Recently I was introduced to Jackson Wang of Got7 through a random video in which he shows off the comedic genius in himself while collaborating on the project group “Big Byeong” that consists of equally amusing guys from two other boy groups (BTOB and Vixx) and the Weekly Idol hosts Jeong Hyeong-don and Defconn. Jackson isn’t the most fluent speaker of Korean, and yet, he has an ability to make Korean viewers laugh in the language that must still be very foreign to him. His dead-on, unfeigned humor makes me wonder how much funnier he would be in his mother tongue. Maybe humor is just a part of his disposition that language plays a minimal role in Jackson’s ability to entertain people.
Yook Sung-jae is another member of Big Byeong whose full-time affiliation is with BtoB, a boy group under Cube Entertainment. Yook is funny. BtoB is funny. They must be the most hysterically quirky, hilarious K-pop idol group out there even though BtoB hasn’t had that big of a success with its music other than with “Beep Beep.” BtoB boasts a lot of talent in all of its members, however. The label just needs to get its act together and decide on the group’s musical trajectory if it were to really harness all that talent and make BtoB known to more people.
So it was Jackson and Sung-jae who introduced me to the realms of Got7 and BtoB. Over the next few days I saw myself becoming obsessed with and addicted to these youngsters. At the same time I learned a little bit about the different ways by which my thirst for K-pop idols can be satiated.
There is the old media that has been made available online. My old self is familiar with the monthly magazines full of shiny photo spreads that often make you cringe and superficial articles. There were individual photos and posters that you could buy, usually a thousand to two thousand Korean wons a pop. Now, online news outlets post these photos. Fans share information and data that they have gathered through blogs, fansites, and etc. Idols themselves also offer their own photos through social media. Radio shows targeting teen listeners are now easily available as podcasts or through networks’ proprietary services. Television programs are streamed online, and short highlights are accessible through video sharing platforms. Clips of special performances and fan sign events are also being shared by fans.
Onto the novelties. While I had heard about reaction videos, I hadn’t watched one until recently. They were fascinating. Some reaction videos offer you information about artistic and stylistic paths a particular idol group has taken, heads ups about other materials that are worth viewing, and insight into what makes a particular group attractive. Many often give you that sense of camaraderie, as in “Yes, we are in this together, adoring these awesome boys and girls even though I gotta go do my work and study for my tests and sleep. Or, whoa, these Asians don too much makeup. ” As a Korean person watching reaction videos created in diverse languages, I generally get a positive feeling. It’s good to have a hobby to lead a sane life. People making reaction videos are likely to be the most knowledgeable beings on the topic of K-pop in their school or community, and that’s worth something.
Shows and segments produced by entertainment companies were another fascinating thing I discovered. In Korea, broadcast television is traditionally the medium through which celebrities make themselves known to the greater public. For that reason, you hear about road managers toiling to get their stars on-air time by establishing positive relationships with producers who may decide to cast certain actors in a show. More and more, however, entertainment companies, having grown in size and influence, are engaging in production or considering the prospect of producing their own shows that may not necessarily be broadcast on television. For instance, I voraciously consumed Real Got7 while I was on my idol spree. Real Got7 is an online series produced by JYPE. Cube offers The Beat for BtoB fans. All episodes are available on YouTube. Another notable discovery is a YouTube channel called “Idolic TV” that makes entertaining clips featuring idols. BtoB’s Feel So Goods was a great series. I wasn’t able to find any information about the creators of the channel or how they make money off of their contents, however; Idolic TV has a Facebook and a Twitter account that don’t supply company information.
Naver’s V app was another most interesting find. The way I understand this system: Naver, Korea’s Internet search engine and portal giant has a dedicated platform called “Star Cast” within naver.com through which Naver publishes entertainment content that has been licensed to them exclusively in the forms of articles, photos, and videos. Star Cast, in a sense, eliminates the need for television if one’s objective is solely to consume idol life. You can find years’ worth of information on various idols.
The “V” is a part of this system that has been made into a separate app. The V app allows K-pop artists to regularly stream live feeds of their doings while fans/users can respond to these feeds live by typing up messages and assigning heart shapes that pop up on the screen for the artists to see real time. It’s a fascinating service. Some feeds are more choreographed in that they involve some kind of task or theme while others are short, on the fly conversations intended to simulate the experience of face-timing with your buddies. These feeds are cleverly displayed in the vertical view to maximize the personal effect. Below is a screen capture of Got7’s Junior and Young-jae I took with my phone. I wasn’t “interacting” live; you can play recordings of the feeds later.
Although episodic clips and shows are different from full-length broadcast TV shows in that TV shows generally entail some sort of meaningful, carefully-constructed narrative. Shows like Infinite Challenge have a story to tell in some 90 minutes every week. MBC every1, known for its shows that feature idols, also adheres to that tradition more or less. In comparison, the short interactions that the V app enables don’t necessary keep to well-developed plots, but nevertheless, present value to people who enjoy those encounters in which unnecessary people are cut out; it’s just your favorite celebrities and they (and their companies) get to choose how they want to make their show.
These innovative outlets are great features for the fans; for those in the television industry, they present a challenge. It used to be just television, but now entertainment companies and Internet portals are all viable players.
MBC’s My Little Television, which deftly integrated television with the Internet audience is a recent success that cautions idol lovers against abandoning broadcast television all together just yet. But there are now alternative ways to meet and enjoy K-pop idols as long as you can afford a working device with reliable connection to high-speed Internet.
1) Big Byeong: http://enews.imbc.com/News/RetrieveNewsInfo/101403
2) Got7: https://www.facebook.com/GOT7Official
3) BtoB: https://www.facebook.com/BTOBofficial
4) V app: http://sports.donga.com/3/02/20150805/72881486/2