Controversial K-pop Boyband Turns Out To Be A Thesis Project

Story by James S. Kim

When fans of K-pop boy group EXO recently heard about a non-Korean boy band debuting in Korea as “EXP,” they weren’t having it. Especially when they found out that this EXP group would be using the tagline “EXP Planet,” just one letter off from EXO’s “EXO Planet.”

The group was no joke. EXP’s Instagram claimed a week ago that the “first and only NYC-born K-pop band” would be dropping their new single, “LUV/WRONG,” on iTunes very soon. The boy band also announced that it would make its debut at the Columbia University MFA Thesis Show in NYC on April 26. Wait, what?

As it turns out, EXP is the product of a thesis project by a Columbia graduate student, Bora Kim, an interdisciplinary artist and sociologist from Seoul. Kim began the project, titled “I’m Making a Boy Band” (IMMABB), in October 2014 as an “ongoing collective experience, in-depth research, experimentation, filmmaking as well as business endeavor.”


The ideas had already been running through her mind since the success of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Kim said she was interested in researching how K-pop had finally “made it” in the Western world.

“The Korean pop industry has always appropriated its concepts from the West, and also the West through Japan, until not, and the reverse was a shock for the Korean public,” Kim explains in an interview with Columbia University. “‘Idol Groups’ became national heroes and K-pop became part of a proud national identity. But there is a double standard at play here. … K-pop had been looked down upon until outsiders started to consume it and its related products as well.”

Kim found that K-pop exports were directly tied to an increase in profit for Korean IT products, such as mobile phones–in fact, she says the biggest beneficiaries of the Korean Wave are companies like Samsung and LG.

But why make a boy band?

“I was interested in K-pop and idol groups on this level initially as I was thinking about cultural flow, or the relationship of dominant culture and peripheral culture, and how that is interwoven with one’s identity or one’s national identity,” Kim says. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers, by teaching them how to sing in Korean and act like Korean boys, and complicate this flow/appropriation even more.”

“Complicating the flow” also meant exploring how masculinity is portrayed in boy groups.

“These boys are tailored to attract straight young females, originally,” Kim says. “but the presentation of their sexuality is very complicated. … For example, a young group of pretty boys with great skin start rapping in a hip-hop music video while wearing a lot of make-up. What does this mean? Who is the target audience? It is totally gender-bending and experimental, but, at the same time, it is very typical, mainstream K-pop.

“And the acceptance of this strangeness (in the eyes of Western audiences) started to happen when Korean economic prosperity reached a point where it was enough for the entertainment industry to produce high-quality pop culture products,” she adds. “Cultural barriers or mistranslation are overcome by the shiny framing/packaging of K-pop.”


Kim’s partners, Karin Kuroda and Samantha Shao, each brought their own expertise and perspectives to the project. Kuroda’s studies focused primarily on art criticism, photography, sculpture and fashion, while Shao studied arts administration and cultural theory at Maastricht University, Netherlands.

“The ‘I’m Making a Boy Band’ project aims to examine critical aspects of pop/business culture through the lens of an artist,” explains Kuroda, who first befriended Kim at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “By asking oneself what it means to assimilate or twist the rudimentary formula in K-pop ‘idol’ culture, this project highlights social issues on a global and personal level.”

Shao and Kim discussed the differences between Asian pop culture–particularly Taiwanese and Korean–with American pop culture, as well as the connection between popular culture and fine arts.

“By changing the working process (of making ‘art’), we intend to re-think and re-define what it means to communicate with the art world and its audience,” Shao says. “Since the main characters of this work are people–not only band members, but also collaborators–we try to challenge ourselves by giving up authorship from time to time.”

Shao adds that she believes IMMABB focuses more on communicating with the audience throughout the process rather than the outcome of the band. The project “welcomes interactions, encourages questions and provokes confrontations.”

You can read more of Bora Kim’s interview with the Columbia University School of the Arts here. You can also follow EXP’s exploits at their Instagram, exp_theband.


