. I’m going to read it again because I haven’t had enough coffee yet and I don’t want to have missed anything.

    Great read. You’re so fun and I just love your perspective on the world.

  19. Erika Rae says:

    David, I’m laughing too hard to be able to comment with any sort of intelligence. (Because usually my comments are SO very erudite.) You know that I used to live in Hong Kong, so this intro to K-pop is extra close to my heart. We had “Canto-pop”, which really isn’t that different. (Ooo! Slam! Things are being virtually thrown at me from Korea!) Oh, those Nazi outfits. And the “lollipop”! Hahaha. You are hilarious, David. Perfect tone in this.

    • Thanks, Erika. I’ve never knowingly heard Canto-pop, and to be honest, I probably won’t go looking for it… But if you were to write a guide like this and make listening to it unnecessary, I’d be pretty happy!

  20. […] Just a quick note to say that I was featured in today’s Harper’s magazine for a TNB story I did recently on K-pop. Not sure why they chose to mention me… but I’m extremely […]

  21. Oh man, this was hysterical. I love the “What not to say” parts. Simply fantastic. Thanks for sharing the world of K-Pop with us.

  22. pak says:

    your fagot teacher who is come sout hkoea is fagot. fuck you.

  23. Sweet! “G-Dragon has a big penis!” I wonder how many people Googled that, and why…

  24. Dana says:

    “Try and call them “Bik Beng,” because their Korean name is a mistransliteration of the English one. You may find this embarrassing, but it’s impossible to be understood in Korea without deliberately mispronouncing words. ”

    ahahah!! I don’t know how I missed this post when it first went up David.

  25. Dana says:

    LOL!! I want to hear you read this piece David. I think it would be a huge treat with your Scottish accent. (Assuming you still have one!)

    Thanks for all the laughs!

    • I’ve only recorded two pieces for TNB and hopefully one of them will be appearing soon. This one would’ve been cool. Maybe I could just sing excerpts from a few K-pop songs…

  26. […] DAVID S. WILLS gives us the skinny on Korean pop stars. […]

  27. Irene Zion says:

    Yeah, this was a good one.
    Can’t wait to hear the new stories from your new home.

  28. I just quit my job and am now trying to leave Taiwan. It’s the greatest country ever… I love it! But I hated my job and am now trying to find something somewhere else. So for the time being I’m even more homeless than before.

    You’ll be pleased to know that there’s K-pop in Taiwan. They love Super Junior.

    • Judy Prince says:

      David, I hope you find a job you’ll like in Taiwan. I remember quitting my first two jobs there within a day, got one that I liked better though the pay was very low, and one of my new colleagues (also USAmerican) lobbied the boss on my behalf, getting me a significant raise (rise?) but my pay was still quite low relative to others’, as well as my work schedule was worse than all of theirs, but I understood that my seniority was the lowest.

      Ultimately, the friends I made away from the job (my neighbours and those I’d met at another job) made my year-long Taiwan stay fun, varied, exciting and meaningful. I wish I’d not had to work at all, but that was impossible, and bcuz of the friends, I travelled around the island fairly often, fascinated by the places, events and people.

      One big prob was beyond anyone’s control: My mother died (in the States), and I couldnae afford to go back home to her funeral. My sadness affected everything for the rest of the time in Taiwan, as it would’ve done anywhere in the world. Folks at the job and friends were so very kind and thoughtful and helpful, though.

      BTW, bcuz of you, I’ve renewed my link with one of my friends in Taiwan!

      Please keep us informed of your situation.

      • Unfortunately I’m leaving Taiwan tomorrow and flying to Malaysia. It’s a shame because I absolutely love Taiwan, but the job wasn’t the only problem. It’s difficult to get cats here and I need my cats. So I’m trying to get a job in China, and once there I’ll try and get everything sorted to come back to Taiwan next year.

        I’m glad you got in touch with the people here… I still can’t get over how NICE they all are. It’s ludicrous. Such friendly people.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m wishing you great success with your job-finding and cats-allowing temporary-for-a-year home, then, David.

          I think, like your parents, p’raps, I’ll not be entirely happy until you settle once again in Scotland. Yes, I know you prefer being on the road. But, oh, a native son settling on his native soil…… (sigh)

          Despite all that, I do love reading your posts on your adopted countries…..and I want you to be with your cats, as well.


        • Just got the offfical offer of a job, and leaving Taiwan in about an hour! I love this place and am sad to leave, but China is calling. I will work for 2 months, then get 2 months PAID VACATION and then work another six months. After that I’ll probably try and get back to Taiwan.

          Sadly, Scotland has never been a viable home for me. My last trip was a weird emotional one… I really came to enjoy my time there and rebuilt a lot of bridges with my family, but my life will always take me elsewhere (ie. wherever there are cats needing rescued!)

        • Judy Prince says:

          Wonderful news, David! Take it easy on that flight to China. 😉

          Sounds like a great opportunity, and you’ll be able to practice your Mandarin Chinese for your later living in Taiwan.

          I understand completely about your wanting to travel and not stay in Scotland. But I guess I’ll always think of you as David from Scotland, as Scottish—–and you look like a very young version of dear Rodent, believe it or not.


        • I’ve just arrived in Kuala Lumpur safe and sound. No plane crashes, although we landed in the middle of a lightening storm. It’s too dark to get a feel for the place just yet, but I’ll explore tomorrow.

          I literally got offered a job in China 30 mins before my flight, so I just have to go to the embassy here and get things sorted. They want me to start next Monday, work for a couple of weeks, and then I get six weeks paid vacation! Woo! That means I could probably get home for Christmas for the first time in years!

          I didn’t realise I looked so similar to Rodent!

  29. […] I go, from Erika Rae’s house, to buses in Taiwan, and the beaches of Malaysia, there is K-pop. It is going global and we are all doomed. A gift from fifty million Koreans to some 1.3 billion […]

  30. Gabrielle Bernotaite says:

    I don’t know why you think KPOP is that bad, I live in England and it’s quite popular here, and is spreading fast. I love GD and Big Bang no matter what they do, many of my friends do too even the more cynical ones.

    The article itself was very funny and entertaining, but a little insulting, if the Koreans believe that their musicians are the best in the world, let them do so, it’s their problem.

    I’d love to go to South Korea and live there for a while when I’m older, I think that travelling around and working in different parts of the world is amazing, and you must be very brave to do that.

    All the best

  31. […] DAVID WILLS is O, K-pop. […]

  32. […] imagine that a number of you have already read this post. I wrote it for The Nervous Breakdown and it generated quite a lot of traffic, even catching the […]

  33. KARA says:

    Heya i?m for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It truly helpful & it helped me out much. I hope to provide something back and help others like you helped me.

  34. […] I’m not going to weigh in too heavily here. If you’ve read this blog before, you’re probably aware that I’m not a big fan of K-pop. I hate pop music in general, but K-pop is so utterly devoid of life that I’ve long since grown weary of mocking it. If you want to know more about what I think, I wrote an essay that was referenced in Harper’s magazine a long time ago. Read it here. […]

  35. Kpop Starz says:

    Thanks for the lesson

  36. Alysha says:

    Wow. This is actually pretty amusing how ignorant you are.

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