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Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture

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Since the first edition of Pop Goes Korea came out in 2008, Korean popular culture has only gotten bigger and more successful. More than 10,000 words longer than the original book, Pop Goes Korea 2nd edition updates all the amazing stories of Korean popular culture, including "Gangnam Style" and the unbelievable surge of K-pop all over the world, the latest cinematic block Since the first edition of Pop Goes Korea came out in 2008, Korean popular culture has only gotten bigger and more successful. More than 10,000 words longer than the original book, Pop Goes Korea 2nd edition updates all the amazing stories of Korean popular culture, including "Gangnam Style" and the unbelievable surge of K-pop all over the world, the latest cinematic blockbusters, Korea's indie music scene, and the rise of webcomics. South Korea came from nowhere in the 1990s to become one of the biggest producers of pop content in Asia - and the West. Now, the former underdog of the international pop scene sets trends in music, movies, comic books, TV dramas, and online gaming for the rest of the world to follow. Why? Who's behind it? Veteran reporter-at-large Mark James Russell tells an exciting story of rapid growth and wild success marked by an uncanny knack for moving just one step ahead of changing technologies. With first-person accounts, fresh analysis, anecdotes, and intimate profiles on the dreamers and heavyweights who made the Korean tides turn, POP Goes Korea is the book that explores hallyu - the Korean Wave - hitting the world's shores. Included in the text is historical and cultural background plus focus chapters on media conglomerate CJ Entertainment, director Kang Je-gyu's blockbuster film Shiri, the Pusan International Film Festival, TV actor Lee Byung-hun, SM Entertainment pop stars S.E.S. and H.O.T., and the internet demon/darling Soribada. Sidebars examine Korean filmdom's biggest hits and biggest failures, the top twenty TV dramas, the golden age of Korean rock, b-boy (breakin' and breakdancin') groups, the Korean studio that animates The Simpsons, and, of course, the international megastar actor and singer Rain.


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Since the first edition of Pop Goes Korea came out in 2008, Korean popular culture has only gotten bigger and more successful. More than 10,000 words longer than the original book, Pop Goes Korea 2nd edition updates all the amazing stories of Korean popular culture, including "Gangnam Style" and the unbelievable surge of K-pop all over the world, the latest cinematic block Since the first edition of Pop Goes Korea came out in 2008, Korean popular culture has only gotten bigger and more successful. More than 10,000 words longer than the original book, Pop Goes Korea 2nd edition updates all the amazing stories of Korean popular culture, including "Gangnam Style" and the unbelievable surge of K-pop all over the world, the latest cinematic blockbusters, Korea's indie music scene, and the rise of webcomics. South Korea came from nowhere in the 1990s to become one of the biggest producers of pop content in Asia - and the West. Now, the former underdog of the international pop scene sets trends in music, movies, comic books, TV dramas, and online gaming for the rest of the world to follow. Why? Who's behind it? Veteran reporter-at-large Mark James Russell tells an exciting story of rapid growth and wild success marked by an uncanny knack for moving just one step ahead of changing technologies. With first-person accounts, fresh analysis, anecdotes, and intimate profiles on the dreamers and heavyweights who made the Korean tides turn, POP Goes Korea is the book that explores hallyu - the Korean Wave - hitting the world's shores. Included in the text is historical and cultural background plus focus chapters on media conglomerate CJ Entertainment, director Kang Je-gyu's blockbuster film Shiri, the Pusan International Film Festival, TV actor Lee Byung-hun, SM Entertainment pop stars S.E.S. and H.O.T., and the internet demon/darling Soribada. Sidebars examine Korean filmdom's biggest hits and biggest failures, the top twenty TV dramas, the golden age of Korean rock, b-boy (breakin' and breakdancin') groups, the Korean studio that animates The Simpsons, and, of course, the international megastar actor and singer Rain.