All images courtesy of Columbia University School of the Arts
This story was originally published on


K-Pop Idol Megan Lee to Star in Nickelodeon’s New Show ‘Make It Pop’

Story by Amber Chen

Record producer Nick Cannon first pitched the K-Pop-inspired show Make It Pop to Nickelodeon about a year ago, and after months of speculation, Nickelodeon finally announced the series would be picked up for 20 episodes in the upcoming 2015-2016 season.

Similar to Korean drama Dream High and Nickelodeon’s Victorious, each episode of Make It Pop will have its own original soundtrack and performances. Luckily for us, this means new content every week to keep the audience wanting more.

Nickelodeon recently released the official synopsis:

Randomly selected to room together at boarding school, bookish Corki, fashion-forward Jodi and social media maven Sun Hi meet and bond over music. With the help of fellow boarding school classmate and DJ hopeful, Caleb, the girls grow from roommates to bandmates as they become a school-wide sensation and compete for a place in the upcoming school musical.

Young K-Pop Idol Megan Lee plays the role of the “social media loving pop diva” Sun Hi, while her onscreen roommates Corki and Jordi will be played by actresses Erika Tham and Louriza Tronco. Having dabbled in the acting industry before her musical debut, the 19-year-old starlet will likely have no trouble immersing into her role. In fact, Lee’s professional career began at the young age of 10. She has been in a number of television shows such as Kidz Bop, Nickelodeon’s iCarly and the popular South Korean show MBC Star Audition – The Great Birth.

The show is set to premiere in April 2015.



Watch 2NE1 Perform on “America’s Next Top Model”


Back in March, the streets of Seoul were filled with excitement as Tyra Banks landed in South Korea to film a segment of Americas’s Next Top Model. We were even more excited when we discovered that ANTM chose popular K-pop group 2NE1 to make an appearance during the highly-anticipated fashion show for designer Lie Sang Bong.

A source revealed, “2NE1 was asked to be on the show because they are a representative K-Pop group and they are also well-known to be fashionistas.”


After 9 long months, the waiting is finally over. Americas’s Next Top Model aired its final episodes of Cycle 21 this past Friday. The segment included a photo shoot for GUESS at the Seoul Institute of the Arts, as well as Korean barbecue and even more Korean barbecue.

Most exciting of all, 2NE1 went to wish the the remaining contestants good luck before heading out to the runway to perform their popular song, “Crush.”

Check out the performance below as well as the behind-the-scenes footage of the girls interacting with the ANTM contestants.


2NE1’s CL Will Debut As A Solo Artist In The U.S.


Great news for all K-Pop lovers, especially those who are fans of 2NE1! 2NE1’s fierce leader Chae-rin, more commonly known by her stage name CL, is debuting as a solo artist in the US in spring 2015.

Yes, you read that right! It looks like CL will follow the footsteps of PSY who was the first Korean artist to break a huge record in America through his viral video “Gangnam Style” which initially showed up in South Korea.


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For her new and upcoming album, CL will be working with talent manager Scooter Braun, who represents pop starts Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, and is the person who also signed K-pop artist PSY to the School Boy records. Luckily for us, it seems like Braun has a taste for K-pop.

According to the YG United, an entertainment website specializing in news related to the YG Family, CL had a chance to meet Braun in Seoul with the help of PSY. It’s no surprise that Braun was impressed by CL’s rapping skills, unique taste in fashion, charismatic attitude and her fluent English skills– essentially making her the “baddest female” in Korea.


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CL is a South Korean singer, rapper, dancer and songwriter. She first became part of YTN entertainment in 2006 as a trainee, and officially debuted in late 2007 with her fellow 2NE1 members, Park Bom, Sandara Park and Minzy.


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Jessica’s Withdrawal from Girls’ Generation … Who’s Telling the Truth?


