From South Korea to Beirut, the journey of K-culture

Source: Annahar
Chiri Choukeir
Chiri Choukeir
Members of South Korean K-Pop group BTS appear during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo)
Members of South Korean K-Pop group BTS appear during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. (AP Photo)
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BEIRUT: With catchy music, stylish outfits, carefully choreographed dances, and millions of fans worldwide, it’s easy to see how K-pop or Korean Pop made its way into international fandom. Lebanon is no stranger to K-pop culture and admiration. 

K-pop kicked off in South Korea in the early 90's where they integrated English lyrics, hip hop elements, and dance. It came following the Asian financial crisis, the South Korean government was looking for something to export as popular media culture which would become a new economic initiative. 

Almost two decades and 370 K-pop bands later, the fever has reached millions globally. Bands such as Big Bang, NCT, EXO, Blackpink, Asteez, BTS, and more became the subject of debate and admiration between Lebanese K-pop fan clubs. 

“I found k-pop when I was in a dark phase. It helped me through it and taught me how to accept myself with all my flaws along with how to love myself.” Yara Choufani, a Secondary student and artist told An-Nahar, “Being a k-pop fan in our country is something that’s considered “daring” since its against the stereotypes that we are used too. Many don’t accept the fact that K-pop idols look different, speak a language that is unfamiliar to us, have a different style such as men wearing makeup, clothes that are considered feminine.”

Although Lebanon is yet to host a major K-pop band or a major K-pop event, the fans found solace in social media groups and clubs. Fans come from different backgrounds and different ages but share their favorite music together.

Alaa Alrashed, student and writer explained to An-Nahar the captivating element behind K-pop: “I love how talented and hardworking K-pop idols are. They are always trying to come up with creative music, lyrics, and concepts. I also love the colors and the styles of their outfits and their music videos. Aside from the catchy beats and good music, if one takes time to read the lyrics they will see that many songs, especially those of BTS and EXO, hold meaningful lyrics and messages.”

BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, is the biggest and most recognizable South Korean K-pop boy band in the world, having over 20 million albums sold. The seven-membered boy band has to date won 244 awards from 359 worldwide music award nominations. 

The band spoke earlier this week, on September 23rd, at the 75th UN General Assembly with their campaign “BTS Love Myself.”

The group spoke about the hardship of COVID-19 and sent a message of hope and inspiration as they shared: “Love yourself, speak yourself. Now more than ever we must try to remember who we are, and face who we are. We must to love ourselves, and imagine the future. BTS will be there with you.” 

Alaa Baassiri, Highschool student told An-Nahar, that “I love their music, the effort they put to make their fans proud of them, their dance moves, music videos, vocals, and how they take lessons for other languages to be able to communicate with fans all over the world.”

Other than K-pop, many Lebanese fans expressed their love for K-drama or Korean drama which a genre of television popular well developed intense, dramatic, and humorous plots filled with twists and turns. 

Popular streaming services such as Netflix have made the K-drama series more accessible to fans worldwide. Series such as Mr. Sunshine, Kingdom, Extracurricular, Reply 1988, Who are You, Best Mistake, My Love from a Star, and thousands more have made their way into fan favorites. 

“There are so many things that I like. I would say K-drama always have unique plots and characters.” Celine Al Jamil, a university student told An-Nahar, “The line between good and bad is sometimes blurred between characters. There’s a deeper understanding of morale & story development.”

Christy-Belle Geha contributed to this article.

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