Anthropology lecture discusses the rise of Korean pop music

The Anthropology Department hosted another lecture in their series that featured a discussion on the rise in popularity of Korean pop music in Mexico City, on Thursday, March 13.

Anthropologist Erica Vogel spoke about the Korean Wave known as “Hallyu” and informed over 40 students about who and what makes Korean pop music, also known as “K-pop.”

“Global popularity has been rising since the 1990’s for Korean films, TV, dramas and pop-music,” Vogel said. “It has become an important part of Korean national identity.”

Some of the influential music groups from Korea are: MBLAQ, CNBLUE, Super Junior, Boys’ Generation and Girls’ Generation.  A Super Junior concert in Mexico City sold out 22,000 tickets in four hours.

K-pop did not just move from Korea to Mexico. As the music globalized, it became multi-directional and the significance is produced through the recognition between fans, musicians, the press and the Korean state.

Imitator groups and flash mobs practice all over Mexico City, copying the dance style of Boys’ Generation and Girls’ Generation groups.

“In the Boys’ Generation, gender roles are reversed,” Vogel said. “They want to be noticed.”

Popularity is extended though mutual recognition. The Korean press is excited that Mexico likes K-pop and that Mexican fans imitate, not to be the same, but to stand out as different and be noticed.

This is in part controlled through Korea, which promotes and exports K-pop and Hallyu as an effort to raise the popularity of the country. Offices are also set up to organize fan clubs and register them as official organizations.

Flash mobs are defined as a spontaneous grassroots event, however these performances are staged and fan controlled.

“The embassy calls fans and says, ‘We want a flash mob’ with a time and day,” Vogel said.  “You should appear spontaneous, but also be well-organized.”

Fans perform what is called dedicated fan-behavior because they want to make Mexico visible in the global K-pop scene.

Vogel said that it is impossible to say one group or person is in control of the movement.

“Everyone is participating in the same events, each with different stakes and perspectives,” Vogel said.

The fans communicate through the Internet, flash mobs, and contests.

“I’m going to go home and look K-pop up on You Tube,” student Diana Chopuryan said. “I can see a lot of people know about them, but I don’t.”

The lecture series is one of many the anthropology Department hosts every semester.

“We have been doing this series in recent years. I think this is the eleventh or twelfth year,” Professor of Anthropology Bruce Rowe said. “I try to bring in recent Ph.Ds, or people working on their Ph.Ds, but we have had well known anthropologists too.”

Contact Bruce M. Rowe, professor of anthropology, by email at with any questions about the lectures.