There has been some major controversy in the past few days concerning SM Entertainment. More specifically, about Jessica’s withdrawal from popular K-pop girl group, Girls’ Generation.

Recently, Jessica posted on her Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service) that she was unjustifiably released from the Girls’ Generation and she was devastated that she can no longer serve as a member of the girl group.

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And why was the popular member released from the group? Well SM Entertainment released an official statement saying her release was caused by disagreements with Jessica’s new fashion business, Blanc Group, which  launched earlier in August.

The agency claims they discovered Jessica was embarking on her new fashion business without full approval and no agreement, but Jessica is disagreeing with these allegations.

Jessica argues that she had multiple discussions with both her agency and her group members over her new business. Jessica claims that there was a clear understanding about her new career and it was agreed that she would remain a member of Girls’ Generation.

On September 16, she met with her agency representatives and received permission to continue her business, but later on September 29, she was notified that she was no longer part of Girls’ Generation.

Meanwhile, there have also been rumors that Jessica’s withdrawal was related to her engagement with her Korean-American boyfriend Tyler Kwon, CEO of Cordiel Group. However, Kwon made clear on his Weibo that he was not planning to get married any time soon and further encouraged Jessica to remain patient for a little longer as “the truth about what really happened will be known.”

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Girls’ Generation is an internationally recognized K-pop girl group that has been active since 2007. Although Jessica is no longer a member of Girls’ Generation, she had recently renewed her contract with SM Entertainment for an additional 3 years. SM has stated that they will continue to support Jessica with her solo activities.





(Source 1, 2, 3)

This Is What Happens When Americans Attempt To Learn K-Pop Dance Moves


After their amusing first-time experiences eating Korean snacks, the BuzzFeed staff took on a more adventurous–and slightly more exhausting–challenge: K-pop.

“Your upper body is stable, but your lower body is having a sex party,” casually explains BuzzFeed video producer Eugene Yang, completely poker-faced and effortlessly imitating “The Arrogant Dance” made famous by PSY’s “Gentleman.” He’s teaching the staff some provocative motions in BuzzFeed’s latest Korean-inspired video titled, “Americans Try K-pop Dance Moves.”

The staff learned–or attempted to learn–the moves for a handful of popular K-pop songs, including “The Butt Dance” (aka “Korean twerking”) by girl group Kara. They quickly realized that the art of K-pop dance is way more challenging than it actually seems.


“I’ve never felt more un-athletic in my life,” said one worn-out dancer. Another guy was more optimistic: “I didn’t do it well, but I had swag in my face, so I think it’s gonna sell.” And another just embraced his bad dance skills, admitting, “My whiteness is revealing itself right now.”

As exhausting as this dance session turns out to be, in the end, participants triumphantly exclaimed in unison: “Korea, hwaiting!”

This story was originally published in 



Lorde’s Unexpected Dream Partner For a Music Collab = YG Entertainment’s Lee Hi

After expressing her interest in writing lyrics for a K-Pop song in an interview earlier this year, teenage singer-songwriter Lorde, whose debut album was just named to Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013, has continued to show her love for and rather impressive knowledge of hallyu.  In an interview with Universal Music, Lorde notes that a collaboration between her and YG Entertainment’s Lee Hi is something on her wish list, as she’s a fan of the K-Pop Star-bred songstress.  “I particularly like her,” she notes.

Lorde praised the K-Pop industry for its fresh take on pop music, something she says that she doesn’t see in the West:

“The melodies and songs [in K-Pop] are very interesting. Their melodies are a lot more charming than the Western pop which I grew up listening to. If it is pop music, it should be to that extent.”

She later goes on to demonstrate her (somewhat surprising) K-Pop knowledge, as she mentions being a fan of 2NE1 and wanting dance lessons from Girls’ Generation.

But the prospect of a Lee Hi x Lorde collaboration is definitely something we’re interested in hearing.  With both being 17-year old’s with singing chops that go way beyond their years (it should be noted that both were named to Billboard’s 21 Under 21), we’d love to hear what a duet could sound like.

