By John Lie
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Extra resources for K-pop : popular music, cultural amnesia, and economic innovation in South Korea
The Mokp’o of the song’s title is a port town, a place of departure and farewell in a country undergoing constant displacement and diaspora; and the tears—as much about the past (“three hundred years” of han, or ressentiment) as about the How Di d W e G e t H e r e? ” The superior recording technology used for “Mokp’o ŭi nunmul” also accentuates that song’s brighter timbre. ” Yi Nan-yŏng’s singing style retains some semblances of classical European vocalization—syllabic singing, clear phrasing, head resonance—but she literally brings the song down to the demotic sphere with her lower pitch and unaffected articulation.
159 The 1950s are something of a forgotten decade in South Korea. Most South Koreans, pressed to offer a description of that period, would mutter something about the destruction caused by the Korean War, the corruption of the Rhee regime, and the poverty of the country. And they would assume that trot music dominated in those years. Yet trot did not dominate, and the reality was not all doom and gloom. Indeed, even the most cursory look at popular-song jackets and lyrics, or at advertisements and magazine articles about popular music, reveals a much more vibrant scene, one buoyed by the unbounded optimism of American culture (which in turn rested on the arrogance of the so-called American Century), and the view from today is all the more remarkable for the unvarnished smiles of the women in less-thanConfucian garb who gaze back across more than half a century.
139 Yi also restarted her own singing career, performing with Nam (with whom she also became romantically involved) until his death, in 1962. Her career was ended by the 1961 South Korean legislation that banned music by defectors—a status generously defined to include not only those who, like Yi’s husband, had gone unwillingly to North Korea but also their immediate relatives. Despondent, Yi died in 1965 at the age of forty-nine. Although South Koreans sought to emulate the democratic United States, the long-standing status bifurcation of musical tastes persisted.
K-pop : popular music, cultural amnesia, and economic innovation in South Korea by John Lie