30 review for Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    A book about how Korean pop culture has developed and spread around the world, "Pop Goes Korea" is, to the best of my knowledge, the only book of its kind available in English. Thankfully, it is very comprehensive. It covers movies, television, music and comic books with equal amounts of care, and it is easy to pick and choose while reading according to your interests. This is a must read for English speakers interested in Korean pop culture who want to know more than what they see or listen to. A book about how Korean pop culture has developed and spread around the world, "Pop Goes Korea" is, to the best of my knowledge, the only book of its kind available in English. Thankfully, it is very comprehensive. It covers movies, television, music and comic books with equal amounts of care, and it is easy to pick and choose while reading according to your interests. This is a must read for English speakers interested in Korean pop culture who want to know more than what they see or listen to.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    For an English language resource, this is a gem of a book. Keeping in mind that Korea has a relatively short (but very interesting) pop culture, this book covers all the bases quite nicely. It features a variety of tidbits and little known facts sprinkled throughout the book. I applaud the author for pioneering an English language legitimate published text - a fresh break from the bloggers who dominate this field of interest. The information is as up-to-date as a book can be (pub 2008) but a slig For an English language resource, this is a gem of a book. Keeping in mind that Korea has a relatively short (but very interesting) pop culture, this book covers all the bases quite nicely. It features a variety of tidbits and little known facts sprinkled throughout the book. I applaud the author for pioneering an English language legitimate published text - a fresh break from the bloggers who dominate this field of interest. The information is as up-to-date as a book can be (pub 2008) but a slight out-of-dateness is to be expected for a text about the ever-changing pop culture. However, since the majority of the book covers the upstarts of each industry, the lack of 2009 material is unavoidable and easily forgiven. The author's writing style is both a pro and a con. The writer seems to be comfortable in his knowledge of the subject but sometimes has too much of a conversational tone - almost to a fault of sounding uneducated. However, I really don't want that to sound too harsh because I believe one of his strengths is his ability to both inform and also entertain. He's got a great sense of Western humor that appears amongst this Eastern pop culture history. I was also disappointed by the lack of photos throughout the book. The beginning has plenty of color pictures to prepare for the in-depth look that's coming ahead but the book itself is lacking accompanying photos. It would have made the biographies of Lee Byung-Hun and Lee Soon-Man more easy to follow. My biggest complaint is the lack of Korean text. How hard would it have been to include Hanguel in the chapters? All movies, songs, TV dramas, and actors have either transliterated or romanized names which is frustrating when searching for the original source material. The least that could have been done is to include the original Korean names in parenthesis. A careless oversight. However, I do want to conclude with saying that the author knows his stuff and has written an excellent primer on all things Korean. His background history on the PIFF (Busan International Film Festival) is impressive as is his approach to Korean movies in general (and why there is so much more to the Korean wave than 1999's Shiri). All in all, this book is well worth your time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Russell brings Korean pop culture to your attention through interviews, research, and random historical facts. His tone is very casual, so you can relax while reading it. The first half of the book focuses on movies and the history of the film industry. Music is also given some coverage, but not much is said of manhwa. It was rather disappointing, especially since I think a lot of non-Korean people are introduced to Korean pop culture through scanlations online (which he mentions in passing). In Russell brings Korean pop culture to your attention through interviews, research, and random historical facts. His tone is very casual, so you can relax while reading it. The first half of the book focuses on movies and the history of the film industry. Music is also given some coverage, but not much is said of manhwa. It was rather disappointing, especially since I think a lot of non-Korean people are introduced to Korean pop culture through scanlations online (which he mentions in passing). In fact, I think the most popular Korean mediums online are TV dramas, music, and manhwa. So why he chose to focus more on films was beyond me. This book was a chore to read at times, especially in the film sections. The organization becomes extremely chaotic. Sometimes the author jumps ahead in time but only to go backwards and explain something else. I found it hard to keep timelines straight. It's also hard to keep track of who's who, but that's because everyone tends to have the same last name, which isn't the author's fault. My favorite parts of the book are the random side snippets of information. It's interesting to get a closer look at films, music, and famous people. I really liked the Top TV dramas and Movies lists. I think the book may have been more interesting if the author included a section of how Korean pop culture fared in the US. He wrote about American acceptance or indifference of Korean culture in a few places, but not a definite section in which he interviewed Americans about Korean culture. It's definitely interesting to read if you want to know more about past Korean pop culture, but it's not helpful for present or future trends.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Good insight into Korean pop culture. Repetitive at times, almost like the book needed a little more editing before publishing, but still provided a lot of information about the history of Korean Pop.

  5. 4 out of 5

    CTEP

    Recently I read Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture, written by journalist Mark James Russell. Like the title suggests, this book guides readers through the meteoric rise of South Korea’s entertainment industry over the last fifteen years. While legal battles and business deals played a prominent part in this story, so too did technology. Advancements brought growth to the movie and music industries, and caused a decline in outsourcing and foreign entert Recently I read Pop Goes Korea: Behind the Revolution in Movies, Music, and Internet Culture, written by journalist Mark James Russell. Like the title suggests, this book guides readers through the meteoric rise of South Korea’s entertainment industry over the last fifteen years. While legal battles and business deals played a prominent part in this story, so too did technology. Advancements brought growth to the movie and music industries, and caused a decline in outsourcing and foreign entertainment imports. And of course, the Internet changed everything. What I found to be the most interesting and useful part about this book, was how it offered a contrast between the rise of the Internet in Korea and the World Wide Web’s climb in America. Although Korean’s lagged behind the United States in the relative size of their film and music industries, they were much quicker to adopt and find uses for the Internet. For example, Korea’s first eleven theater multiplex opened in Seoul in 1998, which seems quite late by American standards. However, compare this with Korea’s high speed Internet access, which in 2002 had seventy percent of Koreans households subscribing. In the same year, less than twenty percent of American households had high speed Internet. Korean’s, also, were often quicker to find innovative uses for the Internet. Their open source news site, Oh My News, started in early 2000. This was nearly a full year before Wikipedia and over five years before the Huffington post. Russell includes other interesting asides, like how Korean ringtone culture lead to the rise of ballads in pop music, where in America it caused a proliferation of autotune, but what I saw as the biggest difference between the two countries was the effect that the Internet had on cultural history. As Russell explains, South Korean culture at the moment is very much a culture of now. In his conclusion Russell states, “…the single greatest problem with Korea’s pop culture is its lack of historical connection” (Russell 216). Yes, the Korean government’s censorship in the 1970’s and 80’s created a break between the films, music, and comic traditions of yesterday. There is no sense that, like in America, genres and techniques have been developing steadily over time. Rather new ideas had to be thought up during the early 1990’s, and it is from those sources which the majority of pop culture draws its inspiration. I found this public disinterest in the media of the past surprising, given that the Internet in America has helped to perpetuate our great love affair with the movies and especially the music of yesterday. Etta James is in the iTunes top ten this week, and the Beatles occasionally make appearances there as well. Russell warns that if Korean entertainment industries continue to focus only on the renewable youth markets without also fostering a love for the past, that then they risk tiring out their market as they create a pop culture that is even more disposable than usual. For me, Pop Goes Korea held a very interesting mirror up to America’s relationship with pop culture and the Internet. It’s easy to think that the way that the entertainment industry and its related technology have developed in America is just the way it goes, but by reading another country’s story I understand that things could have progressed much differently. Especially in Korea’s swift adoption of the Internet and embrace of new technologies, I find reassurance that the digital divide in America can one day be bridged.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Peterson

    A fascinating read and also a time capsule, this is quite the insight into the early days into the Korean entertainment industry. It was intriguing hearing of movies, actors, music, among other properties that I have heard crossing over to the US. I also say it is a time capsule because these days there is more Korean entertainment that has crossed to the west from BTS to BLACKPINK, even Parasite’s legendary win at the Oscars. Would like to see a book about Korean entertainment that mentions the A fascinating read and also a time capsule, this is quite the insight into the early days into the Korean entertainment industry. It was intriguing hearing of movies, actors, music, among other properties that I have heard crossing over to the US. I also say it is a time capsule because these days there is more Korean entertainment that has crossed to the west from BTS to BLACKPINK, even Parasite’s legendary win at the Oscars. Would like to see a book about Korean entertainment that mentions these too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Staci

    Despite what the title may lead some to think, this book isn't really about K-Pop, rather it's a bit more about pop culture in Korea with much of it's focus being on film and television and only one chapter on K-pop (and much of that chapter really just focuses on SM Entertainment and Lee Sooman). Also, since the book was published in 2008 it's of course missing any information on the later (or resurgence) of the Hallyu Wave that was led by K-pop -- for example, in the one chapter actually talki Despite what the title may lead some to think, this book isn't really about K-Pop, rather it's a bit more about pop culture in Korea with much of it's focus being on film and television and only one chapter on K-pop (and much of that chapter really just focuses on SM Entertainment and Lee Sooman). Also, since the book was published in 2008 it's of course missing any information on the later (or resurgence) of the Hallyu Wave that was led by K-pop -- for example, in the one chapter actually talking about the Korean music industry there is a bit of talk about Seo Taiji and Boys, H.O.T. and S.E.S but Super Junior barely gets a mention (and are then mentioned for their number of members only) and there's no talk of Girls' Generation at all never mind groups or artists that didn't exist yet or would come to fame later like PSY.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barry Welsh

    Mark James Russell is an entertainment journalist who has been writing about Korean culture, economics and society since 1996. Over the course of two very well-researched books, the former Korea correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard has explored in great detail the development of Korea’s modern pop culture. Russell’s 2008 book “Pop Goes Korea” is an in-depth examination of the incredible, rapid developments that took place in pop culture during the 1990s and 2000s which achieved Mark James Russell is an entertainment journalist who has been writing about Korean culture, economics and society since 1996. Over the course of two very well-researched books, the former Korea correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard has explored in great detail the development of Korea’s modern pop culture. Russell’s 2008 book “Pop Goes Korea” is an in-depth examination of the incredible, rapid developments that took place in pop culture during the 1990s and 2000s which achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time. Its influence was growing in the rest of the world as well. Russell addresses the social, personal, cultural, and political factors that enabled and gave rise to this development at the end of the twentieth century. With concisely insightful commentary and a witty, intelligent writing style, he focuses on seven emblematic Korean success stories. He looks at the fascinating rise of media conglomerate CJ Entertainment, the factors surrounding the production of “Shiri” – one of Korea’s most significant blockbusters, the birth and rise in stature of the Busan Film Festival, and even uses the career of heartthrob TV actor Lee Byung-hun as a way of discussing the prominence of Korean TV dramas in Asia. All of these stories are packed with intriguing, interesting details and insightful analysis that carefully situate them within their respective cultural and historical moments. In focusing on the business side of popular culture, Russell shows how a strong media and industry infrastructure is vital if creative artists are to flourish in their chosen mediums at home and abroad. He also highlights some issues inherent in Korean pop culture, suggesting that it is often too disposable in nature partly due to a lack of historical connection. Russell’s 2014 book, “K-Pop Now,” zooms in on the wildly popular Korean music phenomenon. He takes great care to discuss the current role K-Pop plays in Korean youth culture and explores its background and origin as well as some interesting ties with different areas in Seoul: Hongdae, Samcheong, and Gangnam. This book is aimed more directly at fans as opposed to those looking for insightful analysis; it primarily consists of a series of brief profiles of many of the key acts, groups and solo artists pushing K-Pop forward today.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kim Minjae

  12. 5 out of 5

    Minna

  13. 4 out of 5

    Veraciously

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Galley

  15. 4 out of 5

    Harren

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kaela Ingle

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amirul Harith

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shakira Decastro

  19. 4 out of 5

    M

  20. 5 out of 5

    TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  22. 5 out of 5

    Savanah

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rex

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sherri Molen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

  26. 5 out of 5

    Will

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jon Smith

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maria-Eduarda

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

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