So if you’re reading, YG and Universal Music — make it happen.  Please.


Source: 1, 2 & 3 (For Translation)

Super Junior Celebrates Anniversary with Cosplay Blowout

By James S. Kim.

It would be a bit rude, perhaps, to call Super Junior a “boy band” as the pop veterans recently celebrated their 8th anniversary. While the K-pop superstars might be a tad older now, that still didn’t stop them from embracing their quirkiness and thanking their fans by showcasing a bit of cosplay before leaving for their world tour.

Some members dressed up as Korean celebrities, including Seo Taiji, while others took it to another level, like Leon and Mathilda from the 1994 film Leon: The Professional. Shindong and Heechul arguably took the most creative liberties, as they cosplayed as “League of Legend” characters, Ahri and Lee Sin.

It wasn’t the first time Super Junior has cosplayed for their fans’ enjoyment. They went a bit more mainstream with Dragonball, Avengers and what even looks like Jet Li earlier this year. Their Avengers cosplay even includes Spiderman and Wolverine from the X-Men, which might make comic book aficionados happy.

Donghae dressed like Seo Taiji.

Ryeowook channels his inner ajumma.

Sungmin dressed up as a popular character from variety show Gag Concert.

This article was originally published by

Get a K-pop Complexion: Maybelline Dream Fresh BB

Maybelline New York Dream Fresh BB

Overview: A great BB cream for teens or makeup novices.

Coverage: Sheer

Shades: 5 (from Light to Deep)

Price: approx. $7.50

Benefits: SPF 30, oil-free, a 70% gel-water formula with “no heavy ingredients.”

Review: This has a very light texture, it goes on smoothly and it melts in super fast. The finish is very sheer and, surprisingly, the Light shade is not too pink. Make sure to pick the right shade, though, or else it won’t blend into skin well and will look like it’s just sitting on top of your skin. This is definitely good for BB cream novices, teens or 20-somethings, or those with naturally good skin.

Read more reviews on practically every BB cream on the market here.

KCON 2013 | M Countdown What’s Up LA? Exclusive Red Carpet Photos

After two jam-packed days of anything and everything hallyu, it was finally time for the convention’s biggest and most anticipated event — the star-studded concert and recording of Mnet’s über-popular music show, M Countdown.  But just before the curtains (or more appropriately, LED screens) rose, Audrey was lucky enough to have red carpet access, and we’re bringing you some photos of some of K-pop’s top stars.


A finalist on Mnet’s talent competition program, Superstar K4, sixteen year-old Yu Seung Woo melted hearts with his adorable smile and sweet, acoustic tunes.


Next up was the ever-charming ballad group, 2AMdressed to a tee in suspenders, bow-ties and perfectly pressed shirts.


Despite the scorching LA heat, DJ Koo kept it cool in his all-leather outfit and later on, made sure to hype up the crowd with his K-Pop mix at the start of the show.


The only female artists in the line-up, SM Entertainment’s f(x) looked stunning in their printed, Versace-inspired outfits.  During the red carpet, Amber was able to express their excitement for the big show, as well as their gratitude to their American fans for their continued support, even being halfway around the world.


Undoubtedly one of the most anticipated acts of the night, if the ear-piercing screams proved to be any indication, the 12 boys of EXO showed no signs of jet lag (after arriving in L.A. just the day before), making jaws drop with their perfectly fitting uniforms, coiffed hair and handsome looks.


The guys of Teen Top, caught our attention with their colorful hair and charming charisma, showing very little signs of nerves, despite their KCON stage being their first performance outside of Korea.


Decked out in a clean, well-fitted suit (brownie points for him!), Super Junior-M’s Henry hit the red carpet, delighting fans with his lovable personality, showing off an endearing sense of confidence that you couldn’t help but get drawn to.



For more exclusive KCON Red Carpet photos, check out our gallery below: