Media Capitals and K-Pop Seoul

Globalisation today in the postcolonial world has resulted in the formation of what we call ‘media capitals.’ Media capitals are cities which engage in the finance, production, and distribution of media content and are also cities that sit at the intersection of multiple economic, social, and cultural flows (Curtin 2003 pp. 203-204). According to Curtin (2003), media capitals are not the end point of these flows but rather a switching point (p. 204). Such a media capital would include Seoul, the capital city of Korea, where a proliferation of recording companies operate and where the K-Pop revolution started.
K-Pop is South Korean pop music and has become extremely popular not just throughout Asian countries but in Europe, America, and the Middle East as well (Lie 2012 p. 340). According to Lie (2012), Korean music has been strongly influenced by Japanese and American influences from the time that it was occupied during the colonial period (pp. 342-343). It has been influenced by Japanese cultural production and musical education, and by American music genres such as jazz, blues, pop, and rock, engaged with through modern communication technologies during the 1950’s-60’s (Lie 2012 pp. 342-343). An example of the result of this influence would include K-Pop girl group, Girls Generation, with their song “I Got a Boy.”

This music video demonstrates influences from Japanese and American media capitals on the K-Pop industry. Lie (2012) says “K-pop is uniformly diatonic, lyrics peppered with English phrases, the singing style is resolutely syllabic of “western” pop, and dance is an integral element of the performance.” (p. 260). In this clip you can see that the song does contain these elements and other components that establish this song and music video as a hybrid production which include: the mix of Korean and English linguistics, the western looking costumes the girls wear like a batman jacket, and the sets used which seem to be inspired by and resemble the wild west and the American flag.

K-Pop is an industry in Seoul which is influenced heavily by thrifty business choices. K-Pop groups are the main exports of South Korea because artists are cheaper to train as groups rather than solo acts. Groups are also prized because if members are ill or injured the groups can perform without them and the different members can also be deployed to different areas of entertainment such as TV dramas, radio shows etc. (Lie 2012 pp. 357-358). The K-Pop industry also thinks on a global scale when forming their groups for example: Girls Generation has nine members, each member proficient in either English, Japanese, or Chinese allowing other members to take the leading role on non-Korean stages (Lie 2012 p. 358).

But is K-Pop Korean? The answer is no as Lie (2012) tells us that K-Pop does not contain any traditional Korean culture and is therefore not Korean (p. 360). Despite this the South Korean government endorses K-Pop because it’s a significant export boon and a source of South Korea’s soft power (Lie 2012 p. 340).


Curtin, M 2003, Media Capital: Towards the Study of Spatial Flows, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 202-228.

LG Electronics 2010, SNSD Cooky Phone, Image, Wikipedia Commons, viewed 10 September 2014,

Lie, J 2012, What is the K in K-Pop? South Korean Popular Music, the Culture Industry, and National Identity, Korean Observer, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 339-363.

SMTOWN 2012, Girls’ Generation 소녀시대_I GOT A BOY_Music Video, Online Video, 31 December, YouTube, viewed 10 September 2014,


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